Thursday, 4 November 2010

Race in/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism & Racial passing on the internet

Role-playing sites such as LamdaMOO offer programming features such as the ability to physically set a gender, race and a physical appearance in the game for their own character.

Stereotype is something which is very common on the internet. Gamers online can describe themselves as somebody who aren’t really what they are. Someone with black hair can put blonde hair. He/she could put blue eyes, etc.

What Nakamura means by ‘passing’ is when players who describe themselves in a way which does not give us the evidence to suggest whether the character that they’ve created really matches their own characteristics. It is impossible to tell if that player who designed his/her character really does represent him/her in real life.

The various skin tones that users can create for their own character. They can select between male/female genders, create a male or female hair style for their own character. Depending on the particular role-playing game, users can select from a list of national flags/countries & type in the identity in which they come from.

Players who want to create the impression that they are playing as “Samurai”. They portray themselves as Asians for that reason. They want to feel that they are ones that belong from a continent that has powerful characters such as Samurai, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, etc (characters that can really fight). Those players are proud to portray themselves as Asians for that very own reason.

The fact that the personae chosen by users are so robust, Asian stereotypes blocks this possibility by reinforcing these stereotypes.
Users that can do whatever they want on the internet with full freedom, such as in LamdaMOO. Nobody knows these people and it’s highly unlikely that they’ll ever be met in real life.

The term Nakamura uses for racial identity in cyberspace is "cybertype".
According to Nakamura the appropriation the appropriation of an Asian racial stereotype enables a white player to feel powerful.

Nakamura did not find it acceptable to discuss or "perform" race in LambdaMOO. Which thus led to talk about online space as "whited-out", with any extra visible ethnicity as "other". She finds it problematic that race became taboo on lambdaMOO. This disengages any argument that the internet can be a liberal space where disembodiment means we could potentially be free of racism.

A character on Lambda named "Tapu" that creates "Hate-Crime" speeches on the sole intention to harass other characters on the basis of race. Race online in my opinion should be stopped, even though nobody knows each other personally enough to feel offended by these racial remarks. Racism is extremely wrong in the first place as that simply isn’t true. There are good and bad people all over the world so why should people throw insults towards people online or in real life without really knowing them well?

I think some sort of punishment is needed online. Just because they are taking the advantage of offending others on the internet by getting away unpunished, doesn’t mean that they should inflict that kind of behaviour. It is immoral and the players online should know that. Of-course racism should be taken seriously, not just in real life, but online on the internet as well. After-all we are interacting with real human beings on the internet.

References: [accessed 06/11/10] [accessed 09/11/10] [accessed 07/11/10] [accessed 08/11/10]

1 comment:

  1. Coursework Feedback:

    Well done, a nicely written blog. You have exlpained some of Nakamura's main points very well. Be careful to ensure your facts are correct. Doesn't Nakamura coin the term "Cybertype" rather than sterortype? Also my understanding of her essay is that she found that it was not acceptable to discuss or "perform" race in LambdaMOO. This then led her to talk about online space as "whited-out", with any additional visible ethnicity as "other". She finds it problematic that race became taboo on lambdaMOO and undoes any argument that the internet can be a progressive space where diesmbodiment means we could potentially be free of racism. I would like to see you develop your argument about the punishment of racism online. I think that perhaps this kind of regulation would undermine some of the progressive things about the internet, but a very interesting argument nevertheless. Good to read your blog!