Academic journal article American Studies

Race after the Internet

Academic journal article American Studies

Race after the Internet

Article excerpt

RACE AFTER THE INTERNET. Edited by Lisa Nakamura and Peter A. Chow-White. New York: Routledge. 2012.

"Race has itself become a digital medium," Nakamura and Chow-White write, "a distinctive set of informatic codes, networked mediated narratives, maps, images, and visualizations that index identity . . . race critique has to acknowledge this and respond to it meaningfully, or be leftbehind" (5). By this, Nakamura and Chow-White do not intend to suggest their volume will focus exclusively on the construction of race in digital spaces, but rather that "[t]he pervasiveness of the digital as a way of thinking and of knowing as well as a format for producing and consuming information" (1) requires a retooling of our current understandings of race in both digital and actual spaces.

It is this call for reorientation that is the most important contribution of this volume. While the study of the construction of race in digital spaces has been under way since at least the early 2000s, the editors rightly observed that much of this earlier work has been centered on either examining inequalities of access to digital technologies across racial and ethnic lines, on the one hand, and examining the representations of race in digital spaces on the other. The interventions offered in this volume, then, both complicate these earlier points of focus and push the scholarly discussion beyond these areas into a broader consideration of the interplay of digital structures and racialized understandings.

In order to begin this discussion, Nakamura and Chow-White have assembled fourteen essays from scholars in a variety of humanistic and social science disciplines, which they organize into four sections on, loosely speaking, race as a form of code, the rhetoric of the digital divide, sorting and segregation in platforms and networks, and the parallel development of digital media and racial genomics. Perhaps the two most provocative contributions to this volume are essays by Tara McPherson and Wendy Hui Kyong Chun. Working in tandem, the pieces by McPherson and Chun argue along similar lines for closer attention to the technological logics of race as they have taken shape in conjunction with the rise of digital technologies.

McPherson, for example, highlights points of correspondence between the design logic that emerged during development of the UNIX operating system in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the "lenticular logic" of racism in the post-Civil Rights era. …

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