Technology Integrationists – Technigrationists in the 1990s
Here we see the coming of age of a generation of culturally identified users: from young, “born digital” African-Americans, to those who serve as a bridge to the Civil Rights generation – the first generation of African-American digital technology creators. This first generation of integrated African-Americans are the post-Civil Rights movement who grew up in a complex world largely divorced from the direct, legalized expressions of racial segregation, of which I am a part. I am situated somewhere between the Black Panthers’ free breakfast programs (the pre-curser to federal free lunch programs), lunch tickets, and experiences of growing up “equal” in the classroom and playgrounds of American public schools.
This bridging-generation of African-Americans has participated in computer-technology diffusion and adoption, and are early adopters and influencers. My friends and schoolmates had beepers and pagers in our pockets and purses at a time when only doctors could afford them, and all throughout the emerging phenomenon that is now known as Hip-Hop, we were listening to underground music that included many references to technology devices and connecting with one another through cell phones, pagers and video games.
Do you know the importance of a skypager?
Those who don’t believe, see you’re laid behind
Got our skypagers on all the time
Hurry up and get yours ‘cause I got main
Especially if you do shows, they come in fine
If you’re with a G and you’re sippin wine
Eating caccatore with a twist of lime
Gotta meet your lover at a quarter to 9…
Skypager by A Tribe Called Quest, Copyright: Lyrics, Universal Music-Z Tunes, 1991
By the 1990s, Technigrationists were living in a multiplicity of identities, being both children of the Integration, Civil Rights and Black Power movements, as well as being labeled the Hip-Hop Generation in the context of Generation X. Growing up in suburbs and inner cities alike, we are the first to have come of age in a climate espoused racial and social integration, yet bear the burden of political alienation from Reganomics, the rise in crack and experienced popular culture through the eyes of street-life, police brutality, drugs and gangs. I witnessed Wall Street corruption, differential prison-sentencing from crack and cocaine busts and saw the mass effects of corporate downsizing, globalization and the gas crisis. I watched hostages freed with the help of Jesse Jackson, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the acquittal of Oliver North in the Iran-Contra scandal, Rodney King’s beating and OJ’s trial on television. The first drive by shooting at my high school happened my junior year, and no Black youth were involved. We wondered how guns made it to the block, and we escaped to the movies, the arcade, the gaming console, the spoken word and the music. Technigrationists had fully integrated friendships and relationships.