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.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

An Open Letter To People Who Feel They Are Excluded Just For Being White.

I am writing this as an open letter to any and all people who identify as 'white' AND who also often feel excluded from discussing issues of race by non-white people for the sole reason that you are a white person. 

I hate to be the one to tell it to you, but it isn't 'just' because you are white. It isn't 'reverse racism'. Our supposed unfair condemnation of white people isn't a viable excuse for your continual, wilful and blatantly unapologetic perpetuation of racist stereotypes. Also, the fact that you might have identified the same phenomenon in other groups not based on race, say disability advocates, gay marriage advocates, or feminists, doesn't meant your observations aren't still racist. If I say that Muslims and people with autism are violent, that doesn't mean I am not making a racist comment. It just means I'm also insulting people with autism. It doesn't detract from the inappropriate nature of my comment, it adds to it with another form of discrimination.

Now, just to qualify, and I know this is going to confuse a lot of you but here we go... being 'white' isn't the sole reason you get excluded from these dialogues, or from expressing your opinion without receiving an overwhelmingly consistent negative response; but it is a factor, just not the disqualifying factor which you claim it to be.

I know that seems like the most likely answer though; if you are being excluded from commenting about racism, when you are one of the least racist people in the history of the universe, and your opinions are awesome; then obviously, it must be because of something out of your control. Your 'whiteness'. But it can't be whiteness's fault... because whiteness is awesome too, and besides, it's entirely out of your control! The fault must lie with others. They must just be excluding you because you are white!! Those bastards... no wonder everyone hates them!! Not you of course, you don't. You're not racist. But still, no wonder, hey?!

Then you realise that lots of other white people are having the same experience, and expressing their own frustrations at how, even though they are totally not racist and are awesome, they too are being excluded from making comments about racism. It's an epidemic.

In fact, what it really amounts to, is racism! And the worst kind of racism too... the kind that marginalises white people...  

You should probably write a blog about this, and get the word out. If this gets any worse who knows where it could lead? Perhaps even *dum dum dum* White genocide!!

Maybe though, through your kindness and compassion, you can convince these racist non-white people to listen to your awesome idea about how to solve the 'racism problem' that you have identified. 

They just need to be nicer. To explain more. To take more time and be more patient. They need to stop throwing around the racism word so willy-nilly too. Basically, they just need to stop being so selfish, and racist, and most importantly, let you play too!! 

But before you write that blog, you might want to take a moment, a quick time out, to consider something. Nothing huge, just a little something that might be relevant to your theory... a loose end as it were.     

Turns out there's plenty of white people who feel able to talk openly and passionately about racism, and their views are recognised and respected by many non-white people too. Their whiteness is also no impediment whatsoever to their skilful avoidance of saying or doing racist things, and they seem to have no issue of being excluded or dismissed from groups or conversations purely for their whiteness, with the exact (not just the generic) people you are referring to... 

So, if plenty of white people are welcome in conversations about racism, and understand racism when they see it, and manage to avoid it themselves, then what else could it be? What else could be contributing to these people, who all hate racism, seeming to get so angry whenever you talk to them, even when they start off by saying they're happy to talk to you about racism? 

There must be some other secret, even more malicious reason going on here than the already unbelievable anti-white racism which you have so brilliantly deduced... 

Or is it possible, even remotely, that these people who all hate racism but who clearly don't hate all white people are excluding you from conversations because of anything you could be saying or doing? 

Have you considered that at all? 

Maybe you shouldn't write another blog about the generic 'they', maybe this doesn't really have anything to do with 'them'.

Imagine if you went to the doctor for help and told him that something was wrong, and he told you that you were sick, and that he knew what the sickness was, how you most likely got it and how to cure it. Would you get offended that he insulted you by calling you 'sick', or that he dared presume to know anything about you as a person? Or would you listen to him and hope that you can get it fixed?How many second opinions would you need to get before you accepted the diagnosis? Would you rather dismiss the entire field of medicine than concede that perhaps they are right?

Maybe you need help to understand this issue, maybe you need to look back over your life and try and work out how you got this sickness. Consider all the contaminants you have been exposed to. Consider how you may have overlooked some of the earlier symptoms. 

Now, to get back to the point. I'm no racism doctor, but from what I am seeing, it is very likely that you have a racism sickness. I have a good idea how you got it, and I might even be able to help you fix it. I recommend you do as much reading as you can on it, and feel free to get a second, third or even fifty-fifth opinion on it, but from the fact that you identified as one of the people I addressed this open letter to, it sounds like you have received quite a few opinions on the matter already. It sounds like your racism sickness has actually gotten so bad that you have entered the stage where you are racistly blaming others for your own racism. That's a pretty severe case. It's not 'burning crosses on the lawn' bad, but it's not good. 

And just to clarify, I don't hate you for your sickness, I don't blame you for it, and I don't believe it is incurable. But your sickness is one that unless it is treated, can cause you to say and do harmful and dangerous things. So, if you pretend like the sickness isn't real, and you start to endanger others, I will have no option but to walk away, in the interests of my own safety, and for the safety of others.

And again, it's not 'because' you are white. This sickness just seems to be far more prevalent amongst white people, which is tragically to do with the overwhelming amounts of concentrated racism that so many white people are exposed to, often from a very early age. 

This particular racism sickness, where you exhibit all the same signs as other forms of racism sickness but are ultimately convinced that you are not actually in any way racist is known as 'aversive racism'.

As this excerpt from "How Nick Cater misunderstands the debate over racism" states.

"Some psychologists refer to this as ‘aversive racism’. Discussing the research of John Dovidio and Samuel Gaertner an article in the Association of Psychological Science’s Observer explains:

Aversive racism is characteristic of many White Americans who possess strong egalitarian values and who believe that they are not prejudiced. But many also possess negative feelings and beliefs of which they are either unaware or try to dissociate from their images of themselves as being non-prejudiced.

This illustrates how the meaning of ‘racism‘ has shifted in recent decades. It no longer necessarily refers to conscious beliefs of racial superiority or feelings of hatred and contempt. For most researchers, the point is not to blame people, but to encourage them to be more aware of how their behaviour systematically disadvantages others."

Now, admittedly, because I've had aversive racists ramming both their racism and their aversion to being labelled racist down my throat for the last couple of days, and consistently for a large part of my life, I can't say that I have written this with the usual patience and generosity I am often known for... 'Patient Luke' as this approach has been dubbed lately, nor have I written in the 'Angry Luke' style which at times is seen to step in for 'Patient Luke' when he gets a bit too exhausted... I think this is what happens when both 'Patient Luke' and 'Angry Luke' take a break, and 'I'm So Over This BS And I Really Don't Care If I Hurt Your Feelings Because You Need To Hear This Luke' steps up to the plate.