This week we explore at a social dynamics of our digital lives that is certainly not a game, nor fun, but we might look at through the dynamics of game play- who creates the rules, and more importantly here, how is the game board designed.

Redlining is “is the practice of denying services, either directly or through selectively raising prices, to residents of certain areas based on the racial or ethnic composition of those areas.” The US National Housing Act of 1934 led to maps characterizing parts of city as too dangerous for banks to loan; and while eventually banned as a practice resulted in social dynamics whose effects are felt in 2018.

The Opener: What is Digital Redlining?

Educator Chris Gillard (@hypervisible on twitter) has been investigating and asking others to consider how digital technologies and services, often billed as providing equitable access to all, are also ruled by a system of digital redlining that need to be called out.

We will discuss Chris’s ideas on how the historical practices of redlining might still be playing out with technological services and practices today.

“Digital Redlining It is a different thing: the creation and maintenance of technological policies, practices, and investment decisions that enforce class boundaries and discriminate against specific groups. The digital divide is a noun; it is the consequence of many forces. In contrast, digital redlining is a verb , the “doing” of difference, a “doing” whose consequences reinforce existing class structures. The digital divide is a lack—redlining is an act. In one era, redlining created differences in physical access to schools, libraries, and home ownership. Now, the task is to recognize how digital redlining is integrated into technologies, and especially education technologies, to produce the same kinds of discriminatory results. The divide is a “lack” — redlining is an act.”
Situating Innovation (Chris Gilliard blog)

Dive into Research

Collectively we will explore and share what we can learn about digital redlining by putting our digital alchemy research skills to work. Some starting points (and expand out from there):

The Challenge: Examine Possible Map Connections of Digital Redlining in Newark

Chris’s work has been largely centered on his home and where he teaches in Detroit; he is asking the Kean #Netnarr class to explore if there are aspects of digital lining we might detect as if it is maybe a game board map.

We do not know for sure if it is, but we are going to try to compare the map distribution of digital services or other indicators with the historical digital redlining map of Essex County (1939)

scanned image of 1939 HOLC map for Essex New Jersey, from the University of Richmond Digital Scholarship Lab

The University of Richmond Mapping Inequality project provides an interactive version of this map where you can access historical documents for the areas rated “A”, “B”, “C”, “D”:

Explore the historical redlining map for Essex County, and compare the documents for neighborhoods with different ratings.

Overlay / Comparison Maps

Our task is to find a map distribution of digital services we can overlay on a map of Newark, NJ (not hotels which Google keeps inferring I want, sigh).

Seek maps that include the Newark metro area

Or more specifically this region of the Essex County 1939 Redlining Map:

Find maps to overlap this region of the Essex County redlining map

You will want to use your computer to generate a screenshot of the maps you find (learn how to capture a screenshot here).

This is a starting list of ideas that might be mapped, not all of them will have data or maps for Newark, but you may be able to find them elsewhere. Or add an idea of your own.

Make: Digital Redlining Game Board Comparison

Let’s consider these maps layers in a game board… For this NetNarr Make this week we will produce a widget that allows you to compare the digital services map you found with the historic redlining map, for example the FCC Broadband services map for Newark:

Now follow the instructions in the Digital Redlining: The Newark Game Board Make to produce your own comparison game board.

This week’s Checklist

It’s red! A list! Pixabay image by RossMannYYC shared into the public domain using Creative Commons CC0

Week 11 Checklist

Featured Image: Composite of the Essex County Redlining map from the Mapping Inequality Project licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License superimposed on Game, board (AM 1967.16-1) Wikimedia Commons image by Auckland War Memorial Museum licensed under Creative Commons CC BY Attribution license.

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Alan Levine feels weird writing about himself in the third person. A 1990s pioneer on the web and early proponent of blogging, he shares his ideas at His interests include web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), mocking MOOCs, daily photography, bending WordPress, and randomly dipping into the infinite river of the internet.


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