“Upload Your Impact”: Can Digital Enclaves Enable Participation in Racialized Markets?

I am part of an amazing peer-learning and research group called "The Scrutinizers". In our most recent publication, we examined digital enclaves - groups of consumers and business owners formed on social media platforms - to explain how they can foster participation in mainstream markets. 

Ethno-racial minorities are excluded from various consumption contexts, contributing to racial disparities and consumer disempowerment. For instance, they are made invisible within the marketplace for a lack of representation in marketing communications and stigmatized on retail grounds. However, following the brutal murder of George Floyd and related radicalization (e.g., protests, riots) in 2020, activists have mobilized digital network tools to redirect consumer economic resources in favor of Black market actors, with #BuyBlack and #MyBlackReceipt (#MBR) being well known examples of contemporary digital enclaving.

The study examines how digital enclaves - groups of consumers and business owners formed on social media platforms - can foster participation in mainstream markets. In our qualitative study of #MyBlackReceipt, we identified tactics that racialized actors in digital enclaves perform to help address this challenge: a) legitimizing, which justifies the purpose of the digital enclave; b) community delimiting, which establishes the boundaries of the digital enclave; c) vitalizing, which habituates behavior and infuses emotion into the digital enclave; d) manifesting, which materializes the digital enclave; and e) bridging, which connects digital enclaves to sets of people, resources, and discourses outside the enclave, helping to increase its porosity. 

These tactics promote the formation and sustenance of digital enclaves: they legitimize their purpose, vitalize behaviors and emotions among different actors within them, shape and enforce their boundaries, and materialize and connect the digital enclaves in external networks of meanings and resources.
Photo by Cassandra Hamer on Unsplash 

Overall, our study of the #MBR digital enclave sheds light on an opportunity to complement extant color-blind policies by brands, marketers, companies and policy markers with color-conscious policies fostering market contexts, where market actors’ ethno-racial identities are emphasized, and socio-economic structures are created that respond to those specific identities’ needs and challenge. 

For instance, as ethno-racial minority business owners cater to the needs of ethno-racial minority consumers within digital enclaves, public policies should focus on enabling the legitimizing, vitalizing, manifesting, bridging and community delimitation tactics that create and sustain racial market enclaves.