Categories
Indigenous People, Virtual Communities and Online Social Networks

Oceania: Social Media, Cyber-Indigeneity and Cancel Culture

@emeleugavule

Definitions of community within Oceanic Indigenous societies traditionally are dictated by hierarchies built upon kinship and assigned tribal roles that have served for thousands of years. Communication protocols within Oceanic Indigenous cultures are deeply founded in understanding and enforcing these roles. Lori Kendall (2011, p 311) defines the intention of community as evoking “empathy, affection, support, interdependence, consensus, shared values and proximity.” The inception of social media, a comparatively new means of communication, has disrupted the functional value of these roles in self-governance, subsequently fracturing and multiplying Indigenous expressions of community and kinship (Brison 2017). Revealing pre-existing desires to expand beyond the constraints of traditional definitions of community and relationship, as suggested by Brison (2017). The emergence and growth of cancel culture in recent years can leave many feeling disconnected and shamed (Lumby, 2010) as Indigenous peoples struggle to navigate translating tribal identification (and by extension, ‘authentication’) in response to collapsed context online. However, can disconnecting some parts of the community re-enforce it? Rob Henderson (2020) suggests that in fact, cancel culture may demonstrate a commitment to the community in the online world, as “expressing anger at someone who commits a moral infraction demonstrates loyalty to a group, uniting against a perpetrator demonstrates loyalty to the group’s values.” If this is the case, who and what is Indigenous authority on social media? Although social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are important for Oceanic Indigenous people to connect, archive and share ontologies, the collapse of contexts can fragment traditional expressions of community and kinship and disrupt hierarchical authority. 

Oceanic Indigenous peoples use social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to connect, archive and share ontologies

The Chamorro (Indigenous people of Guåhan, a territory of the United States located in the Mariana Islands) have looked to social media as an alternative to oral storytelling and exchange of intergenerational knowledge, driven by the fear of losing knowledge to urbanisation and globalisation (Nicolas-Rocca and Parrish Jr, 2013). Nicolas-Rocca & Parrisha Jr (2013) found that of 128 Chamorros that responded to their online survey, 74.8% believed that Chamorro culture is at risk of extinction. Participants consistently expressed the desire to reflect on their social media profiles what they value as Chamorro – cultural way of life, language and food/recipes (Nicolas-Rocca & Parrisha Jr, 2013, p.g 14). The shifting to demonstrating rather than embodying cultural practice on social media as a response to migratory patterns of Chamorro youth to urban areas reflects that cultural knowledge relies on the interconnectedness of language, culture and land. As it is common for Oceanic peoples to favour making decisions that benefit the collective rather than the individual, most Indigenous knowledges persist through the minds and practices of living communities rather than individuals (Ngulube, 2002). 

In another part of the Ocean, iTaukei (Indigenous Fijians) have shown tendencies to use social media as a way to extend existing relations and create new ones where traditional protocols would not historically allow. Brison (2017, p 210) observed that the influence of relatives migrating to urban areas or overseas for economic advantage relaxed the enforcing of traditional hierarchies in social settings. Brison goes further to suggest that Facebook facilitates the growing desire to seek opportunities and support from relatives moving up in economic class and that the prioritising of economic contribution by family members is overtaking the roles held by traditional knowledge and elder authority. In Fiji, kinship structures founded on the principles of loloma (love), veidokai (respect), veivakarokorokotaki (mutual respect), and veivakabauti (trust) lead face to face communication protocols. Unaisi Nabobo-Baba (2008) denoted research as an act of knowledge-gathering, making a case for the extraction of pieces of knowledge from iTaukei (Indigenous Fijians) be reframed as a process of exchange and mutual gifting. 

Nabobo-Baba’s work to build the Vanua Research Framework carefully incorporates “Indigenous cultural values, protocols, knowledge processes and philosophies, especially those related to knowledge access, legitimation, processes of ethics, indigenous Fijian sanctions and clan ‘limits or boundaries” (2008, p 144). When considering how rigorous communication protocols in live interaction between iTaukei must be, we begin to understand how difficult (and for some, undesirable) it is to translate protocols and intangible cultural property into ‘collapsed contexts’ on social media. Context collapse refers to how people, information, and norms from one context seep into the bounds of another (boyd, 2002, 2008; Marwick & boyd, 2011; Meyrowitz, 1985; Wesch, 2009 as cited in Davis & Jurgenson, 2018 pg. 477). 

“The Indigenous Twittersphere” as referred to by Sweet, M., et al, (2013, p 104) encompasses the broad scope of intentions to which various Indigenous communities and users from across the globe engage with Twitter. Many utilise Twitter as a micro-blogging platform to “publish, and distribute text, graphics, photographs, film and links to websites and resources.” (p 105) IndigenousX (shorthand for Indigenous Excellence) was founded by Gamilaroi man Luke Pearson in 2012 as a “social media space for proud and active Indigenous people from different walks of life to tell their own stories in their own words.” (Sweet, 2012 as cited by Sweet, M., et al., (2013, p 105). Since its inception, IndigenousX has grown to have one of the most massive online followings on the Indigenous Twittersphere. As of April 26 2020, @IndigenousX had 54.4k followers, and it is official company twitter account @IndigenousXLtd had 38k followers. In contrast, their Instagram account @IndigenousX had 8, 454 followers and their Facebook account had 17, 902 followers as of April 26 2020. Carlson and Frazer observed (as cited by Dreher, T., et al., 2016, p 29) that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders are over-represented as users on Facebook in Australia, with 73% of the population engaging as active users as opposed to 62% of the general population.

This highlights that the difference in followings across social media platforms is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of content but suggests that the micro-blogging form of Twitter offers a more recognisable branding of short-form responsive and journalistic-style storytelling for IndigenousX followers to engage with. Each week on IndigenousX a different Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander individual or organisation is invited to host the twitter account, speaking to their work, offering insights into the diversity (and universality) of lived experiences for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. The participatory and communal nature of IndigenousX re-inforces the value of reciprocation and self-determination when representing Indigenous perspectives on social. This is a display of what Alex, W., et al. (2017, p 2) refer to as “Reterritorialising Social Media”. Another name given by O’Carroll 2012 (as cited by Alex, W., et al. (2017, p 1) when referring to how Māori (Indigenous people of Aotearoa) use social media to connect and share information and causes ignored by mainstream media is “the virtual marae” (a communal meeting ground). All encompassing the struggle by Oceanic Indigenous people to “Indigenise” media through creating digital communal spaces of connectivity and counter representation through information exchange. 

Navigating online tribal identification and authentication can create shame and disconnection

Indigenous users generate content for visible and imagined audiences alike. The re-branding of ‘friends’ on Facebook and’ followers’ on Instagram tends to elicit negative feelings towards self-representation; a result of hyperconscious self-reflection observing the posts of strangers (Keep & Amon, 2017). Recent studies make a strong case for the role of narcissism in social media networks. Subsequently, there is an adoption of ‘self-enhancement’ strategies by public-facing accounts. The delineation of private vs. public profiles plays a vital role Muscanell and Guadagno, 2012 (as cited by Keep & Amon, 2017), argue that social network users that join with the intent of establishing personal belonging are more interested in maintaining existing personal relationships. Moon et al. (2016) found in a recent study of 212 Instagram users in Korea that there was a correlation between hours spent on Instagram and narcissism. Suggesting that public social network accounts are more likely to foster individualism and narcissism than private accounts.

Many from Oceanic Indigenous communities engage with social media to archive ancestral knowledge, such as Chamorro (Nicolas-Rocca & Parrish Jr, 2013), meaning that functionally these accounts must remain publically accessible, able to communicate on-demand and present updates and content frequently. However, if we are to take into account the analysis of Moon et al. the core essence of public-facing institutional accounts on platforms requires such a high level of online engagement that it can foster and encourage narcissism, the antithesis to Indigenous expressions of what builds authentic community.

Integrating the real world with the online world does not come without issues, as Bronwyn Lumby (2010) discovered in her survey of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) engagement with Facebook. Affirmation of identity repeatedly surfaced as a point of tension between participants and their’ friends’. Lumby surveyed twenty-six university students [and alumni] who maintain Indigenous profiles on Facebook (p 70). Similarly to Chamorro in Nicolas Rocca & Parrish Jr’s study, ATSI participants echoed sentiments of joining the platform out of the desire to share stories through imagery or ritual and information about kin (colloquially known as mob). For those displaced from Country (tribal lands) and mob by urbanisation or seeking further higher education, Facebook is a platform where Indigeneity can be displayed and enacted but also repudiated (Lumby, 2010, p 73). The performance of Indigeneity in the cyber world requires the constant affirmation of individual understanding of collective knowledges, outlined by participants as “types of language, membership of organisations, participation in certain causes, the sending and receipt of recognisable Indigenous iconography, imagery, the posting of political statements and the knowledge of particular community organisations, structures and practices…” (Lumby 2010, p 71).

Context collapse between these protocols and social media interactions can fragment traditional expressions of community and kinship

Whereas in ‘offline’ communal settings, people are held accountable to visible audiences, the imagined audience steps into consciousness confronting users with a multiplicity of responses that are difficult to manage in the same way as ‘offline’ (boyd & Marwick, 2010). The communal policing of “authentic” expression of Indigeneity is both a glue bonding communal ideologies of cultural maintenance and separative through marginalising members who misrepresent themselves against these ideologies.

An extension of this communal policing is colloqually referred to as cancel culture. Although the original meaning refers to the ‘cancelling’ of celebrities or public figures with controversial opinions, it is common for people to use the term to refer to anyone projecting disagreeable opinions loosely. Within the online Indigenous community, members who project ideaologies that align with colonial stereotypes of Indigenous people and agendas that actively deconstruct Indigenous sovereignty are generally considered a one way ticket to being cancelled. Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, a prominent politician and Warlpiri and Celtic woman was at the center of online controversy in late 2019 when she ignored a statement issued by nine Aboriginal organisations in Coffs Harbour and led by Gumbaynggirr women stating that she was not welcome on Gumbaynggirr country. This was a result of her public stances on multiple issues regarding Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander sovereignty, including campaigning against changes to Australia Day (believing there are other issues Aborignial people need ro focus on) and dismissing the signifance of Welcome to Country rituals (a custom officiated by elders or members of Aboriginal tribes to welcome visitors onto their tribal lands). Instead she rejected the public statement and referred to it as “cultural bullying” and continued with her event. The #JacintaPrice hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram display repetitive language referring to Jacinta as ‘offensive’ and a ‘traitor’, that ‘panders to white privilege’ and correlating hashtags such as #NotOurLeader, #ShutUpJacinta and #JacintaPriceDoesNotSpeakForMe. For Jacinta, there are multiple context’s collapsing into and weaving through the online marginalisation as the authority she bows to (and leads with) clash. Her identities as a Warlpiri woman denotes an ancestral and cultural obligation to abide by land lore first, which works in opposition to her position as a representative of the crown which denotes she is obliged to lead through colonial law.

Despite the marginalisation of the individual, Rob Henderson (2020) suggests that in fact, cancel culture may demonstrate a commitment to the community in the online world, as “expressing anger at someone who commits a moral infraction demonstrates loyalty to a group, uniting against a perpetrator demonstrates loyalty to the group’s values.” Unwritten obligations within social media to choose a side can simultaneously fragment and re-inforce Indigenous expressions of community online. 

Further, traditional communication protocols govern offline community interactions

Speaking to the fluidity of social kinship, Mcnamara and Henrich (2017) believe the psychology of kinship across human societies regularly co-opts sentiments geared toward genetic relatives and extends them to unrelated strangers.” This extension can be seen through social media connectivity, affording users to forge collegiate bonds through archiving, and sharing Oceanic Indigenous ontologies. Kinship is not only genealogical but also psychological. Where traditional contexts historically prioritised genealogical kin, social media becomes a conduit for non-genetic ties to be favoured (McNamara & Henrich, 2016). For those disconnected from genetic kin, connectivity interweaves with “virtual community”; commonality founded in sociology and philosophy. Community, (Feenberg & Bakardjeva, 2004, as cited by Kendall, 2011) has five main attributes:” 1) identification with symbols and ritual practices; 2) acceptance of common rules; 3) mutual aid; 4) mutual respect, and 5) authentic communication.”

These attributes are not overly dissimilar to traditional Fijian Vanua principles; however, authentic communication is difficult to quantify in virtual communities. Perception is not the same as reality (Lotto, 2017 as cited by Draaisma, 2017), as neuroscientist Lotto believes the information we receive through our eyes is small contrary to popular belief – a small 10%, compared to 90% that comes from other parts of the brain. Social media networks are highly dependent on flattened visual perception of written text, audio, and visual content to communicate meaning. As visual information makes up a small percentage of our perception, there leaves much room for miscommunication and misinterpretation within virtual communities. Stories that would be otherwise accompanied by storytelling flags such as Indigenous sign language, facial gestures, sonic underscoring, vocal intonation, proximity and physical environment become flattened in the 2D translation of community and knowledges.

Despite this, Oceanic Indigenous communities work to integrate new and traditional ontologies 

The malleability of the term community indicates that it may be neither useful nor desirable when referring to Indigenous networks in social media. Wellman, 1979 (as cited by Kendall, 2011, p 313) speaks to the concern of the fate of communities, identifying three main points of tension: “community lost,” “community saved” and “community liberated”. There is pressure for Oceanic Indigenous peoples to be active mediators of knowledge, sharing their culture on social media and using it to facilitate meaningful bonds both within genealogical kin and across pan-Indigenous networks. Arguably all three points of tension identified by Wellman, are at always at any given time embodied by iTaukei, Chamorro and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander engagement with social media networks.

Apprehension to self identify as Indigenous that was expressed by students and alumni in Bronwyn Lumby’s survey were founded in fear of being ‘called out’ and cancelled. As Robert Henderson (2020) pointed out, the prevalence of cancel culture on networks such as Twitter, suggest that this can create new branches of community, that are bound by the declaration commitment to protecting particular community values and ideologies. Brison (2017) observed context collapse during her time staying with an iTaukei family over nine years. She suggested that the influence of Facebook encouraged the household matriarch to engage in more Western European and cosmopolitan styles of socialising (drinking alcohol instead of yaqona – a traditional drink, also known as kava). Against the backdrop of Fiji’s patrilineal kinship structures, Brison’s observations noted this as an expression of female liberation and self-determination. A small but notable act of defiance against expectations of socio-cultural behaviour and authority enabled by social media. 

The fragmentation of traditional Oceanic Indigenous expressions of kinship and community can be a source of concern for many, particularly (but not restricted to) older generations. It is undeniable that Indigenous people must be “in the race to win it”, and placing importance on digital literacy to share ‘at risk’ knowledges are worthy investments. As social media networks develop, and more data is collected and dispersed on Oceanic Indigenous peoples value must be placed on integrating the way traditional communication into the way people connect, archive and share across and within their online communities. The socio-cultural politics and implications of replicating Indigenous knowledge and authority protocols online will not cease to be without issue, but the rapid evolution of technology and social media is a strong case for why it is important to integrate cross-cultural and intergenerational digital literacy and communication protocols.

REFERENCES

K Brison. (2017), Facebook and urban kinship in Suva, Fiji , Journal de la Société des Océanistes, 144-145 | 2017, Online since 15 December 2019, connection on 02 May 2019. URL : http:// journals.openedition.org/jso/7707 ; DOI : 10.4000/jso.7707 


Coffs Harbour & District Local Aboriginal Land Council, 2019, Jacinta Price’s Speaking Tour To Coffs Harbour Rejected By Local Aboriginal Community, Coffs Harbour LALC, https://coffsharbourlalc.com.au/jacinta-prices-speaking-tour-to-coffs-harbour-rejected-by-local-aboriginal-community/

D Draaisma (2017), Our useful inability to see reality, Nature (544), pg 296 https://www.nature.com/articles/544296a.pdf

J L Davis & N Jurgenson (2014) Context collapse: theorising context collusions and collisions, Information, Communication & Society, 17:4, 476-485, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2014.888458 

 M Keep & K L Amon (2017), Follow Me: Exploring the effect of personality and stranger connections on Instagram use, International Journal of communities and social networking, 9 (1), pp 2-16

L Kendall (2011) Community and the internet, The Handbook of Internet Studies, (14), pp. 1

B Lumby (2010), Cyber-Indigeneity: Urban Indigenous Identity on Facebook, The Australian Journal of Indigenous Education, Volume 39, pp. 68-75 

Mocker, T M (2019), Jacinta Price not the first Indigenous person to fall foul of Coffs Harbour, The Australian, https://www.theaustralian.com.au/commentary/jacinta-price-not-the-first-indigenous-person-to-fall-foul-of-coffs-harbour-city-council/news-story/3bd5ffff96f6c01e4efbbd152ddca0f7

A Marwick & D Boyd (2010), I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse and the imagined audience, New media & Society, 13 (1), 114-133, DOI: 10.1177/1461444810365313 

J H Moon, E Lee, J-A Lee, T R Choi, Y Sung (2016), The role of narcissism in self-promotion on Instagram, Personality and Individual Differences 101, (2016), pp. 22-25, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2016.05.042. 

U Nabobo-Baba (2008) Decolonising framings in pacific research: Indigenous Fijian Vanua research framework as an organic response, Alternative, 4 (2), pp. 1-15

P Ngulube, (2002). Managing and preserving indigenous knowledge in the knowledge management era: Challenges and opportunities for information professionals. Information Development, 18(2), 95–102. DOI:10.1177/026666602400842486 

R A McNamara and J Henrich (2016), Kin and kinship psychology both influence cooperative coordination in Yasawa, Fiji, Evolution and Human Behaviour, 2017 (38), 197-207, DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.09.004 

 R Henderson, 2020, What propels cancel culture?, Psychology Today, March/April (36), pp. 36-38

 T Nicolas-Rocca & J Parrish Jr, 2013, Capturing and conveying Chamorro cultural knowledge using social media, International Journal of Knowledge Management, 9 (3), July-September 2013, pp. 1-18

 Sweet, Melissa; Pearson, Luke and Dudgeon, Pat. @IndigenousX: A case study of community-led innovation in digital media [online]. Media International Australia, Incorporating Culture & Policy, No. 149, Nov 2013: 104-111. Availability: <https://search-informit-com-au.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/documentSummary;dn=740160072838693;res=IELLCC> ISSN: 1329-878X. 

Dreher, T., et al. (2016). “Indigenous voices and mediatized policy-making in the digital age.” Information, Communication & Society: Understanding Global Digital Cultures 19(1): 23-39.

Alex, W., et al. (2017). “Reterritorialising Social Media: Indigenous People Rise Up.” Australasian Journal of Information Systems 21.

24 replies on “Oceania: Social Media, Cyber-Indigeneity and Cancel Culture”

Hi Emele,
I think you’ve written a fantastic paper. Your manner of writing is sophisticated and elegant and very enjoyable to read. I could relate some of your statements regarding authentication for Indigenous online communities. These align closely to the way Aboriginal online communities and networks establish authenticity on Facebook and Twitter as I also explain in my paper. These platforms also provide a means for culture, oral traditions, history and connection to Country to intertwine, and to establish identity, which are vital elements of Indigenous culture. I find it an interesting point that Oceanic Indigenous utilise online platforms and their affordances in very much the same way. A way that Aboriginal culture and history survives and evolves into the 21st century. Also, thank you for the explanation of Context collapse, which saved me having to research it myself! I wish id known this term much earlier! Nonetheless, I intend to use this as often as possible (lol)
I also mention @IndigenousX in my paper, I learned a few new facts after reading your paper, so again thank you. I really found this next point you’ve made very interesting and the reference you’ve provided shows you’ve undertaken some solid research which I will look into further in the context of my own paper.
”This is a display of what Alex, W., et al. (2017, p 2) refer to as “Reterritorialising Social Media”. Another name given by O’Carroll 2012 (as cited by Alex, W., et al. (2017, p 1) when referring to how Māori (Indigenous people of Aotearoa) use social media to connect and share information and causes ignored by mainstream media is “the virtual marae” (a communal meeting ground).”

I also like your point here:
”the core essence of public-facing institutional accounts on platforms requires such a high level of online engagement that it can foster and encourage narcissism, the antithesis to Indigenous expressions of what builds authentic community.”

I think this also relates to non-indigenous societies in many ways. This is a very curious fact you’ve stated here which I again will research further outside the scope of my paper.
You’ve quoted Lumby too, whose 2007 works ive referenced.
Thank you for providing a laymans explanation for cancel culture, which I have a better understanding of now after reading your paper. Ultimately, what I take from this is that cancel culture is really just a form of moderation.
Overall, I learned much from your paper and took away some new tasks for research based on some of the subjects you’ve written about. Well done. Excellent work.

Bruno

Hey Bruno,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I really appreciate how attentive your response has been.

I was really intrigued by the cross-over between our citations and the difference in approach to them. It already has highlighted to me the difficulty in communicating intention (despite rigorous research to support our points) because of the myriad of ways others can interpret ideas through a screen. Is there anyway around this or is it simply the nature of an online conference?

I’m happy to hear that you learnt some new things, as did I reading your paper. I think there is opportunity for us to investigate how our areas of interest impact one another (for the good or bad?).

E

Hi Emele and Bruno! Luke here.
I think my understanding of context collapse might differ a bit from what Emele described, with “people, information, and norms from one context seep[ing] into the bounds of another”. I don’t think I’d have classified the example Emele gave as context collapse, where Fijian women are influenced by Western cultures on Facebook to drink alcohol instead of kava, in defiance of the other culture they are subject to, with patrilineal kinship structures.

What I thought is key to context collapse, that’s missing from your example and definition, is that a person acts and speaks differently depending on what audience they are talking to – those different audiences are the different ‘contexts’.
Then, when a person is faced with a merged audience of people they would usually give different, customised performances of identity to, they cannot. They have to show the whole audience a single identity.

So for example, if I behave differently to my office colleagues than to my casual friends, but then find myself having to talk to a crowd of both at once, I’ll have to either show my office colleagues how I behave with my casual friends, or show my causal friends how I behave with my office colleagues.

Does this align with your understanding of the term?
p.s. I really enjoyed reading your paper too Emele!

– Luke

That is my understanding of context collapse also which I believe also aligns to Emeles statements about Jacinta Price, and I have to disagree that these points are missing, the explanation Emele provided and referenced from Boyd (2002) is quite accurate in that regard.

Bruno

Hey Luke,

Thanks for reading my paper.

I agree with your definition, but I disagree that it’s missing from my paper but actually do believe I highlighted that when referencing Jacinta Price as well as the example of Fijian women within the household that Brison observed.

Perhaps it may have helped you if I fleshed out more what is considered appropriate social behaviour in relation to drinking and socialising (but truthfully, Fijian patrilineal kinship is incredibly complex and to flesh it out more would’ve exceeded my word limit) and the punishment or shame associated with disobedience. When I said “Facebook encouraged the household matriarch to engage in more Western European and cosmopolitan styles of socialising (drinking alcohol instead of yaqona – a traditional drink, also known as kava). Against the backdrop of Fiji’s patrilineal kinship structures, Brison’s observations noted this as an expression of female liberation and self-determination.” I believe that this does highlight the meeting point and consequential tension of what is considered appropriate iTaukei behaviour for women vs. what is appropriate for kaivulagi (foreigners) purely because of the existence and engagement with Facebook. The public nature of Facebook, and also the narcissistic tendencies of social media, Moon et. al (2016) that I referenced enable non-traditional and culturally appropriate behaviour as a direct result of creating a third space for iTaukei women to express and project themselves as they see themselves as opposed to how they are expected to behave.

Hi Bruno and Emele, thanks for the responses!
I’m glad to see you both share my understanding of what context collapse is, and I agree that Jacinta Price was a nice clear example of it. It was only the Fijian women example that wasn’t clear to me.

I was picturing the issue as the women becoming accustomed to two different contexts, and then bringing behaviours only appropriate in one to the other – doing things at home, in front of the family, that the family considers inappropriate. The gap then, that I saw between that situation and context collapse, is that the women weren’t (necessarily) facing a merged audience at home, and having facets of their identity exposed because of that.

Emele you said now “The public nature of Facebook”, and that would fill the gap I thought I’d seen. Is it family seeing the culturally-inappropriate behaviours on Facebook, where the context collapse is happening here?

– Luke

Hey Luke!

Yes, well I think it’s happening online and in the home but is the most evident online due to the permanence and replicability (through ‘sharing’) of user-generated content. It’s easier and faster for perceived culturally-inappropriate behaviours on Facebook to spread amongst family members through tagging, commenting and liking, blurring boundaries of appropriate ways to speak in accordance with kinship protocols, and therefore initiating context collapse.

E

Hey Emele!
It was really interesting and informative to read your paper. I liked how you explored the new meaning of community at the start, and how you constructed the flow of your paper. It was a really great read!
It was good that you used statistics as well to prove your argument. I always find numbers are very compelling. I liked that you shared both positive and negative sides to digital media. I enjoyed your case studies as well!
I would agree that social media gives a platform for people to share their stories. Personally, I really enjoy reading long posts about personal stories. I also do a lot of family history work, and love the ease that comes with doing it online. I feel digital media is a good way to immortalise someone and their story. Would you agree that in a few decades from now that it’ll be good to have that record of older stories on the IndigenousX social medias?
Great paper, thank you for sharing!
Anne-Marie

Hi Emele,

Your paper explores a subject that I don’t know much about, so thank you for such a well-written and enlightening read.

What struck me is the juxtaposition between the networked individualism of Web 2.0 and the traditional community-based cultures of the Oceanic Indigenous societies. The emergence of the individual as a result of moving cultural practices online obviously presents some very complex issues. I found the concept of ‘cancel culture’ within this framework to be an interesting one. The example of Jacinta Price and the quote from Henderson really demonstrate this concept in action. What are your thoughts on cancel culture? Do you think it’s an effective way to keep communities united?

Thanks,
Anna

Hey Anna,

Thank you for reading my paper!

I’m super happy to hear this is new information to you and that you’ve learnt something from my paper.

As I mentioned in my response to Lee’s comment, I actually am in favour of voicing differing opinions. This isn’t to be confused with championing disrespect of traditional communication and cultural protocols, but rather is an extension of these protocols. Speaking from my personal experience as a Tokelauan and iTaukei woman, I believe there can be ways for Indigenous communities to self govern in online spaces that make space for voicing differing opinions whilst still feeling respected and heard, but that governance will only extend so far and there are technological limitations to SM platforms such as the inability to translate gesture (body language) or vocal tonality that will lead to misunderstanding and enable segregation.

So whilst I’m not a fan of cancel culture per se, I do think it’s important to break the romanticism of the echo chamber!

Thanks

E

Hey Anne-Marie!

Thank you for reading my paper!

I like stats too so I’m happy to hear they resonated with you.

I agree, digital media is a good way to immortalised someone. But I think it can have some bottomless pitfalls. Speaking as an Indigenous person, I don’t think it’s my place (or even possible to do so with accurate perception) for me to assess and comment on whether it’ll be good for stories to be on @IndigenousX decades from now on. It’s purpose serves a community that is not my own and therefore I can’t really understand all the variables needed to consider it’s usefulness and impact. And also, I don’t want to comment not knowing what digital rights are for Indigenous IP years from now. I think it’s important for Indigenous people to be online, upskilling in digital literacy and telling their stories in their terms but to be honest I believe the nature of online communities and networks paired with the fast turnaround of technological advances (ie. Facebook introducing paid live streams and multiple window video chat in response to COVID-19) makes it difficult to predict what @IndigenousX may look like in 10 or so years!

Hi Emele,

I agree with the other comments already made regarding your paper. It is well written, researched and gives an insight to the difficulties that can arise from the traditional ways that Indigenous cultures have previously expressed themselves, shared their stories and culture to online spaces. With obviously good and bad reactions.

The ‘cancel culture’ with the example of Jacinta Price was interesting because, from the limited knowledge I have of it (at the time) I feel the point that Jacinta was actually trying to imply where she was
“campaigning against changes to Australia Day (believing there are other issues Aborignal people need to focus on) and dismissing the significance of Welcome to Country rituals (a custom officiated by elders or members of Aboriginal tribes to welcome visitors onto their tribal lands)” (taken from your paper)
is that they are symbolic gestures which have probably not addressed any of the real issues facing Indigenous Peoples (education, job opportunities, high suicide, higher mortality rates, domestic violence, to name a few). This is something that IndigenousX (2015) have alluded to themselves in their conclusion to a survey they held on the debate of Indigenous Peoples being recognised within the Constitution. I’ve copied part of it here:

“In the Closing the Gap Reports for the past few years, most indications were that gaps were not closing. Life expectancy had barely changed, nor had numeracy and literacy rates. In addition, the Indigenous incarceration rate is horrific, suicide rates are climbing, Indigenous women are 32 times more likely to be hospitalised as victims of assault and we are still significantly more likely to be from lower socio-economic backgrounds.
Will recognition in the Australian Constitution change any of this (and more)? According to the survey respondents, the answer here is a very clear “no”. 62% of those who responded indicated that they felt we would not be better off with another 12% being unsure. Only 26% indicated that they felt Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be better off. Again, the only conclusion that can be drawn here is that unless there is a guarantee that there is going to be some real benefit to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people via our recognition in the Australian Constitution, there is little point to the referendum. The perception is that it won’t change Indigenous lives and it will not change Australia more broadly either.”

Anyway Emele I am not trying to get into a debate over the politics (not one of my strengths!) it was just that to me I feel regardless of the situation if you are “cancelled/blocked/barred” whatever because you have a different point of view (I don’t mean if it is offensive or abusive) then there is no room for discussion which might actually promote forward growth of any community or issue. What are your thoughts?

I feel that your intro, which engaged the reader immediately, alludes to the fact that the issue of community being steeped in tradition “dictated by hierarchies built upon kinship and assigned tribal roles that have served for thousands of years” is very complex and whilst SM has many benefits in raising awareness, telling stories etc it will not be able to facilitate all the various facets.

Thanks Emele, I enjoyed reading your paper.
Lee
https://indigenousx.com.au/constitutional-recognition-survey/

Hey Lee,

Thanks for reading my paper!

I appreciate your feedback! I can only speak for myself and from my socio-cultural lived experience as Tokelauan and iTaukei. I don’t think it’s possible for me to accurately offer any insightful thoughts about how to measure the value of symbolic gestures within and towards the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community because I don’t have any idea about what it means to embody their lived experience and ways of knowing. I do agree (and have seen for myself) that without connection to land and people and accountability to act, these gestures can and will be nothing more than symbolic. I do, however, believe that although they may not be able to change the constitution they do increase education and respect for Indigenous ways of knowing that existed prior to colonial settlement and that’s tangible and meaningful.

To be honest, I am personally in favour of differing opinions. I think it’s really important and healthy for rigorous and deep discussion to acknowledge that Indigenous ways of knowing are not homogenous, and although colonial trauma has impacted Indigenous peoples with similar tactics across generations and cultures the experience and expressions of this trauma vary between Individuals and tribes therefore not everyone will come to the table with the same intentions and expectations. I think the point I raised about Rob Henderson (2020)’s POV that segregation can actually re-inforce a sense of community is where I am interested in researching more. I’m keen to know how it’s possible to maintain a sense of order and respect in order to promote growth whilst accepting there are differing opinions within Indigenous communities using SM.

Thanks Lee!

E

Hi Emele,
I have a little smile to myself when I see you sign-off as “E” because one of our grand-daughters, who is 2 years old, points and says “eeeee” to nearly everything – she just varies the pitch! If I say “Hello Mathilda” she generally answers with a finger pointing in my direction and a very happy sounding “eeeee”. 😊

Thank you for your reply. I have thought about the last line in your reply to me “I’m keen to know how it’s possible to maintain a sense of order and respect in order to promote growth whilst accepting there are differing opinions within Indigenous communities using SM” and how you said about individuals and tribes having different agendas/concerns when they come to the table. So, consequently, as I was reading a report that Kelly posted to me on her paper
I thought the introduction was pretty applicable to your comments:

Twenty years ago, in June 1993, more than 7,000 participants gathered in Vienna for the World Conference on Human Rights. I was among them, as a representative of a South African women’s activist group. Many of us were very concerned about the risk that the Conference would break apart with many countries favouring the primacy, or exclusivity, of civil and political rights; and others arguing for the primacy of economic, social and cultural rights.
There were many areas of dispute; they seemed deep and potentially irreconcilable. Moreover, the global geopolitical environment was changing rapidly. The end of the Cold War had created a climate of hope, which had been among the main factors leading to the convening of the Conference. But at the same time, less than a day’s drive from the Vienna International Centre where the conference took place, were the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia. And yet we concluded with a powerful, landmark document: the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the most significant human rights document produced in the last quarter of the twentieth century. It made clear that human rights are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated, and committed States to promote and protect all human rights for all people “regardless of their political, economic, and cultural systems.”

https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Events/OHCHR20/VDPA_booklet_English.pdf

So whilst you are wondering “how it’s possible to maintain a sense of order and respect in order to promote growth whilst excepting there are differing opinions within Indigenous communities using SM” you wonder whether the first step could be to identify what do they all share in common? What are their biggest concerns and do they cross-over? In other words sort out their commonalities before their differences and build on that.

I’d be interested to know your thoughts on the possibilities.
Lee

Hi Emele,

I enjoyed your paper, especially given the context your conveniently tagged socials on the top of the paper provided regarding your own personal background and direct relation to what you’re researching.

When reading your explanation of Indigenous peoples adopting social media to preserve their culture, alongside the information of the development of narcissist traits on social media, I am now left wondering. Does the integration of cultural tradition onto a digital/social platform lead to the potential of this new digital community evolving these traditions further? If so, do you feel such evolution would be welcomed, or would this defeat the purpose of the digital ‘archiving’ and preservation in the first place?

Hey Lachlan!

Thanks for reading my paper 🙂

Interesting q…as I suggested, I feel that the word community almost feels overused (or perhaps outdated?) when referring to how people form social media alliances and this is further complicated by the layers of cultural traditions that Indigenous peoples brings to web 2.0 platforms. As with everything, there will always be opposition to new things, which is also why perhaps the word traditional is also becoming outdated, it feels difficult to really trace what is traditional as technology is evolving culture so rapidly. Like Chamorro, communities have already begun digital archiving so whether or not it’s welcomed the process has begun. I think a positive and pragmatic way to approach the discussion is to reflect on what hasn’t worked from previous archiving (From both colonisers and Indigenous peoples) and how to keep working in a way that is flowing in tandem with communal self determination.

Hi Emele and Lachlan,

Emele, firstly thank you for sharing your wonderful paper. I enjoyed reading you.

I too had similar thoughts to you, Lachlan. The correlation that Emele had made between Moon’s study on high social media use and narcissism to me highlighted the juxtaposition that Oceanic Indigenous communities must navigate when adapting to change in communication technology. On one hand the affordances that social media provides in being able to connect with one’s community within the ‘virtual communal meeting ground’ and the act of being able to record storytelling as it were by being digitally captured on platforms like Twitter can be identified as a positive adaptation to new technology. However, in considering Moon’s argument, Emele, I think you have identified key cultural barriers that exist for Indigenous communities in being active on these platforms. The fear of losing cultural knowledge and the difficulty of translating protocols and intangible cultural property onto social media, while still holding true to one’s own cultural beliefs and values would make navigating this context collapse a sensitive complex.

Kate

Hey Kate,

Thank you for reading my paper. I appreciate your feedback!

As people working or studying in digital media, I think it’s pretty confronting in general if we apply Moon’s study to our own behaviour or that of our ‘followers’ on social media. Assessing our own ID and ego, and how we feed it through social media through how we engage with web 2.0 platforms (whether public or private) forces people to have tough conversations with themselves. So to then ask entire networks or communities to do that and furthermore, Oceanic Indigenous peoples, seems almost impossible because it’s asking people to be vulnerable and exposed. But, I do enjoy entertaining the idea that it should we should have more self-awareness and protocols in place because of the uncertainty of our futures as people whose ancient ontologies are disappearing.

E

Hi Emele,
That was a terrific paper, professionally written and insightful- well done! It is incredible to think SNS’s can shape indigenous community norms and values which have stood the test of time for generations. I wonder if the introduction of print media likewise softened the enforcing of traditional hierarchies. One thing I wasn’t sure of, you note “Facebook is a platform where indigeneity can be displayed and enacted but also repudiated”, I’m not sure what is being repudiated, is the Jacinta Nampijinpa Price situation an example of what you are referring to? Another point I took note of was context collapse in SNS’s, understood to be due to the nature of stories being translated in text, lacking body language and textural context. If more videos were uploaded, could that help to bridge the context barrier?
Once again nice work, I enjoyed reading it and it definitely expanded my knowledge of the topic. If you would like to read a paper from the Communities and Online Gaming stream, mine can be found at:
http://networkconference.netstudies.org/2020OUA/2020/04/25/more-than-a-game-levelling-up-relationships/
Thanks,
Craig

Hey Craig,

Thanks for reading my paper 🙂 I appreciate your feedback!

Re: repudiation. What I am referencing is how authenticating Indigenous identity has become synonymous with displaying tribal identification, ancestral knowledge, aligned values with public protests in favour of self determination. Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, I believe, is an example of someone who actively engages with all three of these but in ways that force them to oppose one another ie. publically self identifying as Walpiri and displaying cultural knowledge of her ancestors but not aligning her values with what is generally considered self determination for First Nations peoples in Australia.

Yes, I think that video can help bridge the gap but that because the gap is sensorial not simply visual there needs to be further consideration for virtual reality and augmented reality.

Thanks very much, looking forward to reading your paper !!

E

Hi Emele,
As a white woman, I hadn’t put much thought into how Indigenous people’s use of social media might be different than my own due to difference in culture. An interesting read.

You’ve especially made me re-think how I view cancel-culture. I’d always seen it as more bandwagon-y and performance than genuine because when a public figure is cancelled they don’t usually tend to suffer any long-term effects. They might see a dip in followers or public opinion, but they usually seem to bounce back with months or weeks, even without a proper apology or acknowledgement of why they were cancelled. Of course I recognise there would be individuals who genuinely believed in why the figure was being cancelled and would stop supporting them or what have you, but overall cancelling public figures seems very ineffectual. Time to rethink some things.
Chloe

Hey Chloe,

Thanks for reading my paper. Cancel culture is quite bizarre, as is most things on the internet. I find it quite incredible how new the term is (not necessarily the concept), and yet how devastating the impacts can be on people’s careers and mental health. But I also am fascinated by how it can re-inforce and create new streams of community.

Thanks for your feedback and thoughts!

E

Hi Emele
I just wanted to let you know how much I liked your paper. I particularly liked your discussion of how cancel culture impacts when the community is not just something you have built or joined out of interest but is part of who you are. The following discussion of how this cancelling of an individual could work to ultimately strengthen the community was thought provoking and powerful. Nicola

Hey Nicola,

Thanks for reading my paper, I appreciate your feedback!

Most people have had a similar reaction to yours, which I find interesting. I think if we are forced to think in binaries, we have to see the positive that balances the negative so I do believe in entertaining the possibility of the positive communities that are built as a consequence of cancel culture.

E

Comments are closed.