ROFLing With The Internet—Literally

This past weekend, I was in Boston for #ROFLCon, since Teresa and I were invited to speak on a panel about “race and the internet”. According to Ethan Zuckerman, “the panel on race – I can haz dream? – was one of the best conference panels” he has ever attended, because Baratunde Thurston and Christian Lander sat next to us on stage, of course!

For those unfamiliar, Baratunde is the editor of The Onion, co-founder of Jack & Jill Politics, and author of the upcoming book, How to Be Black, while Christian is the author of the well-known blog and book, Stuff White People Like. As Zuckerman writes, “…a late night show based around Baratunde Thurston and Christian Lander would kill” — because they really are that good at being comedians. In fact, they were so good at entertaining the crowd that when our moderator or the audience asked sensitive questions about racism, homophobia, religion…no one was fidgeting.

Photo courtesy of Eugene Hsu

Here’s what made our panel really awesome. ROFLCon was overwhelmingly White and male, but our moderator was Lisa Nakamura, Director of the Asian American Studies Program at UIUC and author of books like Race in Cyberspace, “Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet”, and “Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet”. Baratunde has “32 years of experience being Black”…and a Harvard degree, while Christian grew up near Toronto’s Chinatown and went to Jarvis Collegiate, which was possibly even more diverse than our high school in Fremont, CA where “being Asian was the rule, not the exception”. If any group could joke and talk about race seriously, this was it. For those interested, here’s a very loose transcript of our panel discussion (where Teresa’s quotes and my quotes are swapped 90% of the time — but that’s okay).

Being with the internet is more amazing than surfing it, because the guy you’re navigating the MIT campus with turns out to be the creator of Garfield Minus Garfield, the other token Asian gal works for Awkward Family Photos, and the cute dude at the afterparty runs Urban Dictionary. The best part? Texts from Last Night gives you really awesome internet survival advice the morning after [the conference was over].

Photo courtesy of Pete Karl II

Friday opened with Danah Boyd and Ethan Zuckerman‘s keynotes on “vaulting into the global cultural conscious” via memes on the internet; Saturday closed with a panel featuring moot (4chan) and Ben Huh (Cheezburger Network) going at each other, with Kenyatta and Jamie making meme references and Greg Rutter saying, “You should have seen it” — and been there.

If that aiint sweet enough, Toscanini’s had a special “internet ice-cream flavor” just for the weekend: vanilla sprinkled with nerds.