Meanwhile, Virginia Eubanks (2012) and André Brock (2012) revealed that the popular concept "digital divide" is an inaccurate way to describe various uses of ICTs by the Black diaspora. Black Americans do not use digital devices at the same rates and in the same ways as white Americans. It is also true that the conditions which precipitated Silicon Valley do not map well onto the conditions in Africa amid the burgeoning digital entrepreneurship ecosystem (Friederici, Wahome and Graham 2020). Yet in poor, urban American communities (Avle et al. 2019), urban Ghanaian communities (Burrell 2012), and poor rural Kenyan communities (Onsongo and Schot 2017; Wyche et al. 2015), Black people use mobile phones, surf the internet, and even bank online. More recently, studies show Black Americans are early adopters of technology and are particularly savvy with social media (Repko 2020). It is time to move past the deficit model of understanding people of color's engagement with creativity, invention, and innovation. Instead, we need a fuller picture of how people of color have always contributed to science, and technology innovation and entrepreneurship and will continue to do so after structures of inequality are dismantled. Science and technology studies scholars, with good intentions, have perpetuated systemic racism by an asymmetric attention to the persons and resources involved in creating and controlling innovation.
At present, STS and innovation studies can explain how current socio-technical systems oppress particular marginalized innovators and their technologies, but cannot explain the variety of innovators, designs, and processes flourishing unseen among the margins, liminal spaces, in-between spaces, and gaps. We fail to see how multicultural innovations are able to develop despite a hostile environment. A small subset of feminist, postcolonial, and African-American studies of science and technology have served as a bastion against the tide. In 1998, Sandra Harding posed a provocative question, is science multicultural? She was building on earlier work in feminist science studies that questioned whether the Mertonian norm of universal scientific knowledge was everyone's truth, or Western culture's way of understanding the scientific endeavor. Basically, she was asking, "whose scientific knowledge is ignored/marginalized/discounted, and therefore whose knowledge counts?" where the definition of "who" is constrained by geo-political, gender, and racial identity. Many scholars realized that a singular universal science was a Eurocentric norm (Harding 1998; Hess 1995). Universalism emphasizes the empirical processes, observations, and natural philosophy traditions of European scientists and their antecedents, without acknowledging much of the scientific processes and observations from other cultures around the world. In contrast, situational knowledges suggest that there are many ways of knowing and thus many truths as it relates to science (Haraway 1997). As an antidote, Harding (1998) described a variety of sciences from outside historically European scientific trajectories. By doing so, she went beyond a deficit model when exploring the encounters/translations between knowledges of the modern Western world and elsewhere. Others uncovered similar stories of novel scientific discovery in the collaborative Japanese and American high energy physics community (Traweek 1992) and among Balinese rice farmers Lansing (2007).
More recently, postcolonial science studies scholars have challenged the idea that Western colonial powers have made discrete European knowledge and later diffused it from Europe outwards. Instead, they argue, that Indian and British cartography science is co-produced during colonization (Raj 2007), nuclear magnetic resonance imaging science is entangled along a technoscientific trail by Americans, Indians, and British after colonization (Prasad 2014), and ophthalmic science is birthed interstitially from India and Nepal through contestation with US and Europe, and circulated globally (Williams 2019). Innovation from below is defined as, "[k]nowledge and artifacts developed by experts in the global south who are marginalized in the global field of science" that furthermore circulates elsewhere in the global south or global north (Williams 2019, 182). Altogether, these studies suggest people of color, while marginalized by geopolitical status and race, can create novel knowledge. Early postcolonial science studies scholarship still left open a question concerning how power is implicated in technology development.
A new question emerged: If creating and controlling technology is one form of power (Hård 1993), then how do racially marginalized groups access and participate in technology development? In the US, Eglash (2004) published an edited volume that articulated how racially marginalized people (Black, Latinx and indigenous) have always engaged with technology to rename, adapt, and reinvent it as their own. Fouché (2006) calls this "technovernacular creativity" and he attributes this type of innovation specifically to Black people, and traces its historical roots in enslaved Africans. By doing so, he was extending an earlier argument from his book Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation that "patents can no longer be considered the sole measure of success when examining black inventors"(Fouché 2003, 183). This was because, historically, patents provided neither wealth nor credit, nor freedom from oppression for Blacks in the US. People of color, while marginalized by race and socioeconomic status, can be innovators, and this does not necessarily require patents or copyrights (Benjamin ed. 2019; Gaskins 2019). Theirs is an essential insight because such technovernacular creativity is so frequently dismissed. Unfortunately, the larger problem of systemic racism produces the routine dismissal of reinvented technologies and technovernacular creativity as not considered by some to be "real" innovation.
Many historical and contemporary sciences and technology are wrongly attributed to whites or Europeans because of systemic racism. For example, Carney (2001) proved that rice farming in the United States was successful primarily because enslaved West African rice farmers, especially women, brought their technology designs, planting processes, and other agricultural know-how with them as tacit knowledge. Slave owners seeking this knowledge hunted people from specific West African ethnicities (Carney 2001). Simultaneously, slave owners took personal credit for the tacit knowledge they stole from enslaved Africans by writing personal accounts of how they experimented with rice production, and attributing their success to their own initiatives or to the (non-rice) farming skills of their European ancestors (Carney 2001). On the one hand, slave owners could easily dismiss enslaved Africans' ideas as emerging from their inherent laziness, while on the other hand they could steal (and in some cases patent) these ideas without any guilt because enslaved Africans were considered beasts not men (Johnson 2017). The continuing of this ideology through systemic racism means that, frequently, when people of color create new innovations, these are dismissed and then usurped.
Harding (1993), demonstrated the "racial economy of science", where, the creation of science is subject to systemic racism's hegemonic power. More recently economist Lisa Cook (2020 citing Cook 2014) argues in the New York Times that systemic racism has negatively impacted the US economy over time. Racism and particularly violence against Blacks in the early 1900s (when lynching was its most virulent), constrained Black people's ability to invent and patent, and this limited and slowed the economic growth of the US economy overall which disadvantaged everyone (Cook 2014). This is still the case in 2020 (Cook 2020). Americans by not acknowledging or correcting how systemic racism supports stealing, discounting, and discrediting the achievements of Black creatives and Black inventors, are contributing to national economic lack of competitiveness.
The literature described above suggests that STS scholars have previously proven that science is multicultural, and technology is created, utilized, and diffused by persons who are not elite. However, it demonstrates the need for more novel case studies of innovation by and for people of color to better understand how multicultural innovation and innovation from below grows and propagates in the liminal spaces of dominant culture despite a hostile environment.