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Digitizing Race

Visual Cultures of the Internet

2007
Author:

Lisa Nakamura

Digitizing Race

The implications of how we see and exhibit race and ethnicity online

Lisa Nakamura, a leading scholar in the examination of race in digital media, looks at the emergence of race-, ethnic-, and gender-identified visual cultures through popular yet rarely evaluated uses of the Internet. While popular media depict people of color and women as passive audiences, Nakamura argues that they use the Internet to vigorously articulate their own types of virtual community, avatar bodies, and racial politics.

With Digitizing Race, Lisa Nakamura, one of the most perceptive observers of identity in the digital age, skillfully draws our attention to those taken for granted interfaces at which race and ethnicity are constituted, revealing the centrality of these techno-visual practices to contemporary political culture.

Alondra Nelson, co-editor of Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life

In the nineties, neoliberalism simultaneously provided the context for the Internet’s rapid uptake in the United States and discouraged public conversations about racial politics. At the same time many scholars lauded the widespread use of text-driven interfaces as a solution to the problem of racial intolerance. Today’s online world is witnessing text-driven interfaces such as e-mail and instant messaging giving way to far more visually intensive and commercially driven media forms that not only reveal but showcase people’s racial, ethnic, and gender identity.

Lisa Nakamura, a leading scholar in the examination of race in digital media, refers to case studies of popular yet rarely evaluated uses of the Internet such as pregnancy Web sites, instant messaging, and online petitions and quizzes to look at the emergence of race-, ethnic-, and gender-identified visual cultures.

While popular media such as Hollywood cinema continue to depict nonwhite nonmales as passive audiences or consumers of digital media rather than as producers, Nakamura argues the contrary—with examples ranging from Jennifer Lopez music videos; films including the Matrix trilogy, Gattaca, and Minority Report; and online joke sites—that people of color and women use the Internet to vigorously articulate their own types of virtual community, avatar bodies, and racial politics.

Awards

Winner of the 2008 Book Award in Cultural Studies from the Association for Asian American Studies

Digitizing Race

Lisa Nakamura is associate professor of speech communication and Asian American studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is the author of Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet and coeditor, with Beth Kolko and Gilbert Rodman, of Race in Cyberspace.

Digitizing Race

With Digitizing Race, Lisa Nakamura, one of the most perceptive observers of identity in the digital age, skillfully draws our attention to those taken for granted interfaces at which race and ethnicity are constituted, revealing the centrality of these techno-visual practices to contemporary political culture.

Alondra Nelson, co-editor of Technicolor: Race, Technology, and Everyday Life

Digitizing Race starts an important conversation about the practice of articulating race and gender on the Internet.

MELUS

The book’s main strength: giving equal status and consideration to user-generated and popular media as serious reflections of one another and society. For this reason, Digitizing Race is an important intervention into the study of visual cultures, digital racial formation, and critical Internet studies.

The International Journal of Communication