Alllooksame? Mediating Visual
Cultures of Race on the Web
The Internet presents a real dilemma to postcolonial
theorists, writers, and intellectuals; indeed, perhaps to postcolonial
theory itself. The
range and tone of responses to cyberspace reflect a deep split in the
ways that this new communication technology is viewed by non-Western
cultures and races. Ziauddin Sardar sees the Internet as a tool of imperialism,
and he asserts that it is simply the newest example on a continuum of
imperializing practices perpetrated by the West in its ongoing domination
of other cultures. He regards cyberspace as a medium that can only transmit
imperialistic ideologies; its background in military research and high
cost of access makes it intrinsically a Western technology with no potential
for resistance by people of color. In short, he sees it as a medium that’s
inherently flawed by its association with modernity, tropes of colonialism,
His critique is extremely similar in many ways to Chinua Achebe’s famous
response to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. There’s no turning
back from the way that Achebe singlehandedly politicized that text; the Norton
Critical Edition of the novel includes it because it’s now become part
of the discursive field of postcolonial criticism as well as a virtuoso reading
of the text. Achebe demonstrates that Conrad’s novel depicts natives as
irredeemably Other, as the West’s dark side. Sardar says that cyberspace
accomplishes the same thing.
On the other hand, many new media collectives in traditionally “media poor” countries
who lack widespread access to the Internet strongly assert the usefulness of
Internet and computer use in the context of non-Western culture. The Sarai New
Media Centre in Delhi is trying to make software for people who are non-literate
as a means to wrest the medium away from cultural elites. Even more importantly,
this move away from textual literacy produces expressive forms which are more
in line with the culture’s distinctive media landscape, thus reducing the
dangers of imperializing incursions from the West. Jeebesh Bagchi, Sarai member
and a Raqs media collective artist, claims that “India is a song and visual
sign board culture” and asks, “What kind of dialogue with this strange
and eclectic world do we want to create, not based on domination or populism?” (qtd.
in Lovink 212). Envisioning and using the Internet in visual rather than primarily
textual ways can be a radically empowering move for non-literate groups.
Seen in this light, the Internet has tremendous potential
for challenging colonial regimes of power, particularly those which
to the written word. Sarai asserts that the Internet need not be a manifestation
of the West’s dark side, but rather it can be retooled as an empowering
device for non-Western users. Sarai’s emphasis on reaching non-literate
users acknowledges the power dynamics associated with literacy. Before
there was a digital divide questions of power had always worked themselves
out in the written word divide. New electronic mediations that will successfully
reach the “people” may do so by detouring around the written
word, a particularly appropriate tactic in visual cultures such as India’s.
As Geert Lovink explains: “So far in India popular culture has
been defined by film. There is a tradition in India to interpret society
through film” (212).
Shuddhabrata Sengupta, a filmmaker and media practitioner who is also
a member of the Raqs Media Collective and a founder of the Sarai New
Media Centre in
Delhi, articulates some of the complexities of cultural negotiation regarding
new media forms in the postcolonial context. In his discussion of the practicalities
of using Hindi as an Internet language, he weighs on the one hand the imperatives
of “cultural authenticity”—retaining the Hindi character
set despite its incompatibilities with existing hardware—against the
loss suffered by having to translate Hindi to the Roman character set, which
won’t accommodate it without expensive equipment which makes it cost-prohibitive
in a country where any network connection is already a precious commodity.
Sengupta’s solution is that that Indians must give up the typographical “purity” of
Hindi in order to enter the digital commons. Questions of the postcolonial
politics of translation and language are foremost in Sengupta’s argument.
He writes that even though “the sense of inauthenticity accompanying
this stance may produce some discomfort, it at least brings with it a means
of entering the digital commons on reasonably fair terms. Once there, we are
free to forage for new meanings and new identities” (“Tales of
the Commons Culture”). The discourse of “purity” is here
weighed against the appeal of the “digital commons” and found wanting.
The desire for cultural purity implies a drive to keep unproblematic notions
of race, identity, gender, and other subject positions untainted by cultural
hybridity in any form, from either new media or old. Sengupta is willing to
trade a “pure” Internet Hindi for the opportunity to use new media
to forge “new meanings and new identities,” which will necessarily
be hybrid in nature.
Thus, despite their many ideological differences, both Sardar and the Sarai
founders seem to agree that the Internet will produce “impure” or “inauthentic” expressive
forms. Where they differ is in the question of whether or not this is a trade
worth making, and whether it is pragmatic to resist it.
Of course, these are not the only two “postcolonial” positions
vis-à-vis the Internet; postcolonial theory is far too complex
to produce only two modes of interpretation on this or any subject. To
sum it up, however, critics like Sardar are concerned primarily with
preserving cultural authenticity and see the medium of cyberspace itself
as a vector for Western ideologies, regardless of its content. Bagchi
and Sengupta are concerned with providing access to the Internet to people
traditionally left out of the global communications loop, and are interested
in doing so in ways that are image- rather than text-based. They acknowledge
that changing existing Indian linguistic forms to make them computer-friendly
may produce an “inauthentic” medium, one that has suffered
a loss of identity at the hands of the West. However, their emphasis
upon creating a visual Internet for non-literate users seems designed
to remedy that particular representational violence, in a sense. I will
return to this crucial issue later.
It is difficult to see a middle ground between these two positions. What is
quite striking about them, however, is how extremely closely they match up
to much older foundational debates in postcolonial theory regarding literary
and linguistic imperialism that have been circulating for the last few decades,
since the legitimization of postcolonial critique as an academic discipline.
Indeed, to use computer talk, in a sense postcolonial theory itself has been
ported from literary studies, where it has a strong presence, to other areas,
the Internet being the most recent of these. In any event, the similarity of
the two debates may prove instructive in regards to questions of the Internet,
cultural authenticity, and race in both global and American contexts.
Examinations of the ways that language and literary
forms produce power, identity, and “race” as a cultural construct have always
been central to postcolonial theory. The works of Ngugi wa Thiongo, Gloria
Anzaldua, Chinua Achebe, Ama Ata Aidoo, Salman Rushdie, Homi Bhabha,
and Edward Said all privilege the language and the literary as a field
of discourse within which the battle over cultural hegemony has been
waged. The specific literary techniques and tropes which have produced
the “native” in Western literature and the attendant issue
of the place that Western languages such as English ought to have in
non-Western institutions has been debated for some time now. And just
as Sardar and Bagchi/Sengupta split over the issue of the Internet, so
too do postcolonial literary critics part ways over the appropriateness
of Western literary forms and languages in the postcolonial context.
Of course, there is a range of positions over this issue, but Ngugi wa
Thiongo and Salman Rushdie’s writings typify two opposed ones which align fairly
neatly with the poles of thought represented by Sardar and Bagchi/Sengupta.
Ngugi’s project as a writer and activist is to reclaim indigenous language
use as a central aspect of the project of cultural independence. His much-publicized
decision to write only in Kikuyu after having produced a large body of well-respected
literary works in English arises from his political conviction that language
is the “collective memory bank of a people” and that imperial languages
such as English participate in the “captivation” of colonized peoples
(30), especially when they are used by non-Western novelists as a part of their
literary production and work to define a cultural elite which is then Western.
He asserts that “when [nations] meet as oppressor and oppressed, as for
instance under imperialism, then their languages cannot experience a genuinely
democratic encounter. The oppressor nation uses language as a means of enriching
itself in the oppressed language” (31). For him, language is ineluctably
a “carrier of national cultures” and he holds the line against
the attractions of hybridity.1 For Ngugi, African literature must be written
in African languages—period. He and Sardar share a commitment to cultural
authenticity and a wariness of Western media forms that is based on a deep
awareness of the historical abuses of the past (and the present).2
Salman Rushdie occupies the other side of this debate. He asserts that “English
has become an Indian language” and that “the true Indian literature
of the first postcolonial half century has been made in the language the British
left behind” (“Damme” 50). Rushdie describes Indian literature
written in English (which he terms “Indo-Anglian” literature) in
language that evokes commercial discourse about the Internet: he calls English “the
most powerful medium of communication in the world” and lauds Anglophone
literature as “a means of holding a conversation with [it]” (54).
He acknowledges the role of high technologies in this imperative, saying that “the
new silicon valley-style boom in computer technology which is transforming
the economies of Bangalore and Madras has made English in those cities an even
more important language than before” (54). Hence, the economic benefits
to using Western media forms is presented as a strong reason that Indians ought
to embrace English; Rushdie’s position, however, is based upon a much
more radical notion, which is that India has “colonized” English
rather than the other way around. He anticipates critics such as Ngugi, writing
that “for some Indian critics, English-language Indian writing will never
be more than a postcolonial anomaly—the bastard child of Empire, sired
on India by the departing British. Its continuing use of the old colonial tongue
is seen as a fatal flaw that rends it forever inauthentic” (52). Again,
this painful sensitivity about the possible loss of cultural purity which characterizes
Sarai’s stance is weighed against the benefits to be had from entering
a “conversation with the world,” and the “world” wins.
While Sarai acknowledges the possible losses to Hindi identity which Internet
adoption may bring about, Rushdie is strikingly unambivalent about the superiority
of English as a literary language, especially in the hands of diasporic writers,
but also aware of accusations that such literature is “deracinated” and “Westernized” (56).
And all throughout his discussion in The New Yorker article in which he formulates
this position, there is no mention of race whatsoever.3
The rift between the two camps in postcolonial literary theory maps well onto
the impasse between thinkers in postcolonial Internet theory. On the one hand,
some fear miscegenation between media and worry that uneven encounters between “pure” non-Western
cultural forms and “tainted” electronic media must necessarily
result in a muddled, deracinated mediascape . Others seem to welcome the opportunity
that multimedia may give them to produce new cultural forms which are hybrid,
multicultural, and by implication multiracial. This is not to say that cultural
authenticists are condemning racial muddling or mixing along with media muddling,
or saying that one is the effect of the other, but rather that the rhetoric
of purity and the discourse of “deracination” must evoke earlier
discourses of “biological” purity and racial authenticity. Why
are these colonial fears of racial and cultural miscegenation resurfacing in
discussions of the Internet and new media?
In a sense this set of concerns is moot, for the Internet is penetrating cultures,
markets, ethnic groups, and genders at a tremendous clip in total defiance
of what the critics think.4 However, the debates within postcolonial theory
over language adoption can prove useful in parsing out the ways that new media
can seek to avoid a seeming deadlock between contradictory positions. The fact
is that there are few, perhaps no, media forms which are “purely” authentic,
just as there are few which are homogeneously and uniformly hybrid. Media forms
are bumpy, layered, and pitted with the imprint of contact with other cultures;
none avoid the mark of imperialist power relations. And the Internet is no
different. What the Internet does offer, however, is a range of imagistic and
interactive practices that produce a distinctively different mediascape from
the world of the static literary text.5 The potential of the Internet to transform
visual cultures like India’s or at least to engage with them in ways
that literary texts can’t must be examined if we wish to avoid repeating
the same arguments regarding cultural purity versus cultural hybridity. This
is a Hobson’s choice that would be better avoided for a number of reasons,
not the least of which it entirely fails to take into account people who are
not textually literate in any language, thus perpetuating an analog class and
As previously noted, media are multifarious, and
multimedia are perhaps even more so. If we shift our focus away from
the discourse of literary
postcolonial theory, we can better perceive the possibilities that the
visual culture of the Internet can have for challenging notions of racial
and cultural essence and identity. As Lovink writes, “over the
last few decades media theory has drawn heavily from literary criticism.
Perhaps it is time to reverse the intellectual exchange” (32).
Lovink’s call for a “radical upgrade of literary criticism” acknowledges
that there are aspects of visual culture on-line that can’t be
adequately thought through using literary models. There is no doubt that
images can be just as complicitous with the colonial project as words:
they are no more innocent than novels, advertisements, manifestos, or
medical taxonomies of racial difference. In fact, the most interesting
new work on postcoloniality in recent years has been in the field of
visual culture. Sander Gilman, Anne McClintock, Nicholas Mirzoeff, and
Ella Shohat have all produced fascinating work on the ways visual cultures
of empire produce racial hegemonies.7 However, websites such as Dyske
Suematsu’s alllooksame.com effectively employ interactivity and
the spectacle of race on-line in ways that offer distinctive forms of
resistance to racial and visual categories. It critiques vision itself
as a way of understanding race, culture, and the body on- and off-line.
There is a tendency in new media criticism to valorize
ethnic identity websites that have an overtly progressive political
stance as being more
culturally “authentic” (and thus less corrupted by the West)
than others.8 I chose to examine alllooksame.com because it is a space
produced by an Asian designer for an Asian and Asian-American audience
which debates national and ethnic identities rather than simply affirms
them. In addition, alllooksame.com is a comedic site, and thus part of
a dramatically underexamined genre which gets next to no critical attention
even from net critics.
Dyske Suematsu’s alllooksame.com is a weird, weird site. Interacting
with it produces a mixture of guilt, fascination, and a lingering feeling
of discomfort. In short, it is uncanny (see image 1). The initial screen
features the familiar iconography of a scantron exam form with its ranks
of numbered oval blanks, along with a “welcome” narrative
Chinese. Japanese. Korean. What’s the difference? Some say it’s
easy to see. Others think it’s difficult—maybe even impossible.
Who can really tell? That’s what we want to find out. For this
first test, we’ll show you a series of 18 pictures of CJKs. Select
which country you think each is from. When you’re finished we’ll
tell you your score and how you stacked up to others. Future tests will
include landscapes, names, architecture, and more. And if you’re
wondering whether or not to take offense, remember: alllooksame is not
a statement. It’s a question.
After the user completes a short registration form
she is routed to the “test,” which consists of digital photographs of young
men and women. The form requires the user to click one of three boxes
in order to move ahead in the site: one must guess whether the photograph
is of a Chinese, Japanese, or Korean person. After the user had done
this for all 18 images, the site calculates the score; the average score
is 7. Users are given the corrected version of their test so they can
guess which ones they got “wrong” and are told that they
are “OK” if they get a score higher than average (see image
2). Suematsu writes that he designed the site “ultimately as a
joke” and that he “didn’t mean this site to be some
sort of political arena.” Despite this, as he writes in an essay
to the user, “some people felt that this site would promote racism,
or that the site itself is racist. Others felt quite the opposite. I
was very surprised to receive many emails with encouraging words from
Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people. In some ways, I was expecting to
upset many of these people.” The wide range of responses to the
site demonstrates the ways that this particular kind of interactivity,
one which puts the user in the position of a racial profiler of sorts,
functions as a nexus for Asians and Asian-Americans to actively consider
race as an act of seeing. Most importantly, the low scores that most
users get confirm that seeing is not believing; the “truth” about
race is not a visual truth, yet one which is persistently envisioned
that way. This website is an apparatus which deconstructs the visual
culture of race. The confusion this entails—users seem to be radically
divided as to what the site signifies—provides a unique intervention
into the ways that the visual participates in taxonomies of race.
The most challenging aspect of this, and one which is specifically enabled
by this site’s interactivity, is that the user is forced to confront
her inadequacy in the face of visual “evidence” of race. The low
scores that most users get seem to surprise them: in the extremely extensive
discussion area of the site where users post their comments, many note that
before using the site they thought they could tell the difference, but their
low scores convinced them otherwise.9 On September 12, 2002, “Annette” posted
this particularly thoughtful set of questions to the discussion board:
What does Japanese mean? Does it mean ethnic Koreans, who speak Japanese
and no Korean, who are third generation Japanese born? Or is it my friend
who is half Japanese, half Korean who grew up in Puerto Rico?? Well maybe
it is the children of a Japanese and his Korean Bride.
What does Korean mean? Is is people from southwestern Korea who decended from
Chinese in those areas whose names are not Kim and Lee but Chang and Moon???
Or does it mean Koreans who are 1/2 Chinese or Japanese? Nah.. maybe Korean
means the child of a Fillipina (or Chinese or Indonesian for that matter) mail
order bride (passing as Korean) and her Korean husband. Then again, they could
be those in Uzbekistan forcefully moved there by the Russians 50 years ago,
or those in eastern China. What about the Mongolians or Manchurians who came
across the border to North Korea.. Korean??
And just what does Chinese mean? Those Koreans born of Chinese Decent? Or those
who have been in Peenang Malasia for over 100 years, who have mixed with the
Indians or Malays at some point?? Or does it mean one of the hundreds of recent
Chineese labourers to S. Korea.
WHAT IS MY POINT YOU ASK? Well... None of these groups are “pure” (i.e.
no mixture or outside influence), nor are they homogeneous. Even among the
Koreans who are considered the most homogeneous most inbred in Asia, there
has been some mixture.. that’s why it may be difficult to tell... but
then... Is it in fact important to tell?????? The world is changing. I, for
one, can’t wait for the day when there are so many new groups and categories
on the census that they will have to drop the race/ethnicity category.10
In the face of empirical evidence of the failure
of vision as a means of identifying race, “Annette” redirects
the conversation in such a way that the categories themselves are deconstructed.
that race and ethnicity will eventually become uncategorizable, and thus
unavailable to empirical analysis, takes the site to its logical conclusion.
Alllooksame.com is a very popular website with Asian-Americans.11 As
a result of the site’s success, Suematsu was invited to address the Asian-American
Students Association at Harvard University on the topic of “Asian-American
community” in March 2002. In his speech, which he reprints on alllooksame.com,
he claims to have no interest at all in producing an “Asian-American
community,” asserts that he is not a member of any such thing because
he was born in Japan, and goes on to question the importance or relevance of
Asian-American studies as a discipline and Asian-Americanness as a meaningful
identity based on anything other than shared racial oppression, the existence
of which he professes to doubt. It seems that the default whiteness of Web
content is so pervasive that these Harvard students were inclined to think
that any visual representations at all of Asian-Americans on-line constituted
an act of community building. But by calling into question what “Asian” is,
at least in visual terms, Suematsu is interrogating the basis upon which racial
taxonomies like “Asian” are built, and in so doing is producing
a community of a different kind.
By uniting Asian users in the act of deconstructing and questioning their own
visual notions of race, alllooksame.com produces a community based on a shared
act of interactive self-reflexivity. By discovering that Asian identity is
in the “eye of the beholder,” as the site asserts, race is detached
from biological bodies and reassigned to the realm of the cultural, political,
and geographical. Even more to the point, the act of severing the visual as
a way of knowing from racial identity addresses a sore point within the Asian-American
community; that is, racism between Asians.12 In this case, the Internet becomes
a site where racial visual essentialism can be critiqued in an active, participatory
way with its own built-in apparatus: the test.
Alllooksame.com remediates several cultural institutions
allied with race-construction in order to comment upon race as a mistaken
one that is more easily gotten wrong than right. The site’s iconography
invokes the scantron exam, a distinctive feature of Western higher education’s
obsession with the empirical, as well as the pictorial convention of
the mugshot and the lineup, both connected visually with the judicial
and legal system. This confluence of the academy and the police in this
site gestures towards the participation of both within the system which
maintains racial codes. The site also shows that racial codes come from
the user as well as the interface or content of the site itself. The
site exposes the participation of the user in this construction; it shows
how individual acts of viewing and “typing” or clicking create
race just as surely as do large institutions such as schools, medical
establishments, and the law. Of course, individual acts are inflected
by these institutions; when this is acknowledged they come less to seem
like personal “choices” and more like part of a complex or
dynamic by which race occurs and is instantiated in the everyday.
Asian-Americans use the Internet more than any other
ethnic group in America, including whites. According to data gathered
in a 2001 study
by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, “fully 75% of English-speaking
Asian-Americans have used the Internet. Numbering well over 5 million,
these Asian-American Internet users are also the Net’s most active
users. By comparison, 58% of white adults, 43% of African-Americans,
and 50% of English-speaking Hispanics are on-line” (Spooner). This
little-known digital divide between Asian-Americans and other ethnic
groups in regards to Internet use calls into question, to some extent,
prior notions of the Internet as a purely “Western” phenomenon.
Postcolonial debates which oppose the stern and noble (but ultimately
doomed) cultural authenticists, like Ngugi, against the free-wheeling
postmodern hybridity of Salman Rushdie both start from the assumption
that the Internet is purely Western because it is dominated by American
content and interfaces. However, alllooksame.com is the product of an
invisible but influential group of American racial minorities: the formulation
of the Asian as “model minority” is here replaced, in a sense,
by the Asian as poweruser or part of a digital majority. In addition,
the site’s net effect of destabilizing notions of Asian identity
based on visual essentialism works to expose the user to her own participation
in creating these categories. Thus, the site unwittingly serves both
the authenticists and the hybridicists in that it is “ethnic” content
produced by and for a distinctive minority group, yet at the same time
it questions that identity by fostering debate and conflict around questions
of race and ethnicity.
Ultimately, as Suetmatsu writes, “alllooksame is not a statement. It’s
a question.” New media, such as the Internet, enable this question to
remain an open one in ways that older, non-interactive media—both textual
and visual—do not.
1 In Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldua tells
a similar story which identifies academic institutions as places where
and bodies are subjugated by enforced use of the imperial tongue; that
is, English. Indeed, American minority narratives having to do with “foreign” language
use being punished in institutional contexts are often framed in terms
of trauma to bodies and to cultural identities. See Maxine Hong Kingston’s
Woman Warrior and Richard Rodriguez’s Hunger of Memory for additional
2 See Joe Lockard’s “Resisting Cyber-English” for a discussion
of the ways that linguistic imperialism contributes to widening “digital
divides.” He writes, “English monopolization cuts deeply into the
Internet’s potential for social empowerment, as a linguistic prior condition
for access ensures that Anglophone technology controls the contents of subaltern
mouths. Ngugi argues that ‘a specific culture is not transmitted through
language in its universality but in its particularity as the language of a
specific community with a specific history.’ Cyber-English acts as a
cultural filter from this perspective, a filter that sifts out cultural particularisms
and standardizes expressive experience.”
3 In Imaginary Homelands Rushdie does discuss racism as a central problem characteristic
of Britain’s postcolonial period; he calls it “a crisis of the
whole culture, of the society’s entire sense of itself” (129).
And in his introduction he remarks that he was “accused by both Geoffrey
Howe and Norman Tebbit of having equated Britain with Nazi Germany” when
they first read the piece, while no other negative response seems to have come
from any of the others (5). It seems that Rushdie’s position as a public
intellectual in Great Britain is much more secure when he leaves discussion
of race and racism out of the picture.
4 See Tom Spooner’s “Asian-Americans and the Internet: The Young
and the Connected” for more data on the rate of adoption of the Internet
according to gender, race, and age.
5 This is not to say that the Internet is purely a visual form and has no textual
elements. Indeed, the Internet started out as a purely textual or ASCII form
which was unable to produce any images that didn’t originate from a standard
QWERTY keyboard. However, radical improvements in bandwidth and PC processing
speeds, as well as compression technology, have resulted in an Internet that
is becoming increasingly graphical. Text-based applications like e-mail and
IM (instant message) are still immensely popular, but it’s the Web that
made the Internet a mass form. Any study of the contemporary Internet must
take the visual into account, but the metaphors we use to talk about the Internet
still come from the world of text: computer-literacy, web-page or home-page,
files and folders are all linguistic tropes that are anchored in the textual.
This demonstrates the stubbornness of literary models despite the increasingly
visual nature of the Internet.
6 This debate isn’t a productive one, yet its persistence is truly remarkable.
It has been mirrored in several disciplines, including women’s studies.
In addition, if we equate language purity with cultural purity, if cultural
authenticity and identity resides in the written as well as spoken language,
there are already large numbers of people who are missing a vital component
of their culture: the poor. Literacy in a “native” language and
cultural authenticity thus become conflated, which is somewhat ironic considering
the valorization of “primitive” non-literate peoples as somehow
the most pure and authentic (though most underprivileged) of all.
7 See Anne McClintock’s seminal Imperial Leather, Nick Mirzoeff’s
The Visual Culture Reader, which has a section entitled “Race and Identity
in Colonial and Postcolonial Culture,” and Sander Gilman’s Difference
and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness, in particular his
chapter on the Hottentot Venus. It is important to note that though Mirzoeff’s
collection also has a section entitled “Virtuality: Virtual Bodies and
Virtual Spaces,” the book lacks any analyses of actual websites or specific
examples from the Internet.
8 The Chiapas website is a good example of this.
9 On August 24, 2001, “Oaken Din” writes,
I am a Chinese guy living in the Los Angeles area.
I see Chinese ppl all the time. I’ll see Koreans and Japanese
ppl here and there when I am out and about in the LA area. There are
a lot of Vietnamese,
Indonesian, Mongolian, etc. that I bump into. When it comes to telling
them apart, I seem to get it right for the most part between Chinese,
Korean, and Japanese. But I scored measurably on your test. I got a four.
That tells me how much I know. I suck and am forever changed. Thnx for
the eye opener. (sic)
10 Original spelling, grammar, and formatting are reproduced from the
original post as faithfully as possible.
11 Suematsu claims that the test has been taken over 200,000 times since
August 2001, and most of the people who posted to the “discussion” section
self-identified as Asian.
12 Harry Mok remarks that when he first started the test he thought, “this
was going to be easy. No problem, I’m Chinese. I can spot Chinese people
a mile away. I have the Asian sixth sense, an A-dar.” After failing miserably,
he includes Suematsu’s comment that “[a] lot of time just to be
polite or politically correct, people go to a difficult long way to find out
[what ethnicity or race you are] . . . . It’s almost like a whether-you’re-gay-or-straight
kind of thing.”
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Lisa Nakamura is Assistant Professor of Communication
Arts and Visual Culture Studies at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
She is the author
of Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet (Routledge,
2002) and co-editor of Race in Cyberspace (Routledge, 2000). She has
published articles on cross-racial roleplaying in Internet chatspaces;
race, embodiment, and virtuality in the film The Matrix; and political
economies of race and cyberspace in publications such as Women’s
Review of Books, Unspun: Key Concepts for Understanding the World Wide
Web (New York, 2000), The Cybercultures Reader (Routledge, 2000), and
The Visual Culture Reader (Routledge, 2002). She is currently working
on a new book tentatively entitled Visual Cultures of Race in Cyberspace.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Iowa Journal of Cultural Studies 2 (Fall 2002)
Copyright © 2002 by the University of Iowa