Géraud de Ville

The Open University, Department of Engineering and Innovation
London, UK

Participatory ICTs in Indigenous Communities of the Guiana Shield

Towards the Consciousness of Co-existence with a Global World?

August 9, 2013

On 8 August 2013, I presented a multi-authored paper during a panel discussion on self-conscious indigenous performance at the 17th World Congress of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences in Manchester, UK

Project COBRA – Creative Commons

Until recently, indigenous performance has been associated with face-to-face events: theatre, dancing, singing, and playing music. Yet, the advent of the Internet and digital media, such as Flickr and YouTube, as well as accessible and participative online social media, e.g. Facebook, is resulting in a visual media explosion to which some indigenous groups are also taking part.

Therefore, indigenous performance could be defined as any act of presenting a form of multisensory engagement with a public, involving art, creation, putting oneself on any communication platform, whether it is face-to-face or online.

In this paper, we make the case that the purpose of any performance is to influence, adapt, and/or reinforce social memory and identity. This can be an inward looking exercise, aimed at the indigenous group itself, while at the same time, can engage with external stakeholders associated with the indigenous groups, such as local civil society organisations and international policymakers. With this in mind, the hypothesis is that a technologically-mediated and collective audiovisual memory has the potential to play a vital role in maintaining an indigenous group’s cohesion and order in a rapidly changing environment, allowing communities to retain links to the traditional past while embracing new opportunities.

The objective of this paper is thus to explore if and how indigenous communities use ICTs as tools to enhance, adapt and transform their collective social memory as a form of performance in order to promote their own particular interests and worldviews, from local to global scales, through the careful choreographing of their representations.

Thanks to the use of participatory video and photography techniques, Project COBRA gives an opportunity for the North Rupununi communities to perform and look at themselves in a mirror, to reflect on what they would like to represent and why. The output of this self-representation, the videos, shows how communities are able to perform different messages to different actors. Indigenous communities, through the way they use ICTs tools, reveal they have a clear conscience of their multiple identities and of how to shape them to serve their purposes; communicating to future generations, maintaining community cohesion, and advancing claims to an international audience.



QUICK DOWNLOAD: Check out the English version of the COBRA Handbook for Practitioners.