Race and the Digital: Racial Formation and 21st Century Technologies

Measuring Race on the Internet: Users, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the United States by Michie Ortiz

Closing the digital divide: Memphis minorities 

Media Summary

Memphis has a massive digital divide that has left minority children in Memphis without internet. Grasswork groups have created an after school and summer programs to get children encouraged to participate in coding and the STEM field. Code crew was created for under represented Latinos, African Americans, and Asians. The poverty in Memphis has made it difficult for children by giving them no access to internet and the possibility of different fields of education.  Code Crew encourages sparking an interest in coding and stem programs. These children are being given opportunities to lift themselves out of poverty. Essentially, this is to show that there are still areas where minorities have no access to internet and in the process of receiving help.

Reading Summary
Nakamura, Lisa. "Measuring Race on the Internet: Users, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the United States." Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2008. 171-201. Print.

In the chapter "Measuring Race on the Internet: Users, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the United States" the author Lisa Nakamura questions the racial politics of visibility on the internet. Most scholars rely on organizations to collect demographic data so they can conceptualize the results. However, these results can often be skewed because of many factors. One factor is not everyone has access to the internet. The lack of internet access would lead to an over representation of minorities who have internet access because those without are being taken into consideration. Some organizations do surveys through the phone but do not offer them in Asian languages which would exclude a large portion of the Asian American population.  This had led to the data showing "75 %" of Asian Americans having access to internet which makes them one of the most wired group the United States ( pg 181). These surveys ask questions about what activities a person engages with online. It does not question their cultural production, such as the creation of a website or posting up a blog. These surveys do not get the entire idea of the digital divide when they only survey activities. The issue with this is there may be a deeper digital divide with the over representation of minorities in the surveys. This would result in a lack of public internet access in local communities that need it.
Studies have shown that minorities are the ones who happen to invest the most in the internet. Interestingly enough people of color value the internet for its educational values. Hispanic parents invest in internet access for their children's future. However, you still mostly see minorities participating in activities listed under fun such as playing games, chatting online, and listening to music.
Over half the people on the internet are young adults. Because of this there is a fear that the internet has become mass media.
In 2004 Daniel Lee created an online petition to boycott an article the magazine Details had released entitled "Asian or Gay". it encouraged cyber activism in the Asian community. This was not the only ad that included racial stereotyping. Abercrombie and Fitch had released a t-shirt with the writing "Two Wongs Don't Make it White." There was the use of tiny images of Buddha as a fashion statement on a tankini. The use of the Buddhist images was received with anger for the lack of respect for a religious figure. There are Asian American civil rights organizations  (Japanese American Citizens' League, Asian American Journalists' Association) that monitor the media.
The Asian or Gay piece had a picture of an Asian man in pretty stylish brand name clothing and shot hair cut. What was supposed to be a hilarious take on a social stereotype backfired. Asians' use of petitions showed the use of "visual culture of internet to challenge racism in offline visual media cultures" (pg 188). the article demonstrated what people began to call retail racism.
Nakamura encourages using the internet to participate in something meaningful online instead of browsing.


I was most shocked to realize how the surveys were conducted for the demographic data. For something that can affect an the public I feel like there should be more efficient ways to be accurately  taking down information. What this article made clear to me is that minorities are invisible when it comes to the digital divide. Over representation in surveys is not helping them out. Secondly, Asian Americans are also the biggest minority being misrepresented. With over half the a good chunk of them who cannot speak English it is not helping them out in any way.
I found it interesting to see how the minorities happened to use the internet for more fun activities. I say this because their motivation to pay for internet is based off the idea of investing in their child's education. I begin to wonder whether is was a misconception of the uses of the internet or if it has to do with something else. Regardless, I believe they open doors to their children.
The "Asian or Gay" scandal with Details demonstrates the power of the internet. With the ability for people to form petitions and create different forms of protest online, they really demonstrated the powers of the internet. This form of participated on the internet helps support the . It also shows the visibility of minorities on the internet. 

Discussion Questions.

1.With the Asian American protest against retail racism we are left with two questions. "How do online petitions function differently from television, film, and other media in this way? Should we talk about them as Media, or as political protests?" (pg 197)
2.Collecting accurate demographic data has proven to be difficult, what should organizations do to improve their accuracy? what would should they stop doing?
 3.Why do you think minorities participate more in activities that are deemed "fun"? What do you think they benefit from this?

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