Race, Gender, and Class on the Web

From Chapter 3, Virtuality: From virtual antiquity to the pixel zone, Nicholas Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture:

Mirzoeff points out, that despite its claims to equality and access, the web is really a place for the upper classes.  He also discusses the idea of desirable Internet addresses such as MIT’s Media Lab.  An AOL address is considered undesirable: “By contrast, an address at America Online is the equivalent of living in a tract home in a subdivision…New apaprtment complexes on Park Avenue in Manhattan offer high-speed access to the Internet as a standard feature, while the first town to be entirely Internet accessible will be Fremont in California’s Silicon Valey, already a very desirable address.  There are no projects in cyberspace” (p. 105).

Mirzoeff goes on to discuss the fact that while the web is gender- and race blind, there are still many electronic have nots.  He suggests that Wired, an enthusiastic chronicler of the digital age,  has “become the venue for a new form of social Darwinism, arguing that computing is a stage of social evolution, separating the higher online sections of humanity from those stuck at the lower levels of the industrial economy…this attitude turns contempt for the poor, especially those of color, into a scientific theory that would be laughable is it were not being taken seriously by significant numbers of people” (p. 107).  Here’s the thing…there are no citations, no links to Wired articles in the references, no real evidence that this is the case.  I don’t read Wired on a regular basis so have no way of judging if this is true although just browsing the headlines right now gives me a sense of upper middle class attitude…the latest gear and mostly pictures of white men.  So, which came first?  Wired or the demographic?  Are they really as racist as Mirzoeff seems to suggest or are they just trying to appeal to a certain group of people who, in this case, happen to upper class, white and males.  Is that wrong?  And where is the social Darwinism in that?  It’s mostly marketing.  Individual media outlets can’t possibly appeal to everyone.


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