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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: Digitale Medientechnologien aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive

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Budka, P. 2013. Digitale Medientechnologien aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive: Überlegungen zu Technologie als materielle Kultur und Fetisch (Digital media technologies from an anthropological perspective: Reflections on technology as material culture and fetish). Medien und Zeit, 28, 1/2013: 22-34.

Abstract

Dieser Aufsatz blickt auf digitale Medientechnologien aus Perspektive der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie. In einem wissenschaftstheoretischen und historischen Abriss werden einerseits Eckpunkte in der Entwicklung relevanter Forschungsfelder, wie die Anthropologie und Ethnographie der Medientechnologien, die Digitale Anthropologie sowie die Anthropologie der Cyberkultur behandelt. Andererseits werden zwei Fallbeispiele aus der ethnographischen Forschungspraxis vorgestellt, die digitale Technologien als materielle Kultur verstehen. Technologie als materielle Kultur erlaubt es die Materialität und die Normativität von Technologien ebenso zu fassen wie deren alltägliche Aneignung in wandelnden soziokulturellen, politischen und ökonomischen Kontexten. Der Aufsatz schließt mit einer Diskussion der Fetischisierung von Technologien, deren Bedeutung und Zusammenhänge.

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Seminar research projects

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In the seminar “Identity, sociality & communality in times of digital media technologies” at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna, students work in research teams on aspects of privacy, gaming, movements, participation, solidarity and visual culture.

mindmap

Seminar: Identity, sociality and communality in times of digital media technologies

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In the winter term 2012/2013, I am teaching a seminar on “Identity, sociality and communality in times of digital media technologies” at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna. Students in this course learn about and to work with different forms of identity construction and processes of sociality and communality, which have been made possible through digital media technologies, such as the internet. Students get a brief overview about identity concepts and the possibility to deploy them within empirical research projects.

Find more information about this seminar here: http://www.philbu.net/courses.html

Concept map: Communicative ecologies

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This map visualizes the concept of “communicative ecologies” as introduced by Tacchi, J., Slater, D., Hearn, G. 2003. Ethnographic Action Research: A User’s Handbook. New Delhi: UNESCO, http://eprints.qut.edu.au/4399/. It was done by using the free CMap Tools (click to enlarge).

concept map

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

Free chapter: “We were on the outside looking in”: MyKnet.org – A First Nations Online Social Environment in Northern Ontario published on No Comments on Free chapter: “We were on the outside looking in”: MyKnet.org – A First Nations Online Social Environment in Northern Ontario

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

References and resources on online ethnography

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Literature on online ethnography collected through the EASA Media Anthropology Network Mailing List
to contribute to this collection go to the network’s project wiki: http://www.media-anthropology.net/index.php/projects

Bell, David, and Barbara M. Kennedy 2000 The Cybercultures Reader. London : New York: Routledge.

Boellstorff, Tom: Coming of Age in Second Life, 2008. The volume, which is an ethnography by itself, has a full chapter on methods in online research.

Buchanan, Elizabeth A. 2004 Readings in Virtual Research Ethics : Issues and Controversies. Hershey, PA: Information Science Pub.

Hine, C. (2008). Virtual Ethnography: Modes, Varieties, Affordances. In Fielding, Lee, Blank (eds) THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ONLINE RESEARCH METHODS.

Hine, C. 2005 Internet Research and the Sociology of Cyber-Social-Scientific Knowledge. Information Society 21(4):239-248.

Hine, Christine 2005 Virtual Methods : Issues in Social Research on the Internet. Oxford, UK ; New York: Berg.

Hine, Christine 2000 Virtual Ethnography. London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.

Littleton, K., and D. Whitelock 2004 Guiding the Creation of Knowledge and Understanding in a Virtual Learning Environment. Cyberpsychology & Behavior 7(2):173-181.

Markham, Anette: Internet Research. In Silverman, D. (Ed.). Qualitative Research: Theory, Method, and Practices, 3rd Edition. London: Sage.
Draft: http://www.markham.internetinquiry.org/writing/silverman2011draft.pdf

Markham, Anette: The politics, ethics, and methods of representation in online ethnography. In Denzin, N. & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.). Handbook of Qualitative Research, 3rd Edition (pp. 793-820). Thousand Oaks CA: Sage
Draft here: http://markham.internetinquiry.org/writing/denzingalleyproofs.pdf

Marshall, Jon (2010): Ambiguity, Oscillation and Disorder: Online Ethnography and the Making of Culture
http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/ojs/index.php/mcs/article/view/1598/1859

Nardi, Bonnie: Night Elf Priest, prolog and first two chapters. Bonus: They can read it online for free: http://www.digitalculture.org/books/my-life-as-a-night-elf-priest

Pauwels, L. 2005 Websites as Visual and Multimodal Cultural Expressions: Opportunities and Issues of Online Hybrid Media Research. Media Culture & Society 27(4):604-613.

Preece, J., and D. Maloney-Krichmar 2005 Online Communities: Design, Theory, and Practice. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication 10(4).

Schaap, Frank 2002 The Words that Took Us there : Ethnography in a Virtual Reality. Amsterdam: Aksant Academic Publishers.

Silver, D. 2004 Internet/cyberculture/digital culture/new media/fill-in-the-Blank Studies. New Media & Society 6(1):55-64.

Paper: From Cyber to Digital Anthropology to an Anthropology of the Contemporary

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Philipp Budka’s Paper at the DGV (German Anthropological Association) conference in Vienna, 14-17 September 2011, Workshop “Cyberculture” organized by Alexander Knorr

Abstract
This paper is first taking a look back on the “anthropology of cyberculture”, formulated as anthropological research area, concept and issue by Escobar in 1994. Inspired by science and technology studies, he painted a very vivid picture how anthropology and ethnography could contribute to the understanding of new bio and communication technologies as society’s transforming driving forces. Pushed by powerful digital media technologies, such as internet applications and services, anthropology labelled as “digital anthropology” is currently tempted to forget about cyberanthropology’s holistic effort of understanding the sociocultural construction and interpretation of bio and communication technologies. What is the legacy of the anthropology of cyberculture when dealing with new digital practices? Is it actually necessary to construct branches of anthropology that deal with contemporary sociocultural developments? Or should we just open the discipline to an “anthropology of the contemporary”, as Rabinow and Marcus (2008) propose?

References
Escobar, Arturo. 1994. Welcome to Cyberia. Notes on the anthropology of cyberculture. In Current Anthropology, 35/3: 211-231.
Rabinow, Paul, Marcus, George E. (with Faubion, James D., Rees, Tobias) 2008. Designs for an anthropology of the contemporary. Durham: Duke University Press.

Text (PDF)

Links
http://www.tagung2011.dgv-net.de/

http://www.tagung2011.dgvnet.de/workshops.html

http://www.univie.ac.at/ksa/

Report on the 11th Biennial EASA 2010 Conference

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Report on the 11th Biennial EASA 2010 Conference “Crisis and Imagination”,
National University of Ireland Maynooth, 24-27
th August 2010
by Philipp Budka
(University of Vienna)

This report focuses only on those workshops I attended during the conference. They all deal with media (technology) practices in/and social and cultural anthropology. For a complete list of workshops and thematic areas, take a look at the conference website: http://www.easaonline.org/conferences/easa2010/index.htm

National University of Ireland Maynooth, North Campus

25 August 2010: EASA Media Anthropology Network Workshop “The rewards of media”
Convenors: John Postill & Philipp Budka

(http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2010/panels.php5?PanelID=648)

John Postill introduces to the workshop’s theme, procedure and schedule. “The workshop explores the rewards (social, economic, symbolic, sensory, etc., cf. Warde 2005) derived from engaging in specific media practices in different sociocultural settings.” (more: http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2010/panels.php5?PanelID=648).

1) John Postill & Francisco Orsorio “Mobile rewards: a critical review of the Mobiles for Development (M4D) literature”
In the workshop’s first paper John and Francisco review literature in the field of mobile technologies, particular phones, for development.

26 August 2010: Workshop “Digital Anthropology”
Convenors: Daniel Miller & Heather Horst
(http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2010/panels.php5?PanelID=599)

Introduction to the workshop by Daniel Miller. “How can anthropology contribute to an understanding of the impact of new digital technologies? This session explores topics ranging from how digital technologies become part of everyday life to their role in the development of new infrastructures within both commerce and the state.” (more: http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2010/panels.php5?PanelID=599).

1) Daniel Miller & Heather Horst “A brief theory of digital anthropology”
Daniel gives an introduction to the theory of digital anthropology by presenting the study program for digital anthropology at the University College London and two ethnographic case studies.

National University of Ireland Maynooth, South Campus

27 August 2010: Workshop “Engaging anthropology in practice: pedagogical exchanges with media practitioners”
Convenors: Caroline Gatt, Rachel Harkness, Thomas Hylland Eriksen, Joseph Long

(http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2010/panels.php5?PanelID=621)

Introducing to the workshop and its theme are Caroline Gatt, Rachel Harkness, and Joseph Long. How can anthropology engage with media practitioners and in e.g. media training programs?
“Launching “Engaging Anthropology in Practice”, a project based in Scotland, this panel will showcase anthropological engagements of various publics by European practitioners in order to learn from this work and create links for future cooperation. Presentations have been requested that reflect upon the practicalities of engagement. Discussion in the latter part of the session will consider the development of anthropological training in the light of these experiences.” (more: http://www.nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2010/panels.php5?PanelID=621).

1) Julia Bayer “Awareness training for journalists and its potential for the promotion of media diversity”
Julia, in her presentation, is introducing an awareness training program for journalists in Germany.

New forms of socialities on the web? – Paper at the Web as Culture Conference

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Budka, P., Mader, E. 2009. New forms of socialities on the web? A critical exploration of anthropological concepts to understand sociocultural online practices. Paper at “Web as Culture Conference”, Giessen, 16-18 July.

Abstract

Internet technologies and the World Wide Web promised a lot of things: from instantaneous global communication and fast information gathering to new forms of politics, economy, organizations, and socialities, including a renewed sense of community. By studying these online and “virtual” communities, internet researchers initially focused on their structure and development (e.g. Jones 1995, Smith & Kollock, 1999). Social network theory then changed decisively the way communities on the web have been conceptualized and analyzed. Scholars like Barry Wellman (et al., 2002) and Manuel Castells (2000), argue that in the internet age societies, communities, and individuals all have a network character. Thus the conceptualization of community as social network, by focusing on the interactions in these communities, has become widespread in internet studies.

Community and social network as concepts of sociality have been critically reviewed by anthropologists particularly in the context and process of ethnographic fieldwork. Vered Amit (2002), e.g., states that community is, because of its emotional significance and popularity in public discourses, a rather poor analytical concept. Internet ethnographers hence have been starting to look for alternative ways of understanding online socialities by moving beyond the community/network paradigm (Postill 2008).

In this paper we are critically discussing the potential of alternative concepts of sociality to analyze how people are interacting on the web. In so doing, we are firstly reviewing the quite popular concept of “communitas” developed by Victor Turner to differentiate between society as social structure and society as communitas constituted by concrete idiosyncratic individuals and their interactions. In the context of the sociocultural web, the liminal experience of people switching between these two stages is particularly interesting. Secondly, we are introducing the concept of “conviviality”, coined by Joanna Overing, to internet studies. Conviviality accentuates the affective side of sociality, such as joy, creativity, and the virtues of sharing and generosity, as opposed to the structure or functioning of society. These analytical concepts and tools, derived from anthropological and ethnographic research, are finally applied to an empirical case study of Bollywood fan communities on the web and their sociocultural practices.

References

Amit, Vered (ed.). 2002. Realizing community: concepts, social relationships and sentiments. London & New York: Routledge.
Castells, Manuel. 2000. The rise of the network society. Second Edition. Malden: Blackwell Publishers.
Jones, Steven G. (ed.). 1995. CyberSociety: Computer-Mediated Communication and Community. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
Kollock, Peter, Smith, Marc A. (eds.). 1999. Communities in Cyberspace. London & New York: Routledge.
Postill, John. 2008. Localising the internet: beyond communities and networks. In: New Media and Society 10(3), 413-431.
Wellman, Barry, Boase, Jeffrey and Wenhong Chen. 2002. The networked nature of community: online and offline. In: IT&Society 1/1, 151-165.

Article: Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext

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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)

Report: CRASSH Workshop “Subversion, Conversion, Development”

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Budka, P. 2008. Report on CRASSH Workshop “Subversion, Conversion, Development: Public Interests in Technologies”, Cambridge, 24-26 April.

From the workshop’s abstract:
As part of the “New forms of knowledge for the 21st Century” research agenda at Cambridge University, the workshop will explore why designers and developers of new technologies should be interested in producing objects that users can modify, redeploy or redevelop. This exploration demands an examination of presuppositions that underpin the knowledge practices associated with the various productions of information communication technologies (ICT). A central question is that of diversity: diversity of use, of purpose, and of value(s). Does diversity matter, in the production and use of ICT, and if so, why?

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Links:
http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/71/
http://vectors.usc.edu/thoughtmesh/publish/12.php

Journal Special Issue: Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology – Media & Film

Journal Special Issue: Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology – Media & Film published on No Comments on Journal Special Issue: Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology – Media & Film

C. Trupp & P. Budka 2008. (Eds.) Austrian Studies in Social Anthropology – Sondernummer KSA-Tage 2007: Workshop “Medien und Film” (Special Issue on Media and Film), Jun. 2008. Abstract & Text.

Aus der Einleitung:

“In den letzten Jahren unterzog sich die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie einem großen Wandel, der auch eine Reihe neuer Themen und Forschungsfelder mit sich brachte. Zu diesen neueren Forschungsrichtungen zählen auch die Anthropologie der Medien und die Anthropologie des Films. Um einen Einblick in die vielfältigen Thematiken dieser beiden Forschungsfelder der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie zu geben, fand im Rahmen der 3. Tage der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie 2007 erstmals ein eigener Workshop mit dem Titel „Medien und Film“ statt. In zehn interessanten Beiträgen stellten die ReferentInnen aktuelle Forschungsfelder der Anthropologie der Medien und des Films vor. Eine Auswahl möchten wir in dieser Sondernummer der ASSA vorstellen.”

Inhaltsverzeichnis:

Artikel 2-7: Workshop “Medien und Film”, Claudia Trupp und Philipp Budka (Hg.)
Artikel 2:
Claudia Trupp und Philipp Budka: Einleitung
Artikel 3:
Martha-Cecilia Dietrich Ortega: Indigene Repräsentation im „neuen“ venezolanischen Fernsehen
Artikel 4:
Georg Schön: Soziale Bewegungen und (Gegen-)Öffentlichkeiten in Mexiko
Artikel 5:
Sabine Karrer: Bittersüße Schokolade – Die Geschichte eines Widerstandes?
Artikel 6:
Philipp Budka: How “real life” issues affect the social life of online networked communities
Artikel 7:
Katrin Julia Brezansky: ANANCY´S WEB. Über Cyberspaces und Cyberscapes im Kontext einer universellen Rastafari-Philosophie