I’ll “Race” You to Cyberspace LOL

November 2, 2011 § 1 Comment

Here is a video of white people (possibly) pretending to (possibly) pretend to emulate what is assumed (facetiously?) to be coded as black, which begs the question of where exactly the joke is hiding, and/or if the joke itself is the joke, or one layer of the joke, because who exactly is under this microscope, white people for being/seen as stereotypically white or black people for being/seen as stereotypically black, or white people for thinking black people are funny, or white people for thinking white people who think black people are funny, are funny? Who can even tell these days, on the internet!


Lisa Nakamura, Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet (2002) 

The Internet is dead long live the Internet! In this post-Internet world (“post-Internet” = annoying PoMo way of referencing the 90s dot-com bubble), it is important to consider the racial contours of the ongoing cultural transformation ushered in by CYBERSPACE NETWEB. It is possible to explore these questions through the examination of cybertypes, images and performances of racial identity necessitated by the digital medium. i.e. the human layer interacting with the machine layer, i.e. how race emerges where there are no (physical) bodies (in the representations themselves).

This book explores the various rhetorical and technological spaces where this process unfolds, and posits a kind of neo-liberal Dyer-ing ideological effect (the default avatar is presumed white; everything else is Other; this Other can be exotic, but never the norm). You’ve got your bourgie lamer identity tourism and/or explicitly racialized avatars on LambdaMOO & graphic chat textholes like Club Connect! Your marginalization of brown and black bodies in the fictions of/about/surrounding cyberspace! Your weird contradictory messages about how awesome it is that the Internet collapses racial and national boundaries, except there’s actually no such thing as either, because it’s the Internet! Your check-box-for-phenotype auto-racing interfaces, complete with clever niche marketing strategies! In conclusion, race happens online, whether or not you’re looking for it!  So what do we do? The territory is fraught, people! Due to! CAN THE MASTER’S TOOLS EVER DESTROY THE MASTER’S HOUSE? This, ultimately, is the question. And the answer is…maybe?



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