Technology’s Potential

Thank you Dumi for gracing our site with your presence. It’s always tight when the smartest person you know shows support. This started out as a comment, but grew to it’s own post for a couple of reasons: 1) it got kind of lengthy, and 2) I have been MIA for a while due to some other things going on and felt this would be a good topic to get back into the mix with. Big ups to Brandon & Steve for holding down The SuperSpade during my absence.

I think the Cyber Leashes piece is an interesting one for a number of reasons, but it mainly boils down to an issue of two main things: what are our motivations for doing anything that we do, and how/why do we use technology.

Anyone that has ever seen me knows I’m a nerd. I’m definitely the guy Dumi was talking about who cares a lot about gadgets and technology: about how they work, when they’re released, why one’s better than the other, all of that. Why do I care about these things? Maybe because I’m genuinely passionate about such things. Maybe because it makes me feel good and intelligent and current. Maybe because I’m good at it. Dumi’s post asks us what our motivations in having “information all the time at the fingertips” is. I believe that this is a question we need to ask ourselves about everything that we do and think about, including and beyond technology.

Let’s go further. What’s the difference between obsessing over a set of rims and a chocolate phone? Not a whole lot (well, perhaps I’d be perpetuating more negatives stereotypes with the former than the latter, but I digress). Neither will put you one step closer to “things that will improve your life” or “liberate our people.” So why do we think about these things? Because they make us feel good and we think they make us better. This consumer insecurity, the idea that we need to buy/have things to validate ourselves, pervades pretty much all parts of society and is especially damaging in poorer communities where being a consumer has similar absolute but much higher relative costs. The problem with having our vision tainted by this consumer insecurity is that it has damaged priorities that our people, that all people, used to have and hold dear: the idea of common identity, of shared vision, of collective action. What we lost was the notion that feeling good was a concept that went beyond the individual. What we lost was the notion that taking care of one another is important and should be a priority over selfish indulgence (Before I get jumped on, I’m well-aware of the “secure your own mask before assisting others” philosophy, however, I think most people use that to justify their own self-centeredness by omitting the “assisting others” part). Dumi’s questions should cause us not only to think about how we consume technology and if it serves a greater purpose, but also about how we consume any/everything else and if it serves a greater purpose. Let’s get back to the basics, back to what’s important. Let’s make what’s important to the individual beneficial to the collective, and vice versa.

I do not want to confuse people by any means into having them think that technology is neither useful nor important. In fact, the exact opposite is true. In my view, the issue is not the technology itself, but how we approach and use it. In general, technologically under-exposed individuals will see technology as a toy, a game, a form of entertainment. This is because it makes it less intimidating to think about it in terms of fun and only fun. The issue is that too many of our people never graduate out of that mindset and way of viewing technology to a more mature vantage point: one that sees technology as a tool, as an enabler, as a method of getting goals accomplished. This is what Dumi is calling for and what I wish to re-iterate here. The reason I started The SuperSpade with Brandon was to show our people how technology could be used for what I feel are more substantive things. I envision a day when people go online for more than celebrity gossip and sports scores. I envision a world where people do more online than watch videos of people lip-syncing pop music and make sorry-a$s MySpace pages. I envision a world where we use technology to reach each other to talk about how & where we can organize a meeting to work towards liberation. I envision a reality where we use the internet for what it was intended: a network to connect people and share information. This site will soon become a place where people can share ideas that will better society, where they can trade tips on how best to start mentorship programs in places across the world, where people can come give and receive social, political, and economic empowerment.

I want all of us to begin to see technology for what it can be and not what so many people think it is. In college, I often wondered how people communicated without email or cell phones. I wondered how peopled scheduled study sessions and “study” sessions without text messaging. After thinking about it, I determined that people simply found ways to do what they needed to do. Well, I submit to you that since it is now so much easier to communicate and easier to stay in touch, that we take that ease of use and use it for big things, not BS. Technology is aimed at simplifying things, not complicating them. At making things easier, not more difficult. How successful it is at making thing simple or easy is debatable, but I see it as something we can use it to achieve our big goals freedom & liberation, of unity & peace, and of a community with a shared vision. Do you see what I see?

One Love. One II.

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About Garlin Gilchrist II

I'm from Detroit. I created Detroit Diaspora and am a National Campaign Director at MoveOn.org. I currently live in Washington, DC with my beautiful wife Ellen. After graduating with degrees in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Michigan, I became a Software Engineer at Microsoft. By day, I helped build SharePoint into the fastest growth product in the company's history. On my personal time, I sought out opportunities to connect my technical skills with community building efforts across the country. This led to my co-founding The SuperSpade: Black Thought at the Highest Level, a leading Black political blog. I served as Social Media Manager for the 2008 Obama campaign in Washington, and then became Director of New Media at the Center for Community Change. Today I work at the crossroads of traditional political organizing and online activism. I speak before diverse audiences on empowerment in revolutionary new organizing spaces, increasing civic engagement & participation though emerging technologies and protecting civil rights in the age of the Internet.

2 responses to “Technology’s Potential”

  1. Anonymous says :

    Dear One Love, One II,

    The first thing I would like to comment about is that your writing style is improving by the minute. I am proud of the fact that within your passion for using technology to help move forward your vision is well documented in this piece. Continue to stay focus and think and dream big because this is where all success stories begin.

    Love,
    Lady B

  2. Garlin II says :

    Lady B,

    Thank you for the inspirational words of encouragement that you have consistently given Brandon, Steve, myself, and this entire SuperSpade movement.

    I think that our futur successes lie in the convergence of ideas and interests that may at one point have been thought to be relatively unrelated: education & sports, service & business skills, technology & social action. I think this presents a grand opportunity for people to get creative about how they use their gifts, strengths, and talents to advance not only themselves put us as a collective. The moment we all commit to doing this, the success story will nearing it’s culminating moment.

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