Digital Racism?

Excerpt from article “Beware Social Media’s Dark Side, Scholars Warn Companies“:

Lisa Nakamura, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who studies virtual communities, argued that new forms of racism are emerging amid the bits and bytes of video games.

For instance, in China large numbers of users began earning actual money playing the fantasy role-playing game Lineage II. They did so by playing for many hours and selling their online loot to people in the United States who did not play as long. Many of the Chinese chose the online role of a female dwarf, a character class in the game that can more easily win treasure on solo missions. Rival players began killing off female dwarfs in the game on sight, often adding anti-Chinese slurs in the chat section of the game as they did, said Ms. Nakamura.

“What happened was that female dwarfs become an unplayable race” in the game, she said. “They basically became a racial minority.”

She also noted a study that found what she called “plain old racism” cropping up in online marketplaces like Craigslist. The study found that when people posted listings on the free classifieds site that showed a black hand holding a product, the final selling price was lower than in an ad for the same product held by a white hand.

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