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Racism is an ever-popular topic of discussion because of its effects on society, as well as the individuals within. Extensive movements to acknowledge, raise awareness, address, and manage racism have been employed in hopes of eventually ridding society of its practices, however, its strong presence and infectious nature continually render us unsuccessful.

So the central question remains: how do we get rid of it?

Comparable to the body’s healing process, we cannot fully eliminate racism until we identify, understand, and treat areas it has affected and implement restrictions on points of access to society to prevent future access and its expansion. While diversity management programs and activist movements identify and treat affected areas of civilization, they do not necessarily confront or otherwise interact with outlets that facilitate racism.

Scholars generally define and study racism through either a biological or cultural point of view, therefore they look to either science or the sociological influences on behavior to identify mechanisms that foster its development. The biological view of racism states that people are categorized into races based solely on their physical features. Racism in this context is derivative of the belief in one’s superiority to others due to the physical characteristics inherent in one’s ascribed race relative to inherent characteristics in other races.

The cultural view of racism is more dynamic and arbitrary than the biological view. Race consists of individuals who are divided into groups by culturally constructed principles. Because of the dynamic nature of culture, these principles change slightly with the emergence and recession of cultural trends. Consequentially, races adapt to the new cultural trends and redefine their identity, based on their collective reaction new trends, to remain distinguishable from each other. Racism, from the cultural point of view, is derivative of the believe in one’s superiority over another due to the cultural identity of one’s race, founded on its attitude towards cultural trends,  relative to the cultural identities of other races.

Considering the biological and cultural views’ conceptions of racism, we can deduce that neither view appears to offer simple solutions to eliminating the practice or presence of racism. So referring to the question outlined above: where can we make the necessary changes to end racism? Fortunately a third view of racism has emerged in the last couple of years that presents a wide variety of resolutions and therefore has the potential to drastically change the progress of the anti-racism movement.

This third view approaches racism from a more micro perspective, however rather than placing blame on individuals, it places blame on a specific object for the continued existence and exercise of racism. Recent studies diagnose technology as a third view of racism wherein existing biological and cultural definitions of race are reinforced and often times affect how individuals portray themselves through technology. While the relationship between technology and racism is in the beginning stages of research, scholars have identified technological mediation specifically as a potential suspect in the fostering of racism.

In short, technological mediation describes technology as a tool humans use to view the world. This idea states that technology acts as a lens we look through to access the endless information and networks offered by the internet. The access to information, potential for misinterpretation, and the freedom of expression to a global audience facilitated by media technologies are key components of technological mediation that make us more susceptible to racism. Furthermore, technological mediation enables the recreation of stereotypes defined by society, resulting in an apparent support for the exhibition of racism through media technologies.

Similar to the cultural view, the technological view of racism explains that humans are influenced by their environment and experiences, however the technological view addresses the influences of the online community. Media technologies provide both a variety of outlets for information sharing on a large-scale, and ways for society to access and interact with information. Individuals become influenced by the information environments inherent in the media technologies they connect with, and consequently adjust their ideas, beliefs, or values to reflect the environment they are participating in and/or interacting with.

An article published in the British Journal of Social Psychology in 2011, titled “Cultural Bias for Racism,” states specifically that media supports the practice of racism through its prominent display of stereotypes. The author, Rick Nauert PhD, supports this claim by describing a study conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology designed to determine how media and literature, as a function of American culture, contributes to racism.

The study analyzed the relationship between racism and media technologies, and literature, using a questionnaire to test the levels of prejudice of participants. Participants were also timed as they responded to the questionnaire to evaluate the effects of exposure frequency to information on reaction time. The study’s findings show that people’s initial reactions, and their response times, to information are affected by how often they see or hear that information. For example, this study concludes that an individual who has been exposed to media containing high amounts of racial content and/or displaying several acts of racism are most likely to impulsively react to racial issues with stereotypical responses based on the content of media they were so frequently exposed to.

This study shows exactly how technological mediation fosters racism and suggests, through its results, that to eliminate racism society must closely monitor and censor media to exclude racism/stereotypes to eventually remove racism from technology all together.

Supporting articles:

“CNN Sets Off a Debate on Race and Technology” – an article addressing internet user’s response to a CNN documentary about the Tv show Silicon Valley and arising issues of racism.

“Microsoft ‘Avoid Ghetto” App Sparks Controversy” – an article regarding the new app released by Microsoft designed to help pedestrians avoid ‘ghetto,’ or in other words unsafe, areas.

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