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Indians in Cyberspace
by Mike MacDonald

Who is
by Cheryl L'Hirondelle

First Nations in Cyberspace
by Mike Patterson

Image Credit: NASA JPL-Caltech E. Churchwell University of Wisconsin


First Nations in Cyberspace: Two Worlds and Tricksters - Where the Forest meets the Highway

by Mike Patterson

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7.1 Two Worlds and Tricksters

Within cyberspace, not only are the spatial and temporal barriers collapsing, so too are the inter-personal ones. Meanwhile, however, new social barriers emerge with unique issues relating to access, understanding, and meaning (Miah 2000: 223).

As has been shown, cyberspace can help and hurt Natives - it can be a Trickster. At the same time, it is the meeting of Two Worlds, Native and non-Native, and in this virtual space a dialogue is emerging.

Natives have a substantial presence in cyberspace, beyond their numbers. This is partly due to early adoption of the technology by Natives, also to the my surrounding Native presence, visited by Windegos and Wannabes, scholars and mystics, people of all types drawn to things Native. This is nothing new, but the sheer volume of exchanges, and the ability to create personas (avatars) in cyberspace, make it hard to tell what is 'real.' Could it be that in cyberspace, 'Native' is coming to mean something more (or less) than it does on the ground? How will that filter back to the 'real' communities?

There is a fragmentation of knowledge in the Native cybercommunity, as there are in the real communities, and as it is cyberspace as a whole. The 20-30,000 subscribers to almost 700 Native American newsgroups at Yahoo are at a type of virtual powwow; but unlike a real gathering, they cannot see the whole grounds, the territory, or the forest for the trees. Like Baudrillard's "fascination" at the "disappearing" of information through sheer volume ("a black hole"), there is a glut of information, misinformation, repetition and outright illusion.

A visitor could well come away with bits and pieces that don't add up - and pass them off as knowledge. Again, this is nothing new, but the stakes are higher: Never before has so much information about and from Natives, good and bad, been available to so many people.

This super-newsgroup is unmoderated, there is no guide. That is the difference that most breaks with tradition, where teachers, elders and other guides pass on the knowledge through time. In cyberspace, we see a veneer of that knowledge, all jumbled together, again we are in Borges' Library of Babel.

Next: 7.2 The New Communities

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