Monday, May 27, 2013

IndigenousDX - Looking forward, looking back.

I've been thinking about the upcoming week's topic for the ongoing Indigenous Digital Excellence Agenda (IDEA) conversation... what are the most game-changing,exciting & innovative things happening in tech?

Obviously we live in an exciting time, and there are some amazing possibilities in applying digital tech to pretty much any area. Health, education, arts, employment, sustainability, politics.

Not only does digital technology have applications for all of these areas but it invariably leads to networking, friendships (and potentially rivalries), the development of new online and offline communities, and the strengthening of existing communities.

Since I have joined Twitter I have recognised the true strength and value of social media is not just what can happen when people come together sharing in a common goal, or interest, or opinion; it is the act of coming together in and of itself. Information sharing, story telling, networking, advocacy, activism, solidarity, education, promotion, humour, support, debate... all of these things all of these I have been able to engage in, often with amazing people I probably never would have met if not for Social Media.

I have also been able to raise issues that I believe are important, to have my voice heard, to meet others who share my views, or can add to them, challenge and improve them. I have been able to hear from, communicate with and better understand people whose perspectives and motives have been a mystery to me, and at times have been able to repay that favour.

I have been able to raise issues directly with organisations, politicians, journalists, and all sorts of people who otherwise I would have had no way of communicating with; sometimes I have even had a reply, and a few times I have actually even been heard and had some influence on these issues. As the youngest of three brothers I can assure you it was quite a novelty at first, being heard.

I barely knew what to do with myself... I think I must have spent the first two years on Twitter doing a non stop brain dump of every resource, every quote, every random thought that I always thought should be out there but that no one seemed to be talking about in the public eye.

I didn't really have any plan or purpose when I started, I don't even really remember why I joined. I didn't really know anyone who used Twitter, that I was aware of, but I suppose it was just a 'might as well have a look' moment. I'm glad I did, and I have never really looked back since then.

For various reasons, a fair few people seemed to respond to what I was saying. I felt encouraged and supported to keep going. A few small (but significant) accomplishments, a lot of laughs, and a lot of new friends and allies spurred me on even further. I started my blog, and while very scary at first, there were various detractors and naysayers, there was also a huge sense of gratification just in getting my voice out there, and even more so when I realised what I was saying seemed to strike a chord with a lot of others, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. Friends and family in real life, who I had never even mentioned Twitter or my blog too were starting to hear about it from other places, going online and reading it, and they were liking it too. It was overwhelming.

I started to get asked to do media interviews, write articles, edit people's assignments, fight people's causes, advocate on behalf of individuals, connect people, liaise on behalf of people, and all sorts of other things that as a primary school was all quite new, exciting, daunting, exhilarating and exhausting.
I was flattered of course by so many people seeming interested in what I had to say, and it took me a long time to start to tell the difference between people who valued my perspective and were interested in what I had to offer, people who expected me to be able to speak on behalf of all Aboriginal people on any and all issue, people happy to exploit me or my views, people who were too lazy to look anywhere besides Twitter for an interview or a guest speaker, or to research their own assignments, and people who were truly in need and with nowhere else to turn. People who wanted to take, people who wanted to give, and people who understood the value and importance of reciprocity.

It was all very exciting and fast paced, but when I was able to slow down and think about what I wanted, and what I wanted to contribute, I realised that no amount of tweets, or amount of blogs could ever achieve what I was spending more and more time and energy talking about: recognising the strength, resilience, determination, diversity and excellence of so many amazing Aboriginal and Torres Strait people out there doing amazing things every day, fighting for what they believe in, and facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles with patience and commitment. This is where the desire for the @IndigenousX was born, the actual idea itself didn't come til a bit later, but this is what I knew I wanted to put my energy into. I wanted a voice for myself of course, but I didn't want to become another one of the very few select Indigenous individuals who are given a voice, online or offline at the expense of so many others. I wanted to contribute to breaking down that reality. I wanted people to recognise that Aboriginal people or views can never be reduced to one perspective, or two opposing views. I didn't just want to climb over the wall, I wanted to throw a rope over to those who were coming after me, and I wanted to encourage those who were already over the wall to help tear it down... or at the very least to stop building it higher.

I'm both proud an humbled that @IndigenousX has been able to contribute to that. It has by the sheer number of hosts given a taste of that diversity, of that excellence. Whether people agree them all or not, or connect with them all or not is irrelevant. They begin to broaden their perspective, to realise that the situation is not two dimensional. And for those who do engage, and do value and respect the range of hosts, they get to broaden their own perspectives, get to hear new stories, new information, new ideas, and often find new friends thrown into the bargain.

We have brought a digital community of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, of people from all sides of the political spectrum, from all walks of life together to celebrate and share in Indigenous Excellence. In the joy and the frustrations. The successes and the setbacks. The past, the present and the future through the eyes of people they would have never been otherwise able to hear from, or connect with.

Considering the diversity within the community, the level of respect and engagement that is maintained is phenomenal, and is something I am eternally grateful for. The learning (both ways), the stories that have been told, the knowledge shared, the connections made, the fun that's been had... is priceless to me, and I know to many others as well.

This to me is the most exciting thing I think about when I think about the future of Indigenous Digital Excellence. How will our online community develop? What other online communities will be able to link up and share with, like is happening now with the #IndigenousDX conversation? What other Indigenous communities will pop up elsewhere, and how will we be able to collaborate and support each other?

Recently I have been thinking that it must be getting time for the 4th annual #TwitterDeadlys and was wondering what the categories might be this year, who might win them, and who might host the various awards that are invented on the night. Each year it has been a spontaneous, fun, farcical, and community driven online event. It has not only been a fun evening for members of our online community, but it has been encouraged participation and engagement from more and people each year. It is helping our community to strengthen, and to grow, and to have a hilarious evening to boot.

I thought about #itriedtobeauthenticbut and #racistlikeafox and how they provided an opportunity not only to vent, but to educate, to challenge, and to connect - the amount of awesome people I had no idea were on twitter who popped up and have hung around during both of those hashtags was by far my favourite part of both of them. 

#DeadlyChoices promoting healthy living and celebrating positive life choices like exercise and eating right, but also doing the right thing, being a good person, standing up for what you believe in, looking after yourself and others.  

#IndigenousXto10k - it pissed a lot of people off, but it also raised $10,000 for the Indigenous Literacy Foundation in a single week, and gained a tonne of followers for the @IndigenousX account, most of whom stayed around long after the campaign was finished.

I think about #ProudToBeIndigenous #P2BI celebrating global Indigenous pride, and how suddenly the bar just got raised a whole lot higher, the potential just grew a whole lot wider, the opportunities grow more and more amazing every day.

I think about my mate @Moree_Mick who is going to start sharing some of what he has learned about his language, Gamilaraay, in weekly online Twitter lessons (starting this Tuesday from 8:30 - 9:30)  

And this is just what's going on in my circles on Twitter, who knows what else is going on on Twitter, or what will pop up next? What is going on over on Facebook, on Google+, Instagram, the Community of Excellence, and what platform will pop up next, and what will those communities look like? 

I am so proud to be able to be a small part of what has happened in the last year or so just on Twitter, but what the young people who come up after us will do I have no doubt will put all of this to shame. They will see all of this and more as 'normal', they will see the celebration of Indigenous Excellence as common place.

As they should!!

Their bar for 'excellence' will be much higher than ours... assuming that is, they are given the right support, training, education and opportunities to fully maximise this potential, to reinvent it, to reclaim it, to take it forward shaping the future of our nation, and to connect it back to their own histories, their families and communities and their own lives. 

So, for me, when I ask myself "What are the most game-changing,exciting & innovative things happening in tech?". The answer will always be: The most exciting thing happening in digital tech is that Indigenous Excellence is shining. and getting brighter. More people are connecting, engaging, listening, and talking every day without a media filter, without a spokesperson, without edit or restriction. People are connecting with each other to challenge the status quo, to tell stories that have long been ignored, to add depth to stories that have long been two dimensional, to fight against racism, injustice and discrimination, to shine a light on what would otherwise go unnoticed, and to achieve things that otherwise would have been impossible.


Today was Sorry Day, and the theme was "Still living on borrowed time'. So while I am excited about the possibilities for the future, I also know that this vision of the future is one that we will have to strive for, and create together. And that time is of the essence.

So please, join in the Indigenous Digital Excellence Agenda conversation.

Add your voice and your views.

Raise the issues that are important to you.

Share the ideas that you think can help create a future where young Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander mob can thrive in the digital world; and hopefully even teach us older ones a thing or two along the way.

Follow @IndigenousDX on Twitter

And as always, thanks for taking the time to hear my thoughts.

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