Context for the Symposium

Please use the shared google doc for collective note taking here

The Indigenous New Media Symposium will be a two-day event held on the traditional territory of the WSÁNEĆ (Saanich), Lkwungen (Songhees), Wyomilth (Esquimalt) peoples of the Coast Salish Nation as part of the 2018 Digital Humanities Summer Institute (DHSI). The symposium will be a starting point for an extensive capacity building and knowledge mobilization project at DHSI that will include the production of best practice materials and models to support Indigenous peoples and research in the digital humanities (DH). This initial symposium will bring together scholars from across the social sciences and humanities, including Indigenous Studies, English, Psychology and Human Development, and First Nations and Endangered Languages. Scholars, students, artists, and community members will collaborate closely with one another on a range of projects employing digital technologies in Indigenous contexts. This symposium builds out of Indigenous new media research and curricula developed by Nisga’a poet and DH scholar Jordan Abel and Dr. David Gaertner over the past five years in the First Nations and Indigenous Studies Program (FNIS) at the University of British Columbia and the English department at Simon Fraser University, respectively.

There is an urgent need to decolonize DH theory and practice. Many Indigenous scholars resist the digital humanities because of concerns raised by their communities about the expropriation of data. Tara McPherson astutely asks, “why are the digital humanities so white?” (n.p) But we also need to ask, “how does DH replicate settler colonialism-and how do we, as researchers and teachers, address that?  The non-consensual circulation of Indigenous data replicates settler colonialism, insofar as it assumes that Indigenous data requires stewardship. This has serious effects on peoples and communities. Deidre Brown and George Nicholas provide a pointed critique of the costs of dh practices in Indigenous communities. According to their research, for Indigenous peoples those costs, “may include loss of access to ancestral knowledge, loss of control over proper care of heritage, diminished respect for the sacred… threats to authenticity and loss of livelihood, among other things” (309). Indigenous communities have a right to their data. Those with the power, privilege, and technology necessary to facilitate change, for instance DH specialists, often do not have the skills or resources to effectively, and ethically, hold up that right. It is clear that developing new models for Indigenous engagement with DH is critical for the research and knowledge dissemination practices facing Indigenous and Canadian scholars today.

Yaqui communications scholar Marisa Elena Duarte argues that digital media and information communications technologies (ICTs) “are becoming, in Native and Indigenous contexts, common modes of sharing information and knowledge critical to Indigenous self-determination” (6). As the field of Indigenous studies grows, so must the field’s critical relationship to technology. This symposium is informed by Indigenous interventions into technology with an agenda that includes facilitated networking between Indigenous studies and digital humanities scholars, a workshop on digitizing archives with and for Indigenous communities, and presentations by Indigenous and allied scholars currently using digital technologies in their own research. Combining this connection building symposium with open access knowledge mobilization, in the form of articles, podcasts, and blog posts will develop much needed capacity to develop Indigenous new media studies, and offer timely knowledge dissemination when Indigenous digital media production and consumption is rapidly growing.

Overall Goals and Specific Objectives

The Symposium will be an international event featuring a constellation of scholars with expertise in Indigenous studies and/or DH in order to mobilize rigorous and ethical models of research between the two fields. We are motivated by the following specific examples:

  • Make more space for Indigenous peoples, technologies, and knowledges in the organization and development of DH theory and practice;
  • Create new Indigenous infrastructure at DHSI 2018 and future DHSI meetings;
  • Supplement the body of research knowledge in the existing literature on Indigenous new media with a collaboratively written, open access document, podcasts, and blog posts;
  • Forge connections and mentorship opportunities between Canadian academics by bringing together scholars and students from various career stages and institutions to share their expertise and experiences, ask questions, and exchange ideas and best practices in a collaborative setting;
  • Foster the development of research-informed practices of Indigenous studies amongst DH scholars and vice versa;
  • Enable DH project developers from multidisciplinary specializations to share their best practices, experiences, and critical perspectives with one another and provide mentorship for emerging scholars and students;
  • Increase usage of existing research on Indigenous new media in DH circles;
  • Develop new curricula for teaching Indigenous new media both inside and outside the academy;
  • Provide a forum for open discussion, questions, professional development opportunities, and future collaborations for each participant, as well as new insights on trends and the future of Indigenous DH that may emerge from shared the scholarly community and public sphere, both nationally and internationally.

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