Race after the Internet

Race after the Internet

Race after the Internet

Race after the Internet


In Race After the Internet, Lisa Nakamura and Peter Chow-White bring together a collection of interdisciplinary, forward-looking essays exploring the complex role that digital media technologies play in shaping our ideas about race. Contributors interrogate changing ideas of race within the context of an increasingly digitally mediatized cultural and informational landscape. Using social scientific, rhetorical, textual, and ethnographic approaches, these essays show how new and old styles of race as code, interaction, and image are played out within digital networks of power and privilege.

Race After the Internet includes essays on the shifting terrain of racial identity and its connections to social media technologies like Facebook and MySpace, popular online games like World of Warcraft, YouTube and viral video, WiFi infrastructure, the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program, genetic ancestry testing, and DNA databases in health and law enforcement. Contributors also investigate the ways in which racial profiling and a culture of racialized surveillance arise from the confluence of digital data and rapid developments in biotechnology. This collection aims to broaden the definition of the "digital divide" in order to convey a more nuanced understanding of access, usage, meaning, participation, and production of digital media technology in light of racial inequality.

Contributors: danah boyd, Peter Chow-White, Wendy Chun, Sasha Costanza-Chock, Troy Duster, Anna Everett, Rayvon Fouché, Alexander Galloway, Oscar Gandy, Eszter Hargittai, Jeong Won Hwang, Curtis Marez, Tara McPherson, Alondra Nelson, Christian Sandvig, Ernest Wilson


Introduction—Race and
Digital Technology
Code, the Color Line, and the Information Society

LISA NAKAMURA University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

PETER A. CHOW-WHITE Simon Fraser University

Postracial America, Digital Natives, and the State of the Union

The current generation of young people is the first to have always had access to the Internet; these so-called digital natives are both hailed as omnipotently connected and decried as fatally distracted (see Palfrey and Gasser 2008). They are also the first to enter adulthood with a African American president in office. Yet digital natives are not an equally privileged bunch; like “natives” everywhere, they are subject to easy generalizations about their nature that collapses their differences. In contrast to former President Bill Clinton, who was colloquially known as the first black president, Obama was the first “wired” president. Unlike his opponent in the presidential election, John McCain, who fatally revealed that he didn’t know how to use email, Obama was both our first black president and our first digital Commander in Chief, a harbinger of a new age in more ways than one. However, Obama’s presidency coincides with some of the most racist immigration legislation seen in recent years, as well as a prison industrial complex that continues to thrive and target black males, and a financial and housing crisis that has disproportionately harmed black and Latino Americans. The paradox of race after the Age of the Internet, a period that some have defined as “postracial” as well as “postfeminist,” lies in such seeming contradictions.

As the shift from analog to digital media formats and ways of knowing continues apace, continued social pressure is brought to bear on the idea of race as a key aspect of identity and an organizing principle for society. Yet no matter how “digital” we become, the continuing problem of social inequality along racial lines persists. As our social institutions and culture become increasingly digitally mediatized, regularly saturated with new platforms, devices, and applications that enable always-on computing and networking, digital media bursts the bounds of the Internet and the personal computer. The pervasiveness of the digital as a way of thinking and of knowing as well as a format for producing and consuming information forces intellectuals and scholars to produce new . . .

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