Monday, February 21, 2011

Cyber Racism

Cyber Racism: White Supremacy Online and the New Attack on Civil Rights – Jessie Daniels

Chapter 4: White Supremacist Social Movements Online and in Global Context

I focused mainly on the first half of the book for this week’s readings. Jessie Daniels brings up an interesting topic that hasn’t been explored much by mainstream academics. The idea that the internet is a place where identities, race, and ethnicity can simply fade away is one that has been prevalent in the media, but I hope, is finally being disproven by books like this one. It seems that the internet is a space in which many people celebrate rather than are critical. I find this to be troubling because in many of my experiences the internet has simply been a place where real life issues are mirrored at a global level. This is not to say that the internet cannot be powerful in terms of social movements (just look at Iran and Egypt), however, we must also recognize the growth of the power of the state through these technologies as well. Daniels’ book is an important step toward an examination of some of the darker realities of the internet. I especially like how he is not afraid to really condemn some of these movements. I think that too often scholars are afraid to voice their opinions when it comes to new media.

I’d like to focus on Daniels’ methods for a moment here. It seems that the author wants to do a bit of everything in this piece, and is very proud of it. There is a bit of textual based work, experiment, empirical investigations, etc. I am not a sociologist, so I am not sure if this is a normal study, but it seems like she is trying to do too many things at once. She believes that her study is unique and important because it does use several different types of studies and methods; however it seems a bit disjointed. I would have rather had her really focus on one section or area rather than jump around so much. Interestingly, if you go to her website, she is incredibly proud of her accomplishments and awards. She states, “Recognized as a national expert on white racism, I was featured in Elizabeth Thompson’s Emmy-award winning documentary “Blink,” about a supposedly reformed white supremacist” (Daniels 2011).
So, one wonders if that when you become a big star in popular academia, are you allowed to take more risks in terms of your studies? If she knew that she would be writing for a much more popular audience, would that change the tone of her study? It seems that this book could be used by many audiences in order to talk about issues of racism on the internet, which is a good thing, but I wonder how long it takes before a scholar has the freedom to write like this?

Anyway, let’s move on to chapter four. In this chapter, she addresses some of Castelles’ arguments surrounding online networks and racialized politics. Interestingly, she looks at white supremacist groups as a threat to activism and democracy on the internet. She compares the online traffic between one prominent white supremacist group and and concludes that as least Move On is the more popular of the two sites. However, interestingly, around the November time period on her chart, both sites have a lot more traffic. I find it also interesting that she concludes that democracy is healthy because of Move On’s popularity. It seems that she would have to look at a lot more websites from different political perspectives in order to really make this claim. Also, her idea of democracy is a bit clouded. The issue of white supremacy has been important in Europe. Many laws have been created to stop issues of hate speech and it has been made illegal to deny the holocaust in some areas. I find this to be problematic because one cannot stop hate speech from simply banning it. It still exists either way. I agree that hate speech should be banned, but we must be careful with these arguments. I wonder where the author stands on these issues.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Voicing and Placement in Online Networks

"Voicing and Placement in Online Networks"

Rather than spend this time simply regurgitating the chapter, especially since this one was written by our fearless leader, I thought I would rather write about how the chapter has made me reflect upon my own work.

Network theory is an interesting perspective, especially when applied to the internet. I have read some Castells and networked activism theory in the past, but I haven't given much thought to the internet theoretically as a network. I suppose this is the most obvious way to understand the web, because it is literally a networked group of computers, severs, data centers, etc. However, I had always been more interested in looking at the more micro instances of this space. In the past few weeks, especially with talking about affective studies, I have begun to think more about the connected nature of mankind and emotions. With this, we can see how one could view and feel compelled to donate money to this family or another. However, under the surface is the interplay between affect (or what I am labeling affect to be- emotions) and power. I think that the danger of some affective studies is that perhaps we are moving to the someone logical conclusion of post-modernity - that everything is meaningless and therefore not worth studying. On the other hand, if we use the ideas of affect in order to question the appropriation of affect by the capitalistic system, then we can challenged some of the established norms set in place by neo-liberalism.

That being said, I am interested to apply some of these ideas in my examination of the Medical Foundation website. I would like to examine the MF website as a type of global network, since it is an organization that is established for a global clientele and audience.

What I am having trouble with is trying to connect some of these ideas of global networks to issues of race, class, and gender. I understand how this works in other forms of media and entertainment, but being able to deconstruct a nonprofit website is somewhat more challenging. In our other class, we just read Logics of Empowerment: Development, Gender, and Governance in Neoliberal India which has helped me to think through some more ideas about how to deconstruct the problematic nature of nonprofits, but I am still trying to work through some of my own issues in terms of being able to code some of the material. She does a great job of both pointing out the strengths and weaknesses of her nonprofit in order to create a very complicated matrix of power. This network of power is what I am interested in. I want to resist creating binaries, but rather a more sophisticated outlook of these struggles.

I think I need to read more articles and books like these in order to really be able to do justice to my topic.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Everett Chapter 2

Chapter 1

Toward a Theory of the Egalitarian Technosphere: How Wide is the Digital Divide?

This is an interesting chapter that pushes against the notion that blacks have not taken part of the digital revolution. I think this is really important because it complicates the idea of the digital divide. It seems that this chapter has an optimism that is lacking in other books we have read and yet seems to be able to challenge the overly optimistic writings of scholars like Henry Jenkins. She keeps pointing to the 1990s as being the point in which blacks began to make a presence on the internet, which makes me wonder what other racial or ethnic groups were prominent on the net around this time period. Also, how does the digital divide further stereotype certain groups of people?

Forging a Digital Black Public Sphere

o She points to the 1997 Million woman march as being a moment in which blacks were incorporated into the digital world.

o She believes that early adapting blacks have been able to (much like in music) create new culture through digital expression.

· Historicizing Democratic Turf Wars and the Privatization of the Public Sphere

o She points to instances, such as a documentary film about the policies of the New Deal, which perpetuates the idea of a welfare state that benefits a suburban model and doesn’t highlight people who do not have white skin.

· Television and the Electronic Participatory Democracy Model

o TV helped to frame a dangerous black public sphere by emphasizing the violence of the civil rights movement.

o News created decontextualized images of blacks which helped to cause great fear in white populations.

· Black Technophiles are in the Virtual House: The Phenomenal Rise of Black Participation Online

o Since there was a lag in which blacks were not prominent on the internet, there was this perpetuation of the myth of black ignorance; however, there were many issues of access that were being ignored.

o Black use of the internet has been long ignored by the mainstream media.

o She pushes against some of the issues of the digital divide, claiming that there were blacks on the internet in urban areas since the mid-1990s.

· Afrofuturism, Marinetti Redux, and the Digital Agora

o She argues that technology has been central to African Americans since the early 1930’s. From science fiction novels to hip hop, technology has been used in many different ways in order to create unique cultures.

· Droppin’ Science: An-Other Futurist Manifesto Goes Online

o Marinetti’s futurist manifesto as being central to understanding the lack of blacks in the rhetoric of the future.

· Staking Claims on the Cyberfrontier: Black Early Adopters and Later Arrivals- Some General Contours.

o Black Geeks Online initial online campaigns in the late 1990’s

· Establishing Cybergateways to the African Diaspora: Geopolitics in the Digital Age

o The idea that the internet is changing the way that we think about community (imagined communities)

· Imagined African Communities in Cyberspace or Digitizing Double Consciousness

o Blacks took place in a digital global village early on.

· New Africanities and the Reverse African Brain Drain or a Digital African Brain Reattachment

o The idea of double consciousness in both challenging notions of postcolonialism as well as taking advantage of modern technologies throughout the world.

· Speaking In Digital Tongues: Disembodied Africans Pounding Digital Talking Drums

o The creation of these diasporic digital communities that have the ability to challenge the dominant cultures.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Ispy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era

Chapter 2: Three Dimensions of iCulture

So, this is an interesting chapter on the different aspects of surveillance and technology. His writing is entertaining, but most of what he says seems to be pretty common knowledge by now. Perhaps I am just more in tune with the technology community, but I wasn't really surprised by what he was talking about. The most important part of this discussion, I think, is his bit about the optimism of technology. In my own experience in Popular Culture, there tends to be a resistance against critical readings of technology. I wonder why this is? In political science, we were taught to be critical of everything...why is it that American Cultural Studies is more celebratory?

· iCommerce-

o He starts off with a story of Nike using an electric billboard in times square that allowed user to change an athletic shoe at will. You could text the sign with your design choices and the colors would change. Interestingly, this wasn’t complete freedom, you could only pick from a designated set of options.

o Also, on their website you are allowed to ‘create’ your own individual shoe – although if you try and put something like “Made in a sweatshop” on the side of your shoe, they will not allow you to do that.

§ Promise of individualization- being able to “make” your own goods

§ Promise of democratization- everyone has equal access to the brand with the ability to change things

§ Promise of interactivity – overcoming differentiation and abstraction associated with mass society

· iCulture

o Mass culture is changing – now it is no longer top down and nonparticipatory (kind of)

§ Interactivity promises that users can be creative

§ Postsecrets as an example (although the owner keeps all the rights to all the creative works that are sent in)

§ Interestingly – he points to a communication scholar (James Beniger) who explains that the original meaning of revolution meant to restore a previous form of government – so perhaps this revolution is simply one that will restore corporate powers.

§ Interactivity doesn’t always mean empowering.

· iMonitoring

o Forget-me-not panties – track your significant others and daughters with GPS panties that will tell you if they are involved in sexual activities.

§ This is a joke e-mail – but shows how monitoring is becoming more and more acceptable.

o We Google people to find out their secrets.

o Mutual monitoring – being aware that you are being monitored or actually wanting to be monitored (where is my significant other in a mall – use my cell phone GPS!)

o Biometrical monitoring becoming more prevalent – lie detectors on TV.

o Personal information is now going to always be online.

o Asymmetrical monitoring is dangerous because we are not aware of it happening.

· iPolitics – The politics of monitoring

o Software like having individuals monitor border cameras from their homes.

o Taking pictures of illicit people with your cell phones.

o Politicians catering their policy to specific demographics (this is not democracy)

o The politics of shopping is determined by where one spends their money. If people are broken down into niche markets, they have less power.

o He talks about how he is perceived as being too negative. He argues that “ contention is that they [technological optimism]can be realized only when we no longer depend on technology to sidestep political conflicts, educate the masses, and deliver on the democratic promise” (49).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Grossberg Interview

Chapter 14

“Affect’s Future: Rediscovering the Virtual in the Actual” an interview with Lawrence Grossberg

Melissa Gregg describes Grossberg as being the “principle figure” in cultural studies to have emphasized affect and politics.

The following is from an interview with Lawrence Grossberg and the editors of this volume.

· Question – How does your story intersect with affect?

o With Raymond Williams “Structure of feeling” – Defining cultural studies in terms of how it feels to be alive.

o Grossberg believed it was more than just Althusserian ideology when dealing with what it feels like.

o He was influenced by Freud (through Deluze and Nietzsche) in understanding popular culture.

o Also, he left Birmingham before Althusser became influential.

o Heidegger was also important in talking about everyday life and the notion of experience.

o “The Nietzschean space, like the Deleuzian space, of affect, is an ontological space and the psychoanalytic space is an empirical space” (311).

· Deleuze?

o He read Deleuze and Guattari together – an anti-Kantian Philosophy

o He uses these theories in a toolbox rather than subscribing to any one theory

o He looked a three modes of machinic assemblages

§ Stratifying apparatuses

§ The material and the discurstive

§ Operating and organizing both content and expression, territorializing formations, and coding formations.

o Three ways to constituting a context

§ Conjunctural – context of overdetermination – the relations between all of the elements in a whole way of life

§ Structure of feeling

§ Ontological construction of a context

o He is interested in mapping out the contexts of cultural studies and affect

· Has affect overinvested in theory?

o The issue is that affect can be a magical term that anything can fit under.

o Affect can let you off the hook

· Are the planes (virtual/actual or consistency/organization) separable or do they persist alongside one another?

o The planes are the same thing. “So, I think that sometimes affect lets the actualization of those conditions” (315).

o Some of the affect theories revert to older models (media effects models)

· Are there inadequacies in the structure of feeling that you still see today?

o Raymond Williams was not a theorist and did not theorize his ideas enough.

o “So, I think that the notion of a gap between what can be remembered meaningful or knowable and what is nevertheless livable is a more interesting place to start” (318).

· Why are you so interested in studying young people?

o Young people are a major focus in the United States and they could become a political category.

o Williams is misread, he is not in the culture and society tradition. “Discourse and reality are on the same plane, so there is no separation of culture and society and I think Williams says that” (323).

o He is interested in convergence rather than separating out realities into different categories.

· How has otherness changed through affect?

o You don’t get rid of black people by getting rid of race.

o You get rid of racism and you reconstruct the ecology of belonging.

o Here he emphasizes the importance of thinking contextually through popular culture.

o He argues for a recontexualiztion of thinking about the popular as a site of struggle. How would Stuart Hall’s arguments work today in a modern context?

· Are you hopeful?

o He always sees hope because the world did not have to be this way.

o “Ethics transcends the intellectual enterprise” (332).

o Passion is incredibly important in cultural studies.