Sunday, May 3, 2009

Reading Race Online

Your assignment, in preparation for our final, is to thoroughly discuss the remaining articles via our blog. Our collaboration will make the entire review a lot more productive for everyone.

Keep the following tasks in mind as you're blogging the article:

1.)Provide a summary
2.)Define key terms
3.)Analyze potentially weak points in the author’s argument
4.)Compare your article to our past readings
5.)Read the other groups’ blog posts and comparing it to your article
6.)Relate your article to the larger themes from the class

Feel free to comment on any other group's blog discussions as well. You should be reading them anyway, and providing extra commentary will help us all.

In addition, we'll be distributing a study guide later. Please use this same blog space to discuss that guide.


  1. Key Terms

    Soc. Culture Groups
    -Online discussion groups specifically dedicated to the discussion of racial and cultural issues. Because of the technological environment these online discussions allow the study of race in interaction in a way that removes the body and the propensity to see the body as the site of actual racial identity.

    The Usenet
    -A global electronic bulletin board, comprises a set of 'newsgroups' on the Internet. There are several thousand different newsgroups, each devoted to a specific topic or interest.

    -Online Newsgroups contain messages which are linked in 'threads'. Threads are conversations in which individuals constantly enter and exit, speak on the basis of the last few exchanges, and go off other conversations.

    Identity challenge
    -When participants in a newsgroup challenge the author's identity. This diverts attention away from the author's ideas.

    -Crossposting allows participants to post their comments or to report others' comments to more than one newsgroup. Through crossposting, other newsgroups can be brought into the discussion taking place in a cultural newsgroup. Crossposting can greatly increase the volume of messages posted and the number of newsgroups recieving the posts.

  2. Summary: Reading Race Online

    Burkhalter studied racial identity online and offline through a study of online Usenet discussions. Race is defined as a bodily features -phenotypes and genotypes. Therefore, it is plausible to assume racial identity is "obsolete in online interaction." However, through a study of online discussion groups "dedicated to the discussion of racial and cultural issues," where physical racial cues are non-existent, Burkhalter found "racial identity is no more ambiguous online than offline." Rather than physical cues, racial identification lies in the perspectives of messages posted by participants. Whereas "offline interaction invokes individuals to use another's racial identity to make assumptions about their perspective, beliefs or attitudes, online interaction invokes the use of an individuals perspectives, beliefs, and attitutdes to make assumptions about the individual's racial identity." Therefore, Burkhalter expands upon four "ways individuals come to know each other's racial identity online."
    1. Racial Frames and Racial Relevance - The subject lines of a particular group discussion may elicit racial cues which may or not be picked up by another, or another may alter the subject. "Relevance of race is not assured through the thread's course."
    2. Identity as a consequence of racial relevance - "Authors offer perspectives, descriptions and arguments on racial issues, with race depicted as an essential or incidental feature."
    3. Identity disputes - A variety of racial cues written by a participant "leaves readers with many options for interpreting an author's racial identity." If a participant's perspective is disputed, the participant's identity is challenged by respondents.
    4. Collaboration and Racial Identity - "A participant's history in the newsgroup counts and collaboration among participants is important for sustaining online racial identities."

    Burkhalter then introduces crossposting discrepancies between discussion groups: "lack of familiarity with inter-group racial distinctions can alter groups' orientations to each other."

    It is important to note that offline interaction follows a pattern of assuming racial identity and then stereotyping, whereas online interaction follows stereotyping and then an assumption of racial identity.

  3. Relating to Themes of the Class:

    In this class we have talked a lot about the digital divide among different ethnic groups. Although Burkhalter defined race as bodily features, this article proves that the differences among races go far beyond that of appearance. The digital divide also exists due to cultural and educational differences. This study also used bridging, bringing together people of different races, online to eliminate any gaps race puts on the digital divide. However, it was much easier to distinguish race and culture than Burkhalter anticipated. Therefore, equality, which is another topic we discussed in class, means more than stripping away the physical difference between people. Every race and ethnicity has their own culture and beliefs which will always make it possible to divide people, whether in person or online.

  4. “Reading Race Online” at first seemed drastically different from the articles we have read. The article focuses on whether race was distinguishable online. The conclusion is that, yes, one can reasonably assume what a person's race is by their perspectives.
    This article seems different because most of our other articles have delt with the digital divide. But if you look closer, it's obvious that the article is only a small tangent from the digital divide topic.
    The digital divide is not caused by physical characteristics someone has, but by their socio-economic status, age, gender, etc. Likewise, online one cannot see race. One's race can only be inferred online by posts, which come from one’s life experiences (socio-economic status, age, gender, etc.).
    Other articles do concentrate on the multitude of things people are doing online. “Reading Race Online” examines a specific activity, blogging. The article specifically questions how race is judged and its effects on blogging. The other articles from class rarely specifically point out that race is the reason for the digital divide. They state the digital divide is more a consequence of low socio-economic statues, which coincidentally is often related to specific races.
    One feature that sets this article apart is the purely observational approach the author took. The author does not use statistical analysis, nor does he interview people. The author merely observes and interprets what others are writing, probably without their knowledge.
    There is no call to action at the conclusion of the article. There are no recommendations, which many other articles give. The author is not trying to better society. He only tells what is happening right now.

  5. 1) Author discusses about that, it is important to know one's identity either racially or ethnically. he talks about Body as a site of actual racial identity. He described "Offline is better than online." Its said that people do not provide any identity or others not be able to identify. Thus there is much less argument over their race. Having said that, I am not saying to those who sensitive about their race they should be offline. He describes how people use ITs in Social Culture newsgroups. People publish their racial groups by where they came from, within the newsgroups. He describes identities by pointed out the messages or articles from Social Culture African American (SCAA).

    2) Key terms:
    a. Social Culture newsgroups (it is an online discussion groups and discusses about racial and cultural issues. Interestingly those discussions are for particular audiences.)

    b. Usenet (it is a world wide bulletin board, where everyone can access it and use it for their different purposes. There are thousands of newsgroups with their different interests or goals. They receive between 200 and 1000 messages per day, it shows how necessary it is for people around the world with access to ITs.)

    c. Internet language (for example "sisters" it implies the African American women. It is the way they frame their discussions over racial topics.)

    d. They are using "Racial terms", for example part African American.

    3) He stated that knowing others' identity helps others to understanding and acting toward the others. What I am getting from here is, first know someone's identity, who you are going to have a conversation and then act toward the others with necessary behavior. It means we have to be an actor, so we have to act toward the blacks with one kind of behavior, and whites with another kind of behavior. There should not be any kinds of discrimination.

    4) It is one of the major issues over IT users.

    5) As long as there is a digital divide there will be an issue over race online.

  6. Sorry for my tardy post, for some reason, when I posted this days ago, the "post a comment" section would not allow me to post anything.

    Analyzing potentially week points in the author's argument...

    In the conclusion, the author wrote, "Lacking physical cues that normally are taken as the source of racial identity offline, racial identification online relies on participants' perspectives as revealed in their posts...In online interaction, readers are usually faced with explicit racial identification and the person's textual perspective. If these do not agree with the reader's stereotypes, the person's racial identity can be read so that racial identity and perspective fit the stereotype."

    Basically, the author is arguing that we make up our own inferences about someone's perspective/racial identity according to our own stereotypes. However, I feel that we can learn much more from people once we know their racial identity and hear their arguments. This online interaction with other races may actually disprove or break typical stereotypes. The author of this reading assumes that people are so tied to certain stereotypes, that they will never break free of them. However, through this more personal communication and the ability to interact with more diverse types of people, individuals' stereotypes about specific races and their perspectives may change.