Fri, Jul. 24th, 2009, 04:51 pm || Kolko, Beth, Lisa Nakamura, and Gilbert B. Rodman, eds. - Race in Cyberspace

add to memories

I read this several months ago, so my already bad memory is now even worse. This is a relatively early book examining race and cyberspace; it was published in 2000, and the research is no doubt a few years older.

As with Nakamura's Cybertypes, this book was compiled when much of the rhetoric about the Internet and email and Usenet espoused how cyberspace would eradicate identity politics and allow all of us to only be seen via our personalities or our text or whatnot. I keep saying this, but oh, I laugh so bitterly at that!

Many of the pieces in the book come from media studies people and examine the portrayal of cyberspace in popular movies, books, and video games. I cannot really remember what they cover, since I read this right after Cybertypes and get the two mixed up at times. What I found the most interesting was a study of whiteness online in terms of Confederate websites, a study of an "electronic village," which attempted to emulate the experience of a small shopping center, and one on the role of computers in education and how that affected the digital divide.

Like most anthologies, I got frustrated by the length; I always wanted more. This was particularly the problem with Kolko's piece on trying to include "@race" in online MUDs to get rid of the frequent assumption that if someone doesn't specify their race, they must be white. She talks about designing the @race tag and how the system would use it, but notes that she only began implementing it and has no results for the study yet.

Overall, the book is very dated, and while I appreciated the media studies look at things, I also wanted more about class and race and how it impacts people's experiences online, not just how they are portrayed as being online. I think I wanted something more like The Not-So-Hidden Politics of Class Online.

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