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Lisa Nakamura, “Women of Color and the Digital Labor of Repair”
Thursday, April 1, 2021 @ 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm EDT
This paper traces the history of women of color labor creating the material infrastructure for digital media, moving from the sixties to the present day to demonstrate why and how this gendered and racialized labor has been devalued and made invisible. Their work maintaining and creating digital networks has traditionally been defined as menial, thereby extracting it of its status, standing, and cultural and economic value. The refusal to define this work as “real” work set the stage for our contemporary moment’s hostility against women of color’s work witnessing and documenting racism online and moderating digital environments. While paid content moderation deploys underpaid women and people of color (Roberts, 2019), when these same people report user violations relating to race and gender to social media platforms they are far more likely to be banned or suspended than other users (Gillespie, 2018). This paper analyzes two social media campaigns by young women of color to demonstrate how they envision and enact the labor of digital repair.
Lisa Nakamura is the Director of the Digital Studies Institute and the Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan. She is the author of several books on race, gender, and the Internet, most recently Racist Zoombombing (Routledge, 2021, co-authored with Hanah Stiverson and Kyle Lindsey) and Technoprecarious (Goldsmiths/MIT, 2020, as Precarity Lab).