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'Race in Digital Space' to celebrate access, arts and achievements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- "Race in Digital Space," a three-day conference to celebrate the accomplishments of minorities using digital technologies, will be presented by researchers in MIT's Program in Comparative Media Studies and USC's Annenberg Center for Communication from Friday, April 27 through Sunday, April 29, 2001 in the Wong Auditorium, Building E51.

"Cyberspace has been represented as a race-blind environment, yet we don't shed our racial identities or escape racism just because we go on line," said Henry Jenkins, director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, professor of literature and co-organizer of the event.

"The concept of 'digital divide,' however, is inadequate to describe a moment when minority use of digital technologies is dramatically increasing. The time has come to focus on the success stories, to identify examples of work that has increased minority access to information technologies and visibility in digital spaces."

Conference organizers hope the event will provoke new critical thinking about race in a wide variety of digital spaces.

"We need to think beyond the screen and the mouse," said Tara McPherson, professor at USC's School of Cinema-TV and conference co-organizer. "Digital spaces extend to a whole range of 'tote-able' street technologies from cell phones and beepers to Gameboys, music equipment and more. We're interested in the way these forms constitute new publics."

Walter Massey, president of Morehouse College, will present the keynote speech on Friday evening.

Plenary panels will explore such issues as: E-Race-ing the Digital, How Wide is the Digital Divide, and Authenticating Digital Art, Expression and Cultural Hybridity.

Breakout sessions, designed for focused conversations with smaller groups of conference participants, will address: Art and Hactivism; Digital Business -- From Netrepreneurs to Corporations; Hate Speech; Job Opportunities and Training; and Community Best Practices.

Confirmed conference speakers include Karen Radney Buller, President, National Indian Telecommunications Institute (NITI); Ricardo Dominguez, Co-founder, The Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT); Jack Gravely, Office of Workplace Diversity, Federal Communications Commission; Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky), Artist, Musician, and Writer; and Alex Rivera, Digital Media Artist and Filmmaker.


Concurrent with "Race in Digital Space" is a video show and digital salon at MIT's List Center for the Visual Arts.

"The exhibition will feature the work of innovators and visionary film, video, new media, and web site designers whose work deals specifically with the intersection of race and technology," said Erika Muhammad, curator of the exhibition at List Visual Arts Center.

The List exhibition includes works by artists who are building digital habitats and laying political foundations through the use of high-tech documents. Spanning the past 20 years, the program will include experimental film and video,, CD-ROMS, web sites and aural mixes.


A pre-conference workshop for Boston metropolitan and New England regional educators, artists and technology center directors will be held on Wednesday, April 11, 2001, from 11am-3pm in the Bartos Theater at MIT.

"We want to spotlight community 'best practices' and encourage conversations among the dozens of Boston-area technology centers that support minority communities," said Paula Robinson, founder of the Institute for the Integration of Technology and Education in Boston and a conference co-organizer.

All events are free and open to the public.

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