An Unintentionally Racialized Community

One of the first points made in class on Monday was that technology is not really transcendent; in fact, many aspects of technology tend to be racialized. It is important to distinguish the difference between something that is explicitly racist and something that is racialized. Racism is performing an action (or not performing an action) despite whether it fits within the socio-cultural norm; for example, calling someone a derogatory term. When something is racialized, the concept of race is built into the dominant ideology. In other words, it is not intentional on the part of the doer.

It is important to note these differences when talking about technology because there are very few forms of technology that intend to be explicitly racist. In cyberspace, stereotypes tend to be perpetuated very heavily. I think the result of this is the formation of a stratified diversity within the Internet community. As much as everyone has access to everything, there are some areas which certain groups tend to gravitate towards more.

What comes to my mind are health and beauty video blogs (vlogs). I have always heard of this genre of vlogs within my friend circles. Many of my friends have a particular vlogger they like to follow. As I began to explore this new fad, I noticed that the vlogs (and their affiliated websites and blog pages) tended to be geared towards certain ethnic groups. It would never be said what the group was supposed to be, but it was implied. Asian vloggers would gear towards Asian viewers and black vloggers would view towards black viewers.

When I started my search, my friends, who are majority Asian, recommended me to some vloggers I should watch. The information was useful, but I found that I could never connect as well as someone who was actually Asian would be able to do. So I started to search people who shared a similar ethnicity to me. I found it so much easier to relate to them, and I was a lot more interested in what they had to say.

What this shows is how communities are formed around shared experiences. As a result, technological or otherwise, the Internet will never be able to be a completely diverse space because whatever identity people hold in real life will inevitably shine through their online identities. Cyberspace is racialized and I believe the Internet will always mirror what goes on in the real world.

Here are links to two health and beauty blogs that are the same, but different. Notice there is nothing that says explicit who is and is not welcome on the site.

What you’ll notice right away is that the colours they feature and the hairstyles the feature are geared towards people with certain hair colours and skins types (unintentionally, of course!), but it is based on their experiences and it draws in a certain audience.


1 Comment

  1. chinyeamanda is making a very interesting distinction here, between racialized and racism (and making good use of personal experience and technological examples to boot). A question for the group: is this a distinction worth making? Are racialized and racism too sharply different things, or does introducing the term “racialized” lead down a slippery slope where you wind up endorsing more subtle forms of racism? And how does technology enable one or the other?

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