Sunday, May 3, 2009

Reading Race Online

Your assignment, in preparation for our final, is to thoroughly discuss the remaining articles via our blog. Our collaboration will make the entire review a lot more productive for everyone.

Keep the following tasks in mind as you're blogging the article:

1.)Provide a summary
2.)Define key terms
3.)Analyze potentially weak points in the author’s argument
4.)Compare your article to our past readings
5.)Read the other groups’ blog posts and comparing it to your article
6.)Relate your article to the larger themes from the class

Feel free to comment on any other group's blog discussions as well. You should be reading them anyway, and providing extra commentary will help us all.

In addition, we'll be distributing a study guide later. Please use this same blog space to discuss that guide.


Luke Ehlen said...

Reading Race Online Summary

Burkhalter's main argument was that race is just as relevant online as it is offline. To prove this, Burkhalter views the interactions between several online social culture groups. These include SCAA (African American), SCJ (Jewish), and SCMA (Mexican American). Their interactions take place on a global electronic bulletin board called Usenet.

Since race is not as easily determined online than it is offline, this causes a hesitant uncertain feeling for it's users when it comes to racial issues. Many users felt the need to make sure their race was known. This was done by encoding their posts with racial cues. Many mentioned a cultural, racial, or ethnic terms in their discussions. Examples include using "sister" or "brother" to show they were African American.

According to Burkhalter, stereotypes and opinions are formed online in a different way than offline. Offline, you take a look at a person's race and make an opinion about who they are. While "online interaction uses and individual's perspectives, beliefs, and attitudes to make assumptions about the individual's racial identiy."

Having others believe in your racial identity is also important online. Users may challenge your identity when you have an opinion that may not align with the stereotype of your race. Having others that support you online can validate your opinion.

Crossposting was another aspect of the article. Crossposting is when you bring other people/groups into the thread. This can radically change the whole character of the conversation. His example was that dealing with one white supremacist in a conversation is a whole lot different than 100 white supremacist after they have been crossposted in.

This whole article reminded me of a hip-hop site that I go on the hear new songs that have been leaked. While hip-hop is historically seen as an African American genre, the majority of record sales are from white kids. This makes for an interesting atomosphere on the website. Quite often there are racial terms and clues to identify a persons race on the posts. I've read people opinions and came up with an idea of what race they were. I would have to agree with many of Burkhalter's opinions of race online.

jbrekke said...

I think that a potential weak point for this argument is that this article is from 1999, from a different era of internet usage. Back around the turn of the century, the internet as a third space consisted of mostly chat rooms and IRC channels, which still exist to this day, however, it is safe to say that we have entered a new epoch of internet usage, the "3G" internet. That is to say that now a person's identity can now be more connected to their online identity, look at things like myspace or facebook, or their earlier incarnation, friendster. These 3rd places allow people to represent themselves exactly as they are, and to connect themselves to their online identities.

I believe another weak point of Burkhalter's article is that he does not foresee the creation of an internet culture. I believe that there is now a sort of "language of the internet" composed of abbreviations, gamer or L33T speak, and internet memes (phrases, often attached to pictures, that have become iconic on the internet. Lolcats, for example) that make it harder to discern one's racial identity from just what they post in the comments section on youtube.

That is not to say that people do not use the internet to hide their identity, place like Second Life are perfect examples of where people can hide out, but i think that in communities like this the focus is on avatar-to-avatar interaction, rather than trying to sleuth out the identity of the real life person behind the digital facade.

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