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


In her book chapter, Measuring Race On the Internet: Users, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the United States, Lisa Nakamura asks a very compelling question: "'Does the internet really offer spaces for representation and resistance constructed 'for us' and by us'" (176)? Around the late twentieth century it was thought that the staggering growth of media and ICTs would permit and expand the ability for average citizens to express their ideas and circulate them before a larger public without going through "traditional gatekeepers" such as editors, publishers, or record labels (Jenkins, 2008; Cummings, Sayf, Jarrett, 2012). This has not been the case. As we saw in data set B, Latino/as and African American have less access to internet services than their white counterparts. As previously mentioned, less access means less opportunities to engage in the creation and distribution of content. Even if one were to argue that ICT access and use disparities between minorities and whites is very minimal, there still remains a participation gap between those individuals who distribute and create content on the web and those who don't (Hargittai and Walejko, 2008). Nakamura (2007) argues that this participation gap may exist because “relative latecomers to the Internet” which are often people of color, women, and working class individuals, don’t own the means to produce cultural texts on the internet in the same way a technically skilled user may have. Relating this to the social media site, Pinterest, beyond just being less active on the site, African Americans and Latino/as may not know how to create a website and then pin it onto Pinterest for the world to discover. This can lead to a lack of representation and voice. One of the practicalities of Pinterest is that it not only allows users to share and discover "fun" and entertaining content, but also content that is powerful and culturally aesthetic. For example, users can upload recipes, art, crafts, clothing, and many other things that are native to their country and/or culture and heritage. With Latino/as and African Americans not as active on the site, their ability to present and represent themselves is severely constrained. Nakamura (2015) points out that for years, women and people of color have not been served well by mass media, often being subject to racist and sexist ideologies. With the lack of participation of Latino/as and African Americans on the internet, this can and will continue. 


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