The Racial Divide? African American College Students: Mitigating Digital Visual Culture

Friday, July 18, 2014: 9:45 AM
Room: 417
Distributed Paper
Theresa WHITE , Pan African Studies, California State University, Northridge, Northridge, CA
ISA Conference

Visual Sociology Working Group

Theresa R. White 

The Racial Divide?

African American College Students: Mitigating Digital Visual Culture

The most important development in terms of Internet users between 2000 and 2005 was the radical increase in the number of women, ethnic and racial minorities online. In the early years of the Internet’s massification, cyberculture scholars discussed online with only marginal references to online media produced by African Americans, Asians and Latinos, instead focusing on representations of racial and ethnic minorities produced for consumption by white users and audiences (Nakamura, 2002).

Notably, social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, are platforms of web and mobile-based technology that enable consumers to turn communication into interactive conversation, much of which is widely consumed by college students today. Demographic studies on Internet use emphasize African American’s position as consumers. But surveys of access, race and the “digital divide” that fail to measure digital production in favor of measuring access or consumption, cannot tell the whole story. This suggests that minorities are more or less successful consumers of a commodity, rather than producers or active audiences. But how might African American college students use the Internet and mobile technology as sites of resistance?

This study will visually document the level of internet/social media usage, the propensity and style of Internet user-created content, as well as its effect on cultural and social capital for African American college students. The project will gather visual data (videotaped interviews, focus groups and cyberspace photo mapping) on students who are engaging in content creation (e.g., developing Web sites, posting music, images and videos, managing and contributing to Listserves, or adding content to other textual sites). The study will demonstrate how these students are not only active consumers of the Internet, but also Internet content producers and creators.