August 27, 2008

Digitizing Race in 1K

by Nick Montfort · , 12:43 pm

Digitizing RaceDigitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet
By Lisa Nakamura
University of Minnesota Press
2008
ix, 248 pp.

There’s solid discussion of movies, a J. Lo video, and magazine pages – what really impresses is the exploration of less mainstream user-created digital images: AIM buddy icons of veiled cartoon bodies presented in a few animated pixels, the All Look Same CJK quiz site, and signature images used on pregnancy-related sites. Uncovering these overlooked artifacts helps to show how the body (racial, gendered, sexually oriented, and sometimes pregnant) is manifesting itself throughout cyberspace, being shaped, presented, and questioned by those often dismissed as mere “consumers.” The application of visual studies to the digital realm is deft; even though we don’t get the details of the emergence and technology of, say, GIF89a, digital materiality is treated well. Narkamura critiques existing surveys of Internet use by different racial groups as missing subtleties and overlooking how “users” produce and well as consume new media, errors she didn’t make in this eye-opening book.