Saturday, October 23, 2010

Virtual Worlds and Indigenous Knowledge: learning to tell stories and make positive change across cultures

My presentation at Association of Internet Researchers 11th conference 2010

The representation of place and space are powerful narrative tools in digitally mediated stories today. Virtual online worlds are one example of how space and place is realized in stories using avatars and navigation. In a seemingly distant tradition, the narrative systems that are collectively referred to as the Dreamtime Stories of the Australian Aboriginal peoples, with their constructions of space and place, are also highly developed and complex multimedia networks that rely on navigation. In both of these systems, along with place and space, performance and participation are the means to relating to the narrative. The individual contributions to narrative creation that are part of these systems are based on participant agency. The potential empowerment granted with participation in the narratives suggests a resistance to what M. M. Bakhtin terms single voice, of monologic narrative discourse (Bakhtin 1984). In the global perspective, the recognition of narratives from indigenous (often marginal and silenced) cultures can be argued to have democratizing and inclusive effects for the global community. That these societies have witnessed long-term survival also supports their status as sustainable, and by implication, that these practices are passed on through their narrative traditions. By paying attention to such old stories, and in particular how they integrate place and space into their transmission, we can re-purpose vocabularies for what are often described as the ‘new media’ stories of the digital age. A direct relationship to place, through narrative, is proposed as one of the positive results of this attention to old stories in the new media. An awareness of the interconnectedness of elements in ecology, for example, is a further possibility from these narratives, which set both characters and places on equal footing.

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