Being from the 21st century, technology has been highly integral in society. It helps humanity progress, exchange information and discover new discourse in science, arts and humanity. I am able to converse with my family members from the other side of the world without having to fly to the other side. I also have the option of flying to the other side of the world to see my family. When we look at race as technology however, the term ‘race’ becomes indefinable. Defining race as technology troubles the biological reasoning of race that has defined race for quite a substantial amount of time. It comes to the point where is it right to ask whether race shapes technology? Is race dependent on technology or is technology dependent on race?
Race has been defined as something biological, and as Wendy Chun claims that by “accepting race as biology also makes race technological.” In Wendy Chun’s Introduction: Race and/as Technology; or, How to Do Things with Race, race, focusing on US Eugenics, is an “integrated physical, linguistic and culturally totality”, and what draws race to technology is that race, like technology, is manipulable, “muddying the boundary between culture and biology, human and and animal”. Race is seen as a breeding population and that is segregated through choice. Breeding population, “if they exist, are never simply natural but rather result from a complex negotiation between culture, society and biology.” The birth of segregation was therefore a response to failures of biological theories. To make my point, segregation in the US is an important racial technology as it creates spatial mapping to help create significant differences between races when it never existed in the first place. Race is nonetheless a form of technology.
Our dependence on technology to help define race and technology creates a paradox. This paradox is created by race’s dependency of being public through the use of technology yet still private because of the use of technology. When we look at the way we use the internet for example, we are closely identified by technology. We can open up a person’s Facebook account and learn so much about them. When we look Jennifer Lopez’s If You Had My Love for example, we learn so much about her as a person and her race and culture through her dance moves and the way she presents herself in the music video. Without the broadcast or media, Lopez fan would have never known what she looks like. Technology has the ability to put the human race forward and publicly. However, there is a paradox in this matter – because of technology, although being public, you are still hidden behind technology, remaining private. For all we know, the person you are messaging on Facebook may be a dog. Technology is not in charge of portraying you fully. It cannot portray every single aspect of you, what you are currently thinking of as you have the option to put out in the world what you want them to know about you.
Lopez’s music video portrays this very well through the use of surveillance. Lopez as a character in the music video would have not known who was watching her through the surveillance. She may be influencing people and communicating to people through her dances and her voice but will never know who is on the other side of the screen. Furthermore, the music video as well does not give a bibliographical detail of Lopez as a person as she is nonetheless, a fiction character in the music video world rather than the actual Jennifer Lopez in the music video.
We must also consider that maybe our identity is defined by the realms of the internet. For me personally, I’ve never been to America but know that there are 52 states in the United State. Furthermore, I know what the Brooklyn Bridge looks like in Brooklyn, New York, and if I don’t, I have the ability to search the internet to find out for myself. I know what Obama looks like, and what his family because of pictures circulating on the internet or on Newspapers. I know America just as much as an American knows America. Technology shapes the identity of race entirely. If anything, it gives us identity. Living in a pop cultural world, race is identified and defined by technology regardless. The decision to create a name, or place someone in a particular group due to their race, gender, cultural beliefs, academic status nonetheless is using technology to divide and give someone an identity. If we consider Janelle Monae’s Many Moons, the use of black men in white robot suits only suggest that there is a creation of identity by defining someone based on the colour of their skin.
- Introduction: Race and/as Technology; or, How to Do Things with Race