Monday, May 14, 2012

Smartphones, Black Studies, and NYC

CeAira Simmons & Anika Maddox, on the subway platform, using phones to plot their next moves, 2012
The idea of coordinating trips to New York City for groups of 10 or so young people 10 maybe 20 years ago may have been a more daunting challenge if it was less possible to figure out where various folks were. But ah, all this newfangled technology changes some things. My crew is always a text message away from me.

A couple of years ago, I would text everyone in the group to check-in. But now, I tend to only make text contact with one or two of our lead travelers, who are responsible for keeping track of the entire group. They use texts and group messaging services.

Over the last two years, I've noticed our travelers making extra use of the GPS software on their smart-phones in other to find various locations in the city. Last year, for instance, we had an assignment to locate multiple bookstores, and Kacee Aldridge and CeAira Simmons went well beyond the call of duty, using their phones to identify bookstores in the vicinity of all the different places that they visited.

CeAira Simmons & Kacee Aldridge, at the Brooklyn Museum, using their phones to plot their next moves, 2011.

There are certainly some benefits o getting lost here and there in the city, but given the issue of safety concerns, I imagine some of the travelers value the assistance and security that their smartphones can provide them in times of need. In classroom contexts, the use of cell phones can oftentimes become a troublesome distraction. However, for our movements through the city, the devices and skilled use of them are quite essential.

My interest in afrofuturism -- a framework for thinking about the intersections of race and technology -- leads me to pay special attention to what smartphones and other technological devices mean for our black studies travelers as they navigate New York City.

Black Studies, NYC, 2012
28 Ways of Thinking about Black Studies & Afrofuturism

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