Meat’s Meat and We All Gotta Eat

October 20, 2011 § Leave a comment

Lisa Nakamura, Beth E. Kolko and Gilbert B. Rodman, Race in Cyberspace (2000)

People don’t like talking about race and they certainly don’t like talking about race online, which is either said not to exist or exists so hard that all anyone can do is get real mad & throw balls of racially-charged flames at people’s cyberfaces. The discomfort people feel and the infrequency/difficulty with which these conversations take place (not to mention the resulting temper-tantrums) have all but ensured the academic ten-foot poling of race online — the default position being I don’t know how or I simply don’t want to talk about it. But it’s really important we talk about this, since race is embedded in language and language is predicated on meat. The manifestations of meat via language are of course widely divergent, and demand careful inquiry. The important point is that rl and online life can’t easily –and frankly shouldn’t– be decoupled.  Hence this book.

Selected tl;dr chapter rundown 

  • Lisa Nakamura, “Where Do You Want to Go Today?: Cybernetic Tourism, the Internet and Transnationality”

The assumption that you can ever escape your meatlump via some form of purely cerebral communication is problematic to say the least, not that that’s ever stopped telcos from advertising how awesome it is to embrace precisely the diversity and transnationality that the internet (allegedly) (simultaneously) eradicates!

  • Jeffery A. Ow, “The Revenge of the Yellowfaced Cyborg Terminator”

Feminist cyborgs smash and remix generatively! Male cyborgs (and they are always raced white) (here evidenced by tragicomedy paratext that is Shadow Warrior) merely redouble their phallocentric, colonialist fuckery!

  • Tara McPherson, “I’ll Take My Stand in Dixie-Net: White Guys, the South, and Cyberspace:”

Neo-Confederates are all about the embodied online self! None of this “there’s no race on the internet,” there is by gum & it’s as pure as the driven snow! And is critical to the reconstruction of a bygone era. aka cyberwhitening, which ain’t just for neorebels, in fact is more of a racialized default setting than we might be comfortable admitting!

  • Beth E. Kolko, “Erasing @race: Going White in the (Inter)face”

On MUDs and MOOs of yore, a player would have to input an @race property if he/she wanted to embody a particular race or ethnicity, a decision which quite literally would flag the player as “Other.” One cannot be an Other without a standard against which to measure itself; hence racelessness (& per Kolko, a particular kind of unmarked whiteness), was the default non-race.

The unifying theme of the above selections is that you can take the self out of the meat but you can’t take the meat out of the self. In other words, a person can occupy any number of races, gender negotiations, personalities or whatever else online, but that in the end, these identity fractures (if it even makes sense to talk about “fractures,” as the very notion of pieces presume some complete whole) all refer back to a very particular –and particularly interpolated– sock full of bones and red beans. Thus we are gendered and raced and classed already, whether or not we explicitly declare our nominatives, and whether or not these nominatives play an active (or obvious, or deliberate, or good-faith) role in the online identities we choose to construct for ourselves.

One of the ways our “true” self reveals …itself… (and by “true” I’m talking bones and red beans, not who we are or would like to think we are as people, or the various roles we play in various circles both online and off) is via language. For example, are we writing in English? If so, exactly what kind of English is it? British? American? Some weird regional hybrid? Do we mostly use big words or little words? When we use the grammar, are it standard? The bottom line is, even if we’re playing, that is, pretending to be something above or beyond or below what we are in real life, our linguistic and cultural database(s) will say a hell of a lot about the hominid who’s typing whatever sexy hawt commands. Again, this isn’t an issue of identity as much as basic locomotion. Because this shit won’t type itself, and the person doing the typing is bringing all kinds of social and political and interpersonal baggage to the table before he or she taps our a single expletive.

I mean shit, consider this dumb blog! You could extract my whole life story from what I’ve written here, even though I haven’t written all that much about who “I” am “really” — consciously or not, I bring some trace of my race and class and gender to bear every time that I of mine sits down to write whatever new dick joke. In conclusion meat. Catch the fever!


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