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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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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.

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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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).

Text (PDF)

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.

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People 2010

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On 9th of August the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People is celebrated at UN Headquarters in New York and around the world. The theme of this year’s Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples is indigenous film makers. Thus four selected short films are screened:

Ivan and Ivan Directed by Philipp Abryutin (Chucki)

Curte-Nillas Directed by Per-Josef Idivuoma (Sámi)

Taino Indians Counted Out of Existence Directed by Alex Zacarias (Taíno)

Sikumi (On the ice) Directed by Andrew Okpeaha MacLean (Inupiaq)

More info about film makers add new dimension on Day of World’s Indigenous People

What is the history of this special day for the world’s more than 300 million indigenous people? From the website of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues:

“In 1994, the General Assembly decided that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People shall be observed on 9 August every year during the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People (Resolution 49/214 of 23 December). The date marks the day of the first meeting, in 1982, of the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations of the Subcommission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights.

The UN General Assembly had proclaimed 1993 the International Year of the World’s Indigenous People, and the same year, the Assembly proclaimed the International Decade of the World’s Indigenous People, starting on 10 December 1994 (Resolution 48/163). The goal of the First Decade was to strengthen international cooperation for solving problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as human rights, the environment, development, education and health.

In 2004, the UN General Assembly proclaimed a Second International Decade of the World’s Indigenous Peoples through Resolution 59/174. The goal of the Second Decade is to further the “strengthening of international cooperation for the solution of problems faced by indigenous people in such areas as culture, education, health, human rights, the environment, and social and economic development, by means of action-oriented programs and specific projects, increase technical assistance, and relevant standard-setting activities”.”

more at: http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/en/news_internationalday2010.html

Article: Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext

Article: Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext published on 2 Comments on Article: Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext

Budka, P., Trupp, C. 2009. Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext (Cyberactivismo indígena y paisajes de movimientos transnacionales en el contexto latinoamericano / Indigenous cyberactivism and transnational movements in the Latin American context), in J. Kastner & T. Waibel (eds.) „… mit Hilfe der Zeichen | por medio de signos …“ Transnationalismus, soziale Bewegungen und kulturelle Praktiken in Lateinamerika. Münster: LIT-Verlag, pp. 207-226.

Abstract

Prozesse der Globalisierung beeinflussen vor allem jene Menschen, die an den Rand der Gesellschaft gedrängt werden, wie zum Beispiel ein Großteil der rund 30 Millionen Indigenen Lateinamerikas. Ausgeschlossen von politischen, soziokulturellen und ökonomischen Diskursen, wie sie über die Massenmedien geführt werden, verwenden Indigene Bewegungen im zunehmenden Maße Internettechnologien, um sich zu vernetzen, zu (re)präsentieren, Identitäten zu (re)konstruieren und aktivistisch tätig zu sein. Aufgrund eingeschränkten Zugangs zu Internettechnologien sind sie oftmals auf Akteure angewiesen, die ihre Anliegen vertreten und sich mit ihnen solidarisieren. Wie indigene Bewegungen im lateinamerikanischen Kontext transnational distribuierte Internettechnologien nutzen, adaptieren und praktizieren, wird aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive anhand der Zapatisten in Mexiko und der Mapuche in Chile in diesem Beitrag diskutiert.

Los procesos de la globalización influyen sobre todo a aquellas personas que están en el márgen de la sociedad, como por ejemplo una mayoría de los indígenas de latinoamérica. Excluidos del discurso político, sociocultural y económico como lo llevan los medios de masas, los movimientos indígenas utilizan cada vez más la tecnología del internet para conectarse en redes, (re)presentarse, (re)construir identidades y practicar activismo. Debido al restringido acceso a tecnologías de internet muchas veces dependen de actores que representan sus intereses y se solidarizan con ellos. En este artículo se discute desde una perspectiva de la antropología cultural y social de cómo los movimientos indígenas en el contexto latinoamericano usan, adaptan y practican las tecnologías de internet distribuidos transnacionalmente tomando como ejemplos el EZLN en México y los Mapuche en Chile.

Text (PDF) (German)

Article/Report: Indigenous Peoples knowledge society: Transformations and challenges

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Budka, P., Fiser, A. 2010. Indigenous Peoples knowledge society: Transformation and challenges. Report and introduction to the section Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Society. TRANS – Internet Journal for Cultural Studies, 2010(17). Online: http://inst.at/trans/17Nr/8-2/8-2_sektionsbericht.htm

This introductory text and a collection of papers, which were presented at the “Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Society” workshop at the “KCTOS: Wissen, Kreativität und Transformationen von Gesellschaften” conference in December 2007 in Vienna will be accessible online in the 17th issue of TRANS: Internet Journal for Cultural Studies.

Of the more than 300 million Indigenous People recognized by the United Nations, a growing minority is actively shaping indigenous visions of a knowledge-based society (e.g. UNHCHR 2001, 1997). These visions are not simply indigenous responses to global mainstream debates over post-industrial development or techno-scientific culture, etc. More importantly, they articulate the actual deployment of new media and information communications technologies (ICTs) by indigenous communities to forward their own policies and practices. They frame how indigenous communities are mobilizing over the internet and on the web to communicate their lived experiences and extend their local networks to global audiences, including and most importantly, a global indigenous audience.

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