Who I Amplify


This is a post about how I make choices as to who I try to boost or platform, with an emphasis on try. It's not a manifesto or a cut and dry proscription. And I'm open to receiving feedback on this.

My understanding of the term 'platforming' means to show respect and endorsement of an individual by giving them space to publicly speak their views. This could vary from something as 'minor' as a retweet of an individual to as much as conducting an extensive interview with someone on a public podcast.

Background info: I am a mid-career artist and academic, white and cis-gendered male, and a member of a minority culture, based in NYC, who works broadly in technology. I am also a volunteer and organizer with several arts organizations and run a podcast. I have a fulltime job, housing, and a supportive community around me.

Where I boost

Where are the places that I can make choices as to how to boost/amplify?

In the classroom I choose what artists or scholars I teach, add to my syllabus, or have students read and research. I meet with other academics and share syllabi together, attend art and technology conferences that feature diverse presenter communities, and I try to assess my syllabi. I believe I can still improve my work here.

On my podcast I choose which guests to invite to speak with me (about 3000 active listeners). I have put effort into presenting a diversity of voices, ages, genders, and cultures. I am still however very focused on cities, western voices and can take more steps to change this. In general I try to amplify speakers that are not already given widespread platforms, though have compromised on this at least once in order to amplify a person well-publicized already but where I had a unique body of knowledge to gain new insights beyond the traditional press. Choosing more well-known guests with social and cultural capital would amplify and boost my own podcast, though it does not match with my goal here necessarily and so I haven't taken those steps but instead try other techniques.

In the art spaces where I am a co-organizer I have a hand in selecting artists we present in exhibits, to host performances, hold events, or boost on our social media. The organizations I work with have put sustained multi-year efforts into diversifying our community, leadership and allyship in a way I am proud of. I do believe we need to continue to put energy and discussion around this to make sure we continue to support marginalized communities.

In terms of social media, my podcast, personal accounts and arts organizations have about 15,000 direct followers. I choose what to amplify, such as a re-tweet of someone's project I'm excited about. This feels lower stakes than a podcast episode or a web article for example, but it's still worth considering our influence and platform power.

On this gemlog I have about 15,000 monthly views. I don't know how many are bots. I choose what to write on, and I keep in mind my audience is largely a technical community with diverse interests in art, music and other hobbies. I keep this gemlog mostly separate from my other projects and tend to not platform people but instead ideas, concepts and occasionally software.

When writing about software, I consider the community that creates the software. In general I will try not to say who/what I won't cover because I think inadvertently that still amplifies someone I don't wish to give a platform. Examples of this include: particular software communities that make minimalist software but flirt with neo-"fash" or neo-reactionary politics; game developers that espouse anti-vaccine misinformation; free software communities that rally behind benevolent dictators with mysoginist messages. This is not a comprehensive list but just examples. These groups don't need any support or amplification and I won't write about them again.

Implications of platforming/boosting

I believe giving a platform or boosting someone sends the following types of messages.

"Here's what I find interesting or important and worthy of my and your attention..." "This is a model example that I wish to follow..." "We need more of this in the world..."

Here's how this fits with my politics: I believe in non-hierarchical organizations and direct democracy where we as people find compassion to work together and support each other. I don't want a leader or leaders to make decisions for me or about me or about the people I care about. I don't want to amplify the voices of celebrities, 'charismatic' leaders, those with social or economic power or cultural capital. They already have support and don't need more and certainly not from me.

I'm open to modifying my views and actions, and interested in hearing about how others make decisions. Feel free to write a comment.

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