old media” and “new media.”
This is the crucial difference between “old media” and “new media.”
Whereas the use of old media platforms like television maintains 34 distance from black and Latino youth, new media platforms like social- network sites offer a greater possibility for closeness. Back when television was dominant, young whites could consume black style and expressive culture from a distance. Social-network sites afford young whites the opportunity to interact with actual black people. However, by avoiding MySpace, the users of Facebook elect to avoid sharing their lives and expe- riencing a modicum of intimacy with “real” black and Latino youth in the computer-mediated spaces they frequent. Instead of venturing to bridge, some young whites choose instead to bond with each other inside their digital gates.
Social and mobile media may be changing how we connect, but as we move 35 into the digital future, it does not appear to be significantly altering who we connect to.
In one of the first “virtual-field studies” exploring the role of race in 36 computer-mediated social worlds, two social psychologists from North- western University, Paul Eastwick and Wendi Gardner, found evidence of racial bias in the online world There.com.11 The experimenters created two avatars, one with light skin and the other with dark skin. Modeling one of their investigations on a classic “compliance technique” experi- ment called “Face-in-the-Door” condition, Eastwick and Gardner made
a large request of There.com participants that was sure to be refused. It was the response to the second, more moderate request that the research- ers were really interested in. Previous studies found that the moder- ate request usually leads to greater compliance from study participants. It turns out that the participants believe that the requester has made a concession and, thus, are more likely to reciprocate. Researchers believe that the participant’s decision to agree is based on their assessment of the requester.
As expected, Eastwick and Gardner noticed that the more moder- 37 ate request led to greater compliance. But when they examined the responses to the light- and dark-skinned avatars, a statistically significant difference emerged. Among the light-skinned avatars, 20 percent more people said yes to the second request. Among the dark-skinned avatars, only 8 percent more of There.com participants said yes. The research- ers concluded that the social influence of race might have been a factor, though they were unsure of the precise nature of the effect. Did partici- pants respond based on their perception of the avatars’ appearance (skin color) or their perceptions of the person controlling the avatar? Either way, Eastwick and Gardner write, “the virtual world may not prove to be a perfect utopian getaway from the real world.”12 The racial perceptions
WATkinS From THE young And THE digiTAl 515 and biases we develop in our off-line lives, they conclude, likely creep in
to our online lives.
1. danah boyd, “Viewing American Class Divisions through Facebook and MySpace,” June 24, 2007, www.zephoria.org/thoughts/archives/2007/06/24/viewing_america.html.
2. Ibid. 3. Ibid. 4. Eszter Hargittai, “Whose Space? Differences among Users and Non-Users of Social
Network Sites.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 13, no. 1 (2007), http:// jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/hargittai.html.
5. Donald F. Roberts et al., Kids & Media & the New Millennium (Menlo Park, CA: The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 1999).
6. Hargittai, “Whose Space?”
7. Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984).
8. Bill Bishop, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008), 213.
9. Ibid. 10. John Zogby, The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the Ameri-
can Dream (New York: Random House, 2008), 115. 11. Paul W. Eastwick and Wendi L. Gardner, “Is It a Game? Evidence for Social Influ-
ence in the Virtual World,” Social Influence 4, no. I (January 2009): 18–32. 12. Ibid., 29.