Apr 5, 2010
In this week’s readings, semantics is important because the terms “race”, “ethnicity”, and “nationality” are used heavily, and the differences between the meanings of these words is somewhat blurry and subtle. What is more, these terms can be understood very differently in various cultural contexts. My understanding is that in a United States context, race is generally associated with skin color and physical traits, along with shared history and language (generally). According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, ethnicity is a more loose term, denoting, “the fact or state of belonging to a social group that has a common national or cultural tradition”. Nationality is perhaps the most simple term, having to do with citizenship in nations.
Although the two readings for this week both involved the dynamics of race and ethnicity on the Internet, they were quite different from one another. Mark Posters “Virtual Ethnicity: Tribal Identity in an Age of Global Communications” was very broad, with lots of abstract theorizing, while Mark McLelland’s article entitled “‘Race’ on the Japanese internet: discussing Korea and Koreans on ’2-chaneru’” was fairly narrow in scope, with a case study of a specific website.
Posters adds to our continuous discussion of “real virtuality”, asking whether something is virtual if it is announced but never performed (192).
A key idea when considering anonymous, digitally mediated interchanges is that information typically absorbed by individuals in face-to-face interactions is often absent. ”Because the bodily markers of ethnicity (physical attributes and vocal accent) are invisible on MOOs, such ethnicity as exists in these electronic communities is fully virtual” (204). If racial or ethnic identity is a combination of how we perceive ourselves and how others perceive us, than the lack of racial cues online can allow for “raceless” individuals and for individuals to present themselves as members of a racial group that they would not necessarily be identified with offline.