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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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Seminar: Indigenous Media 2017

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Seminar “Indigenous Media” for the MA Program in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin.

Course Description

“Indigenous media matters because indigenous people do.”
(Wortham 2013: 218)

Indigenous media can be broadly defined as media and forms of media expression conceptualized and produced by indigenous people. From an anthropological perspective, indigenous media can be understood as cultural product and process that are both closely connected to the construction, expression and transmission of identity. Reflecting thus indigenous people’s history as well as contemporary sociocultural and political situations. By (strategically) inserting their own narratives in the dominant media landscape – may this be accomplished through films, TV and radio programs, or websites – indigenous people also utilize media technologies as means for social change and political transformation. Indigenous media-making practices have thus become part of the “ongoing struggles for Indigenous recognition and self-determination” and can therefore be understood as a form of cultural activism (e.g., Ginsburg 2000: 30).

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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

CfP: Anthropologies of media and mobility

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Anthropologies of Media and Mobility: Theorizing movement and circulations across entangled fields

An International Workshop organized by the Anthropology and Mobility Network and the Media Anthropology Network (EASA) in collaboration with Locating Media (University Siegen) and a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School (University of Cologne)

University of Cologne, Germany
14-16 September 2017

This international workshop seeks to theorize the relationship between media and mobility. While mobility has been defined as movement ascribed with meaning, one might in similar fashion define media as meaning ascribed with movement. Interrogating the linkages between media and mobility can enable more thorough understandings of how various power structures produce, transform and reproduce social, material and discursive orders. People, devices, and data are increasingly on the move – movements that may transgress borders and boundaries, but which are also integral to the constitution and regulation of the barriers themselves. The movement of people triggers new imaginaries of territories and social spaces, which circulate through media, questioning and forging new ties between people, signs and things. More broadly, the mobilisation of tangible and intangible things demands a reconceptualization of what a ‘thing’ is, what constitutes the human, and what defines human collectivity. In such circumstances, reimagining circulations through the lens of media and mobility becomes an important step towards understanding current socio-cultural and political changes. While this lens has been applied broadly within anthropological research, its theoretical consequences merit further investigation and discussion. 

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Digital visual anthropology

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This is a selection of digital visual anthropology resources which were collected via the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Visual Anthropology Network’s (VANEASA) mailing list.

Online resources & projects:

Literature:

  • Aston, J., Gaudenzi, S., & Rose, M. (Eds.). (2017). I-Docs: The evolving practices of interactive documentary. New York: Wallflower Press. Forthcoming.
  • Menzies, C. R. (2015). In our grandmothers’ garden: An indigenous approach to collaborative film. In A. Gubrium, A., K. Harper, & M. Ortanzez (Eds.), Participatory visual and digital research in action. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
  • Pink, S. (2011). Digital visual anthropology: Potentials and challenges. In M. Banks & J. Ruby (Eds.), Made to be seen: Perspectives on the history of visual anthropology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Walter, F. & Grasseni, C. (Eds.). (2014). Anthrovision. Special issue “Digital visual engagements”, available at https://anthrovision.revues.org/1077

Lecture: Visuelle Anthropologie in Zeiten zunehmender Digitalisierung

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Vorlesung “Visuelle Anthropologie in Zeiten zunehmender Digitalisierung“,
Wintersemester 2016/17, am Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie der Universität Wien
Philipp Budka

Ziele

Die Lehrveranstaltung gibt einen Überblick zur Visuellen Anthropologie und diskutiert die Bedeutung sowie die Entwicklung dieser kultur- und sozialanthropologischen Subdisziplin in Zeiten zunehmender Digitalisierung. Studierende erhalten so einen Einblick in die historische, gegenwärtige und zukünftige Relevanz der Visuellen Anthropologie.

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Panel: “Media anthropology’s legacies and concerns” @ EASA 2016 Conference Milan

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The EASA Media Anthropology Network’s panel “Media anthropology’s legacies and concerns” at the 14th European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) conference in Milan (20-23 July, 2016) includes the following papers:

  • Alberto Micali & Nicolò Pasqualini (University of Lincoln): Excavating the centrality of materiality for a post-human ‘anthropomediality’: an ecological approach
  • John McManus (University of Oxford): Media anthropology and the ‘ludic turn’
  • Philipp Budka (University of Vienna): Media anthropology’s legacies and concerns in digital times
  • Erkan Saka (Istanbul Bilgi University): In the intersection of anthropology’s disciplinary crisis and emergence of internet studies
  • Balazs Boross (Erasmus University Rotterdam): Television culture and the myth of participation: (re)making media rituals
  • Heloisa Buarque de Almeida (University of Sao Paulo): Politics of meanings of gender violence in Brazil
  • Richard MacDonald (Goldsmiths, University of London): Moving image projection, sacred sites and marginalised publics: the ritual economy of outdoor cinema in Thailand
  • Jonathan Larcher (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales): The politics of digital visual culture in Romania: from a digital ethnography to a historical media anthropology

Find the paper abstracts at: http://nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2016/panels.php5?PanelID=4286

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Seminar: Indigenous Media 2016

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Again, I have the pleasure to teach the Seminar “Indigenous Media” for the MA Program in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin. Find below a brief description of the course.

In the seminar “Indigenous Media” students get an introduction to indigenous media technologies. In ten seminar units selected questions, issues, and problems are discussed: How do indigenous people produce, distribute, and utilize audiovisual media? How has ethnographic and anthropological film making changed? What role do politics, power, globalization, and (post-)colonialism play in the production and use of indigenous media? How do indigenous people utilize media to construct and negotiate their individual and collective identities? How are indigenous cultures and languages represented through media? And how do indigenous people appropriate and (co-)develop digital technologies in times of increasing globalization?

We start with the contextualization of indigenous media within the framework of an anthropology of media. In the second unit students are introduced to selected debates about the meaning and relevance of (mass) media for indigenous people and their culture. We then discuss ethnographic film making and visual anthropology in the context of indigenous people’s changing role from “objects” for ethnographic films to partners in media projects. The fourth unit deals with the phenomena of (post-)colonialism and decolonization and their implications for indigenous media. This discussion leads us to the self-controlled production of indigenous media and its relevance for issues such as (self-)representation, appropriation, control, and empowerment. Globalization, modernity, and related questions of collective indigenous identity construction – “indigeneity” – are the topics of the next unit. The following three sessions are closely connected and discuss aspects of identity, community, networking, ownership, activism, empowerment, aesthetics, poetics, and popular culture in relation to indigenous media. In the final unit students learn about the importance of digital technologies and infrastructures for indigenous people, their activist projects, and networking initiatives.

Through several case studies students are introduced to the similarities and differences of indigenous media projects throughout the world. These case studies take us to different regions, countries, and continents: from Nunavut, Canada, and the US to the Caribbean, Guatemala, Mexico, and Brazil, to Nigeria, Myanmar, Australia and Finland. The seminar’s assignments include the reading of selected articles, the watching of films and videos, and the discussion of these in small essays. The online conference tool Adobe Connect is used to present and discuss aspects of texts, films, and essays.

Visual/Media/Digital Anthropology at 14th EASA Conference

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Here is a list of panels at the 14th European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Biennial Conference entitled “Anthropological legacies and human futures” (Milan, 20-23 July 2016, #EASA2016) which deal with visual and digital media technologies and related issues. If you are interested to participate to one of those panels, please keep in mind that the deadline for paper abstract submissions is 15 February and that you have to be member of EASA.

Panels are listed in order of appearance on the conference website. If I missed relevant panels, please let me know.

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CfP: “Media anthropology’s legacies and concerns”

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The EASA Media Anthropology Network is organizing a panel entitled “Media anthropology’s legacies and concerns” at the 14th European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) conference in Milan (20-23 July, 2016). Please find the detailed call for papers below. To propose a paper, please navigate to http://nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2016/panels.php5?PanelID=4286 and http://www.easaonline.org/conferences/easa2016/cfp.shtml
Deadline for paper proposal submissions is February 15th.

Media anthropology’s legacies and concerns
(Media Anthropology Network)

Convenors
Philipp Budka (University of Vienna)
John Postill (RMIT University Melbourne)
Elisenda Ardevol (UOC, Barcelona)

In line with the theme of the 14th EASA conference the EASA Media Anthropology Network panel seeks to put fundamental concerns of media anthropology back into the centre of attention. Central themes of media anthropology have already been identified and discussed in earlier works: e.g. the mediation of power and conflict, media related forms of production and consumption, the relationship between media and religion, and the mediation of knowledge and forms of expression (e.g. Askew & Wilk 2002, Ginsburg et al. 2002, Peterson 2003, Rothenbuhler & Coman 2005). These topics can be connected to questions about hierarchies, power relationships, norms and political agency in media contexts; the materiality of media (technologies), exchange and reciprocity, media work; media rituals and the ritualization of media practices and events; the construction of histories and traditions in relation to media practices and the meanings of media communication for oral culture(s).

By (re-)focusing on such topics in a contemporary context, this panel invites contributions also to discuss broader questions. What has been “the point of media anthropology” as an anthropological subdiscipline and as an interdisciplinary field of research (Postill & Peterson 2009)? What are media anthropology’s legacies so far and what are its historical roots? What role does ethnography play in the anthropology of media and how has this relationship changed from a methodological and epistemological perspective? Thus, this panel contributes to the constitution of media anthropology as one of anthropology’s most thriving subdisciplines. Secondly, it adds to the understanding of media anthropology’s legacies, epistemologies, theories, methodologies and possible futures.

Askew, K., Wilk, R. (eds.) 2002. The anthropology of media: A reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Ginsburg, F., Abu-Lughod, L., Larkin, B. (eds.) 2002. Media worlds: Anthropology on new terrain. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Peterson, M. A. 2003. Anthropology and mass communication. Media and myth in the new millennium. New York & Oxford: Berghahn.
Postill, J., Peterson, M. A. 2009. What is the point of media anthropology? Social Anthropology 17(3): 334-344.
Rothenbuhler, E., Coman, M. (eds.) 2005. Media Anthropology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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.

Text (PDF)

Concept map: Post-colonial technoscience

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This map visualizes the concept of “post-colonial technoscience” discussed by Smith, L. C. 2010. Locating post-colonial technoscience: through the lens of indigenous video. History and Technology: An International Journal, 26(3): 251-280. It was done by using the free CMap Tools (click to enlarge).

postcolonial_technoscience

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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Seminar: Indigenous Media 2015

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Seminar “Indigenous Media” by Philipp Budka
MA Program in Visual & Media Anthropology,
Freie Universität Berlin

Course Description

In this course students get an introduction to indigenous media technologies. In ten seminar units selected questions, issues, and problems are discussed: How do indigenous people produce, distribute, and utilize audiovisual media? How has ethnographic and anthropological film making changed? What role do politics, power, globalization, and (post-)colonialism play in the production and use of indigenous media? How do indigenous people utilize media to construct and negotiate their individual and collective identities? How are indigenous cultures and languages represented through media? And how do indigenous people appropriate and (co-)develop digital technologies in times of increasing globalization?

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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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