virtually one, actually the other
How Do You See Me?
The Internet as a space of mass consumption is relatively young at twenty years. Those that set to work in the early days perceived themselves as pioneers, similar to colonialists entering 'empty' space. They placed their mark with the understanding that everything encountered belongs to them by right, a cybernetic Manifest Destiny.
While the Internet itself is still dominated by text, cinematic representations have visualised its supporting conceptual understructure. An early films about computer networks is TRON (6). Here the cyberhighway has cars speeding along, and viruses look like cancerous growth. But the 'inhabitants' are informed by whiteness coded in more than colour of skin.
When considering representations in films such as The Lawnmower Man (7), or Demolition Man (8) or even Pi (9), the computer's resident, trapped as ones and zeroes, embodies whiteness. Johnny Mnemonic (10) for instance, depicts advanced technology as white - with Johnny, while the leader of the Low-Teks, J-bone is black. This can be argued away as an oversimplification, till one analyses the three-part apocalyptic tale of The Matrix with visceral rave-loving residents of Zion as against the cool sentient inhabitants of the Metaneural Network.
'The Matrix' has no needs for racial difference, yet mental images - even for those comatose from birth - is the same as their physical bodies. This implies that race is printed onto the brain of the individual. It would appear that within this ultimate network there is need to maintain a schema of race, that each unit cannot forgo this aspect of their identity. Within The Matrix, 'revolutionaries' can change, they acquire money, weaponry, and fashionable clothes, they alter everything about themselves except their race.
There is a crossover between the virtual and the actual: It is in those
points of crossing over that the debate on race resides. Bodies that see
themselves as universal inadvertently carry this conditioning into Cyberspace,
while failing to understand the refusal to adopt a normative online persona.