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Paper: Internet for remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario

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Budka, P. (2017). Internet for remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario. Paper at “3rd CoRe Workshop – Mobility and Remoteness: What is the Connection?“, Vienna, Austria: University of Vienna, 26-27 May. Full Paper (PDF)

Introduction

In 1994, the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Kuhkenah Network (KO-KNET) began to develop and provide internet infrastructures and services for the remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Public and private institutions have been reluctant to invest in this “high cost serving area” with no year-round road access, where residents have to travel by plane for medical treatment or to meet with relatives and where people have to move to southern towns to continue their high school education or to find work. In close cooperation with the region’s First Nation communities, KO-KNET has built local broadband internet infrastructures to provide services such as cell phone communication, e-health, online learning, videoconferencing, and personal website hosting. Overall aim of this initiative has been to give people a choice to stay in their remote home communities.

For my first field trip to Northwestern Ontario in 2006, I decided not to fly but to take the train from Toronto to Sioux Lookout, Northwestern Ontario’s transportation hub. This ride with “The Canadian”, which connects Toronto and Vancouver, took about 26 hours and demonstrated very vividly the vastness of Ontario. I could not believe that I had spent more than an entire day on a train without even leaving the province. Finally, I arrived at Sioux Lookout, where I would be working with KO-KNET, one of the world’s leading indigenous internet organizations.

After my first day at the office, KO-KNET’s coordinator wanted to show me something. We jumped in his car and drove to the outskirts of the town where he stopped in front of a big satellite dish. Only through this dish, he explained, the remote First Nation communities in the North can be connected to the internet. I was pretty impressed, but had no idea how this should really work.

While the satellite dish was physically visible to me, the underlying infrastructure of interconnected digital information and communication systems was not. In the weeks and months to follow, I learned about the technical aspects of internet networks and broadband connectivity, about hubs, switches, and cables, about towers, points of presence, and loops. And I found out that internet via satellite might look impressive, but is actually the last resort and a very expensive way to establish and maintain internet connectivity for remote and isolated communities.

KO-KNET satellite dish, Sioux Lookout
KO-KNET satellite dish, Sioux Lookout

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Vortrag: Medien und Literalität in der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie

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Budka, P. 2017. Medien und Literalität in der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie: (Digitale) Medienpraktiken aus kulturvergleichender Perspektive. Vortrag im Workshop “Dark Side of Literacy” am Bundesinstitut für Erwachsenenbildung, Strobl, Salzburg, 20. April 2017. (PDF)

Inhalt:
Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie (KSA)
Medien in der KSA
Literalität in der KSA
„Moderne Oralität“
Digitale & Soziale Medien in der KSA

Article: From marginalization to self-determined participation

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Budka, P. 2015. From marginalization to self-determined participation: Indigenous digital infrastructures and technology appropriation in Northwestern Ontario’s remote communities. Journal des anthropologues – Special Issue “Margins and Digital Technologies”. No. 142-143: 127-153.

Abstract

This article discusses, from an anthropological perspective, the utilization of digital infrastructures and technologies in the geographical and sociocultural contexts of indigenous Northwestern Ontario, Canada. By introducing the case of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Kuh-ke-nah Network (KO-KNET) it analyses first how digital infrastructures not only connect First Nations people and communities but also enable relationships between local communities and non-indigenous institutions. Second, and by drawing on KO-KNET’s homepage service MyKnet.org, it exemplifies how people appropriate digital technologies for their specific needs in a remote and isolated area. KO-KNET and its services facilitate First Nations’ self-determined participation to regional, national, and even global ICT connectivity processes, contributing thus to the “digital demarginalization” of Northwestern Ontario’s remote communities.

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Paper: Indigenous audio-visual media production and broadcasting – Canadian Examples

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Budka, P. 2015. Indigenous audio-visual media production and broadcasting – Canadian Examples. Paper at “Eleventh Conference on Hunting and Gathering Societies”, Vienna, Austria: University of Vienna, September 7-11.

Introduction

This is a short position paper that sets out to briefly discuss how indigenous audio-visual media production and broadcasting initiatives haven been developed and maintained in Canada. I am concentrating on television which still is the world’s dominant audio-visual communication medium. What are the specifics of indigenous media (production) and related practices and processes? And what does the future hold for indigenous media projects? Due to limited time at hand, I am only able to open this field of research by presenting two case studies: the national Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) (e.g., Hafsteinsson 2013, Roth 2005) and Wawatay (e.g., Budka 2009, Minore & Hill 1990), a regional communication society in Northern Ontario.

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Vortrag: Indigene Modernität durch digitale Medientechnologien?

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Budka, P. 2015. Indigene Modernität durch digitale Medientechnologien? Infrastrukturentwicklung, Technologieaneignung und soziokulturelle Praktiken im Nordwestlichen Ontario, Kanada. Vortrag im Colloquium Americanum des Instituts für Ethnologie der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, 25. Juni 2015. (PDF)

Inhalt:
Einleitung
„Modernität“ & Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie/Ethnologie
„Indigenisierte Modernität“
Indigene & Digitale Medientechnologien
Internetinfrastruktur im Nordwestlichen Ontario, Kanada
Soziale (sozial-digitale) Praktiken
„Indigene Modernität“ durch digitale Medientechnologien?

Review: Unmasking deep democracy: An anthropology of indigenous media in Canada

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Budka, P. 2015. Review of Unmasking deep democracy: An anthropology of indigenous media in Canada, by S. B. Hafsteinsson. Aarhus: Intervention Press, 2013. Social Anthropology, 23/2: 240-242.

In the book’s introduction Sigurjon Baldur Hafsteinsson declares that the anthropological study which resulted in Unmasking Deep Democracy will, on the one hand, challenge the anthropology of visual communication and, on the other hand, contribute to the sub-discipline’s arguments. The anthropology of visual communication, like the anthropology of media, focuses in particular on the relational aspects and characteristics of (visual) media, such as television. This volume is about indigenous television in the Canadian context. By analysing communicative and journalistic practices of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) it aims for gaining an insight into the sociocultural agency of indigeneity and its (media) politics.

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Paper: Indigenous futures and digital infrastructures

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Budka, P. 2014. Indigenous futures and digital infrastructures: How First Nation communities connect themselves in Northwestern Ontario. Paper at “13th Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)”, Tallinn, Estonia: Tallinn University, 31 July – 3 August.

Introduction

“Now […] if the Aboriginal People could […], retain their tradition, take the technology and go that way in the future. That would be good.”
(Community Development Coordinator and Educational Director, Bearskin Lake First Nation, 2007)

For my first field trip to Northwestern Ontario in 2006, I decided to take the train from Toronto to Sioux Lookout instead of flying. This ride with “the Canadian”, which connects Toronto and Vancouver, took me about 26 hours and demonstrated very vividly the vastness of Ontario. At some point, I could not believe that I have been spending more than an entire day on a train without even leaving the province. But finally I arrived at Sioux Lookout, Northwestern Ontario’s transportation hub, where I would be working with the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Kuhkenah Network (KO-KNET), one of the world’s leading indigenous internet organization.

After my first day at the office, KO-KNET’s coordinator told me that he wants to show me something. So we jumped in his car and drove to the outskirts of the town where he stopped in front of a big satellite dish. Only through this dish, he explained, the remote First Nation communities in the North can be connected to the internet. I was pretty impressed, but had no concrete idea how this really works. So while the satellite dish was physically visible to me, the underlying infrastructure was not. During my stay, I learned more about the technical aspects of internet networks and connectivity, about hubs, switches and cables, and about towers and loops. And I learned that internet via satellite might look impressive, but is actually the last resort and the most expensive way to establish internet connectivity. I also began to realize how important organizational partnerships and collaborative projects are and what important role social relationships across institutional boundaries play. In short: I learned about the infrastructure which is actually necessary to finance, provide and maintain internet access and use. Infrastructure, KO-KNET’s coordinator told me “really defines what you can do and what you can’t do” (KO-KNET coordinator 2007). And this has fundamental consequences for the futures of the region’s indigenous people.

Within this paper I am going to discuss digital infrastructures and technologies in the geographical and sociocultural contexts of indigenous Northwestern Ontario. By introducing the case of KO-KNET I analyse (1) how internet infrastructures act as facilitators of social relationships and (2) how First Nations people actively make their (digital) futures by taking control over the creation, distribution and uses of information and communication technologies (ICT), such as broadband internet. This study is part of a digital media anthropology project that was conducted for five years, including ethnographic fieldwork in Northwestern Ontario and in online environments.

In media and visual anthropology, anthropologists are, among other things of course, interested in how indigenous, disfranchised and marginalized people have started to talk back to structures of power that neglect their political, cultural and economic needs and interests by producing and distributing their own media technologies (e.g., Ginsburg 1991, 2002b, Michaels 1994, Prins 2002, Turner 1992, 2002). To “underscore the sense of both political agency and cultural intervention that people bring to these efforts”, Faye Ginsburg (2002a: 8, 1997) refers to these media practices as “cultural activism”. “Indigenized” media technologies are providing indigenous people with possibilities to make their voices heard, to network and connect, to distribute information, to revitalize culture and language, and to become politically engaged and active (Ginsburg 2002a, 2002b). Particularly digital media technologies offer a lot of these possibilities to marginalized people (e.g., Landzelius 2006a).

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Article: Social media in remote First Nation communities

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Molyneaux, H., O’Donnell, S., Kakekaspan, C., Walmark, B., Budka, P., Gibson, K. 2014. Social media in remote First Nation communities. Canadian Journal of Communication, 39(2): 275-288.

Abstract

Community resilience in First Nations includes ties to people both inside and outside the community, intergenerational communication, the sharing of stories, and family and community connectedness. This study, based on a survey of Internet users in the Sioux Lookout region of Northwestern Ontario, explores the link between social networking sites and community resilience. The region is home to some of the most isolated First Nation (indigenous)communities in Canada. Cultural and familial links between these communities are strong, yet until recent use of the Internet, maintaining regular communications to strengthen cultural ties was challenging. This study examines the links between travel and communication online, the ways in which social media are used to preserve culture and maintain communication, and the implications of social networking for community resilience.

La résilience communautaire chez les Premières Nations se base sur les rapports à autrui tant au sein de la communauté qu’au-delà de celle-ci, la communication intergénérationnelle, le partage d’histoires et la solidarité familiale et communautaire. Cet article se fonde sur un sondage d’utilisateurs d’Internet dans la région Sioux Lookout du Nord-ouest de l’Ontario pour explorer les rapports entre les sites de réseautage social et la résilience communautaire. La région Sioux Lookout compte certaines des communautés autochtones les plus isolées au Canada. Les affinités culturelles et familiales entre ces communautés sont fortes, et pourtant, avant l’utilisation récente d’Internet, le maintien de communications régulières pour resserrer les liens culturels n’était pas facile. Cette étude examine les rapports entre voyages et communication en ligne, les manières dont on utilise les médias sociaux pour préserver la culture et assurer les communications, et l’impact du réseautage social sur la résilience communautaire.

Paper: Von „Cyber Anthropologie“ zu „Digitaler Anthropologie“: kultur- und sozialanthropologische Beiträge zur Erforschung digitaler Medientechnologien.

Paper: Von „Cyber Anthropologie“ zu „Digitaler Anthropologie“: kultur- und sozialanthropologische Beiträge zur Erforschung digitaler Medientechnologien. published on No Comments on Paper: Von „Cyber Anthropologie“ zu „Digitaler Anthropologie“: kultur- und sozialanthropologische Beiträge zur Erforschung digitaler Medientechnologien.

Budka. P. 2014. Von „Cyber Anthropologie“ zu „Digitaler Anthropologie“: kultur- und sozialanthropologische Beiträge zur Erforschung digitaler Medientechnologien. Vortrag im Rahmen der Ringvorlesung: „Rituale, Medien, Bewusstsein – in Memoriam Manfred Kremser“, 9. Januar 2014.

Einleitung

Dieser Vortrag wirft einen Blick auf die kultur- und sozialanthropologische Erforschung digitaler Medientechnologien wie Internet, Soziale Online-Netzwerke und mobile Kommunikationstechnologien. Dabei werden die Grundzüge des Forschungsfeldes der „Cyber Anthropologie“ – besonders im Bezug zum Wiener Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie – ebenso vorgestellt wie die rezente Entwicklung einer „Digitalen Anthropologie“. Die gemeinsame, übergeordnete Frage dieser kultur- und sozialanthropologischen Projekte lautet: „Was bedeutet Menschsein in einer (zunehmend) digitalen Welt?“. Fallbeispiele aus der ethnographischen Forschungspraxis behandeln konkrete Aspekte des „digitalen Menschseins“ und runden die theoretische Diskussion ab.

Medienanthropologie und die technische Mediatisierung von Kommunikation

In der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie lässt sich die Forschung zu Medientechnologien grundsätzlich als Forschung zu menschlicher Kommunikation, die von Technologien mediatisiert wird, verstehen. Diese Mediatisierung von Kommunikation ist für die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie besonders hinsichtlich ihrer Einbettung in soziokulturelle und historische Prozesse und Kontexte interessant: „The key questions for the anthropologist are how these technologies operate to mediate human communication, and how such mediation is embedded in broader social and historical processes“ (Peterson 2003: 5).

In der Medienanthropologie geht es um die Mediatisierung von Kommunikation in unterschiedlichen soziokulturellen Kontexten und unter spezifischen historischen, politischen und ökonomischen Bedingungen.

In der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie werden Medien nicht auf ihre Inhalte oder Botschaften reduziert. Im Versuch ein möglichst ganzheitliches Bild von Medienphänomenen zu erlangen, werden Kontexte und Bedingungen unter denen Medien produziert, verteilt und genutzt werden ebenso analysiert wie die technischen Aspekte von Medien. Medien beinhalten immer auch Technologien, die die Mediatisierung von Kommunikation erst ermöglichen. Es macht also Sinn nicht nur von Medien sondern von Medientechnologien zu sprechen.

Über Medientechnologien entwickeln Menschen neue Beziehungen zu Zeit und Raum sowie zu Körper und Wahrnehmung. Und diese Verhältnisse verändern sich aufgrund medientechnologischer Entwicklungen permanent. Die „greifbare“ Materialität von Medientechnologien und die damit verbundenen phänomenologischen Erfahrungen sind also wesentlicher Gegenstand medienethnographischer und medienanthropologischer Forschung (vgl. Ginsburg et al. 2002: 21).

Wichtigste methodische Herangehensweise, um Medienphänomene zu erfassen, ist für die Medienanthropologie, wie für die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie im Allgemeinen, die ethnographische Feldforschung. Diese methodische Strategie zur empirischen Datenerhebung passt sich dabei sowohl dem Feld als auch den soziokulturellen Handlungsräumen der Menschen an (vgl. z.B. Kremser 1998, Marcus 1998) und kann sich also nicht allein auf Inhalte und deren Rezeption beschränken. Sie muss auch die physischen und sensorischen Dimensionen von Medientechnologien miteinbeziehen, weil über diese soziale Beziehungen hergestellt werden können.

Technologie im soziokulturellen Kontext

Seit den 1950er Jahren untersuchen Kultur- und SozialanthropologInnen neue und „moderne“ Technologien und wie diese vor allem in „nicht-westlichen“ Gemeinschaften verwendet und angeeignet werden (vgl. z.B. Beck 2001, Godelier 1971, Pfaffenberger 1992, Sharp 1952). Doch wie unter anderem Arturo Escobar (1994) meint, ist es schwierig diese Forschungsansätze und -befunde auf hochkomplexe technische Umgebungen in „modernen“ Gesellschaften zu übertragen. Aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive bedeutet diese Transferschwierigkeit weder eine Hierarchisierung von soziotechnischen Systemen und damit verbunden von Gesellschaften, noch bedeutet dies eine Abwertung „nicht-moderner“ oder „traditioneller“ soziotechnischer Systeme. All diese Systeme – vom Töpfern in Indien bis zum Programmieren von Software in Kalifornien – sind hochkomplex und heterogen.

Es besteht allerdings dringender Bedarf an theoretischen Zugängen und weiteren empirischen Befunden, die zum Verständnis soziotechnischer Systeme in „modernen“ Gesellschaften beitragen. So befasst sich auch die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie zunehmend mit soziotechnischen Systemen in zeitgenössischen Gesellschaften (vgl. z.B. Rabinow 2008, Rabinow & Marcus 2008) – vor allem auch, weil immer wieder Fragen auftauchen, die scheinbar nur von der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie beantwortet werden können, etwa nach der soziokulturellen und soziokulturell unterschiedlichen Bedeutung von Technologien (vgl. Pfaffenberger 1988, 1992).

Die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie versucht zu verstehen, wie Technologie – beispielsweise in Form materieller Kultur oder als soziotechnisches System – (kulturell) konstruiert und (sozial) verwendet, genutzt und angeeignet wird. Ähnliche Ziele verfolgen auch Wissenschaftsforschung, Science and Technology Studies und sozialwissenschaftliche Technikforschung (vgl. z.B. Eglash 2006). Die Entwicklung und der Aufschwung digitaler (Medien)Technologien führen zu einer weiteren Differenzierung dieses Forschungsbereichs und zur Etablierung neuer Schwerpunkte.

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Paper: Community resilience and social media

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Molyneaux, H., O’Donnell, S., Kakekaspan, C., Walmark, B., Budka, P., Gibson, K. 2012. Community resilience and social media: Remote and rural First Nations communities, social isolation and cultural preservation. Paper for the “2012 International Rural Network Forum”, Whyalla and Upper Spencer Gulf, Australia, 24-28 September.

Abstract
Community resilience in First Nations includes ties to people both inside and outside the community, intergenerational communication, sharing of stories, and family and community connectedness. This study, based on a survey of internet users in the Sioux Lookout region of Northwestern Ontario, explores the link between social networking sites (SNS) and community resilience. The region is home to some of the most isolated and rural First Nations (indigenous) communities in Canada. Cultural and familial links between these communities are strong, yet until the fairly recent widespread use of the internet, maintaining regular communications to strengthen cultural ties was challenging. This study examines the links between travel and communication online, how social media is used to preserve culture and maintain communication, and the implications of social networking for community resilience.

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Free chapter: “We were on the outside looking in”: MyKnet.org – A First Nations Online Social Environment in Northern Ontario

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Bell, B., Budka, P., Fiser, A. 2012. “We were on the outside looking in”: MyKnet.org – A First Nations online social environment in northern Ontario. In A. Clement, M. Gurstein, G. Longford, M. Moll & L. R. Shade (Eds.), Connecting Canadians: Investigations in Community Informatics (pp. 237-254). Edmonton: Athabasca University Press.

“In 2000, one of Canada’s leading Aboriginal community networks, the Kuh-ke-nah Network, or K-Net, was on the verge of expanding into broadband services. (For more on K-Net, see chapter 14.) K-Net’s management organization, Keewaytinook Okimakanak Tribal Council, had acquired funding and resources to become one of Industry Canada’s Smart Communities demonstration projects. Among the innovative services that K-Net introduced at the time was MyKnet.org, a system of personal home pages intended for remote First Nations users in a region of Northern Ontario where numerous communities have lived without adequate residential telecom service well into the millennium (Fiser, Clement, and Walmark 2006; Ramírez et al. 2003). Shortly thereafter, and through K-Net’s community-based Internet infrastructure, this free-of-charge, free-of-advertising, locally supported, online social environment grew from its core constituency of remote First Nations communities to host over 30,000 registered user accounts (of which approximately 20,000 represent active home pages). …”

free chapter download: http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120193

Free e-Book: Connecting Canadians: Investigations in Community Informatics

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A. Clement, M. Gurstein, G. Longford, M. Moll & L. R. Shade (Eds.), Connecting Canadians: Investigations in Community Informatics. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press.

“Connecting Canadians represents the work of the Community Research Alliance for Community Innovation and Networking (CRACIN), the largest national and international research effort to examine the burgeoning field of community informatics, a cross-disciplinary approach to the mobilization of information and communications technologies (ICT) for community change.

Funded for four years by the SSHRC’s Initiative for the New Economy, CRACIN systematically studied a wide variety of Canadian community ICT initiatives, bringing perspectives from sociology, computer science, critical theory, women’s studies, library and information sciences, and management studies to bear on networking technologies. A comprehensive thematic account of this in-depth research, Connecting Canadians will be an essential resource for NGOs, governments, the private sector, and multilateral agencies across the globe.”

Download the book or single chapters for free: http://www.aupress.ca/index.php/books/120193

Vortrag: IKT als Werkzeuge zur Reduktion erzwungener Mobilität

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Vortrag im Rahmen der 7. Tage der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie:Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien (IKT) als Werkzeuge zur Reduktion erzwungener Mobilität” (PDF)

Aus dem Inhalt:

  • Indigene in Kanada & im Nordwestlichen Ontario
  • Sitation von First Nations im Nordwestlichen Ontario
  • Indigene IKT im Nordwestlichen Ontario: KO-KNET
  • Reduktion erzwungener Mobilität durch IKT
  • IKT-Anwendungspraktiken: Isolation vs. Sozialität
  • Indigene IKT: Ergebnisse aktueller Studien

Indigene IKT: Ergebnisse aktueller Studien:

  • IKT-Praktiken beeinflussen …
    a) (kulturelle) Identitätskonstruktion & -verhandlung
    b) (soziale) Vergemeinschaftungsformen & -prozesse
    c) Kommunikationspraktiken
  • Entscheidend sind …
    a) Kontrolle von & Bezug zu IKT
    b) Soziokulturelle, geographische & politische Kontexte/Rahmenbedingungen/Möglichkeiten

Vortrag: Indigene Medientechnologien

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Gastvortrag im Rahmen der Vorlesung “Einführung in die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie” (Sommersemester 2012, Leitung: Elke Mader): “Indigene Medientechnologien – Produktion & Anwendungspraktiken aus medienanthropologischer Perspektive“: Teil 1Teil 2 (PDF)

Aus dem Inhalt:

  • Medientechnologien aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer & ethnographischer Perspektive
  • Indigene Medien:
    Indigene?
    Indigene IKT: „outreach“ Praktiken z.B. EZLN in Mexiko, „inreach“ Praktiken: z.B. KO-NET in Kanada
  • Indigene Medientechnologieproduktion: Beispiel „Internet für First Nations in Kanada“
  • Indigene Medienanwendungspraktiken: Beispiel „MyKnet.org: Social Networking für First Nations in Kanada“ – Identitätskonstruktion, Vergemeinschaftungsformen, ethnographische Felderforschung

Presentation: cyberactivism = cultural activism

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At the 2nd UnlikeUs conference in Amsterdam, I gave a talk on cyberactivism, with KO-Knet and MyKnet.org as examples for the indigenous case.

Budka, Philipp. 2012. Indigenous cyberactivism: the case of KO-Knet and MyKnet.org. Presentation at UnlikeUs conference, Amsterdam, 10.03.2012. (PDF)

Main points:

  • case for media / technology diversity that is cultural diversity
  • through activist projects and practices
  • need to support local languages, cultural heritage & practices
  • through (1) control & ownership, (2) cooperation, networking & sharing

Further reading and resources:

Summary of the presentation by Ryanne Turenhout

Books
Landzelius, K. 2006. (ed.) Native on the net: Indigenous and diasporic peoples in the virtual age. New York & London: Routledge.
McCaughey, M., Ayers, M. D. 2003. (eds.) Cyberactivism: Online activism in theory and practice. New York & London: Routledge.

Journals & Papers
Budka, P., Bell, B., & Fiser, A. (2009): MyKnet.org: How Northern Ontario’s First Nation communities made themselves at home on the World Wide Web. The Journal of Community Informatics, 5(2), http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/article/view/568/450
The Journal of Community Informatics Special Issue (2009): CI & Indigenous Communities in Canada – The K-Net (Keewaytinook Okimakanak’s Kuhkenah) Experience, http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/issue/view/27

Links
UnlikeUs
Institute for Network Cultures

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