Researcher ORCID Identifier
Date of Submission
Open Access Senior Thesis
Bachelor of Arts
Through analyzing several use cases of Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Google, and YouTube, I uncover the ways that exploitation, commodification, and spectacularization plague the online experiences of Black people. My analyses are meant to reject discourse that overemphasizes the Internet’s potential to be a digital utopia free from various -isms that target marginalized identities. While a “digital utopia” ought to relieve marginalized people from the burdens they face offline, critical analysis reveals that racial harms simply take on new forms online. If post-racial language is the continued medium for discussing technology, racism and other forms of bigotry will continue to harm those that are supposed to benefit from technology. Rather, the focus should be on identifying online and offline harms.
I specifically look at how commercial interests and profit incentives intersect with technological mechanisms to harm Black Internet users. First, a critical look at algorithmic bias highlights how Black people are limited in what they post and how they post. Second, an analysis of the short-lived obsession with anti-racism following George Floyd’s death reveals the ways Blackness was commodified to satisfy online standards of performative activism. Finally, I look at how memes and gifs of Black people are consistently rooted in spectacularization and result in testimonial injustice.
Reed, Courtney, "Rejecting the Digital Utopia: An Analysis of How Technological Structures Allow Racial Harms to Persist Online" (2022). CMC Senior Theses. 2861.
Available for download on Wednesday, December 06, 2023