Month: February 2013

Race and/as Technology; or, How to Do Things to Race

A paper by Wendy Hui Kyong Chun

Excerpt from the Introduction

This special issue poses the questions: to what degree are race and technology intertwined? Can race be considered a technology or a form of media—that is, not only a mechanism, but also a practical or industrial art? Could race be not simply an object of representation and portrayal, of knowledge or truth, but also a technique that one uses, even as one is used by it—a carefully crafted, historically inflected system of tools, mediation, or enframing that builds history and identity?

Read the full article [PDF]

Reference Chun, W.H.K.  (2009)  Race and/as Technology; or, How to Do Things to Race.  Camera Obscura 70, 24(1) pp 7 -35

See also Crowdsourced review at Hastac

Blogging While Brown Conference (21-22 June 2013)

Logo: blogging while brown
Blogging while Brown 2013

The call for ideas deadline may have passed but registration for the 6th annual Blogging while Brown Conference is still open – but the deadline of 1st March 2013 is fast approaching.

About Blogging while Brown

Black bloggers from around the country will be gathering in New York City for the 6th Annual Blogging While Brown Conference. Since its launch in 2008, Blogging While Brown has grown to become the premier blogging conference dedicated to education, collaboration, and innovation among bloggers of color. The conference brings Black social media experts, speakers, and independent content creators together to educate, inspire, and expand their influence in social media and technology.

Highlights from 2012

A draft schedule is available here and for more updates check out the Blogging while Brown blog

A bit more about this blog

This is cross posted from my personal blog:

I am halfway through my MSc in Practising Sustainable Development (ICT4D specialism) and while as part-time student I still have quite a bit of time before I have to start my dissertation; it is hard not to start the thinking process.  For a long time now I have been interested in Critical Race Theory (CRT)  and one of the things I am keen to research is how  CRT can be used as a theoretical approach to Development studies and practice, particularly ICT4D.  I am also interested in the construction of race in the digital age and how technology is challenging and reshaping views on racial identity.

One of my biggest hurdles at the moment is how little research there is on race and development, particularly outside the conventional binaries of racial haves and have-nots.  So I decided to start a stand-alone blog; Race and ICT4D, which at this stage is simple link dumping site, where I post links that cover race, technology and development.  I have for the moment, steered clear of any analysis and commentary though I imagine, that as I develop my own ideas, I will start  to write more critically.   It is quite a struggle because so often I read something – and I immediately want to comment – but that is what my personal blog is for.

The other thing I am struggling with is how to link to restricted access academic papers.  As a student I have full access to these journals but I am well aware that is not the case for everyone else. I find it a bit limiting to reference an article in a blog post knowing that some readers may not be able to access the article.

It is still very much an evolving project and I am sure as I progress I will find solutions to some of the above (and hopefully many other) issues.  What I really hope is that by providing a public space I can, firstly keep track of my sources but most importantly I can begin to engage with others on similar topics.

Please feel free to send me any links, book titles, articles etc.  that you think may be of interest.

(Mis) Appropriation and the Harlem Shake?

Still from YouTube Video
“It’s basically taking what we do and making a joke out of it”

In case you missed it, a new meme of Gangamtuan proportions has been sweeping social media.  The Harlem Shake memestarted by a group of teenagers in Australia, consists of videos

“…[that] last between 30 and 32 seconds and feature an excerpt from the song “Harlem Shake” by electronic musician Baauer. Usually, a video begins with one person (often helmeted or masked) dancing to the song alone for 15 seconds, surrounded by other people not paying attention or unaware of the dancing individual. When the bass drops, the video cuts to the entire crowd doing a crazy convulsive dance for the next 15 seconds.” (Source: Wikipedia)

According to the WSJ, you should either be “A) currently obsessed with, B) sheepishly late to or C) already sick of” the Harlem Shake.  This is based on the WSJ’s “tracking its evolution over three weeks.”  But the Harlem Shake did not start three weeks ago.  The original Harlem Shake dance

“…called the albee, is a dance introduced in 1981 by a Harlem resident named “Al B”. The dance was initially referred to as “albee” after his name, but later became known as the Harlem shake as its prominence grew beyond the neighborhood. The dance became mainstream in 2001 when G. Dep featured the Harlem shake in his music video “Let’s Get It”. ” (Source:  Wikipedia)

A series of interviews with Harlem residents by Shlepp Films, presents an alternative view of this meme.

Maybe the WSJ needs to add another reaction to the Harlem Shake Meme and that is; some of us are reading it as an opportunity to question the interaction between technology, participation, representation and innovation.

This is something that the  Grio has attempted to address in its article entitled ‘The Harlem Shake Meme shows how the Internet overrides race’.  According to the article,

[Critics of the Harlem Shake meme] are right to acknowledge the sordid history of cultural products being seized from, and mass-produced at the expense of, such neighborhoods as Harlem. However, their reaction begs the glaring question of whether the new age Internet lives by their rules of race and cultural categories. The answer to that question is simply no. The Internet produces and will continue to birth cultural phenomena, such as the Harlem Shake meme, that blur the lines of race and culture. (Source: The Grio)

Further reading:

Slate:  Harlem responds to the Harlem Shake Meme

Vulture: 5 videos featuring the original Harlem Shake

 

 

The Ethnos Project

Ethnos Project Logo
Ethnos Project

Whilst the Ethnos Project does not explicitly address the issue of race it is a blog that I have found useful in my attempt to draw links between ICT4D and race and is many ways what inspired me to create this blog.

 

 

 

The Ethnos Project is

“a research portal and resource database that explores the cultural impacts of information and communication technologies (ICTs) when used by Indigenous peoples to affect social change sustain and stimulate rapidly disappearing traditions, and improve their quality of life on their own cultural terms.”

Visit the Ethnos Project Site

Online Ads and Racial Bias

Have you ever been arrested? Imagine the question not appearing in the solitude of your thoughts as you read this paper, but appearing explicitly whenever someone queries your name in a search engine. […] Appearing alongside your list of accomplishments is an advertisement implying you may have a criminal record, whether you actually have one or not. Worse, the ads don’t appear for your competitors.  Source

The above is the opening paragraph to Harvard University’s Prof. Latanya Sweeney‘s report on Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery.  According to the report

…names typically associated with black people were more likely to produce ads related to criminal activity.  Source: BBC News

Writing about how the research was conducted, Technology Review reports:

Sweeney gathered this evidence by collecting over 2000 names that were suggestive of race. For example, first names such as Trevon, Lakisha and Darnell suggest the owner is black while names like Laurie, Brendan and Katie suggest the owner is white.

She then entered these plus surnames into Google.com and Reuters.com and examined the ads they returned. Most names generated ads for public records. However, black-identifying names turned out to be much more likely than white-identifying names to generate ads that including the word “arrest” (60 per cent versus 48 per cent). Source

Though “there is less than a 0.1% probability” that these findings “can be explained by chance” the report does not explain why this discrimination occurs, partly because this is outside the scope of the research but also because more information about the workings of Google AdSense is required.

Read the full report