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Indians in Cyberspace
by Mike MacDonald

Who is
by Cheryl L'Hirondelle

First Nations in Cyberspace
by Mike Patterson

Editorial Addendum:

Drumbeats to Drumbytes: Globalizing Networked Aboriginal Art

by Ahasiw Maskegon-Iskwew

The Animasphere: Reconsituting Globalization Through Networked Indigeneities

Instead, indigenism offers an antidote, a vision of how things might be that is based in how things have been since time immemorial, and how things must be once again if the human species, and perhaps the planet itself, is to survive much longer. Predicated on a synthesis of the wisdom attained over thousands of years by indigenous, landbased peoples around the globe-the Fourth World or, as Winona LaDuke puts it, 'The Host World upon which the first, second and third worlds all sit at the present time'-indigenism stands in diametrical opposition to the totality of what might be termed 'Eurocentric business as usual.'[25]

A useful term to begin navigating through communications and knowledge ecology with a global perspective is noosphere,which arises from noogenesis.

Noogenesis, from the Greek noos = psyche (soul, spirit, thought, mind, consciousness) and genesis = origin (formation, creation, such as "the creation of the world"), is a word which indicates the act of the creation of something psychic.

Noosphere, also from the Greek noos = psyche (soul, spirit, thought, mind, consciousness) and sphere (a body limited by a round surface), is a word which represents the psychic layer born of Noogenesis which is growing and enveloping our planet above the Biosphere (the mass of living beings which covers the globe).[26]

The term noosphere was first popularized by Russian mineralogist and geochemistVladimir Ivanovich Vernadsky[27] and elaborated by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.[28] Teilhard de Chardin was a Sorbonne-educated Jesuit priest, geologist, paleontologist, philosopher and ardent evolutionist. The Catholic Church prohibited the publication of his writing in the early 1900s, and it was finally released posthumously in the 1950s and 1960s. He developed a theory of evolution that began with the geosphere and went on to the biosphere, out of which the greatest achievement was human-kind. As a Christian visionary futurist, he sought to reconcile the chaotic evidence of evolution with his deity's grand human project. As part of his evolutionary theory, Teilhard de Chardin foresaw the rise of the noosphere, a globe-spanning unified sphere of human consciousness driven by social and spiritual energy and guided by morality and justice. He believed that love was the most important aspect of the noosphere and it would ultimately result in the omega point (the final letter of the Greek alphabet), a point of perfect global unity and love that would signal the return of Christ, the ultimate goal of evolution and the focal point of his Christian mythology.

He identified emergent aspects of the noosphere in academic, scientific and theological communities and in the communications technology of his era. Teilhard de Chardin is also sometimes credited with foreseeing the rise of the Internet.

'Here I am thinking,' he writes in Man's Place in Nature [ND. Pub. 1956.], 'of those astonishing electronic machines (the starting-point and hope of the young science of cybernetics), by which our mental capacity to calculate and combine is reinforced and multiplied by a process and to a degree that herald as astonishing advances in this direction as those that optical science has already produced for our power of vision.'[29]

Ronfeldt and Aquilla of the RAND Institute, a policy think-tank for the U.S. Department of Defense, provide a contemporary breakdown of the noosphere into three realms - cyberspace, the infosphere, and the noosphere.[30]

Cyberspace includes all of the information transmission and social connections made possible by the Internet and its associated communications systems. The infosphere expands to include cyberspace and all of the other information resources and transmissions of the world including libraries, media industries, corporations, institutions and government. The noosphere encompasses and extends these with a global space for shifting collaboration and negotiation for the development of new knowledge and strategy for issues of international justice, peace, human rights and the environment. Its primary actors are the NGOs (non-governmental organizations), the UN, and universities. Some of them operate from geoculturally specific strategy positions but all see advantage in targeted, issue-specific and shifting collaboration for strategy and knowledge development within international politics that also carry forward their own specific agendas.

The strategic interest for the RAND Institute arises from their recognition that cyberspace, and to a large extent the commercial and governmental infospheres, have been dominated by the U.S. in their contemporary development, in promoting U.S. interests, and in establishing a dominant market and cultural position for U.S. media and information products worldwide. The noosphere is emerging as a space for debate and collaboration in the philosophy and ethics of international statecraft, and for the innovative development of effective knowledge, strategy, networks and organization to effect and resist corporate and governmental practice. Harry Cleaver describes Ronfeldt and Aquilla as perceiving the noosphere to be based on openness, accessibility, equality and freedom - qualities that threaten U.S. domination and that expose its vulnerabilities.

Drawing on studies of the changing organization of business and the state, such as that of Walter Powell, they have taken over the juxtaposition of networks to markets and hierarchies and argued that contemporary social movements have been evolving into networked organizations capable of unleashing 'transnational social netwars.'[31]

They see emerging transnational networks of 'information age activism' based on associations among non-governmental organizations (NGOs) concerned with modern and postmodern issues such as the environment, human rights, immigration, indigenous peoples and freedom in cyberspace.[32]

The RAND analysts work to devise strategies and enforcement tools whereby U.S. stature could be maintained within the noosphere dynamic. In essence, they advise that U.S. statecraft evolve negotiation and collaboration strategies similar to the NGOs to influence and shape international strategy in the noosphere-a noopolitik. This is a diplomatic strategy that, in many contexts in the past, has successfully destabilized and marginalized collaborative NGO strategy efforts, often invited by failures of self-critical analysis within NGOs themselves. Harry Cleaver describes how identifying some of the older notions and behaviours of NGOs that made them vulnerable has transformed the concept of civil society and opened the way for alternative ways of organizing.

One such critique has been of an observed tendency for NGOs to become bureaucratic and self-preserving institutions, increasingly operating above and independently from their supporters. This critique parallels similar ones that have been directed at traditional labor unions and political parties by the Zapatistas who have been unusually successful in articulating this critique in ways that have resonated widely through their networks. A second critique has been that such NGOs have cut deals with the state and with business in ways that have betrayed the purposes for which the organizations were formed. Here again, parallels can be drawn with the behavior of 'business' unions and political parties.[33]

The concept of the noosphere is a good starting point to strengthen, strategize and engage civil society in the ecology of imperialist resistance and sustainable diversity, but it is critically handicapped when applied to unifying and understanding the Indigenous global mind. This handicap is a distortion that lies at the heart of the imperialist project, almost completely permeates the infosphere, and is made evident in the hierarchies and silences of cyberspace. The concept of Gaia[34] failed in its attempt to rehabilitate what is, in essence, an amputation of Indigenous spirituality and philosophy from the rest of the world. It did not reflect the diversity and cultural specificities of Indigenous concepts of animism[35] and retreated from its spiritual origin and potential, becoming a lay umbrella term for eco-sciences and the ecological movement. This failure is also reflected in the origins of the idea of the noosphere. It arose from an attempt to create a speciocentric[36] alliance between Christianity and scientific materialism - the foundations of western colonialism, imperialism and globalization.

There is an appropriate place for the noosphere and its constituents, but it is within an interconnected anti-speciocentric constellation of the cosmosphere (astronomic and electromagnetic realms), the geosphere, the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, and the biosphere. All of these are constituents of the Indigenous animasphere,[37] each with diverse and overlapping delegates shaping world views among Indigenous cultures and that form the foundations of their languages and identities. The main project for networked Indigenous art is to reclaim and revision the animasphere with Elders and traditional knowledge in diverse and culturally specific creative action and production. This work must nourish strong networks of knowledge, strategy and life-ways that give Indigenous youth resources to engage with global encroachment from positions of safety, cultural autonomy, creative celebration, critical awareness and culture-affirming sustainable productivity.

The oppressive baggage in the etymologic development of the term noosphere must be critically exposed and transformed with creative examples that reveal the toxic fallacy of its background and the constructive vitality of Indigenous contributions to its definition. This is an essential, ongoing project alongside Indigenous use of deep alliances and shared resources within the noosphere to combat globalized capitalism-the main deterrent for the non-Indigenous world in engaging with the animasphere, and the central destructive force against Indigeneity in general.

Next: Negotiating Between the Animasphere and the Noosphere: Exposing Internalized Colonialism With the Medicine of Networked Indigenous Art

Return to Table of Contents

[25] Ward Churchill, I Am Indigenist: Notes on the Ideology of the Fourth World, Quoted: Winona LaDuke's "Natural to Synthetic and Back Again," the preface to Marxism and Native Americans, op. cit., pp. i-viii.

[26] Is Noogenesis Progressing? By Maria Luiza Glycerio and Janice B. Paulsen, 2002.

[27] Vladimir I. Vernadsky, Wikipedia, 2003.

[28] Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Wikipedia, 2004.

[29] Cyberspace and the Dream of Teilhard de Chardin, John R. Mabry, 1994.

[30] The Emergence of Noopolitik: Toward An American Information Strategy, John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt (eds.), 1999, RAND.

[31] Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy, John Arquilla, David Ronfeldt (eds.), 2001. RAND.

[32] Computer-linked Social Movements and the Global Threat to Capitalism , Harry Cleaver, 1999.

Quoted: Francis Fukuyama, Review of Activists Beyond Borders: Advocacy Networks in International Politics, in Foreign Affairs, Vol. 77, no. 4, July-August 1998, p. 123.

[33] Ibid.

[34] The Gaia Hypothesis proposes that our planet functions as a single organism that maintains conditions necessary for its survival. Formulated by James Lovelock in the mid-1960s and published in a book in 1979, this controversial idea has spawned several interesting ideas and many new areas of research. While this hypothesis is by no means substantiated, it provides many useful lessons about the interaction of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes on Earth. The Gaia Hypothesis, Sean Chamberlin (ed).  Marking Territories, Claire Molloy, 2001 in Limen: Journal for Theory and Practice of Liminal Phenomena, vol. 1.

[35] See note 11.

[36] "Speciesism is now a widely accepted term that articulates a prejudicial attitude toward nonhuman animals in the same way that racism and sexism indicate subordination of particular groups on the basis of race or gender. Richard Ryder (1989) explains "Using the word 'animal' in opposition to the word 'human' is clearly an expression of prejudice" (p.2). Ryder also explains that the term 'nonhuman animal' is appropriate as it expresses a kinship between 'those of my species and others' (p.2)." Marking Territories, Claire Molloy, 2001, Note #5, in Limen: Journal for Theory and Practice of Liminal Phenomena, vol. 1. Quoted: Ryder, R. (1989) Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism, Blackwell, Oxford.

[37] Unrelated to the design demonstration portfolio site 'AnimaSphere' by Kiven at


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