Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Week 2 Day 2 Part I

I wanted to break this post into two pieces, in order to analyze the two concepts in a manner commensurate with their complexity.

Banks and Walton

Both Banks and Walton approach technology from an African American space. In order to attempt to recognize the complexity of their analysis on the manner in which technology has impacted, is impacting and will impact the larger African American narrative it is important to recognize the multidimensional nature of the issues at hand. Both authors present not only race but class issues in a historicized manner.

Bank's piece is primarily an argument that propones the recognition of African American written language as a valid form of expression, the case is being made (presumably) to academia. Examples that he provides describe the manners in which interacting with technology and the utilization of written Black vernacular are not mutually exclusive. In attempting to dispel the near exclusive focus on African American oral culture it is possible to begin investigating the presence of African American rhetoric beyond the artificial limitations placed by the dominant culture. His method for observing how the spoken traditions can be captured is through a website called Black Planet.

Walton's article is an examination of the role that technology has played in the historical atrocities visited upon African Americans. The thesis of this piece is a call to African Americans (and their allies) to act on gaining more technological agency. Agency in this case being defined in terms of the Giddean sense of power, the ability to overcome barriers through will acting in coordination with a community will.

Perhaps it is far too easy to pick the low hanging fruit, but on page 83-84 of Bank's article he identifies three areas where technology and rhetoric can be joined to benefit students. The manner in which he constructs the second point is indicative of Foucaultian concepts that he identifies in the educational institution. In essence he is identifying the Panoptic structure of the educational space, and is imploring the reader to recognize that there is the possibility of education that can be gained through play.

Issues that I had with the pieces:
Bank's identification of the racialization of cyberspace is accurate to a point. The well documented "cross-dressing" that takes place on the net could conceivably be replicated in racial terms rather than in gender terms. BlackPlanet could be populated with non-African Americans who are familiar with the rhetorical devices of African American Vernacular English. While in and of itself it is noteworthy in terms of the construction of race, it acts as a counterpoint to the idea that there are spaces that can be inhabited by a group on the web.

Walton's pursuit of technology as a means of benefiting the African American community in an economic sense at the cost of a portion of African American identity is dangerously close to utopian. In a manner of speaking Walton is acting as counter-point to Banks. Where Banks is encouraging the utilization of African-American forms of communication, Walton is forwarding the pursuit of technology in terms of the dominant culture. Walton goes so far as to request Marshall Plan like aid. Historicizing that policy would illuminate the goals of those financial packages as purchasing a populace in order to sway them to a particular capitalist ideology. In Panoptic terms Walton is adopting a structure that is provided by the dominant culture in order to benefit in a Giddean sense rather than seeking a more multi-faceted approach.


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