Emma Ogiemwanye


Internet City: Conceptualizing Digital Space to Engender Freedom

Advised by Lily Song

In our world, divide and conquer must become define and empower.
—Audre Lorde

What will it take to make just transitions toward a more sustainable, less oppressive future on Earth? The seeds of systemic solutions can be found in the mundane. That is, structures that go unquestioned—their construction assumed to be unimportant to their effect on reality. The internet is such a structure. It has succeeded in evading scrutiny for much of its existence—its coproduction assumed to be too complex to understand or simply not of interest beyond the realm of computer science. The framing of this shared imaginary has been entirely shaped by its architects and inventors. With more than four billion people using the internet, how is it still such a black box? Certainly, something so widely present in billions of human lives should be unboxed, understood, and left open for improvement.

This paper serves as the grounding for an exploratory study of how young black women and creators conceive of online space. By examining the online strategies of this particular group, I hope to find out about the gap between impact and design, identity formation, and online boundaries representative of a broad swath of digital citizens. This includes the large number of people around the world invisible yet beholden to Silicon Valley.

I am setting out to explore how black woman specifically create place online in order to conceptualize the internet as a site of copresence and coproduction—akin to a city. This concept of the internet as such a city is an intervention. That is, a structure through which collective contestation and emancipatory work can happen.

Emma Ogiemwanye, MUP. A still from the animated movie Ralph Breaks The Internet that shows futuristic-looking buildings, one of which has large Google logo on it.
Image credit: Pixar Animation Studios