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.