Cyberspace entices us with the promise of an online utopia--a web of fluid identities and infinite possibilities. When we look for signs of freedom online--anywhere from chat room conversations to cyberpunk fiction--we are almost inevitably urged toward "liberation" from our bodies and their "restrictive" attributes like race, gender, and age. But cyberculture critic Lisa Nakamura insists that the Internet is a place where race matters.
Race itself may not be fixed or finite, but Nakamura argues that racial stereotypes-or "cybertypes"-are hardwired into our online interactions: Identity tourists masquerade in virtual roles like Asian_Geisha and Alatinolover. Web directories sharply narrow racial categories. Anonymous computer users are assumed to be white.
In Cybertypes, Nakamura looks at what happened to race when it went online, and how our ideas about race continue to be shaped and reshaped every time we log on. Examining all facets of our everyday online experience from Internet advertising to email jokes, Nakamura shows that the postmodern ideal of fluid selves made possible by network technology is not necessarily subversive, progressive, or liberating. The harder race is pushed off-line, the greater the consequences in real life for people of color.
A lively and provocative discussion Cybertypes offers a valuable new way of thinking about race and identity in the information age.