Informatics Seminar Series
Fall Quarter 2020

Friday, December 4, 2020

“Intersectional Tech: Hybrid Infrastructures and Black Youth Making Space in Gaming”

Kishonna Gray
Assistant Professor, Communication & Gender and Women's Studies
University of Illinois at Chicago

“Ain’t no internet at home. Ain’t no WiFi. I stole this Galaxy [Android cell phone]. If I wasn’t here [public library], there’s no telling what I’d be doing. Dam sho’ wouldn’t be Fortnite.”

This comment within a larger conversation around geographically isolated youth in a wired, urban, city jumpstarted my current research in exploring how young people create hybrid infrastructures to participate in gaming and disrupt notions around race and the digital divide. Often being touted as poster children for the digital divide, the technical capabilities of Black youth are often overlooked as they may not fit within traditional modes of engaging with technology. This project explores Black youth’s reliance on WiFi, public infrastructures, and mobile technologies in demonstrating their pathways their digital engagements from gaming to utilizing social media.

Pokémon Go provides an ideal case to explore as a space that blends physical and digital elements, it has proven to provide an “unlevel playing field” (Tekinbas 2017). Although many benefits arise from playing the game, such as increased social and physical activity (Althoff et al. 2016), many people are unable to maximize these gains through the use of this technology. Black youth, for instance, face many of the discriminatory elements of physical and digital spaces that hinder their ability to use these technologies. This project explores the pathways in which they still seek to participate.

Dr. Kishonna L. Gray (@kishonnagray) is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois - Chicago. She is an interdisciplinary, intersectional, digital media scholar whose areas of research include identity, performance and online environments, embodied deviance, cultural production, video games, and Black Cyberfeminism.

Dr. Gray is the author of Intersectional Tech: Black Users in Digital Gaming (LSU Press, 2020). She is also the author of Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live (Routledge, 2014), and the co-editor of two volumes on culture and gaming: Feminism in Play (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2018) and Woke Gaming (University of Washington Press, 2018). Dr. Gray has published in a variety of outlets across disciplines and has also featured in public outlets such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, and The New York Times.

Follow Dr. Gray on Twitter @KishonnaGray

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