Tidbits on tech, race and gentrification in the Bay Area

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Oakland Art Murmur has drawn the attention of Chronicle columnists and YouTube video producers
Photo by blocker1501 via Flickr

The media and blogosphere have given us plenty to chew on lately as columnists, subversive Tweeters, and mischievous YouTube producers take to the Internet to examine issues of tech, race, class and gentrification in the Bay Area. To wit:

Chronicle muttering about Oakland Art Murmur San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson is making noise about clamping down on the Oakland Art Murmur, saying Oakland is “asking for trouble” if it doesn’t rein in the popular, freewheeling monthly street festival that draws young creative types to the city center for art, food truck delights, street dance parties and the occasional African drum circle or impromptu magic show. “The street fair should be pared down to a manageable size,” Johnson proclaimed, pointing to a shooting that occurred at the last one to argue his point. It’s sad that an act of violence marred the latest Art Murmur, but we hope Johnson’s column isn’t a harbinger of some forthcoming campaign to sanitize the wildly successful, organically flourishing event. And for some reason, Johnson’s latest diatribe reminds us of this hilarious video we found on the Internet.

Using technology to examine issues of race and technology Jamelle Bouie, a journalist and blogger for The Nation, started a conversation about race and Silicon Valley in a thought-provoking article for The Magazine, revving up the Twittersphere by wondering out loud: “Why is tech writing so white?” Which promptly set off an online debate between Bouie, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Jason Calacanis, and a host of others who piled on to voice their own strong opinions on Silicon Valley and racial diversity. That exchange, in turn, was Storified by Buzz Feed staff writer Matt Buchanan, who also blogged it. Here’s how Buchanan distills the digital debate: “One of the side effects of the Valley's belief in its own progressiveness is an occasional blindness to the gap between its belief and its reality. Spanning that disconnect for some is a myth that the Valley is a total meritocracy that isn't subject to wider systematic problems of racism and sexism; that it is, in some ways, a truly hermetically sealed bubble.”

"Anti capitalist comrades" headed to court Remember when San Francisco prosecutors subpoenaed the Twitter account information of two activists who attended a Columbus Day protest that led to an ugly clash when the police showed up?  The request for Twitter account information was abandoned after a host of civil liberties organizations challenged it on First Amendment grounds, but the protesters are still scheduled for a Feb. 8 court appearance on charges ranging from unlawful assembly to battery on a uniformed officer. On a website set up in support of the ACAC19 (the 19 arrestees identify as “anti-colonial, anti-capitalist comrades”), organizers say prosecutors’ demand for Twitter records should be regarded as “evidence that the SFPD is using the case to map and surveil radical political networks in the Bay area.” We don’t know the extent to which San Francisco cops are engaging in such surveillance, but if Twitter’s transparency report is any indication, police have shown a growing interest in social media interactions across the board. To Twitter’s credit, the company logs all law enforcement information requests and tallies them in regular reports. The most recent data shows that law enforcement agencies have filed 1,858 user information requests with the San Francisco-based tech company since Jan. 1, 2012. During the second half of last year alone, U.S. law enforcement agencies filed 815 user information requests.

Google Bus invasion As we mentioned in this week’s cover story, San Francisco author Rebecca Solnit’s 3,900-word meditation on the Google Bus as it relates to San Francisco’s housing affordability crisis is a must-read.

“Creative class” expert: Service workers should get paid more Today’s Morning Edition on NPR featured an interview with Richard Florida, an urban scholar who has studied the rise of the “creative class” in cities like London, Sydney and, yes, San Francisco. Apparently, Florida has arrived at the groundbreaking conclusion that in order to maintain healthy economic balance, cities ought to find ways to boost the pay of service workers. Here’s an excerpt:

“A city or a metro region is much better off – if it has a large share of knowledge workers, of innovators, entrepreneurs, artists, professionals that make up the creative class, the wages and income of that city go up.  The problem is that others have said this has a trickle-down effect, that these wages benefit everyone. And I’ve been skeptical of that from the beginning … I’ve pointed out that places that have large creative class concentrations have a greater level of inequality.

“We actually looked at the amount of wages and salaries people have left after housing. If you do that, the creative class, they do better … but everybody else does worse. The point I’m trying to make with all this is that you’re better off with more knowledge workers, but sooner or later, we’re going to have to develop strategies in our country to boost the wages and salaries of the more than 60 million workers who deliver our services, who prepare our food, take care of our homes, wait on us in stores. We’re going to have to make their wages higher if everyone’s going to prosper.”