A Journey through Black Cyberspace: Part One - the 80s.
Wow, thanks for sharing this history, Michael! It blows my mind that so little attention has been put toward highlighting black cyberspace history, especially in today's #racism/#blackness-oriented landscape. Some questions (I'm sure more will come up):
- How do you feel that those early email list discussions compare to today's social media platforms and places like reddit in terms of productive discussion/disagreement? And how do you feel about the influence of larger audiences / stronger content moderation?
- While digging around old black cyberspace websites, I stumbled across a campaign by the web directory BlackVue called "A Million Black Dot Coms" aimed at registering 1 million black websites to counter the idea of a digital divide among black people. Seems pretty ambitious, especially in these days of social media dominance over individual websites. But I'm starting to think that maybe there was something to that digital divide, given that there are still lots of non-black designed/run websites (and in recent years, movements back toward personal websites/webrings) - yet I have to really scrape to find a lot of distinctively black 'dot coms'. On the other hand, there were clearly lots of black webrings, directories, search engines, personal sites, etc. in the 90s/early00s - now we have 'Black Twitter' (is there somewhere else?). Why do you think that the momentum for black websites/webrings, etc faded?
- On a related note, early computer geeks were notoriously stigmatized and mocked - and now Silicon Valley is the major trendsetter for most people. Similarly, there's the phenomenon of being called out for 'acting white' in certain black circles. Did you feel especially stigmatized as a 'black geek' in the early cyberspace days? And was there ever a push for there to be a 'black Steve Jobs' type celebrity geek / leader for black communities / tech?
This link fits neatly between these last two questions: https://web.archive.org/web/20000816154408/http://www.blackgeeks.net/2about.html
Why do black computer geeks seem even rarer now? (I can imagine one proposed explanation by a certain mindset being 'racism!' of some flavor)