Tag Archives: TEDtalks

Wade Davis on Endangered Cultures

My first weblog posting of Module 1 was a TedTalk and I will continue in a similar fashion for Module 2 in our discussions of indigeneity and stereotyping.

“Remote lands of indigenous peoples are not remote at all. They are homelands of somebody.” In his discussion on Endangered Cultures, Wade Davis covers a lot of ground – from language to landscapes, traditional knowledge holders and indigenous peoples who face unknown modernity. He talks Voodoo, not a black magic cult (that’s a stereotype,) but complex metaphysical worldview. He talks of rites of priesthood of the Kogi, which include a strict 18-year inculturation into the values of their society. He discusses the level of indigenous intuition and relation to landscapes in comparison with the emotional disconnect evident in a contemporary resource-based economy. He talks of Indigenous people that say plants “talk” to them and the impossibility of dissect their explanation of plant taxonomy from a scholarly standpoint.

Davis notes that even those who are aware of the endangered nature of many indigenous cultures still view these cultures as quaint and colorful, however reduced from the live-a-day world of western society. He argues that it is not technology or the change technology brings that threatens indigenous societies, it is an overpowering domination to mimic Westernized notions of how technology should be used, and how change should proceed, that is the root of the threat.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL7vK0pOvKI[/youtube]

Module 1: The Increasingly Mediated Experience of Web Browsing

Bowers, Vasquez and Roaf (2000) cite Don Ihde’s three fundamental experiences of technology: as a background relationship, as an physical interaction, and as a mediated experience that amplifies certain individual or cultural experiences while reducing others. In this TEDTalks video, Eli Pariser elaborates on how the experience of web browsing is becoming less of a community reality and more of an individualized experience, mediated in the background by internet conglomerates with little to no input from the individual.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B8ofWFx525s&feature=channel_video_title[/youtube]

With the identification of this “filter bubble,” internet consumers of all types, including academic researchers and grassroots activists, must be conscious to actively search out information and angles that may be otherwise buried due to their personal/digital profile. In our journeys as”cyber-travellers,” the road on the information superhighway that we choose could potentially preclude information superhighway off-ramps reflecting information that does not flow in the same direction we have been looking. If Pariser’s “Filter Bubble” is an accurate representation of web browsing experience, a series of web searches on one topic could conceivable reduce the number of search results we find that provide an opposing or challenging view.

In the similar vein, if the web browsing preferences and interests of Aboriginal activists or community members flow in opposing directions, people who may be united in a commonly defined goal may find vastly opposing (or totally irrelevant) online resources unless certain links are consciously looked for or provided by friends, family or colleagues. The algorithm that regulates an invisible shift of information flow on the internet could prevent community connectedness necessary for tribal nations to promote individual or common causes. When Bowers, Vasquez and Roaf stated eleven years ago that the spoken word could not be recovered with the same accuracy of the printed word, how could they predict that the digitally printed word could become more insidiously fluid than the spoken word?