Banks, Race, Rhetoric, and Technology

Adam J. Race, Rhetoric, and Technology: Searching for Higher Ground.
Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2006.

"The questions remain, hauntingly: Is it possible to make this nation a just
one for Black people? Is it worth the struggle? Can technologies really be used
to serve liberatory ends, or is that hope just another pipe dream calling us
upon our awakening to resist! resist! resist! the shiny boxes we’re all sold and
the promise they once held?" (xi). This books questions immix technology
(primarily defined here in the instrumental sense, as an apparatus or material
component with central issues of justice and access for African Americans.
It keeps fresh issues of the bi-directional look running throughout African
American struggle, the Racial Ravine (43) and the Digital Divide (as an aspect
of the Ravine), the possibility of uplift and empowerment through technologies
(Black Planet as site for collectivity, African American design principles for
technologies and spaces of use, and the rhetorical techne of Martin King and
Malcolm X as technologies in themselves).

Banks gives us seven chapters:

I. Introduction: Looking for Unity in the Midst of Madness: Access as the ONE
in African American Rhetoric and Technology Studies

"The overall argument I make is this: rather than answer either/or questions
about whether technological advancement and dependence leads to utopia or
dystopia, whether technologies overdetermine or have minimal effects on a
society’s development, or whether people (especially those who have been
systematically excluded from both the society and its technologies) should
embrace or avoid those technologies, African American history as reflected
through its rhetorical production shows a group of people who consistently
refused to settle for the limiting parameters set by either/or binaries" [rel:
bricoleur] (2). Also: move beyond individual exemplars (2), refusal of
"postmodern hype" (3), "post-everything navel-gazers" (4), "unities are not
absolute" (5). Here, Banks pushes away from certain theoretical orientations
while later preferring a set of three axes: practice, theory and pedagogy.

"There are many reasons for centralizing access in this way, but it comes
down to this: more than mere artifacts, technologies are the spaces and
processes that determine whether any group of people is able to tell its own
stories on its own terms, whether people are able to agitate and advocate for
policies that advances its interests, and whether that group of people has any
hope of enjoying equal social, political, and economic relations" (10).
^Connect this to writing and agency, as with Baron’s account of writing
as a technology with dependencies on instruments and treatments of those
instruments that might be improvised or tactical rather than orthodox.

II. Oakland, the Word, and the Divide: How We All Missed the Moment
This chapter reads technology issues alongside the ebonics debate. Banks
surveys articles on access in computers and writing from Selfe (15), Moran (15),
Porter (16). Grabill (20), Romano (20), and Blair (20).

"All technologies come packaged with a set of politics: if those technologies
are not inherently political, the conditions in which they are created and in
which they circulate into a society are political and influence their uses in
that society (Winner, 1996), and those politics can profoundly change the spaces
in which messages are created, receive, and used" (23).

III. Martin, Malcolm, and a Black Digital Ethos
IV. Taking Black Technology Use Seriously: African American Discursive
Traditions in the Digital Underground
V. Rewriting Racist Code: The Black Jeremiad as Countertechnology in Critical
Race Theory
VI. Through This Hell into Freedom: Black Architects, Slave Quilters and an
African American Rhetoric of Design
VII. A Digital Jeremiad in Search of Higher Ground: Transforming Technologies,
Transforming a Nation

Related sources
Heidegger, M. (1986). The question concerning technology and other
. New York: Harper.
Mitchell, W. J. (1995). City of Bits. Campbridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Winner, L. (1986). The Whale and the Reactor. Chicago: U. of