- Digital Diaspora: A Race for Cyberspace
Anna Everett's most recent work, Digital Diaspora: A Race for Cyberspace, represents the culmination of a fourteen-year research project into the organizations, online activities, and identities of African Americans as they move through, manipulate, and are manipulated by the "Digital Diaspora." The term "Digital Diaspora" does double duty here, referring both to the African Diaspora as its connections reach across continents and oceans digitally and to the family of media through which these interactions occur. Everett explores various eddies of Internet culture, studying both the history of its creation and the "fathers, mothers, uncles, and aunts" (166) that get lost in the telling of that history by white, male-dominated media machines. She studies the ways in which communities gather online and those groundswells manifest offline, citing the online organizational practices utilized by the leaders of the Million Woman March. She considers the flow of information and the meaning of black public spheres as they are translated into the digital realm and interrogates videogames and strategy manuals for the coded racial messages they carry.
This, at times too-ambitious, project engages Lisa Nakamura's and Alondra Nelson's investigations of the intersection of technology and race and Allucquére Rosanne Stone's discussion of bodies, genders, and technologies as these scholars disrupt the early myths of the Internet as a race and gender-free zone. The book continues Everett's work of investigating how racial and gender identities are articulated in digital spaces, and goes further to debunk the popular notion of the "digital divide" that is built upon a supposed technophobia present within African American culture.
The first chapter tackles headlong the problem of this supposed technophobia, exploring the ways in which this idea has been constructed by news media from the beginnings of popular Internet usage—through infrequent coverage of black users and the dismissive and incredulous tone that inflects sporadic stories of black users' online engagement. What Everett reveals in this chapter is not simply the ways in which blackness is constructed as anti-technology, but also the existence of users who utilize these technologies and the broad varieties of their engagement. Everett discusses both a literal and imaginative engagement with technologies, the latter affirmed by the projection of African American identities into the future through Afrofuturists works such as Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. From here she moves forward to briefly interrogate the chat group of the Association of Nigerians Abroad and the ways in which its members interact to formulate a Nationalist identity that unites tribal allegiances and varying political stances—an identity that flies in the face of past colonialist attempts to strip them of their various languages and cultures. Everett likens the group's activities to a struggling flame that when battered by various winds, bends with the pressures, but remains lit (50). Looking both backward through science fiction and forward to the literal engagement of the "Naijanetters" or the [End Page 203] Nigerians abroad, Everett traces an interest in and a commitment to technology across the African Diaspora.
Everett's attention to the political ramifications of black participation in the creation and use of the Internet is her work's greatest success. As Everett weaves together pieces of cybertheory, feminist thought, and history in her analysis of the Million Woman March, her work itself reflects the multifaceted, diverse, and conflicting narratives of computer mediated communication (CMC). Her book's own mode of analysis enacts the elaborate cultural poaching, adaptation, and critique performed by the women who organized and responded to the Million Woman March and the corresponding news coverage (or lack thereof). In this way, her work moves from point to point illuminating facets of identity formation and cultural resistance in their various incarnations.
Among the book's other strengths are the finesse with which Everett deconstructs the "encrypted" racial meanings present in the imagery of various video games, while considering the ways in which cultural studies and cinema studies have deconstructed the "signifier-signified meaning loop," recognizing that "these recognitions of the polysemous nature of...