black bloggers needed in this white conversation

June 5, 2008

OK, when this post appear I’ll still be away meditating or something at Good Shepheard retreat. I’m quite positive about the getting away part, but have so much work, that I really wish they took another route. Their is a whole conversation going on after Mandy Dewaal wrote a post entitle Who’s who in the web 2.0 zoo, basicly saying that web 2.0 is a white boys club. Ramon Thomas reacted with Who’s who in the non-white Web 2.0 South African Zoo. Ismael D wrote, in my opinion, a very good post saying that we should stop pointing to the elephant and rather start doing something about the fact that many in South Africa are still poor, and don’t have internet access. He end with some challenges to the blogging community on how they could participate in changing things.

This really isn’t a new question between emerging bloggers. We had some conversations about this over at Emergent about a year ago, for example after this brilliant post by Cori, but this is just an example. I’ll skip the guy thing for now. Yes, blogging, also in the emerging blogs, is mainly a guy thing. Linus Trovalds write in The Hacker Ethic that, although there is exceptions, the early hackers was also basicly a guy thing. Let me just leave the thought that we need da gals.

The conversation is currently around race. I, and some others as well, started talking and now blogging about an emerging South African theology. And we realize that we need to take the conversation to those of different races and backgrounds. But with so much of the conversation depending on blogs and technology, is it even possible to do this?

This is going to be a serious challenge for the church in South Africa. But again we end with the problem that if we don’t address poverty and education, then this cannot change. There are examples of those who break into the white-boys club, but they are few and far between, and fact remain that only 8% of South Africa have internet access.

15 Responses to “black bloggers needed in this white conversation”

  1. Reggie Says:

    This is a very interesting thing that happens. Maybe I’m going to sound crude and hard, but let me give you my take (experience so far) on it. I think the blogosphere is still segregated and yes, I agree with Mandy De Waal and Ramon although evidently the post of Ramon Thomas focus on professional IT specialists which I am not.

    Anyway, I personally experience it this way: when I post… white ’emergents’ don’t respond- maybe our conversations are on different worlds. When I comment, nobody responds, so… I don’t comment anymore- why should I be talking to myself in another groups party? I comment on your post because I don’t think anymore it’s about black bloggers that should be trying to come into a ‘whites only’ world. We simply have to continue to speak our minds, from our own context, irrespective.

  2. ramonthomas Says:

    Thank you for raising this issue because it is important for any non-white bloggers to take themselves more seriously. Look at what’s possible. I generate more than 50% of my business from blogging now. And I am only gaining momentum. As the demand for my blogging for business seminars continue to grow I am not surprised its all, I mean all, from white owned companies, or white professionals who understand the value, the benefit, and WIIFM.

  3. Steve Says:

    That is one thing I’ve noticed about this emerging church movement — not only in South Africa, but aorund the world, it is predominantly white. Now perhaps that is because in South Africa there is a lot of interest from the white NGK, and so that could explain it to some extent — by is it the chicken or the egg? Why ia the white NGK interested in it?

    Why am I interested in it?

    That’s hard to say. I don’t think I’m interested in it because its white. I’m even more interested in African Independent Churches. I wonder if the white emergents and the black AICs will ever find common ground? I suspect that i n some ways the black AICs have found what the white emergents think they are looking for.

  4. Reggie Says:

    My sense is the NG Kerk is interested because then they don’t have to seriously deal with re-unification. Now, according to the speakers and writers their biggest concern in Africa is the decline of the church in Australia and the West

  5. Tom Smith Says:


    Just yesterday I asked a friend from the squatter camp if he will contribute to my blog. The ’emergent’ conversation has been going along for a while in his community (and others). So it’s more of a joining the conversation than taking the conversation to them.

    Yet, all this boils down to relationships. If we don’t build friendships (in the non-virtual world) we are screwed. The internet can only take us so far …

    The net can become a new form of elitist communication that doesn’t become incarnated … the new academia. I sometimes wonder how much of the blogging conversation becomes Incarnated in lives… so much talking.

    Enjoy your meditating – and let’s get together in a coffee shop soon?

  6. cobus Says:

    So, I’m back from the retreat. It’s been a great experience! Thanx for the comments.
    Reggie, while there, knowing that this has been published, and also after reading your comment, I realised that maybe this came out wrong. What I experience is that at least some of us are realising that we cannot take our own conversation to the “next level” as long as it is a “white-boys-club”. It’s that some of us start realising that if we really want to say something in South Africa today, then we need to listen to the voices of those from other backgrounds. It’s that some of us are more and more starting to realise that we need to commit ourselves to also read the blogs of those outside our comfort-zone, react on comments of those outside our comfort-zone.

    I do believe that you’ve seen the fact that I myself are critical of this conversation which I also see myself as part of, the emerging conversation. I think you might be right people in the NGK are grabbing onto emerging ideas, because this give them something to do without focusing on unification. But there is also those of us who are focusing on South Africa more and more in our own thoughts, and I, for one, will fight for unification, if only I knew what to do… So I blog…

    Steve, as we’ve discussed over email once. I think the NGK is grabbing onto the emerging conversation also because we are desperately looking for answers, and because we lost much of our identity. The emerging conversation is then just one thing which is being grabbed, the charismatics, fundamentalists, and other things are all being hailed as the new answer to the NGK problems by different groups.

    Tom, getting together sounds like a great idea! Where, when and who?

  7. […] first was sparked off by a blog posting by Cobus van Wyngaard, saying that black bloggers were needed in the emerging church conversation. And there is a […]

  8. Ismail Says:

    Hi cobus, i do not see it as a race issue. I see it as an issue as getting more people involved(Irrespective of race) who are excluded by nature of their situation (Poverty) so that would mean females and everyone else. I think we as an industry will be better of, and it will be the only way that South Africa can compete internationally.
    Also regarding the issue of female hackers, i read an article a few weeks back on the Economist(Dont have the link but will digg it up) where they found that just as many women were studying math/science/engineering related fields… and just as many were getting Doctrates etc. But when they analysed the number of scientists and researches it was largely dominated by males.

  9. Cobus Says:

    I’ve been noticing the fact that females tend to be part of discussion groups, but seldom become the keynote speakers or leaders myself. Can’t say why yet.

    The University of Pretoria is about 50% white and 50% non-white, so many black, indian etc. young people in South Africa do have access to the internet, but it would seem like the conversation we are part of remain a all-white conversation. So although I agree that poverty is a big part of the problem, I do think race still play a role as well.

  10. […] group with whom I like to identify because that would make me a cool Christian? When writing the black bloggers needed in this white conversation post the thought came to me why I’m using the emerging label, but decided not to go on a […]

  11. Let me take this opportunity to thank you guys for inviting other racial groups to this family.I have been in contact with Cobus. But i have been critical of how racism is been interpreted in our south african sociaty! My view is that there is a wrong perception that racism seem to come only from one side which is from white people!But i want to challenge you friends to start working together so that we can help each other to overcome this misperception!And by this we dont have to be ignorant that racism is very much alive!! And maybe even more from my own culture(black)than white culture.

  12. nic paton Says:

    Cobus – I think the issue is one of culture, not really of race or even poverty per se.

    We need to have a strong grasp of “media” and pay attention to the relationship between the medium and the message. Whatever McLuhan said on the topic, he at least drew our attention to these 2 aspects of communication.

    For me, what typifies the globally dominant “first world” is that it is predominantly Literate. This means that it pays a great deal of attention to what is written. In current terms, most writing involves not a pen, but a computer keyboard connected to a network. Even “conversations” take place silently, and are encoded in text.

    Other worlds, especailly in Africa, are predominantly Oral, having to do with the ear more than the eye. Their favoured means of communicating is via speech. This is typically a much more direct than writing.

    The Literate world is not better than the Oral one, but is the dominant force today. And the barrier to entry to Literacy is high – it invoved “unnatural” skills like writing, reading, understanding the body of literature, and having communication mediated via computers.

    For me the predominant reason why there are few Black African bloggers is that blogging is a “highly technically evolved” form of Literate culture. Even if you bought everyone in Africa a computer and internet connection, the real difference is in the soul of the culture – that theirs is first and foremost a direct, unmediated verbal form of communication.

  13. cobus Says:

    Thanx Peter. You help liberate liberal Afrikaners from our idea that we cannot critique black and other non-white people.

    Nic, think you might be on to something, but some questions needs be asked:
    Does what you say imply that it’s simply a question of time and then everyone will be part of the same “highly technically evolved” form of Literate culture?
    Is there not differences between the different cultures, even when everyone is blogging?

    See, the thing is that I think we should just put who we are on the table. I’m a white Afrikaner, and I cannot talk alone when I’m talking about South Africa, I need people of different races and background to take part, or else I’m irrelevant. I want to think about a new South Africa, but that cannot be done in isolation. Therefore we will need the African theologians in this conversation.

  14. nic paton Says:

    Cobus, I think the march towards the Literate view of the world is probably, and sadly, inevitable. Not that everyone will achieve “Literacy”, but that the aspiration to do so, and the failure by some, will define us all deeply.

    As for the ethical side – is it RIGHT that we all achieve “Literate status” – that is another question.

    I personally feel its a very mixed blessing. It’s nice to be able to read, write and converse via technology, but generally it’s at the expense of our Oral side.

    I look to the Oral witness to bring a salvific dimension to my hyper literal way of life. I look to Narrative, the Mythical, the Shamanic, Earthiness, the primal, transformance art, better evolved and more creative speech, aural skills, improvisation, recitation of history, songlines, and all non-literal forms of communication. I look to disintermediation and deconstruction – so that the contents of the heart might be available and communicated without innuendo, masks, the abstractions of thought and technology. I look to a direct, earthy, face to face, honest and playful mode of being. But thats just me.

    In my vision of heaven, I see few books, and much conversation.

    As for the difference of cultures on blogs, that is true, but the fact is all bloggers accept certin things – the intermediation of the keyboard, the paradox of “written conversation”, the anonymity of the audience, so many other cultral differences normally expressed visually, in gesture, ritual, inflection, are hidden and do not come into play. So ultimately blogging homogenises more than it diversifies.

  15. cobus Says:

    I think we’re getting a little off topic here, although you raise some very interesting points!

    Even n the blogosphere I still think that bloggers from different backgrounds will be able to make different contributions. Using the same literary form or level has never neccesarily caused similar ideas. When everyone was writing books, you still found diverging ideas in books. Can’t see why it wouldn’t be similar for blogs. Thus we can learn by reading the blogs of people with different backgrounds.

    As for the heavenly nature of the oral tradition… well, I enjoy writing, so I can’t see how I’ll have the right to say that it might be better for some not to write.

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