Exploring the Production of Race Through Virtual Learning Environments

  • Melissa Altman
  • Radhika Gajjala

Virtual space, suggests Sally Munt, cannot exist without a perceiver (Munt, 2001). Likewise, techno-mediated subjectivities cannot be understood unless the observer enters these spaces and tries living in them, working with them, doing things with and in them.

The early promise of Gibson’s cyberspace as limitless, ungrounded, an escape from the “meat” of the body, a space where the virtual has no connection to the real, has been disappointing. The notion that there is no race or gender in cyberspace has long been contested (see works by Lisa Nakamura, Coco Fusco, Alondra Nelson, and others) by critical scholars and inhabitants of online spaces. Although analyses of static texts are proliferating, fewer scholars are actually observing the processes of production of culture within such online spaces. This is what this project focuses on—the actual production of cultural experience and materiality of virtuality, as it is experienced by participants in online environments.

Even in these virtual environments, participants do not leave their bodies behind. Hence, the virtual/real distinction sets up a false binary that cannot be substantiated when we analyze engagement with online environments. Part of what our analysis does is to try to unravel the dichotomy between the virtual and the real.

Physicality of the body is expressed through everyday material practices, even when those practices involve online production of self. The practice of engaging such a technological environment produces the subject/agent. Meaning, therefore, is made through doing—doing in this case is coding, programming, typing oneself into existence, and building objects.

Keywords

Lori Hate Nale Alondra 

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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Melissa Altman
    • 1
  • Radhika Gajjala
    • 1
  1. 1.Bowling Green State University

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