Cybertype Default

In the readings it describes that when we interact on the web, we often assume a ‘default’ internet user identity, which would be considered a white male.  Nakamura refers to it as our ‘white self’. There are obviously many racial, ethnic and gender implications as we have learned this week. However, I feel that language has a lot to do with the ‘default’ user. English is the most widely used language on the internet, but if we find a website in Hindi, Cantonese or Swahili, a white male is no longer the ‘default’. Looking at McLuhan’s “the medium is the message”, the internet itself is a medium, but isn’t the language in which the internet is conveying content also a medium?  The English language has a history predominately of white, western culture, starting way back with the Anglo Saxons. Do you think that, in part, we may associate a white user to the internet, because we relate the English language to primarily white origins?



  1. This is a really interesting point you have made here about language being a factor in defining the “default” Internet user identity. It is quite clearly seen in the instance of burningtangerine13’s experiences with Halo Reach in their post “Online Gaming, Racism, and Ignorance”.

    In Leonard’s article “To The White Extreme” he too suggests that the white male is considered the “default” character/identity that users choose because they are portrayed as the most “normal” characters. (i.e. baggy pants, a hoodie and a baseball cap, rather than say a pink miniskirt and bra, or flared pants and platform disco shoes.) I think that if Leonard were writing in 2011 (rather than 2005) he would have definitely touched on the topic of the English language as a defining factor of white male masculinity. Through my research of the different kinds of characters present in Extreme Sports video games, I noticed that all of them spoke English, either clearly or with heavy stereotypical accents.

    In burningtangerine13’s post they say: when other gamers were speaking a language that was not English, players retaliated with comments like “Speak English” followed by obscenities and racial slurs. I think this is a first hand example of Leonard’s theories about the need to establish white male masculinity and dominance. When players are not using the language that follows this “default” user identity, aspects of white masculinity are being challenged. With examples such as these we can clearly see retaliation online, and a need to re-establish this dominant default.

  2. Applying cybertyping to language is a great extension of the concept. A universal online language is perhaps a good idea in theory, in that it means everyone can communicate, regardless of where they are. But language performs its own forms of privilege. The dominance of the English language online speaks to a technological dominance, reflecting both the Western-centric origins of the Internet, and its current emphases.

  3. This post mentions a great deal of truth that is often overlooked. Though there is the default “White self”, in other cultures there this is not so, and instead becomes the default male of that culture, unless it is specifically a webpage targeted at women. I find it interesting that in marketing companies will try to target women and men based on stereotypes. This stereotype carries through to the internet, with blogs with recipes and celebrity gossip targeted at women, and automobiles and technologies (business type) at men. If this isn’t disturbing enough, why is the default always male when looking at a webpage that supposedly consists of knowledge and information that should be targeted universally?

    Jessica mentions that language and culture can become a medium that we are able to associate with. And though this is true, this applies a broad categorization, leaving us having to fit into one mold and leaving us sometimes rudely outside of it all. Sure, cultural groups will be exclusive as it is a place to share in a rich history, but has it come to the point of being rude to other races? And gender wise, I know I am often discouraged at the stereotyping used in certain “online communities”, ranging from subtle details such as reading an article on cars that I found interesting and them always using he, and “though your girlfriend may not understand” showing it to be an obvious (white) male target, to actual rudeness in video games. I am sure that a man would feel equally discouraged going on to a cooking blog and having its female users try to push him out because he doesn’t “fit the mold”, or a guy who is called “gay” for going on fashion websites for no good reason. So though there is a “default” and this ranges among culture, race, and gender, it tends to force people to conform to a stereotype to be included, instead of being able to be all at once.

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