Archive for the ‘black women and technology’ Category

The Flintstones Meet The Jetsons

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Raise your hand if your Saturday morning cartoon watching included the stone age antics of the Flintstones and the space age futurism of “The Jetsons.” As a kid  Fred, Wilma, and Barney and Betty, Pebbles and Bam Bam held my emotional strings.  But it was George, Jane, Elroy,  Judie, but most especially, Rosie the mechanical housekeeper and the many space age appliances in the home, that  captured my imagination.

According to the Jetsons technology was supposed to make our lives easier. Certainly nothing about the Jetsons prepared us for the cost technology would wreak on our humanity. For a while there most of us just assumed that our growing use of fast, interactive technologies would free up our time and give us more time to do the things we enjoy. Instead, with every new device comes greater demand upon us to be available and to be productive. With our cellphones, laptops, and wireless internet come raised expectations about how much a human being can reasonably achieve, giving many access to better opportunities and leaving many others in the dust because they can’t keep up.

Technology has changed a lot of things. Some of them good. Some of them bad. In a few years bookstores will go the way of the the Sone Age Remington typewriter. And when the last bookstore closes its door I’m gonna miss the sensation of walking through a bookstore, browsing shelves, flipping through books, browsing the table of contents for nothing in particular but something special that speaks to the soul. I didn’t mean for turning to Amazon.com these days for most of my book purchases to contribute to the demise of bookstores. But it has.

I’ve already begun browsing online for the gifts on my Christmas gift list. As convenient it is to do my Christmas shopping online I gotta admit that nothing beats the holiday glow that comes from dashing back and forth into my favorite store on those last couple of nights before Christmas for a few last minute gifts.  Christmas tree aglow, cookies and punch back in the customer service department, sales people dressed up in reindeer gear, the sound of Nat King Cole singing “The Christmas Song” piping from the surround system, and  peels of “Merry Christmas” ringing from  shoppers across the aisles.

flinstones meet the jetsonsBookstore lines I don’t mind. Bank lines give me the creeps. When online banking became available some years back, I signed on immediately. Let’s just say that bank robbery scenes  from movies like “Set it Off” keep me looking over my shoulders whenever I walk into a bank. I found myself in a bank the other day because I needed a personal banker to assign me a new online customer id number. (I could have called customer service and tried making myself understood to a service rep over in India. NOT!)  I got my new number and then went back to my car to to drive up to the ATM machine: typed in my pin number, slid my check in the slot when prompted, viewed a scanned copy of my check on the screen, and drove away with a receipt that included an image of the check I’d just deposit. Talk about progress.

Teller? What’s a teller, kids will be asking in a few years. Someone who tells the future?

Raise your hand if you know someone who’s lost their job to technology in recent years?

Although unemployment continues to make headlines, the demand for workers who’ve kept up with the new technology continues to rise. But what about the “average worker”? You know the average worker. Your classmate from high sschool.  Everybody in my working class elementary and high schools couldn’t make it out of our working class to poor neighborhoods like I did. What will happen to those for whom college is out of the question? Not only can they not afford college. They just don’t have the smarts to grind it out. What is the future for the average worker? Those who in the past depended on bank jobs, factory jobs, the service industry, and construction work to make a living for themselves and their family? What will the new workforce look like in coming years?

Raise your hand if you’ve bought some new gadget or signed on for some new online convenience without giving any thought to how the worker that technology replaces is faring in her effort to re-skill and find a new job for her and her children.

Whether you’re one of the Flinstones or one of the Jetsons, work and shopping and human relationships as we once knew them  are all changing.  Technology will see to it. Will our people be prepared? Will you? How has technology encroached upon the way you live and work?

The Devil is in the Computer: Technology and the Generational Divide

Friday, September 25th, 2009

A couple of weeks back a discussion popped up on a natural hair board I belong to about why young nappies dominate the hair board and why hardly any mature nappies blog about  caring for natural hair in your forties and beyond. (No comments please about my use of the “n” word. “Nappy” is a  term of endearment there on the hair board.) Several of us over forty-five types concluded that the reason younguns’ dominate the hair board is because black women our age and older are largely distrustful of the Internet. My contemporaries use the net largely for email, but that’s about it.

“A woman I know lost her husband to Facebook,” someone stood up and said at a women clergy conference I attended this week. “An old high school girlfriend of his found him on Facebook and he left his wife for the old girlfriend.” Our worst suspicions were confirmed.  “Jeeezus,” some one cried out. “Hmmmmph, hmmmph, hmmmph” said another. That does it: The devil is in the computer. Facebook. Identity Theft. Spam. Twitter. Yep, Satan is behind it all.

Many of my favorite bookmarked blogs are by black women bloggers in their 20s and 30s (e.g., opinion blogs, self-help blogs, inspirational blogs, how-to blogs, craft blogs). This generation has never met a hunch, idea, opinion, suspicion or fantasy they didn’t think deserved airing.

It seems that black women my age seem to be content with being information consumers rather than  information producers.

I’m willing to guess that the vast majority of the women who leave comments on this blog are younger women, women under forty. Plenty of women over forty visit my blog (I know because they tell me they do when I meet them); but it’s mostly young ones who jump into the cyber dialogue and weigh-in in the comments sections

black girls and computers

I should be hurt but I’m not. I know they love me. But virtually none of my friends who are my age read my blog. Yeah, I’m putting y’all on blast. (Of course, they may feel they don’t need to read my blog since I go on and on all the time about whatever opinion I hold. Forgive me.) Most of them have a Facebook page, but they use it to announce where they will be speaking and teaching next. Yet, they are all fierce, thinking women who have high profile positions or who head major organizations.

Here’s the deal: my contemporaries don’t have the time to spend time online. At least that’s what they claim. They don’t have time to blog or to learn how get their information and opinions out on the web. But time isn’t the only reason. My contemporaries feel clumsy around technology. We’re frightened by technology. The world wide web sounds too vast to fathom. We are from the generation of girls who shied away from science and technology. Dissecting frogs. “Eeeewww.” Mixing compounds. “Don’t let that stuff get on my outfit.” Dissassembling things to see how they worked. Boring. Assembling parts to improve their function. “My nail!” There were no summer programs back then for colored high school girls to spark our interest in engineering and science.

Tell me: How many black female IT people do you know? When you need help with some computer problem, how likely are you to call a black woman your know (over 40) to talk you through how to fix your computer problem? I thought not.

Let me be clear: I don’t mean to suggest that black women, even older ones, are anti-technology or anti-gadgets  It’s not like we use carrier pigeons to send messages. We love our cell phones. We enjoy our iPods. We can’t live without our microwaves. We pride ourselves on having the latest hair curling contraption. But computers are another thing. Solitaire and email. That’s it. Using the comments section to air our protest? Social networking? Keeping up with celebrities every move? We prefer real time and real friendships. We’re old fashioned like that, I suppose.

“Silver hair tekkie” is how a young nappy former student of mine refers to me. That’s because I seem always to be one step ahead of her in gadgetry and was for a long time always pushing her to up her technology game. IM me. Skype me. Snap the photo and text it to me. Sign in and give me permission to have remote access to your computer. Your computer is too slow. Why is it that I have a blog and you don’t, and I’m thirty years older than you.? Get off my blog, and get a blog of your own.  When the cable technician comes to the house to program the television or to get us back online, my husband calls me into the room to decipher the technician’s directions.

I’m far from being a tech geek; I know just enough to keep me from having to be a slave to real computer geeks. I am a life long student of technology because I have had to be. I hate depending upon other people to do things for me I want done yesterday. But I must admit: being the the computer savvy old woman that I am means that I spend a lot of my time  on the computer in conversation with women half my age. That’s not a bad thing. Except on occasion. Like when I shoot back with a response like “jive turkey” or talk about doing the “kool jerk” and I get one of those emoticons back that say makes clear that the person on the other line is clueless as to my meaning. Talk about a generational divide.

What about the rest of you? Do you agree there’s a generational divide among us black women when it comes to technology?  How tech savvy is your mother? How tech savvy are you? Why aren’t black women over 45 better represented in cyberspace? Why don’t black women use the Internet more to promote their work and/or to help shape public opinion? What do you think?