Peter A. Chow-White

Manuel Castells, Chair
Marita Sturken, George Sanchez

The Informationalization of Race: Communication Technologies and Genomics in the Information Age

As a mode of representation, a structuring device, and as a biological category, race is undergoing a significant transformation in the digital age. This dissertation shows how a new form of racialization is being produced through developments and innovations in communication technologies. Increasingly, racial knowledge is being constructed from seemingly neutral and unrelated pieces of information, which are collected, sorted, analyzed, and accessed through two key technologies: databases and the Internet. I call this interaction between technology and identity the informationalization of race. Race as information develops from race as the body and race as culture. To understand how this new formation is emerging through the social shaping of new media technologies in a specific institutional setting, I conduct an organizational, political economics, and discourse analyses of the next Human Genome Project, the HapMap Project. Advances in human genomics has recently re-invigorated scientific research into the relationship between race and biology. Where the HGP concluded that humanity is similar at the genetic level, the HapMap Project began by looking for differences between racialized groups. The findings from the HapMap project have been promised to help in developing pharmaceuticals that can target common diseases, such as cancer. However, this development also opens the door to old biological conceptions of race and a new phase of the biopolitics of the human body.