WordPress Wednesday Aug. 4

brittanica.com

As promised, this marks week two of the raw data on the identities and subjects of bloggers highlighted by wordpress as the best bloggers on wordpress have to offer. While this week avoided outright racist posts about people of color the trend toward highlighting mostly white male authors and white heterosexual authors on Freshly Pressed continues. Among the things we found most interesting this week was that in order to give the appearance of diversity, wordpress staff used captured images from videos on several posts whose photographic images were all of white people; the videos were done by black artists. In another case, they used a captured image from a black artist’s video on a post that had several images relating to its actual subject matter, including a photo of children of color. In both cases, the captured images did not reflect the focus of the posts in question. In all cases, including one where the post was actually about a black artist and wordpress staff decided to use a more stereotypical looking captured image than the much clearer photos available in the post, the posts were written by white people so that the visual diversity they created on the Freshly Pressed page was dually misleading.

Also interesting was that in at least one case, a video capture of a black artist was used on the Freshly Pressed page for a post that focused primarily on Asians. At the same time the overwhelming majority of authors of color highlighted were either Asians (as in, APIs in Asia) or API Americans. Like last week, there were several days in which no authors of color were highlighted including today.

Another interesting trend that seems to be emerging is the fact that many authors addressing issues of language or race highlighted on the page are writing from outside of the U.S. The majority of these authors have been Australian but not all. Further their discussions of race are largely about imperialistic interplays rather than racial contentions and almost all are written from a white perspective. In some cases, this perspective has coincided with the desire to deconstruct colonial gazes while in others it has embraced them.

On the positive side, while women were seldom pictured this week, at least two images included “plus size” women. Both of these women were white.

Some Data Issues

The data on images in general is misleading this week because wordpress highlighted a post on India that was a photo essay so that people of color appear over represented in the sample this week when in fact they were only pictured in a few posts this week. Again, the author of that post was white and equally interesting, he had chosen a header image of a boy of color walking for his blog design.

The focus on animal and plant blogging also decreased the overall number of human images further inflating the number of people of color depicted this week beyond the actual reflection of representations chosen.

Also as implied by the beginning of this post, in order to cross-check this information you need to look at the posts since simply scanning the Freshly Pressed page can give the wrong impression about who and what is highlighted. Interestingly, wordpress is aware that I do these stats on Wednesday’s and today’s Freshly Pressed page is particularly misleading with regards to supposed diversity of highlighted posts.

News of the Odd

One of the outlined criteria for Freshly Pressed is that the posts be interesting, entertaining, or otherwise inform. While we ruled out counting posts we found “boring” because that was entirely too subjective, we did find it interesting that wordpress chose to highlight a flickr page and several magazines that are presumably hosted by wordpress rather than actual bloggers on the site. They also highlighted a blog post that seemed to imply it had been plagiarized, and one that, while fascinating, claimed that upper middle class students are more oppressed than anyone else. They also continued to highlight posts that had copyright infringements despite their express policy against doing so, and in one case the post amounted to one giant uncited photo and a paragraph of text.

The Raw Data

Here are the numbers for the week in their raw form. We are collecting more information than I have highlighted here but I want to focus on the identity issues that started this project.

There were roughly 278,000 bloggers and between 285,000 and 346,000 blog posts per day from which they chose 11 to highlight each day. This weekend no new posts were highlighted. We only counted actual photos of people not videos of people even when wordpress staff chose to ignore images in favor of video screen captures for the Freshly Pressed page. The reason for this was that we noticed how the video images they chose did not reflect the post & videos are rarely highlighted on Freshly Pressed posts which makes them less important to us as an overarching indicator.

Identity

  • pictures of men of color: 11
  • pictures of women of color: 3
  • TOTAL IMAGES OF PEOPLE OF COLOR: 14
  • pictures of white men: 19
  • pictures of white women: 12
  • pictures of white people where gender was unknown (feet, hands, arms, etc.):5
  • TOTAL IMAGES OF WHITE PEOPLE: 36
  • Images of white people in the header: 9
  • Images with people of color in the header: 1
  • men of color authors: 2
  • women of color authors: 5
  • person of color author where gender was not given: 1
  • TOTAL AUTHORS OF COLOR: 8
  • white male authors: 26
  • white female authors: 20
  • white author where gender was not given: 3
  • TOTAL WHITE AUTHORS: 49
  • authors who mention spouse or parenting: 14
  • authors who mention queer identity: 0
  • white identified or eurocentric posts: 3

You will note in this section that white people vastly outnumber people of color in both the images used for highlighted blogs and the people authoring them even with the issues of over-representation of images of poc this week.  You will also note that both with regards to authors and images, men outnumbered women overall while female authors of color outnumbered male authors of color. As implied there were no images or authors that identified as transgender and no mention of queer identity or couples. Images of older people in this week’s Freshly Pressed were also down, and those depicted were all men of color down on their luck in a photo essay in which everyone else appeared to be working class or higher reinforcing a eurocentric view of poc.

WordPress Criteria Stats

These stats include the things that wordpress has expressly said they would not highlight, like posts with grammatical errors or un-cited images or other copyright infringement.

  • Grammatical Errors: 7
  • Copyright Infringement: 17 (not counting youtube videos)

While this represents a small fraction of the highlighted posts, it stands to reason that in the 300,000+ posts each day that wordpress staff had to choose from, they could have found posts written by people of color and/or queer people that neither violated copyright or had grammatical errors to replace this posts.

Conclusions

Despite what one wordpress staff person said about the Freshly Pressed page striving to reflect the diversity of the bloggers who use their format, the reality seems indisputable. In the last two weeks alone the majority of blog posts highlighted have been written by and illustrated using images of white, heterosexual, cis people primarily from the middle or upper class. They have also assumed a white audience in many cases and in some recreated both sexist and eurocentric narratives.

If you are concerned about the lack of representation not only on the Freshly Pressed page but the way wordpress is ultimately crafting its image through that page, please link to this post using some of the data in your post and considering asking wordpress to be more inclusive.

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