Where am I? : locating self and ethnicity on the World Wide Web
The thesis undertakes pioneering work in the study of Web production, representation and consumption through its focus on ethnic minorities. The comprehensive crosssection of Web content discussed shows significant ethnic minority activity despite the apparent white, Western, male and middle class profile of cyberspace. This empirical dimension of the research not only complements the large body of theoretical work that has been done about cyberspace, but also uses theoretical models from a range of academic disciplines (especially media studies) to anchor its analysis of the Web. The particularities of the Web are investigated empirically through the involvement of a group of ethnic minority women, including myself, who were the research subjects. This demanded methodological innovation given the comparatively minimal empirical work that has been done on the Web and subsequently, the lack of any conventional approaches to studying this new technology. The research was also made methodologically complex through the educational environment and larger pilot study of which it was part, and the resulting matrix of power relations arising from it. But it also takes full advantage of these circumstances, and is self-reflexive in doing so, thus creating a robust examination of the Web centred on the experiences of women from ethnic minorities. The research subjects' interactions with the Web are not only the basis for exploring Web consumption, but their findings are discussed as the interface between producers and consumers, the point of representation. This in-depth consideration of Web content explores depictions of ethnicity in terms of the traditional representational practices of other media and how these have been reinvented and adapted for the Web. The Web texts also suggest how ethnic minorities are negotiating and diversifying their own representation on the Web in response to the limits of older media industries. The thesis does not theorise the Web as a technology of infinite possibility, because its empirical grounding highlights the constraints as much as the strengths of the medium in comparison to other technologies of representation. The limitations of access, representation and even to studying the Web are examined in detail without recourse to simplistic conclusions or recommendations.