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How Race, Ethnicity and Class Shape Digital Media Practices and Activism, Part I

How Race, Ethnicity and Class Shape Digital Media Practices and Activism, Part I with David Theo Goldberg moderating, danah boyd, Heather Horst and Brendesha Tynes as chairs, ad Alexandrina Agloro, Heather Horst, Katynka Martinez and Lisa Nakamura as participants.

Alexandrina Aglora: Change Clothes and Go: Race, Identity, and Virtual Dolls. LIke to use the term youth of color, not minority, because of its inclusivity. Stardoll began in Scandinavia (American companies were investors), and was interested in how race would be portrayed. In 2009, about 30 million users. This week, over 50 million. Online doll club, online design center, online magazine, but this research looks only at dress-up site. Older girls tend to dress up their "MeDoll" a form of MySpace training wheels. Why am I looking at dolls? Kids learn how to figure out what is important in and around their lives. A lot of doll play takes place. How does identity develop on this website? Identity is not who we are, it is always in process (quoting someone, missed name).

First glance is series of rotating images, showing a light-skinned, green-eyed, dark-haired girl. Then get a home page, typical social network items: who is online, etc. Images rotating through show: skin tone (option for avatar), but only light skin tones are possible. MeDoll Builder presents a default or neutral doll with darker skin (not typical of rest of site, though). Hair color and style choices default to short hair, default eyes are electric blue. Girls typically spent 30 minutes to get their avatar to be what they wanted. Took screen shots of the avatars/physical self online, asked them to make their girls "you." First participant did not have blond hair, but selected that for avatar. (Age of girl was 5 years old.) Screenshots start with white skin, then darker, then even darker skinned. Only one girl started with darker skin then went light-skinned. (Didn't change clothing at first, later discovered that they could go shopping. Had to be able to buy better clothing.) Color is a cultural value (quoted Ronald Hall? and another...)(@anterobot noticed that the neutral doll was also skinny.)

Project turned into a project about access. Only two girls had computers at home, the ones at youth center were slow. (Interesting: when Alexandrina was in youth center, they refurbished the computers during week 3).

Heather Horst: White Boys Can't Dance:  Analysis of comments on Jamaican Dance Hall music video. (YouTube video titled Dutty Wine.) Dance Hall culture is a field of active cultural production in which black, lower class youth project their identities. Critique of mainstream hip hop and mainstream dance hall critique have comparisons. Theatrical self-disclosure in dance hall. Almost every year a new song and new dance that everyone does, dance hall competitions, dance hall queen, very immersive in Jamaican popular culture. People started to upload variations of Dutty Wine, not just Jamaican youth but from other countries and cultures too (not of Carribbean descent). (Showed video of YouTube: Dutty Wine White.) Very clear three white boys view their performance as a spoof, having fun while hanging out together. Comments for the videos revealed something more interesting. Jamaican doctors came out to say that the style of dancing (neck and tearing ligaments, and one girl actually did die). Final video is White Boy Doin' Dutty Wine with white man and black woman from what looks like corporate America in a cafeteria. Many negative comments, or trying to gauge whether dance skills are innate or learned.

Katynka Martinez: Home is where the humor is: youth self-narration online and through games. High school youth created video games as part of afterschool program, very different than typical video games seen in urban LA. Youth liked CounterStrike, but were asked to make games more like PacMan. Created maps of their world, of their neighborhood, and maps of their own rooms and houses. (Image of map with handwriting of one of the youth.) Came up with titles: Volcano, Speed. Did they feel offended by the way GTA and San Andreas represent their neighborhood. They saw that GTA had captured some of the cinematic beauty of color of sky, which they wanted to reproduce in their games. Game made based on immigration. Rules: collect all trash before the minuteman caputres yout o contineu to the next level. Collect green card to avoid the minuteman sending you back to the border and lock'em up in the taco store. Follows the youth as he goes to university, then content analysis of FB status updates during budget crisis in California. Humor in response to status update that all the cops outside remind youth of home. Responses/comments to FB update are: LOL, and humor. @catinstack summed this up nicely succint: "K. Martinez of SFT talks on animation afterschool programs where poor Latino kids create games unlike ones that create them" Thanks to @shock for URL to OpenPlay project http://iml.usc.edu/laproject/index.html

Lisa Nakamura: Virtual labor migration in digital games: factionalized identitites and racial minorities in world of warcraft. Story of access has changed quite a bit. Video game players find minorities underrepresented, but have higher rates of use of these games. Calling a game racist implies that the people who play it are racist too. Digital games as social spaces, can condition or color what can happen there. Many studies have focused on text, procedural logic, but as games become networked, they become social spaces. Social exlusion is implicit in game texts from beginning, (Grand Theft Auto, race fail all over). Race as constructed and enacted in dialog with others. (Shows video of different youth engaged in competition, online and social networked game play, including trash talk that became derogatory, racial stereotypes.

David Theo Goldberg, moderating: how do online sites produce enable and reproduce conditions of what is considered post-racial, as in post-colonial, as a new mode of expression and articulation of the racial. Seems like there have been shifts and how race gets to be expressed in the moment. Online sites have a role in remaking the enunciations of the racial. Other question: how does race and its meaning circulate across boundaries and how do these meanings get dislocated and reworked in different sites and contexts?

 

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