Author Archives: Ky Yoon

Digital Indigenous Democracy

Digital Indigenous Democracy is an experimental project aiming at the innovative use of interactive digital media by remote indigenous communities- Baffin Island Inuit communities. Being aware of global threat to the existence of indigenous languages and to local environments, the project proposes to facilitate interactive media to make the voice of indigenous communities be heard.

This project installs the infrastructure (high-speed internet) in remote indigenous communities. However, it does not simply accelerate the digitization of indigenous culture and are not motivated from the need of the outside, but rather it focuses on the partnership between indigenous peoples and the dominant society. That is, its process is collaborative and democratic. According to the web-site, the common costs for the projects will be generated from membership fees by communities and sponsor organizations. I hope this project succeeds in establishing a democratic model of “indigenizing” technology.

Module 4: #5

Meida ecology

Media Ecology is an emerging field of study about media technology. According to Neil Postman, Media Ecology can be defined as an approach to research “media as environments”.

The term “ecology” in Media Ecology is not identical with “ecology” often emphasized in understanding of TEK. While being aware of the difference, it is interesting to see how Western media scholars appropriated the term “ecology” and launched a new approach to the media and technology.

Media ecology, which was established by Marshall McLuhan and Neil Postman among others, understands media technology as an environment that re-defines human behavioral patterns. From this approach, the Internet is not simply a conduit, yet it in itself involves an epistemological, phenomenological, and informational shift; the Internet would bring about a new horizon of human cognition, intelligence, and behaviors, which can be compared with the emergence and dissemination of print culture in Western modernity (Carr, 2010).

Reference: N. Carr (2010). The Sallows: What the Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, N.N.Norton.

Module 4: #4

Self-teaching (S. Mitra) and its implication for indigenous education

Sugata Mitra’s new experiments in self-teaching
Video 1 (2008)
Video 2 (2010)

Education researcher Mitra’s experiment of children’s use of ICTs suggests that children can teach themselves with ICTs. Mitra has find education and learning a sort of “self-organizing system”. His claim has been tested in several case studies he is presenting in the these Ted lectures.

With regard to indigenous education and technology, I find Mitra’s project noteworthy and worrisome at the same time. It is noteworthy because of its claim that the provision of proper infrastructure can facilitate children’s agency in learning processes. However, it is also worrisome because, as presented in an example of Indian children quickly learning Western knowledge and British accent via ICTs, much dependence on ICTs can entail the rapid Westernization of local and indigenous children.

Module 4: #3

Indigenous adoption of mobile phones

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds.) Indigenous adoption of mobile phones and oral cultures.

This preliminary research into an Australian indigenous community illustrates how oral culture of an indigenous community is integrated with a new form or technology-the mobile phone. It also shows that technology can influence the way in which the people of ‘oral culture’ communicate with each other.

This finding can be compared with some of the previous studies made by Western media studies scholars such as Katz and Aakhus’s (2002). They have argued that the mobile phone is adopted and used universally to local peoples regardless of cultural or regional differences, owing to the its (somewhat neutral) design appealing to a wide range of populations.

That is, in Sudweeks’s research, the mobile phone interacts with its users who have particular culture and tradition. Technology is filtered and “cultured” through local traditions and histories, but also is re-articulate with tradition in many unexpected ways.

F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec and C. Ess (eds.) (2008). Indigenous adoption of mobile phones and oral cultures, Proceedings Cultural Attitutdes Towards Communication and Technology, Murdoch University, Australia, 384-398.

Katz, JE and Aakhus, MK (2002) Perpetual contact: Mobile communication, private talk, public performance. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Module 4: #2

First Nations, Inuit and Aboriginal Health

First Nations, Inuit and Aboriginal Health

eHealth is a government-managed system utilizing ICTs (information and communication technologies) to support and connect health care professionals and the people. Its main aim is to provide indigenous population with health-related information and telephone consultation.

It seems that Canadian government’s eHealth system implies the two possible types of appropriation of ICTs in and for indigenous communities (Gideon, 2006). The first is to disseminate Western medical knowledge into indigenous communities via ICTs; in this case, ICTs is adopted as a conduit of dominant scientific knowledge. The second is to build “partnership” between the dominant medical knowledge and indigenous care systems; this type of apporpriation would be more helpful for indigenous communities’ self-determination and well-being.

Reference: Gideon, V. (2006). Canadian aboriginal peoples tackle e-health, In K. Landzelius (ed.). Native on the Net: Indigenous and Diasporic Peoples in the Virtual Age (pp.61-79). London: Routledge.

Module 4: #1

The “Eskan Warriors” Ad Campaign

The recent debates about Eska water’s ad (as reported in Globe and Mail) concerns representation, commodification, and cultural rights of indigenous cultures.


The ad campaign has been well criticized by an indigenous activist Clifton Nicholas, as cited in the Globe and Mail article.

The ad seems to show us how persistently stereotypes perpetuate and how persistently commercial interests commodify indigenous cultures.

Ky (Module 3: #5).

Research Tips by Aboriginal Canada Portal

As regards researching indigenous cultures, a specific section of Aboriginal Canada Portal (entitled Research) offers useful resources about tips for researching indigenous communities.

In particular, it includes Ethical Principles for the Conduct of Research in the North published by Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (2003). In addition, the site is linked to First Peoples Child and Family Review which include some articles discussing research ethics in indigenous communities; among others, an article entitled Re-conceptualizing research: an indigenous perspective provides a good and practical summary of key issues on researching indigenous communities.

Both articles (‘ethnical principles for the conduct of research in the North’ and ‘Re-conceptualizing research’) emphasizes respect and sensitivity for indigenous communities.

Ky (Module 3: #4)

Ivan Illich and Ecological Thinking

In addition to my previous posting on Western education scholar’s application of the concept of ecology, I have found Ivan Illich (1926-2002) interesting. Illich is a non-indigenous thinker, but his works seem to provide an alternative and ecological view on Western mainstream education and Western conception of technology.  Some of his writings are available online at the Preservation Institute.  There is an International Journal committed to the study of Illich; one of article published in the journal compares Illich and Daniel Goleman (which I introduced in my previous posting) in terms of the concept ecological intelligence (the article written by C.A. Bowers).

With regard to ecological thinking, Illich in his book Tools for Conviviality suggested the concept of conviviality which means “individual freedom realized in personal interdependence”. He criticizes industrially-oriented use of technology, while searching for a convivial society which is the result of “social arrangements that guarantee for each member the most ample and free access to the tools of the community and limit this freedom only in favor of another member’s equal freedom”. Illich’s thought implies that an alternative and ecological thinking in the West can have some points overlapping with indigenous ecological thinking, although his ecological thinking is not as fully holistic as that of indigenous peoples.

Ky (Module 3: #3)

Ecological Intelligence

While learning and discussing traditional ecological knowledge for the past few weeks, I wondered how ecological thinking had recently been embraced in Western mainstream academia and schools. In Western academia and public discourse, the concept of ecology seems to be applied more practically, rather than philosophically. As one example, I like to point out Daniel Goleman’s notion of Ecological Intelligence; it emphasizes the enhanced awareness of environments, which may be different, to some extent, from indigenous ecological thinking and living based upon a fundamental harmony between the land and the human. Goleman defines Ecological Intelligence as “the ability to adapt to our ecological niche” and argues that “an all-encompassing sensibility can let us see the interconnections between our actions and their hidden impacts on the planet, our health, and our social systems”.

Although it is not certain if Goleman’s writings are influenced by indigenous ecological knowledge, his concept of Ecological Intelligence seems to present how the Western industrialist way of thinking is negotiated by an ecological approach. That is, I would suspect that Western adoption of ecological thinking as shown in the concept of Emotional Intelligence may stem from a practical purpose (such as “safe” development; eventually for continuation of the industrialized world) rather than a fundamental harmony with the nature.

Goleman’s web-site of Ecological Intelligence does have some video resources (such as his PBS interview), yet it mainly aims to promote and sell his books and ideas. It appears that the site itself is an example of how ecological knowledge is commodified within the mainstream Western knowledge system.

Ky (Module 3: #2)

Indigenous Knowledge Commons

Indigenous Knowledge Commons is an ongoing project which provides resources for a better understanding and application of indigenous forms of knowing. It includes the section of showcases in which indigenous art and outreach courses are introduced for application to classrooms. Furthermore, its Tools and Resources Section shows examples of how technology can be integrated into indigenous knowledge, by using such tools as Google Maps.

I am not sure if those examples are fully successful in preserving Indigenous Knowledge through new technology, but at least they provide a way of thinking about co-existence of indigenous knowledge and Western technology.

The web-site appears to be under construction and it is not officially launched. However, the resources on this web-site seem worth reading, especially because they touch on our Week 7 reading/discussion about indigenous knowledge.

Ky (Module 3: #1)