virtually one, actually the other

As Lisa Nakamura points out in her essay "Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet" (11) when LambdaMOO (role-playing site) occupants indicate race as part of their identity construction, it had to be deliberately stated as it was taken for granted that everyone would be white - and most likely male. Those that symbolically indicated race - usually white men - used skin colour to codify/satisfy violent or sexual fantasies. Those expressing that they were not white in real life, were seen by the white majority as being aggressive, disrupting the virtual 'raceless' paradise.

"Players who elect to describe themselves in racial terms, as Asian, African American, Latino, or other members of oppressed and marginalised minorities, are often seen as engaging in a form of hostile performance, since they introduce what many consider a real life "divisive issue" into the phantasmatic world of cybernetic textual interaction. The borders and frontiers of cyberspace which had previously seemed so amorphous take on a keen sharpness when the enunciation of racial otherness is put into play as performance. While everyone is "passing," some forms of racial passing are condoned and practised since they do not threaten the integrity of a national sense of self which is defined as white." (12)

Issues of race have to be engaged with on line. Specifics of lived experience affect the way technology is configured and consumed. Empowerment, access, computer programming, language, design, colour relationships, logic, and interface are not innocent of ethnicity and race. Similarly assumptions are made about literacy, income, values, and professional backgrounds. These particular presuppositions undoubtedly influence the production of material for the Internet.

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