African Americans and IT: possibilities for progressive social change


1) Re-thinking indigenous knowledge systems

a.     African Fractals in anthropology, education and design


2) Re-thinking history of technology

a.     The problem of romantic organicism in Black political movements

Bell hooks (1990, p. 29) on the 1960s: “This discourse created the idea of ‘primitive’ and promoted the notion of an ‘authentic’ experience, seeing as ‘natural’ those expressions of black life which conformed to a pre-existing pattern or stereotype.”


b. Discovering black pioneers of science and technology

Early IT:

         Earl Jones: In the early 1970s he pioneered work in distributed data processing using small computers linked to an IBM 370.

         Patricia Cowings: Analog interface design for NASA's biofeedback program.

         Philip Emeagwali: Nigerian-American; work not only concerns parallel processing for nonlinear dynamics, but his research takes a strongly historical approach, utilizing the history of mathematics and its interaction with computer hardware to improve his perspective on the equations. 

More recent IT:

         John P. Moon: developed key features of the 3.5"floppy disk and drive head for Mac.

         Derek Harris: first African American owned computer company. makes use of vernacular metaphors and science fiction.

         Opto-Electronics cluster: Earl D. Shaw (physicist, co-inventor of spin-flip laser), William R. Northover (chemical innovations for laser fiber optics), Thomas C. Cannon (mechanical innovations for fiber optic cables). 


3) Re-thinking the future of technology

a.     The AfroFuturists: technology as a Black cultural movement



        Historian of Hip-Hop: Tricia Rose 

        Cultural critics: Greg Tate, Mark Sinker, Mark Dery

        Analog musicians:  Lee "Scratch" Perry (Ska), George Clinton

(funk) and Sun Ra (jazz)

        Digital musicians: DJ Spooky and Singe

        Visual artists: Fatima Truggard and Keith Piper

         Black science fiction writers: George Schyler’s Black No More, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters. More recently: Samuel R. Delany, Octavia Butler, Nalo Hopkinson.

Rammellzee -- performance artist


Virtual Black communities


        Net Noir: started in 1995 by David Ellington and Malcom CasSelle. Ave 120,000 hits/mo.

        web channels for Culture, Entertainment, News, Business and Politics, Shopping.

        Melanet: started 1989 by William and Rodney Jordan. Ave 40,000 hits/mo. Focus on Black culture and spirituality.

        City of New Elam: started 1994 by Rey Harris and Stafford Battle. Ave 2,000 hits/mo. Focus on introducing Black-owned small business to the web.

        SOHH ("Support On-line Hip-Hop"): started in 1995 with Felicia Palmer and Steve Samuel as "cybermics," currently negotiating with Intel, CNET and Mediadome for on-line sales.