Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Digital Culture & Media

Last week we were talking about 'Digital Culture & Media' as a part of #IndigenousDX and I asked a few IndigenousX tweeps to share their thoughts on the subject... 

The deadly @MartinGHodgson, @Dharawal, @RhiannaPatrick & @PaulDutton1968 were all kind enough to put a few words together for us. Each is an excellent piece in its own right, but together they are a great example of the power of #IndigenousDX in action. Thanks you mob!


What happens when the oldest living culture on Earth comes together with the newest, Indigenous Digital Excellence? A new opportunity to share and grow existing assets. The digital world is as diverse and as eclectic as the physical world we live in. There are positives and negatives, madness and magnificence and information from all corners of the globe. Like any tool it is largely what you make of it and thankfully a growing number of Indigenous Australians are putting it to good use with the ideal of creating, exploring and sharing Indigenous Excellence.

But like everything in the digital world, change is always on the horizon and what interests me most  about the digital culture we are creating is what can we use it for next, how do we be one step ahead of the game and make the technology work for us. For me one of the most valuable aspects of the new digital culture is the ability to connect with others and with the size of the Australian land mass it has now never been easier. But it is vital we use this new opportunity in ways that benefit all and contribute to the advancement of Indigenous peoples across the land. We can work together to promote campaigns, we can raise issues of human rights abuses, we are able to lobby government with a more united digital presence, we can tell of achievement and advancement and there are digital media opportunities constantly opening up for Indigenous stories to be told by Indigenous people.
Right across this land Indigenous people and communities have very real and unique assets. When so much in the last 200 years has been focussed on the negatives the new digital world enables Indigenous people in this country to share those assets, to broaden them and to put them to work in new ways to strengthen and build sustainable futures for the next generations to come. Nothing can ever replace the oldest culture on earth, but the newest one gives it a new place to flourish in megabytes of Indigenous Excellence.



I was very lucky; I got in on the very beginning of digital media and culture, way back in 1982 when I used the $1000 I was given for my 18th birthday to buy a computer rather than a car like I was expected to.

I spent hours and hours on my computer exploring the newborn world of online culture via the first incarnation of the fore runner of the Internet in Australia, Telecoms’ Viatel videotext service along with one of the original Bulletin Boards in Australia, also run by Telecom.

This was my first introduction to the online community, exchanging news and information with people from all over the world, albeit very slowly at 300bps via an acoustic coupler, even then I could see the potential inherent in being online, how it could be expanded to cover so much more than chat and email.

This is why I think that exposure to digital media and the community surrounding it is a very important thing for all Indigenous peoples to have access too, it gives those who are typically without a voice a platform on which to express their views and opinions.

Which is why I am a firm advocate of getting the internet out to as many remote communities as possible, yes I know that access to clean water, housing and health care is of utmost importance too, but I don’t believe it’s a case of either or.

We can have that and provide access to the online world as well, and open up all sorts of educational opportunities for all Indigenous people, regardless of where they live and their economic status.
This is a platform that all Indigenous peoples should embrace.

Denise Altoff


From No Home Computer To Now.

I never had a home computer growing up and if you’d told me 20 years ago I’d have a computer in my pocket, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be able to afford one. All my assignments at school and university were handwritten. I bought my first laptop only two years ago and was mesmerised by my first smart phone and what I could do with it. I had the power like He-Man but alas couldn’t turn any of my pets into Battle Cat. 

I grew up in Cape York at a time when the town I lived in had only one TV station, the ABC, but now I can stream BBC radio into my car as I drive to work and it’s changed how I listen to radio. Twitter has been a revelation for me. I’ve got to meet a lot of First Nations people (both here in Australia and overseas) that I probably wouldn’t have had a conversation with in my non-online life. I get to share in their #IndigenousX moments, see photos of NAIDOC Week events in their part of the country or be informed about an issue in their community. 

What I love about the digital space is that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders get to show their diversity. We might all be Indigenous but we also have other interests, like watching Doctor Who and wanting to be the black Martha Stewart. It’s undeniable that social media’s been a powerful thing for Indigenous people everywhere. The Idle No More movement showed how an online campaign could bring a group together even if they weren’t connected online or otherwise and how it could spread beyond Canada’s borders. I’m excited about the possibilities of technology for Indigenous Australians and what this will mean for our communities in the near future. After all, I never thought I’d have access to my own computer but now I’m online 24/7 via my phone.


The age of digital media is not only a perfect advancement for today’s society, for worldwide communication, political gain, checks and balances, for business selling and promotion but I see its biggest advantage for Indigenous Australians. How does it benefit Indigenous Australians? 

It provides a medium to promote Indigenous Culture to the world, it allows the opportunity for Indigenous communities with only pockets of strength in language, cultural knowledge and understanding to store this information, often previously held by universities and anthropologists to have it returned. For community to be able to access, learn from the stories and information of the knowledge holders, their elders, traditional owners, or as I refer to them as traditional custodians. 

The biggest benefit from digital media & culture is the ability for schools, in particular, to develop sister and brother school relationships. Schools in inner Sydney, or private school institutions with regional and especially remote Aboriginal community schools or townships. Thus enabling school age children, all ages, to be able to mix through digital communications with their counterparts. Learn Indigenous language, from community members with aid from teachers, understand culture, the towns, understand the economic, social and cultural story of where their counterparts come from. Rather than being given misinformation or half truths, or blatant lies as occurs with media commentators today. It provides a further opportunity for schools to participate in greater modules of communication and streams. Direct student contacts could be arranged after developing relationships, which in turn allows for direct learning opportunities for all students. Pen Pals used to be the greatest communication tools for young people from all over the world. 2013, that communication opportunity lies directly with digital media and it’s offshoot digital culture.

The clear dilemma for such a forum is to ensure cultural knowledge is solely owned by the community not by universities as has been stolen from community in the past. Whether that requires more unique legislation to protect cultural knowledge is maybe the primary question that needs to be addressed in company with how can digital culture be shared, to develop relationships, understanding, respect and eventually unanimous social acceptance of indigenous culture and integration. Not for indigenous peoples with anglo societal norms but non-indigenous peoples learning, living and openly being able to share in Indigenous culture.

Indigenous digital culture could well be the single next biggest development in Australia’s history for Indigenous people since the Mabo decision, which celebrated its 21st anniversary only a few days ago.

Paul Dutton


When I think about digital culture and media I only have to look at the words above me and what they represent. 

Of the four people above I have only met one of them person, yet each I admire, respect and am proud to know and call my friend...This is the digital culture that is developing in our small pocket of the internet, amongst us and many others. 

We all do our own thing, but we are there for each other, we support each and share in each others triumphs and challenges, success and setbacks, and we have a lot of laughs, tears and rants along the way. Just like any community... 

I don't know the future of @IndigenousDX or of @IndigenousX, but I know I am grateful and humbled to be a small part of the digital community that has formed, and look forward to seeing what the future holds.

Thanks Tweeps.


1 comment:

  1. Makes the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, just reading each piece, realising the potential for our children, communities, for economic empowerment, cultural strength regained, refocused, shared to inspire Australian people, inspire the world!