Race & Ethnicity in Grand Theft Auto

Videogames (specifically urban/street games) create cross-cultural learning experiences, particularly for young people, growing up in a media-saturated environment. Different kinds of learning take place in videogames, which is said to influence young people’s perceptions of race, gender and ethnicity. The shift to a more digitalised and interactive culture is problematic in this sense because youth can now actively participate, rather than passively internalise discourses of race and gender, say, from a TV program (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp141-142; Leonard, 2003, pp1-2).

‘No title epitomises urban/street gaming more problematically than the GTA franchise.’
(Everett & Watkins, 2008, p150)

The designs of urban/street games have very aesthetic and narrative properties. Developers bring in highly skilled designers to create a world that imitates popular perceptions of urban culture. For example, the radio in GTA is so popular because developers have called upon celebrity hip-hop producers, performers and radio personalities to voice the DJ’s on many of the stations. Artists and producers also help to select music for the game that will evoke ethos and energy of urban or “ghetto” life (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp146-148). The setting is one of the vital aspects of how learning takes place in videogames. It teaches dominant attitudes and assumptions about race and gender; as they draw heavily from discourses that already circulate in mainstream media. These messages are then intensified through the appeal of interactive game play, and are achieved by providing graphically real and culturally authentic environments. Unlike school, where youth are more used to the system of “telling” and “doing”, gaming provides an immersive experience in an active environment rather than passive. Users work their way through the game via trial and error, engaging and exploring in the actual context of practice. Where television TELLS gender and racial narratives, videogames allow for active participation – performing and reproducing socially prescribed notions of gender and race through a dynamic process (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp142-149; Leonard, 2003, p3).

This paves a way for how gamers, particularly the young, are developing their knowledge and familiarity with popular views of urban culture. Spatial environment becomes a culturally specific location that animates ideas of race, class and gender. It works ideologically to underpin notions of urban communities as deviant and dangerous. In Grand Theft Auto, the atmosphere has characteristics of socially and economically marginalised communities; graffiti-covered buildings, dilapidated housing, trash-filled streets, and background characters typically associated in petty crimes, drug deals and prostitution (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp145-146).

steretype gtaA gamers response to choosing a character in Grand Theft Auto V

Designing characters in earlier videogames was restricted by technology. Now, they are able to easily portray racial characteristics through skin colour, body language and voice. However, even though videogame designers have the ability now with upgraded software and technology, depictions of gender and race are still very narrow and stereotypical. For example, the GTA series is populated by predominantly black and Latino based characters associated with crime, enhancing hegemonic views of black masculinity (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp143-144; Leonard, 2003, pp5-6).

While it’s easy to say that videogames don’t force people to go out and imitate direct actions of violence and crime, it’s not so easy to make that judgement with the inherent depictions of racial ideologies. Because these representations are everywhere in the media, it’s not fair to say that videogames are responsible for constructing racial and gender stereotypes. While they are present, and aren’t probably helping… it’s still not justifiable to say that they are to blame.

References:

Everett, A & Watkins, C 2008, “The Power of Play: The Portrayal and Performance of Race in Video Games.”, The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, Cambridge, MIT Press, pp141-164.

Leonard, D 2003, ““Live in Your World, Play in Ours”: Race, Video Games, and Consuming the Other”, Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, vol. 3, no. 4, pp1–9, viewed 26 March 2014            <http://mediastudies.viu.ca/dougstetar/courses/medi265/resources/articles/Leonard_LiveinYourWorld.pdf>

 

Advertisements

The Network Society

The Internet has altered the way we work, socialise, create and share information. This transformation of social networking does not get the recognition it deserves. There’s been this massive transition in our lives, transitioning to a digital culture and economy.

In a 2011 report, Mckinsey Global Institute stated that in the past 5 years, the Internet accounted for 21 per cent of the GDP growth in mature economies. This technological revolution has assisted large enterprises and national economies, individual consumers and upstart entrepreneurs. Facebook and other social media sites have been some of the utmost beneficiaries from the powerful influence of the Internet – businesses can now interact with their consumers on a personal level. From a few thousand students accessing Facebook to over 1 billion global users today, Manyika and Roxburgh from the Mckinsey Global Institute stated that ‘If Internet were a sector, it would have a greater weight in GDP than agriculture or utilities’. The development and evolution of the Internet has been described as a ‘healthy Internet ecosystem’, boosting infrastructure, accessibility, and a competitive environment. This prompts innovators and entrepreneurs to flourish, nurturing human capital and in turn maximizing the ongoing affect of the Internet on prosperity and economic growth.

The vast opportunities we are provided with are being embraced and embedded into our lifestyle and culture, and it is truly amazing to be a part of it. We create, define and expand this online ecosystem at an astonishing rate. Communication is the foundation of our society, culture, humanity and identities.

‘Consisting of transactions, relationships and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live… We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth…We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity’ – John Perry Barlow

I loved one of this week’s readings, ‘A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace’. Above are my favourite excerpts, which outline the online world we are (or choose to be) a part of. I found it interesting when he says (repeatedly) about our physical bodies not living in cyberspace. I loved how he separated an individual’s physical characteristics with cyberspace, presented in this sense that you are entering a utopian world.

References:

Barlow, JP 1996, A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Davos Switzerland, viewed 18/08/2013,
<https://projects.eff.org/~barlow/Declaration-Final.html

Dyson, E, Gilder, G, Keyworth, G & Toffler, A 1994, Cyberspace and the American Dream: A Magna Carta for the Knowledge Age, The Progress & Freedom Foundation, viewed 18/08/2013,
<http://www.pff.org/issues-pubs/futureinsights/fi1.2magnacarta.html

Kelly, K 1999, New Rules for the New Economy, Kevin Kelly, viewed 18/08/2013,
< http://www.kk.org/newrules/newrules-intro.html

Manrika, J & Roxburgh, C 2011, The great transformer: The impact of the Internet on economic growth and prosperity, Mckinsey Global Institute, viewed 18/08/2013, <http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/high_tech_telecoms_internet/the_great_transformer

Lost in cyberspace

Cyberspace:
1. The realm of electronic communication
2. Virtual reality

Image

The thing that leapt out at me most during one of our readings this week was this idea of being “pulled” into cyberspace. I find it interesting how we refer to cyberspace as a geographic place, much so that we use terminology such as “visiting” a website or “entering” a chat room. There are many positives about cyberspace, like the sense of community. But what happens when people fall deeply into this community and begin to confuse their online existence it with the real world. We often see YouTube clips of online gamers viciously verbally abusing other gamers through their headset and sometimes physically attacking their computer or gaming console when something doesn’t go their way. What I didn’t realize is that this is an actual addiction – there have been documentaries on Internet and gaming addiction being treated as a very serious illness. There are now self help websites and organisations where people can post about their addiction. I found that the majority of addicts were young boys, typically aged 10-15 years old, spending 10+ hours a day playing online. It is now understandable how they are pulled in to this virtual world – they are not doing much else. Much like any other addiction, when they aren’t online they are thinking about being online and therefore lose focus in real life activities such as school, sport, and familial commitments.

 

Reflection

Convergent Media Practices has assisted me to discover so much more about being connected online. The idea of creating an online identity and posting/tweeting every week about our learning materials was a great way to keep on top of work and engage in the content. This is definitely the reason I love this subject as online communication is integrated into our lifestyle. What better way to pilot our progress in convergent media – the shift from analogue to digital. Not only do we learn about this but we actively are a part of it.  I feel confident and accomplished when I look back on my blog posts on all the topics we have covered.

I feel that my 3 best blog posts are:

WEEK SEVEN – https://lorenvettoretto.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/the-nerd-is-the-word/ 

WEEK  NINE – https://lorenvettoretto.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/citizen-journalism/

WEEK TEN – https://lorenvettoretto.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/online-identity/

I chose these 3 posts because I think these are my most significant. They were some of the most interesting and essential topics when learning/discussing the content with regard to convergent media. By relating my own experiences with the issues I especially found them invigorating to write about. I also feel that they are my most insightful and reflective posts, being the most recent ones, as I have developed my method of blogging since the first few. I have gained so much additional knowledge about media convergence, and can now thoroughly understand and contribute to discussions. All three of these posts are significant to us as the wireless generation by yielding the enforcement of how powerful media’s influence is and images portrayed online, especially through social networking. Most importantly, they explore the fact that we have the freedom to be a part of it. Technological convergence is consistently being challenged and I hope to stay a part of participatory culture and continue being a citizen journalist.

Online Identity

There are many advantages when you become a part of the online world.  In saying that, there are many disadvantages too. The internet provides us with this amazing ability to create an online identity – to share, discover and discuss almost anything. However; posting about whatever you want can surface a lot of controversy, of course. Just like when you speak to someone in person – no two people are the same, so not everybody will agree with what you have to say. This stems from our unique individualities between differing values, morals, belief systems, and cultural lifestyle.

More to the point – prime examples of controversy on the web usually carry a similar theme, which is anonymity. By having the option to be anonymous, this removes a user’s complete identity and a lot of the time this is used to verbally harm others or post unnecessary materials. This is an advantage to the anonymous, because there are no repercussions for them and no further responsibility for the act(s). There are many sites which give the opportunity to not show your identity when posting things. The disadvantage to the latter is obvious; receiving uncomfortable questions or content as well as bullying, abuse and threats. The frustrating thing is it happens too often for every single case to the dealt with. Two sites which bestow these sorts of actions or ‘cyber hate‘ include Tumblr and Formspring. Of course these sites are not run for this purpose, it is purely up to the user. In my opinion, by signing up for sites such as these you are also signing up for the harmful and upsetting comments or images which you may receive. There is no way to control what each and every person does on the internet, especially those who are hidden, i’ve personally come to accept that and move on. Though sometimes it’s not that easy, and can lead to extreme cases of oppression and exclusion. On the other hand, anonymity can sometimes work in everyone’s favour. For example, a victim of violence or rape who is too afraid to come forward but wants to share their story online and get the support they need without revealing themselves. I think that anonymous users think that because they have the right to hide their identity this also gives them the right to use it in a derogatory way. I feel we are fortunate to be able to have an online identity and that this idea of being hidden shouldn’t be muddled with.