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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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Paper: Interactive technology enhanced learning for social science students

Paper: Interactive technology enhanced learning for social science students published on No Comments on Paper: Interactive technology enhanced learning for social science students

Budka, P., Schallert, C., Mader, E. 2011. Interactive technology enhanced learning for social science students. In M. E. Auer & M. Huba (Eds.), Proceedings 14th International Conference on Interactive Collaborative Learning (ICL2011) (pp. 274-278), CD-ROM. Piscataway, NJ: IEEE.

Abstract

This paper introduces the case of an interactive technology enhanced learning model, its contexts and infrastructure at a public university in the Bologna era. From a socio-technological perspective, it takes a look at the conditions and challenges under which this flexible learning model for the social sciences has been developed. Furthermore, selected evaluation results, including experiences and expectations of social science students, are discussed. The paper concludes that it is possible, with the appropriate didactical model, to create and facilitate interactive student-centered learning situations, even in “mass lectures”.

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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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Vortrag: Indigene Modernität durch digitale Medientechnologien?

Vortrag: Indigene Modernität durch digitale Medientechnologien? published on No Comments on Vortrag: Indigene Modernität durch digitale Medientechnologien?

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?

Paper: Indigenous futures and digital infrastructures

Paper: Indigenous futures and digital infrastructures published on No Comments on Paper: Indigenous futures and digital infrastructures

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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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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Article: Transforming learning infrastructures in the social sciences through flexible and interactive technology-enhanced learning

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Budka, P., & Schallert, C. 2009. Transforming learning infrastructures in the social sciences through flexible and interactive technology-enhanced learning. In: Learning Inquiry, 3(3), 131-142.

Abstract
The changing higher educational landscape in Europe creates new learning infrastructures and transforms existing ones. Students are thus provided with new possibilities and challenges. Through the case study of a newly developed common curriculum for the social sciences of a public university in Austria, this article discusses the interacting social agents, elements, and tools of a flexible and interactive technology-enhanced learning model. In doing so, the transnational, national, and local infrastructural conditions and challenges are critically examined from a socio-technological perspective. Selected evaluation and survey results highlight students’ learning practices, usage behavior, and suggestions to improve their learning situation. The article concludes that student-centered learning models focusing on flexibility and interactivity can support the stable implementation of a common curriculum and its technology-enhanced learning infrastructure for the social sciences at public universities with high student numbers.

Keywords
Higher education – Learning – Infrastructure – Social sciences – Austria

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