This paper shall proof – by means of two different websites, namely the nonethnic search engine “Excite”, as well as the ethnic online community “AsianAvenue.com”, which are mentioned in an excerpt of Lisa Nakamura’s book “Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet”- that the role race, ethnicity, and identity play on the internet, has changed. Nakamura’s book was published in 2002. Therefore, the following examination shall show that some of her points of critique are old-fashioned nowadays and that the demonstration of these parameters on the internet has been altered.
First I will describe the interface structure of both websites objectively, starting with the more general one, Excite. Then I will compare Nakamura’s ideas concerning the whole issue to my impressions and thus build up an argument.
The first website Excite is a search engine that was designed in the early nineties and therefore was one of the first search engines available on the internet.
A first look at the website’s homepage shows that there are many different possibilities to work with Excite. At the top of the page the user can sign in and join Excite, as well as he or she can use between six general superordinated points, such as email, weather and movies. Under a huge advertisement, a general field appears in which one can insert what he or she is looking for on the web. Under this general search window, the user gets three different possibilities how to go on. In the very left column information about stock and sports is given. Moreover, one can register again here and get his or her own account under the headline “Email and Community”. If a user registers there, he or she is asked to name different things, such as name, gender, and date of birth. It is optional to fill in his or her race, not obligatory. Five different possibilities, comprising the “hyphenated” group of African-Americans, “white” and “others”, are given. With an account one can write emails or post own opinions concerning certain issues on various so called message boards, which are arranged according to different subjects, such as “Arts and Entertainment”, “Fashion”, and “Lifestyle”. All in all there are nineteen different possibilities to make a first choice. After this choice, another list with further and more specific suggestions appears. When clicking for example on “Arts and Entertainment” one can choose between “Art”, “General (TV)”, “Poetry” and “Pop Culture”. Furthermore, one can play games there and read a kind of advice or verse called “Daily Fortune”. The column in the middle also offers various possibilities. Followed by the headline “Explore Excite” one can choose between more than 24 different suggestions, from “Careers” to “Health” or from “News” to “Travel”. Again after one has chosen a link, another website opens that offers again several related subordinated issues. The column in the middle allows watching several different videos. At the moment most videos are concerned with the current Presidential Election. Here the user has no possibility to search a certain subject. But under the headline “News”, the user can choose which kind of news he or she wants to read about (Top News, Entertainment News etc.). The right column is concerned with weather, horoscopes and travelling. Here the user is expected to insert information about his date of birth or his or her city code. The whole website is full of various possibilities for the user and although there seems to be plenty of information on it, due to 3 different columns, the website is well structured and arranged. If one wants to find out about a specific topic, one can type it in and use the general search that involves the whole web. As a result a list with different suggestions will appear and the user can choose and work through this list. If one is still a bit unsure and only knows that he or she is interested in a superordinated subject, such as “Lifestyle” one can click on this and again a list with more specific options appears. So whatever the user wants to do, the result remains the same, namely a taxonomic structure of further subordinated points, which can be opened either one after another, or simultaneously. The fact that the user can sign in and join Excite via interchanging emails or posting personal opinions concerning specific subjects shows that the website also functions as a community.
Since there seems to be a mass of information that is concerned with every imaginable issue, the website addresses everybody apart from a specific age class, ethnic background, or religion. Sure, there are always people who aren’t interested in certain issues but Excite doesn’t appeal to a specific group of people.
AsianAvenue.com is another website mentioned in Lisa Nakamura’s essay. Today the name of the website has been changed into AsianAve.com. But when typing in AsianAvenue.com, the computer changes the URL automatically. In contrast to Excite this page doesn’t function as a search engine but more as a network for Asian-Americans. On the bottom of the page, there are three short texts, in which the website defines itself in regard to its function and goals, such as to support Asian-Americans in finding new friends, relationships, jobs, or getting in touch with Asian(-American) Lifestyle. The top of the homepage reveals that especially younger people are addressed since a picture of three attractive modern-dressed women in their twenties and one male counterpart advertises for joining the community. Next to the picture there’s already the “sign into –filed”. When a new user wants to register, he or she has to answer a few questions, which are mainly concerned with age and gender of the user, his or her job and if the ideal date is male or female. Later, the user is also able to upload a self-portrait and to create an own profile.
The profiles of new users are shown under the “login” field. The visitors of the page either have the chance to see some profiles or they can take a look at some groups, such as “NYC Asians”. These groups can also be joined after having created an own profile and when clicking on a certain group there are different subordinated subjects that are discussed by members. This is comparable to the discussion boards on Excite. Topics that can be found on “AsianAvenue” are for example Asian-American music (new artists are represented) and news. Here completely different types of news occur. From Leonardo Di Cabrio who has just signed a new contract to the current Presidential Election in the USA. News is sorted according to “most popular” and “most commented“. On the right side of the page, the user has the possibility to choose a certain region with the result that only users from that region are shown, as well as a user can click on certain interests with the result that only people who share these interests are shown. Below these functions, another possibility is to take a look at different people and to judge their outfits by clicking on either “do” or “don’t” and to comment on this. Finally the user has the possibility to choose between eighteen different superordinated points, such as “Self-Expression”, “Finding a job”, or “Forum”. If a user is for example interested in finding a new job, another site opens in which one can look for job offers in his/her town.
Since the homepage is called AsianAvenue.com/AsianAve.com it is a site that addresses Asians/Asian-Americans. Especially young people are addressed which can be seen by the subjects the website is dealing with.
- Quote paper
- Carolin Schwidde (Author), 2008, Race, Ethnicity and Identity on the Internet, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/139905