Technology Integrationists – Technigrationists in the 1980s

Technigrationists also made being Black “cool” – something urban youth today take for granted, much the way we took the opportunity to climb the corporate later and break all the rules “by any means necessary” as a generational imperative; not as a result of affirmative action, which was largely a Baby Boomer experience. Even in the era of integration, our admissions and presence on college campuses were being challenged across the country. We had technology training on the job, be it the cash register at Taco Bell or the desktop PC at Arthur Anderson.

Our parents were either divorced, or never married at all, and we were the first African-American generation to be labeled “endangered” – a problematic discourse of divisiveness within the Black community (Lindsey, 2007)[i]. Simultaneously, we have used technology tools as an expression of social freedom, from beepers to cell phones, video games to laptops to PDAs and smart phones. In fact, by 1996, Motorola had engaged in its first targeted marketing effort to African-Americans because of the market opportunity that was finally being recognized[ii], even though the female rapper MC Lyte and DJ K Rock had been talking about Motorola in her song “Start it Up Ya’ll” in 1989:

Stay check-mate, you know what I mean?
I go (boom-boom) like an Alpine speaker
I go (beep-beep) like a Motorola beeper
Talk about deep, well let’s get deeper
Breakin it down to the very last compound
(That’s how she’s livin, that’s how she’s livin)
“Slave to the Rhythm”, that’s what I’m givin[iii]

Technigrationists bear the burden of being considered passive recipients of the benefits the Civil Rights generation’s sacrifices, and stand in the gap “between the 1963 March on Washington the Bakke case” (Neal, 2001[iv]). We were online before the web browser and we had access to Ataris, Segas and Super Nintendo video consoles. Even now, in adulthood, we continue to reject identification with the stereotypes of the IT users as “techies” and “nerds” (Burge & Suarez, 2005)[v], but rather identify ourselves as innovators, and techno-cultural revolutionaries. We are the largest group of video gamers, along with Latinos.

Technigrationists, unlike the Civil Rights Generation, were raised in the milieu of identity politics and gritty hip-hop culture – from Public Enemy and KRS-One’s pro-Black political mantras to Too Short, Easy E and NWA’s gangsta and studio-rap. When we came of age, Queen Latifah wore dashikis and head crowns, she wasn’t a Cover Girl…and she implored me to put Ladies First. These are an important distinctions in the move away from demographic definitions in one generation to psychographic identities in another.

Racial solidarity became fragmented in this generation, as Black skaters, punk rockers, intellectuals, programmers, wanna-be gangstas, athletes, over-achievers, Valley Girls, cheerleaders, poets, actors, ballers, artists and every other conceivable youth identity became a part of the lifestyle and aesthetic sensibility of African-Americans; an experience far less ubiquitous in the Civil Rights Generation. These sensibilities are afforded expansion by African-American digital technology  usage in communications devices and their celebrated status as the embodiments of such freedoms. The technology objects and their usage serve as important cultural symbols of power and success (Csikszentmihalyi, 1993[vi]) among this generation, and the representation of value that are both culturally and gender-situated, cannot be ignored as we look toward the broadest imaginings of inclusive design.

[i] Lindsay, K. N. , (April, 2007) “Intersectional Privilege and Oppression in the Discourse on “Endangered” Black Men” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Palmer House Hotel, Chicago, IL.

[iv] Neal, Mark Anthony. Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture, and the Post-Soul Aesthetic. Routledge Press. 2001.

[v] Burge, J. D. and Suarez, T. L. 2005. Preliminary analysis of factors affecting women and African americans in the computing sciences. In Proceedings of the 2005 Conference on Diversity in Computing (Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, October 19 – 22, 2005). TAPIA ’05. ACM, New York, NY, 53-56. DOI= http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1095242.1095265

[vi] Csíkszentmihályi, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery and Invention. New York: Harper Perennial.

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