Professor Patrick Jones introduced the lecturer, Abdul Alkalimat of the University of Toledo. Jones pointed out that Alkalimat is currently working on a book about cybertechnology and the black experience.
Alkalimat was here to talk about his Malcolm X website, located at http://www.brothermalcolm.net. He’s worked on the site for the past several years, and while there is a large body of information currently available to look at, Alkalimat and his colleagues still update several times a year with any new information that comes their way. One of the most impressive things about the site is the large amount of audio available. Alkalimat said that before cyberspace and before Spike Lee’s Malcolm X film, there was an interest among black youth in listening to Malcolm X audio tapes. The amazing thing about cybertechnology is that anyone can access the sound of Malcolm X’s voice now; we can listen to him talk from anyplace that has an internet connection. There is no longer a necessary privilege for historical information, nothing beyond a wireless or broadband connection.
But the necessary internet connection is still an issue. There is still a digital divide that exists, and Alkalimat said that it is most salient in the black community. However, he pointed out that even though there may be less access to digital information in the black community in general, the community is nevertheless contributing a great deal to the progression of digital information. He even pointed out that the white community, in certain respects, has attempted to mimic the black community, especially in regard to music.
Malcolm X has always been a controversial figure, regarded as both a good and bad person by a variety of people. But Alkalimat’s website allows us to form our own opinion of the man, through the large amounts of media that we can analyze and browse on our own. The image of Malcolm X thus becomes less subjective through digital technology, and preconceived notions about his life can be changed.
Alkalimat talked about the way in which cybertechnology can change educational methods. Instead of having students and scholars read old information from old sources, they are now able to engage in a more democratic kind of history. Information quickly travels between students and scholars, and opinions can be discussed without hindrance.
This innovation of digitization may be one of the most important themes of the early 21st century, according to Alkalimat. I agree. In the ten or so short years of digital access on a large scale, we are quickly transforming ourselves from downloaders into uploaders. Instead of just taking in information, we can put out information. Alkalimat sees this idea as a potentially powerful one, and he sees a lot of promise in “digital democracy.”
Alkalimat has taken advantage of digital technology on the Malcolm X website, and he took us through it, showing the ways in which we can access photos, audio, and books about Malcolm X. He was especially excited about the Malcolm X audio files. I agree that this is an exciting way to understand the man (imagine if there were audio files of older historical figures like Lincoln). This idea also makes me wonder if more video of Malcolm X will surface. This could be broadcast alongside the audio, giving us a further understanding of who Malcolm X was.
Alkalimat wrapped up his lecture by talking about the future prospects of digital history. He speculated about being able to see and feel and talk with historical figures one day. While this idea may seem far-fetched at the time and perhaps impossible, I certainly foresee further rapid developments in cybertechnology that will continue to change the way we understand history.