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LIFE ON THE WIRE

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This paper focuses on the construction of racial identity online through the mediating influences of popular culture, old media, weblogs, and Internet users. This paper examines the production of race on the Internet by examining the elements that make up the weblog Freakonomics: the topic, the environment, the medium, and the users. Recent cyberculture research has called for Internet studies to integrate critical theories of race and culture into its analyses. The argument, which this paper seeks to extend, is for the increased recognition of the salience of race in understanding Web content and production. In examining the blog's structure, posts, and comments, I applied Omi and Winant's racial formation theory to the cultural representations and structural phenomena articulated with respect to themes of race, racial interactions, media, and geography. Omi and Winant argue that people interpret the meaning of race by framing it in social structures, and that conversely, recognizing the racial dimensions in social structures leads to interpretations of race. Accordingly, this paper examines interpretations of race in The Wire (a critically-acclaimed minority-led television show), the New York Times news website, the Freakonomics blog, and the Web-enabled audience of the three elements. The paper concludes by arguing for more use of critical race and theory in information studies research in order to understand how racial perspectives affect the presentation and interpretation of Internet content.
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Keywords: Computer-mediated communication; cyberculture; identity; media studies; race

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA

Publication date: April 1, 2009

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