why mellow mike?

mellow mike originated as a persona in soc.culture.african.american (scaa) and as such responded interactively in verse as well as illustrative prose. here he explains his raison d'Ítre...

Date: 9 May 1994 13:27:49 -0400

everything i do in scaa is an experiment in blackness as a post-modern concept. i am futzing with identity in cyberspace and trying to figure out what happens to your race when people cannot see you, hear you or smell you. (hee haw). everybody knows that you have some freedom in computer mediated communications (cmc) to choose who you be. if i choose to be black, how would i express it? if i choose to be white, how? why? what can i say in cmc that i would never say face to face? what silences are overcome w/ respect to racial issues, which are created?

i am extending the hiphop aesthetic to cmc and i propose bSpace as a black cultural exponent and concept in cmc. i am working with a few folks to create that space over time. some of that will happen in the cool zone.

i have been reading all of the major literature (or so i think) about cmc and cyberspace and i must say that socially destructive white punk kids get about 3 orders of magnitude more press and critical attention than black folks. likely the best book on the subject is by howard rheingold, 'the virtual community - homesteading the electronic frontier' and we exist as blacks solely on page 144, in the same paragraph as ufo fanatics. also 'the metaphysics of virtual reality' by michael hiem inscribes the very ideas of *why* cyberspace is a 'eurocentric' framework.

as an organic intellectual, i challenge these as they relate to the possibilities of black identity in cmc. we all know who created it and we generally know why and what they had in mind when they did so. now that the i-way is opening up to the general yuppy public, what happens? what changes? when people bring their desires to cmc, it will be transformed but i investigate empirically what it is now and how that changes as black folks join up. i remain primarily focused here in scaa because it is open to the public, whereas i would find it much more enjoyable to hang out in more private areas. what do black folks say in private areas that they don't say here? what do they say here that they don't say privately? why are black people in cmc at all? what motivates them to use the technology? these are very important questions to me because i have been making a living doing computer work for many years and clocking big dollars in a culture that hardly expects me to...

i will soon (as i get details) use the analogy of the american and soviet space programs. in short, americans did the space thang for reasons abc the soviets did it for xyz. often the same technology was used. but as we considered american codependence on the arms race, space race etc, we often projected our assumptions onto russian motivation. in the end we respected and feared the russians for their capability yet had little popular insight as to why. the american scientist and the russian scientist while practicing objectively identical science did so from widely differing philosophical perspectives. and so it is, i believe, with the black attraction to cmc. and what it is that blacks do in specifically black oriented forums crystallizes that different perspective, moreso in private forums than public. though in both cases the differences are real.

as part of the hiphop thang, i am interactive and lower case. i play myself as an improvisational instrument in this street beat. as milzikel from t.o.a.r.m.s i was implementing some of the angry, confrontational pedagogy. michael b was a transitional thang here in scaa (but it's who i am in real life), not quite to milzikel bilzowen. mike bowen is my deliberating, reflective and corporate power / father figure self (and very paternalistic as y'all might have notice) and is me as i present myself for the benefit of nons who can't catch the flavor. (but is required more often than not in cmc, though a brother gets *tired*) . mike bowen has been the base identity for me in most places in cmc, except for the well and compuserve forums.

as mellow mike from the cool zone, i am recreating the feel which i can best describe as 70s. i am imbuing myself with the seventies now, and i believe a lot of black folks are doing so as well. i believe there is a real renaissance here. i'll post separately. but also mellow mike is heavily influenced by james baldwin. i expect to be mellow mike as a primary character in scaa and in bSpace as it evolves for the next six months or so but i will dodge in and out of others and invent as the situations demand.

my interest in black cultural production is organic and it is also a reaction to the political intransigence of america. 12 years ago i thought thomas sowell was an angel sent to enlighten. today i merely admire his persistence. my roots and my learning contradict most politics i see, and i find little hope in overcoming political boundaries given the shape of contemporary discussions and trends. thus i move to the cultural arena and recoup a great deal of *soul* which got divorced from the political discourse during crossover. mellow mike can say shit that mike bowen must not. in so doing, i access a pool of *courage* to overcome political moderation on moral issues of importance which is something most american politicians cannot do. there is an air of resignation (i am thinking of morely safer's interview of charles kuralt -- vis a vis the mcglaughlin group) in an older generation of americans that got a chance to do damn near everything but has left our house in disorder. too, african americans have taken over a few reigns of power and find bitter disappointment. (i'm thinking of dinkins) others have been booted out of power and have pursued the dollar finding a crisis of spirit they are unable to address. (i'm thinking of andrew young and john h. johnson - who the hell reads ebony anymore?) yet and still there are those in various areas who have been able to have huge influence and potential (i am thinking of garth fagin, george h. wolfe, spike lee, charles burnett, marlon riggs) in cultural productions which are organically political as well. the black hiphop and jazz aesthetics combine artistic and political elements as a matter of course.

so with cmc, i am, as i believe a great number of black folks are, interested in 'getting hooked up' because our choice of identity must transcend the racial and as we search the libraries, and curricula, and tv guides and newstands and parks and playgrounds and office buildings and churches for ourselves and come up short, we need even more. we are looking for existential partners, people who can return our love, people who can answer our questions, people who can teach us, ideas that serve us, programs that we can get with - and it's all apart of this big circle.

the cultural thang is the dialog - the transcript of the journey, the griot's nitty gritty, the inspiration, the mojo and sometimes the sayso. and it's just a matter of time before we get that mojo woikin...