Wire-less Identity: Latina/o Representation in Cyberspace
Tina Velez '03
Tina has long been involved in New Media, from its emergence and during its development. Her keen interest in this newest form of media and the Internet provided fertile ground for her to conduct an investigation on the representations of Latinas/os in cyberspace. In a fascinating and insightful PowerPoint presentation and performative reading, Tina explored the many complex signifiers that are used by people to present their images, ideas and agendas through the World Wide Web.
Tina: I was not aware of the lack of racial and cultural representation over the net. I guess I took it for granted for several years that someone out there was keeping that aspect of humanity alive in cyberspace. While cyberspace has allowed for free expression by many marginalized and controversial groups, there is little discussion in regards to race and culture from a personal, individual standpoint.
I am very interested in how the habitus influences and comes across in artistic and written expression. I am also intrigued by the ability to create an entire "cyber"me, a reflection of yourself and your background with whatever fantastical spin you wish to put on it. I also think that being able to present your work with others who share something as deeply engrained as cultural experience is fantastic, which is why I want to see creativelatinos.com take off the ground and soar.
Tina: With my final project, I was seeking
to raise questions about the notion of identity in cyberspace, and what implications
this has for racial and cultural relations in the real world. I wanted to make
others aware of the current state of cyberspace, and the need for more sites
I had several ideas as to how to present [my final project]. I could edit some of the pages of creativelatinos.com and discuss them, but I figured that would be a bit dull, so I opted for a more entertaining and fast-paced medium. I considered using PowerPoint to create a graphics-intensive slide show which I would speak/rant along with in a timed manner. So, I opted for this, and began to look for images which I felt were reflective of the ideas I would be speaking about. I wanted to both entertain and raise questions about current portrayals of Latinos on the Internet and the Internet in general. People seem to respond well to presentations and lectures that incorporate slides or websites, as it makes learning more interactive and somewhat entertaining.
Tina: [Tina worked on her PowerPoint presentation and gave her performative reading on her own, but she also worked with a former Dartmouth Latino student, Ernesto "Neto" Cuevas, on his interactive website, creativelatinos.com. Tina provided constructive feedback to Neto in several conversations over the Internet, as he is currently living in the Atlanta area. - Ed.]
I forwarded my initial reactions (which I used for my electronic journal entry/proposal) to Neto Cuevas. I was concerned with the fact that the site catered to a subset of not quite amateur, not quite professional artists, writers and performers. I chatted with Neto over blitz and in the MOOndo Latino. I had some particular questions about his works and what he wanted to convey with his art. Most of my "collaboration" was through the Internet; however, I spoke to many people about what their initial reactions/responses to the word "Latino" were, and used these to search for images and texts of "stereotypes" over the Web.
Tina: I feel that the largest change brought about to the Latino community through the advent of the Internet is the ability to reach so many other Latinos from various parts of the globe. Human experience slowly becomes more universal, as it becomes more accessible to all. I believe that there are a good deal of websites catering to older Latinos (www.yupi.com) and that we have to take more interest in forming newsgroups and communities through Yahoo or Geocities or any other number of large domains. And with the Internet, concerned Latinos can create educational sites, such as one which would debunk many Latino myths/urban legends.
As more members of the Latino community rise to positions of power in the entertainment industry and society, perhaps representations will become more accurate, but only if Latinos work towards educating and integrating their culture into their surroundings and their work. The wonderful thing about digital media is its ease of circulation and transport. This also means that many dumb sound files and pictures will make their way towards your inbox, but it also means that you can share experiences and memories with others who are not physically present.
Tina: What I truly gained out of this course was increased awareness and a desire to help facilitate change, not only in how we as Latinos view ourselves, but also in our relation to Latino-produced media and the web/cyberspace. I no longer feel that it is a hopeless battle, and I was glad to meet so many energetic individuals with similar notions. I also leave more aware of the state of minorities not only in entertainment and culture, but in society as well. As our representation and identity grow closer together, I can only hope for increased tolerance and respect. I am so glad to see others who have the energy and the beliefs to struggle against such a large and harsh system, and that there are others who refuse to be complacent and silent.