E-Race

Back in 2003, photographer Robbie Cooper photographed dozens of portraits of online gameplayers alongside their avatars for a book called ALTER EGO. The book is an incredible illustration of the ways that digital platforms have transformed fixed physical characteristics into a virtual wardrobe that can be donned or dismissed with a few clicks of a button. This phenomenon might be trivial if online identity were all "just a game"—but the truth is, the line between online and offline identity has increasingly blurred. Researcher Lukas Blinka wrote in the journal Cyberpsychology in 2008 that “the data...shows that younger players tend to identify with — i.e. not to distinguish from — their avatars, and the younger the respondents were, the stronger the phenomenon." This panel will debate whether digital platforms can enhance racial engagement and understanding, or simply encourage conscienceless and consequence-free acts of hatred and abuse — and explore how online identity is forcing us to confront new ways of thinking about race, ethnicity and gender.
  • E-Race: Avatars, Anonymity and the Virtualization of Identity
    Speakers: Jeff Yang (San Francisco Chronicle/Iconoculture), Lisa Nakamura (Professor, University of Illinois), W James Au (Writer/Editor, New World Notes)
    Artist: Heather Willems
  • Back in 2003, photographer Robbie Cooper photographed dozens of portraits of online gameplayers alongside their avatars for a book called ALTER EGO. The book is an incredible illustration of the ways that digital platforms have transformed fixed physical characteristics into a virtual wardrobe that can be donned or dismissed with a few clicks of a button. This phenomenon might be trivial if online identity were all "just a game"—but the truth is, the line between online and offline identity has increasingly blurred. Researcher Lukas Blinka wrote in the journal Cyberpsychology in 2008 that “the data...shows that younger players tend to identify with — i.e. not to distinguish from — their avatars, and the younger the respondents were, the stronger the phenomenon." This panel will debate whether digital platforms can enhance racial engagement and understanding, or simply encourage conscienceless and consequence-free acts of hatred and abuse — and explore how online identity is forcing us to confront new ways of thinking about race, ethnicity and gender.