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

"Finding a Place in Cyberspace: Black Women, Technology, and Identity" by Ashley Martinez-Munoz

Media Summary:

I found two Ted Talk videos that I believed worked well with the topics discussed within the article. Below each video you will find a summary. It is beneficial for you to watch the full length of the videos. Enjoy.


Women in Technology: through the eyes of my daughter | Mark MacNaughton | TEDxColumbusWomen

Mark MacNaughton, is a man who has worked within the technology world for multiple years. He has three daughters who he briefly discusses within the video, all of which he describes as competent, ambitious, and other positive descriptors. He believes that all women are what he believes his daughters to be. One day, when his wife and him are making one of his daughter's school schedules, they came across a conflict when his daughter did not want to enroll in a Geometry honors class. As a concerned father, he met with the school academic counselor in order to view the class rosters for classes such as the Geometry honors class. It was then that MacNaughton really noticed how young women of his daughter's school are underrepresented in such classes such as Physics, Math, and Engineering. And it is not just within his daughter's school that this is an issue, it is in fact a national if not global issue. MacNaughton discusses further how he hopes his daughters, who are capable of being in such fields, are able to make such a choice if they choose later on in their lives without being biased. He in fact wishes this for all women who have the capabilities and ambition to be within STEM fields. He does not come up with such a conclusion, but instead leaves the topic for pondering within the audience/viewers. Although, his daughters are not of color, he still surfaces an issue that receives underrepresented attention, which is ultimately all women being underrepresented within the STEM fields.

Black Girls Code | Kimberly Bryant | TEDxKC

Kimberly Bryant is the founder of a non profit organization by the name of, Black Girls Code, which is a program that teaches young girls of color how to program and other aspects of the technology field. Bryant describes the upbringing and how "nerdy" she was by excelling in science and math. She explains how difficult it was to breakthrough the barriers that attempted to block her from succeeding in the technological world. She states that the Black Girls Code is revolutionary in allowing an open door for colored women to work within the technological fields. She discusses the benefits of her program and why it is important to teach these girls at such a young age, the skills necessary to benefit in the technological world and its fields. She mentions that the jobs within the technological world are the fastest growing. Kimberly Bryant is a major contributor to the movement of bringing colored women to the front of the technology world and its fields. Kimberly Bryant is making those girls who are a part of her program, defeat the "impossible" and becoming an "exception" to the statistics.

Reading Summary:

Michelle M. Wright (2005) discusses various topics within her article Finding a Place in Cyberspace: Black Women, Technology, and Identity, all of which are controversial issues in today's society. The main topic of the article, as we have discussed before within this class, is Black women who work in the technology field and the lack thereof. Along with that, is the topic of race and gender on the Web or cyberspace as we like to call it. Many people unfortunately view cyberspace as raceless, genderless, and sexuality-free, but as many of us know this is not the case. Wright (2005) states an issue that we have all learned within this class, which is that the technology world within the West is predominantly ran by white males. This leaves the colored people, especially colored women, out in the cold trying to merge their way in, in order to create a space of their own not only in the real world but also in the cyberspace world. The digital divide has created racist beliefs within some of the Web's users about race and technology, something that does not seem to be going away anytime soon but is instead blindly encouraged. However, Wright (2005) states that such a divide is now rapidly closing hence the fact that data shows "...Latinos and African-Americans occupying the number one and number two slots of fastest-growing groups of Internet use..." and since we are now informed of what each group uses the Internet for. Besides the fact of the under-representation of colored women, or of any colored people, within the technological fields, African-American's Internet and computer users are increasing due to the decrease in such hardware prices.

Wright (2005) was able to interview three women of color that have worked in the technology field for multiple years. The women came to a consensus that  it was not curiosity or enthusiasm that lacked in not enabling people of color to be in the field of technology, but rather the lack of resources, especially in poorer areas or areas where older generations predominantly live/occupy. Beyond that, Wright (2005) discusses that women since the time of the Civil Rights movement have been fighting for equal representation, but still the marginalization of Black women still continues as is exemplified by the lack of black women in the technology fields. As time has shown, even Black men under represent Black women. Such an event that demonstrates this is within websites that feature Black achievements and timelines, which are dominated by Black males. Interestingly Wright (2005) states that even the term "black" is misused, in connotation to mean "African-Americans" when it in fact should represent more people of color such as the Caribbeans, black French, etc. Wright (2005) notes that the majority of Internet user's problem is that they do not properly recognize the African diaspora, and instead make such topics on it an exception instead of a rule. The majority of us contribute to the divide of colored women [people] and technology.

Source: Wright, Michelle M. "Finding a Place in Cyberspace: Black Women, Technology, and Identity." Froniters: A Journal of Women Studies, 26:1. (2005): pp. 48-59.


Although, the media does not show an equal representation of all the issues discussed in Wright's (2005) article, I believe it represented the main topic well being the lack of [colored] women within the IT fields. The medias provided were ultimately optimistic views of what the future could hold for not just colored women with the IT fields, but women overall. The first Ted talk video provided, demonstrated that people that are not of color, still recognize the misrepresentation of women within the technology fields. The issue is not completely blinded from everyone, bringing hope to minimizing such a controversial issue. No solutions were provided by the Ted talker, however, it still is a representation of how this issue is not just applied to women of color but overall the population of women. He recognizes the strengths and capabilities of all women and wants others to recognize as well. The second Ted talk discusses a colored woman's own experience within the technology world and struggling to succeed within it. She shows a picture of herself when she was little and how her identity was almost changed in order to fit the norms of society. She states that she wished her hair was in a natural afro instead of pressed down and that she was wearing more comfortable clothing, rather than the dressy clothes shown within the picture. Kimberly Bryant perfectly demonstrates how her program is viewed of colored girls that are an exception instead of women who are just viewed as successful within the technology world. Being a woman, let alone, any individual within the real world is difficult and it should not be hardened just because a woman wants to surround herself within a world that is primarily made of numbers and engineering equations. One day, the majority of us hope that women who are Mathematicians or Engineers are seen as a norm and not an exception that is degraded instead of uplifted.

Discussion Questions:

  1. As Wright (2005) claimed within the article, the “divide is now rapidly closing, we are now informed, with Latinos and African Americans occupying the number-one and number-two slots of fastest-growing groups of Internet users…” Do you agree or disagree with the author that the digital divide is rapidly closing? Why or why not?
  2. Do you believe that programs meant for colored women, such as Black Girls Code, that teach them about Engineering/Math skills are actually beneficial, due to the fact that they are the least represented in such fields? Do you think such programs actually make a difference?
  3.  As stated by the women that Wright (2005) interviewed, do you believe that it is actually the lack of resources and not the lack of enthusiasm or curiosity that creates a illiteracy situation between the different races? 

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