Nakamura, “Race In/For Cyberspace”

Lisa. "Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing
on the Internet." Vitanza 141-154.

Nakamura’s critical account focuses centrally on identity tourism and racial
passing.  She reads these issues through a series of events or happenings:
1. the "On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog" cartoon; 2. the matter of
character (distinct from person–this is not clarified by Nakamura, but it comes
up in Frith and Barthes on "voice"); 3. the exoticization of space and
theatricality of trying on characters; 4. nationalistic framings of cyberspace
as subject to a "space race" (149); and 5. a failed petition in LambdaMOO on
hate-crime (150).  The petition failed because detractors contended that
race was a willed disclosure; nobody was forced to disclose race. The absence of
race then, as is central to Nakamura’s set of concerns, becomes a default
position.  LambaMOO, in fact, doesn’t even have an option for designating
one’s race, and when racially suggestive names appeared in the MOO, they were
perceived, according to her research, as divisive or contrarian. 

^Consider the timing of this article relative to graphical web browsers. 
How does the visual web complicate this?  And how, too, read alongside
matters of person and character in voice (increasingly a disembodied voice) add
a layer to the problem of "writing" oneself into the MOO?  Is the
person/character problem for voice the same as the identity tourism problem for
text-based online forums?

"Role-playing sites on the Internet such as LambdaMOO offer their
participants programming features such as the ability to physically ‘set’ one’s
gender, race, and physical appearance, through which they can, indeed are
required to, project a version of the self which is inherently theatrical"

"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" (144).

"Identity tourism in cyberspaces like LambdaMOO functions as a fascinating
example of the promise of high technology to enhance travel opportunities by
redefining what constitutes travel–logging on to a phantasmatic space where one
can appropriate exotic identities means that one need never cross a physical
border or even leave one’s armchair to go on vacation" (148).

"Performing alternative versions of self and race jams the ideology-machine,
and facilitates a desirable opening up of what Judith Butler calls ‘the
difficult future terrain of community’" (153).

Relates sources:
Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of "Sex." New
York: Routledge, 1993.
Haraway, Donna. Simians, Cyborgs, and Women. New York: Routledge, 1991.
Rheingold, Howard. The Virtual Community. New York: Harper-Perennial,