The Internet

Oppression in Digital Spaces

Authored by: Kishonna L. Gray

The Routledge Companion to Media and Race

Print publication date:  December  2016
Online publication date:  November  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138020726
eBook ISBN: 9781315778228
Adobe ISBN: 9781317695837


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“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” This adage, which has been around since the advent of the Internet, has become an important contextual framework used to examine the medium. The implication is that when one traverses into virtuality, our physical bodies have no bearing on our experiences and outcomes because, often, no one knows who we are. Early Internet scholars theorized that virtual environments would provide an outlet to exist beyond the parameters of the body (Daniels 2012). In its early days, the liberating potential of the Internet had extreme lure; however, this lure existed in a realm of assumed whiteness, as the Internet was traditionally a domain of the privileged. “Cyberfeminists” argued that the Internet had liberating qualities that could free women from the confines of their gendered bodies (Bromseth and Sunden 2010). The premise, however, has been criticized as both utopian and irrelevant to marginalized circumstances in new technologies (Bromseth and Sunden 2010). We cannot just forgo our bodies in virtual spaces, because much of our real-world selves are emitted into these spaces. The discussion must move beyond the confines of the digital and be reexamined for its potential to mobilize the oppressed in both digital and physical spaces.

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