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Digitizing Race

Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet

Lisa Nakamura
Volume: 23
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 256
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  • Book Info
    Digitizing Race
    Book Description:

    Lisa Nakamura, a leading scholar in the examination of race in digital media, looks at the emergence of race-, ethnic-, and gender-identified visual cultures through popular yet rarely evaluated uses of the Internet. While popular media depict people of color and women as passive audiences, Nakamura argues that they use the Internet to vigorously articulate their own types of virtual community, avatar bodies, and racial politics.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-5377-5
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction: Digital Racial Formations and Networked Images of the Body
    (pp. 1-36)

    A constellation of events in relation to the Internet, digital visual representations of bodies, and racial identity came into alignment in the mid-nineties. First, 1995 was a turning point in the history of the Internet. In 1995 Netscape Navigator, the first widely popular graphical Web browser, had its first public stock offering and initiated popular use of the Internet and, most importantly, heralded its transformation from a primarily textual form to an increasingly and irreversibly graphical one that remediates video and other pictorially representational practices such as photography, cartooning, and digital gaming. That process has only accelerated in recent years...

  5. 1 “Ramadan Is Almoast Here!” The Visual Culture of AIM Buddies, Race, Gender, and Nation on the Internet
    (pp. 37-69)

    “The right to control one’s data image—outside of social and entertainment contexts—has yet to be obtained in the current political struggles over citizenship in cyberspace.” So wrote David Rodowick in 2001, and it is certainly the case that the Internet has been both the occasion for, and subject of, numerous debates over the extent to which control societies ought to be able to exercise power over citizens through data images. And while Rodowick is correct in asserting that the state has yet to exercise as much control over the use of data images in social and entertainment contexts...

  6. 2 Alllooksame? Mediating Visual Cultures of Race on the Web
    (pp. 70-94)

    During World War II, Navajo “codetalkers” transmitted and received radio messages in a code based on the Navajo language. This unique form of speech, a hybrid between a “natural” language and an artificial one, was a code unbreakable by eavesdropping Japanese troops. Thus human code succeeded where machine code could not; while other forms of encryption could be broken, legend has it that the Navajo language was so inscrutable, so “irregular,” that no enemy operator could understand it. Unlike the Enigma code used by the Nazis during World War II, which was generated by a machine that performed mechanical encryption,...

  7. 3 The Social Optics of Race and Networked Interfaces in The Matrix Trilogy and Minority Report
    (pp. 95-130)

    Computer interfaces and their theatricalized use have become increasingly common in contemporary film and television. As I note in the introduction to this book, as well as in other chapters, the massification of the Internet as an everyday technology for many people has resulted in the creation and exhibition of innumerable telegenic fictional and “real” interfaces as a ubiquitous feature in genres like science fiction, action/thriller, and military films, and they are increasingly common in mainstream film genres like romances, such as inYou’ve Got MailandSomething’s Got to Give,music videos, and dramas set in contemporary times. These...

  8. 4 Avatars and the Visual Culture of Reproduction on the Web
    (pp. 131-170)

    In a 2005 episode ofSix Feet Under,a highly regarded HBO television series, a pregnant Brenda and her husband Nate receive bad news regarding a prenatal test from their gynecologist.¹ She recommends they get an additional test, an amniocentesis, to rule out any problems, though, as she says, the first test they took and failed is “very unreliable.” We later witness Brenda at home at the kitchen table using the Internet to look at a Web site called “Maternity” and are given a full-screen shot of the site’s bulletin board page with the heading “Topic: Bad Test Results.”²...

  9. 5 Measuring Race on the Internet: Users, Identity, and Cultural Difference in the United States
    (pp. 171-201)

    What are the racial politics of visibility on the Internet? To understand the visual culture of the Internet, we must know who uses it and how users are counted or seen. To some extent this question has been conceptualized as an empirical one; scholars and policy makers rely on reports based on demographic data gathered by organizations like the Pew Internet and American Life Foundation, the National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA), and the U.S. Census. David Rodowick observes: “Without access, there is no interface to digital culture—one cannot be included in its social networks or forms of exchange...

  10. Epilogue: The Racio-Visual Logic of the Internet
    (pp. 202-210)

    Mark Poster argues that “visual studies . . . is best understood as part of a broader domain in the cultural study of information machines.”¹ The difference between present and earlier visual regimes is that “we employ information machines to generate images . . . and to see.”² Rather than asserting that culture at the beginning of the twenty-first century is somehow inherently more visually oriented than it has been at other times in history, he claims instead that experiences of the image are now defined by their mediation by machines. The Internet is a visual technology, a protocol for...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 211-226)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-238)
  13. Publication History
    (pp. 239-240)
  14. Index
    (pp. 241-248)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-249)