Number-crunching the New York Times' bestseller list is not a good look for diversity

"New York Times Best-selling author" is a one of those highly treasured accolades to which most writers aspire. It's the kind of recognition that can make or break a writer's career — even though the numbers are not curated in a plain and simple way. Consider the way that Donald Trump Jr. hacked his way to the top of the list by buying up copies of his own book, in order to become a "New York Times Best-selling author," thus guaranteeing higher sales for his book.

(Full disclosure: I do work for a company that is owned by the New York Times, a fact which does not impact my perspectives either way.)

Over on Medium, a user calling themself "John the Correlator" has compiled all of the publicly-available data related to the Times' best-seller list, and crunched the numbers to analyze the demographic diversity of the authors represented by the list. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, it's not very representative of the US population:

There's a lot more specific data broken down in the blog post, titled, "We Need To Talk About The List." And I suspect that we'll be seeing more from John the Correlator soon. But needless to say, it all supports the thesis: we need to talk about the list.

We Need To Talk About The List [John the Correlator / Medium]

Image: Public Domain via U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Hailey Haux Read the rest

CNN and Sesame Street to address racism in town hall special

Parents can send their family's questions in about protests, racism and diversity HERE.

CNN:

The 60-minute special "Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism. A CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall for Kids and Families" will air on Saturday, June 6, at 10 a.m. ET. The show will talk to kids about racism, the recent nationwide protests, embracing diversity and being more empathetic and understanding.

Big Bird will join CNN commentator Van Jones and CNN anchor and national correspondent Erica Hill to moderate the event. They will be joined by "Sesame Street" characters -- including Elmo, Abby Cadabby and Rosita -- and other experts answering questions submitted by families...

How to watch: The town hall will air on CNN, CNN International and CNN en Español. It will stream live on CNN.com's homepage and across mobile devices via CNN's apps, without requiring a cable log-in.

You can also watch on CNNgo, and subscribers to cable/satellite systems can watch it on-demand.

image via CNN Read the rest

Propublica offering diversity scholarships for students to attend 2020 journalism conferences

If you or someone you know is a US-based student interested in attending conferences such as Investigative Reporters and Editors, The National Institute for Computer-Assisted Reporting, or National Association of Black Journalists and National Association of Hispanic Journalists, then you should consider applying for Propublica's Diversity Scholarship program, which offers $750 bursaries "to students who would otherwise be unable to attend," especially "people of color, women, LGBTQ people and people with disabilities." Read the rest

This company wants to use AI to help you pretend to increase diversity

Generated Photos is the latest stupid startup that sounds like a joke from "Silicon Valley" that someone took too far. From their announcement on Medium:

Generated Photos is the free resource of 100k faces for you to use however you wish. But these aren’t just common faces. They were produced completely by artificial intelligence — none of these people are real! Generated photos are created from scratch by AI systems.

In other words, they're Deepfakes for other peoples' ad campaigns.

I've spent enough time around higher ed administration that I've seen firsthand how universities will recruit a perfect United-Colors-Of-Benetton rainbow of students for admissions ads. But this takes that to a whole new level. Why even bother trying to build relationships with non-white-dudes, when you can just generate some friendly colorful faces for promotional use and call it a day?

The company's website brags of "democratizing creative photography and video," which is some impressively nauseating PR speak. In their defense, "We aim to make creative works both more accessible and higher quality through generative processes" sounds a lot better than "Auto-diversify the avatars for your army of Twitter sockpuppets!"

But my favorite part is how openly they acknowledge the poor quality of their images. "A part of the process is training and refining the generative models," the company explains in a Medium post. "The iterations move fast although not everything is perfect yet. So you will also have some fun with the pack of AI-generated photos. When you see a face that is a bit ‘off’, just give it some slack." Read the rest

Gollancz announces a £4,000 prize for sf writing by people of color

Gollancz, a venerable British science fiction publisher (now a division of Hachette) has announced its BAME SFF Award, with a top prize of £4,000 for science fiction written by over-18 BAME ("Black, Asian, minority ethnic) writers. Read the rest

Linux programmer developing tools for new open source Code of Conduct

Coraline Ehmke is a leading figure in the push to make Linux programming more welcoming and inclusiv, supplementing the project's famed Code of Conflict with an enforceable Code of Conduct project called CoC Beacon. Read the rest

Help Wanted: a new executive director for Simply Secure, a nonprofit focused on usability in crypto tools

For several years, I've been honored to volunteer on the advisory board of Simply Secure (previously) a nonprofit consultancy that does open research on usability in cryptographic privacy tools and consults with firms to help make their tools more broadly usable and accessible, especially for vulnerable groups who are often left out of consideration when secure tools are being designed. Read the rest

What porn stars want you to know

Jiz Lee, Stoya, Nikki Darling, and Asa Akira talk about representation, the marketing of white women vs. women of color in adult movies, and how porn is still a very white industry. And unfortunately you have to click much deeper to find real, respectful diversity.

"What Porn Stars Want You To Know: We Don't All Look the Same" (Iris)

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New maps of America show race and diversity levels

The Washington Post created some interesting maps that show levels of diversification in various American cities. They categorize cities like Chicago as examples of legacy segregation, where cities like Houston indicate rapid diversification. Read the rest

Survey: student attitudes about diversity and inclusion vs. free speech are shifting

A new Gallup-Knight Foundation survey suggests that shifting student views are exposing deep rifts in attitudes toward diversity versus free speech among demographic groups. The survey presents this false dichotomy of inclusion vs. the First Amendment, but that's how it's often presented in these debates, ignoring academic responsibility. Read the rest

Beneath the Sugar Sky: return to the world of "Every Heart a Doorway" for a quest through the land of Confection

Beneath the Sugar Sky is the third novella in Seanan McGuire's wonderful Wayward Children series, following from 2016's Every Heart a Doorway and 2017's Down Among the Sticks and Bones, chronicling the lives of the children who've accidentally returned from the magical kingdoms they adventured in, who haunt Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children praying that the door to their true homes will return and they can vanish into it forever.

Why race is not a thing, according to genetics

National Geographic interviewed geneticist Adam Rutherford, author of A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Stories in Our Genes. "In many ways, genetics makes a mockery of race," he notes. Read the rest

Kickstarting a diverse anthology of middle-grades science fiction

Corie J Weaver writes to tell us that Dreaming Robot (previously is kickstarting its latest science fiction anthology for kids, The Young Explorer's Adventure Guide, "the fourth collection of science fiction stories for middle grade readers, with a focus on diversity and representation." Read the rest

Six essays on media, technology and politics from Data & Society

danah boyd writes, "Yesterday, a group of us at Data & Society put out six essays on 'media, technology, politics.' Taken together, these pieces address different facets of the current public conversation surrounding propaganda, hate speech, and the US election. Although we only allude to specifics, we have been witnessing mis/disinformation campaigns for quite some time as different networks seek to manipulate both old and new media, shape political discourse, and undermine trust in institutions and information intermediaries. In short, we are concerned about the rise of a new form of propaganda that is networked, decentralized, and internet-savvy. We are also concerned about the ongoing development of harassment techniques and gaslighting, the vulnerability of old and new media to propagate fear and disinformation, and the various ways in which well-intended interventions get misappropriated. We believe that we're watching a systematic attack on democracy, equality, and freedom. There is no silver bullet to address the issues we're seeing. Instead, a healthy response is going to require engagement by many different constituencies. We see our role in this as to help inform and ground the conversation. These essays are our first attempt to address the interwoven issues we're seeing. Read the rest

Watch Viola Davis’ moving Critics’ Choice acceptance speech for #SeeHer Award

Accepting the #SeeHer award at the Critics’ Choice Awards earlier this week, Viola Davis emphasized the importance of seeing diverse types of women onscreen. Read the rest

Disney’s "Doc McStuffins" renewed after Twitter campaign: female African-American is its rare protagonist

Disney just announced that Doc McStuffins, an animated show starring an African-American girl who fixes broken toys and wants to be a doctor, is renewed for its fifth season. Described as “Cheers for preschoolers,” its fans took to Twitter this summer wanting to know the show’s fate. The social media campaign was led by W. Kamau Bell, a self-described socio-political comedian and dad who hosts CNN’s United Shades of America. Bell tweeted today, "Doc McStuffins is one of the most important shows in the history of television.” Reports Variety:

Since the series debuted in 2012, it has won much admiration, particularly because it is difficult to find a female African-American protagonist who aspires to be a doctor in many mainstream cartoons.  A group of African-American female physicians, inspired by the program, formed the Artemis Medical Society, an organization which has a membership of over 4700 women physicians of color from around the world. First Lady Michelle Obama guest-starred as herself in an episode.

“Doc McStuffins” won a Peabody Award in 2015 and NAACP Image Awards in 2015 and 2016 in the  “Outstanding Children’s Program” category. Disney says the series averages 16 million views on the Disney Junior app, VOD and Hulu, and reaches 150 million viewers worldwide each quarter, and in the past year was ordered over 20 million times via set-top-box VOD.

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Chicago has about 40% fewer African-American teachers than in 2001

This month's Mother Jones examines a shocking statistic: "According to the Albert Shanker Institute, which is funded in part by the American Federation of Teachers, the number of black educators has declined sharply in some of the largest urban school districts in the nation. In Philadelphia, the number of black teachers declined by 18.5 percent between 2001 and 2012. In Chicago, the black teacher population dropped by nearly 40 percent. And in New Orleans, there was a 62 percent drop in the number of black teachers." Read the rest

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