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

Evaluation: Connected by race

In the readings we the CS191 Class has read over the past five weeks, authors ranging from Melissa Gilbert to Christian Sandvig all hone in on the saddening reality that the groups of people that are marginalized in society continue to be so in the digital world. The data sets, as with most provided to the public, illustrate the small presence of people of color like Latinas/os and African Americans. Why is it that people are connected by race rather than be connected by service providers that allow usage of the Internet and social media platforms like Klout? Unfortunately, this suggests that socioeconomic statuses and racial identities continue to be the deciding factors of the quality of lives individuals are able to live in the United States. The color-blind theory that was created online to help drift away for the color-conscious reality existent offline. How are people supposed to take advantage of something that is given to them if they are not given the tools necessary to access it? 
Gilbert shares that "...research on the digital divide from a geographical perspective is limited...", but oddly enough, geographical differences are what cause such a divide because people live in distinct social, economic and geographical (Gilbert 2010: 1004). In his reading Christian Sandvig tells the story of the Tribal Digital Village, a "solar wireless Internet distribution network" that provided Internet connection for Native American reservations in Southern California. These native lands, isolated, "...lack[ing] the [basic] promised infrastructure...like roads, power and telephones..." are the very settings that place these individuals within the digital divide. Whereas 99% of United States inhabitants are able to get their Internet connection from well-known telecommunication providers, Native Americans rely on outside assistance (like that of the university incentive TDV started by Hans-Werner Braun) in order to be included among online presence. Geographic locations, like reservations, dwell particular groups of people which plays into the digital divide. Because of these divisions offline, the initial expectation of creating an online utopia where race and socioeconomic status would cease to exist, has yet to come to fruition. To consider the digital divide of not including inequalities in geographic locations, is to say that there is not hydrogen in water. Just as hydrogen is needed to create water, geographical locations are key to study the digital divide as people of different racial and socioeconomic statuses reside in distinct geographical locations. Just like the discussion of how freeways can determine different communities, like the 110 in Los Angeles that clearly shows the division. As illustrated in the Data Sets in the previous page, Latinos and African Americans have the least users of Smartphone and Home Internet. Less usage denotes a couple of possibilities, such as not enough economic resources to purchase the technological devices and service providers may not give the same connection to all communities. Therefore without experiencing and being a part of the digital world, individuals are subject to less opportunities to develop skills needed to navigate a twenty-first century lifestyle. For instance, Latinos and African Americans, with the small amount of usage of Smartphones (to use the Internet) and Home Internet, they have less chances to know about the mobile app and website, Klout, which then minimizes their presence more than it is online. Laura Robinson, et. al reading,"Digital Inequalities and Why they Matter", states a very important point that explains the ineffectiveness of the color-blind theory, "The stratification hypothesis holds that the process of ICT adoption and use replicates existing social inequalities, as digitally mediated networks replicate offline social network structures and because offline human capital carries over to the online world" (Robinson, et.al 2015: 573). Both scenarios are deeply intertwined, and Tara McPherson coincides. In her reading, "Why are the Digital Humanities So White?", she hints that to bring about equality in the digital world, there must be equality in the real world. McPherson  says, "[the masses] need to be literate in emerging scientific and technological methodologies but also in theories of race, globalization, and gender" (McPherson 2012: 9). All individuals are entitled to the availability of technological devices and resources; 100% of people must be connected online as it is an integral part of living in the twenty-first century. The Internet and devices must not be granted because it is perceived as an educational tool, as Lisa Nakamura shares "that the Internet is somehow exempt from the critiques...and that it is de facto 'enriching'" (Nakamura 2007: 174). This ties in with Sandvig's reading of Native Americans receiving assistance with Internet connection because it will facilitate and widen educational endeavors. Nakamura, as well as this paper, suggests that "...it is most often people of color who are left digitally divided from the ranks of the techno-elite" (Nakamura 2007: 176). Data Sets 1 and 2 described in the the previous two pages, people of color (Latinas/os and African Americans) do experience this reality. It may be that this gap may exist because people of color and women are not very familiarized with the Internet, much less have social media sites where they can influence others to share their content and have content curated to them, as in the site Klout. This diminishes people of color's existence online, as it is regarded offline. Klout can benefit the person being recognized for their online activity, but can benefit others by inspiring them to make their mark online. But in order for this to happen, men and women, regardless what color their complexion is, must first be accepted as who they are. Then they are able to show the world who they really are without caring what others think. Truth be told, these minority groups may have many things to share, and might even surprise so-called cultured, skilled Internet and technology users, as shared in class that women often "...underestimate their online skills and abilities compared to men" (Robinson et.al 2015: 573). Society does not function orderly like the initial UNIX computational models that 'spit' out commands and was organized enough that a problem could be detected and fixed. If it was, the US government would have found that people of color still need to be caught up in the digital world and that the color blind theory failed. Latinas/os and African Americans must make their presence known digitally; the least they could do is know about their digital inequality, then leave it up to those that can connect to fight for connection to all the rest. 

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