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Friday, October 12 • 2:00pm - 3:30pm
Digital Indigeneities

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Tyler Wayne DeAtley
The protests surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline were marked by ambivalence, both in the blurring of protest spaces and in the interactions in digital spaces surrounding the protest. The Facebook check-in meme that began circulating on Halloween 2016 was a key site for the ambivalence of the protests. The meme prompted sympathizers to sign-in into standing rock through the locational Facebook check-in feature to jam police surveillance. The meme capitalized on the hybridized nature of the protests space(s) in an attempt to create safety for the physical protesters. However, the meme amplified attention paid to the protests leading to trolls wandering into the digital spaces of the protest. Protesters and trolls engaged in mutual surveillance, doxxing, and other antagonisms. I argue that the Facebook check meme constitutes a useful site of digital activism that is effective through its use of the messiness of hybrid spaces and tactical engagement, and one that also exemplifies the potential of tactical media in hybrid space to oppose power structures of surveillance. With that though the discourse and actions surrounding the protest highlight the ambivalence of digital political activism coming from multiple collations. The focus on the intersections of ambivalence, hybridized space, and tactical engagement provides a fruitful lens not present in the literature of digital political protest.

Lynn Schofield Clark, Angel Hinzo
Building on Anishinaabe cultural theorist George Vizenor’s (1994) use of the term “survivance” as a portmanteau that combines “survival” and “resistance” in its characterization of indigenous storytelling traditions, this paper explores digital survivance in the context of indigenous responses to the Dakota Access Pipeline and other U.S. corporate and government projects. Digital survivance is thus described here as the digital and visual practices of indigenous peoples and their allies as they have drawn upon and advanced indigenous epistemologies and storytelling traditions within the contexts and constraints of social media. With its focus on visual and intertextual content, the paper builds upon prior work on indigenous political and civic discourse, bringing this into conversation with work on digital visual analysis (Highfield and Leaver 2015; Raynauld, Richet & Morris 2018).

The paper explores the following research questions: (1) How have indigenous persons and their allies used various social media platforms to share digital visual materials about #NoDAPL? (2) How were native epistemologies and rhetorics communicated through the visual materials that were shared? And (3) How can this case study shed light on the characteristics of digital survivance in ways that are both continuous with past traditions of storytelling and mindful of the ways that visual content circulates in social media today? The paper discusses digital survivance through the prism of the indigenous sacred figure of “the trickster,” a contested trope in indigenous literary nationalism.

Fidele Vlavo
In December 1997, forty-five indigenous people were murdered by a group of paramilitaries. Most of the victims belonged to the community of Las Abejas who supported the Zapatista's uprising of 1994. Following news of the massacre, several Europe-based activists announced their intention to stage radical digital actions against the Mexican authorities. One group in particular, Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT), responded by organising the first performances of what is now termed electronic civil disobedience. Within a year, EDT launched its SWARM Project (Stop the War in Mexico), a virtual sit-in of the official website of the then Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo.

In this paper, I interpret what is commonly seen as digital activism, as radical and poetic performances of resistance. Using the case of the SWARM project, I examine the practice of digital protest as electronic performances that provide temporary spaces for public and collective grievance. The discussion suggests a radical interpretation of digital activism as performative and theatrical. In particular, I propose a reading of SWARM as recombinant theatre, that is a performance that unifies the space of everyday life, traditional theatre, and virtual space. These practices can be seen through the lens creative actions that make use of social and technological networks to allow the formation of collective and global virtual memory as well as legitimate spaces for dissent.

Mylynn Felt
The strategic use of social media by social media organizations relies on an expertise of social media practices and media practices in general. The current field of social, mass, alternative and general media ubiquity offers increased communicative potential for civic actors and particularly for those seeking to subvert mainstream gatekeeping. How collective actors make claims, mobilize constituents, and develop collective identity rests on activist media practices, which are constantly adapting to new environments of complex media. Utilizing a practice lens, this research examines a Facebook community page designed to bring awareness to murdered and missing indigenous women and men in Canada. Analysis reveals that from 2012-2017 page administrators developed daily posting practices of posting media links to frame the injustice of a social problem rather than earlier practices of posting personal opinions or individual photos. By sharing links rather than making personal claims, organizers define the boundaries of the problem in a manner that invokes awareness and support while inhibiting debate.

avatar for Cindy Tekobbe

Cindy Tekobbe

Assistant Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago


Friday October 12, 2018 2:00pm - 3:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Ballroom East