Houston Wood (University of Hawaii), 'Hawaiians in Cyberspace'

There has been much speculation about the future impact that cyberspatial communications will have on postcolonial indigenous cultures. This paper attempts to test some of this speculation against the reality of currently existing or planned uses of the internet by Native Hawaiians. Hawaii may provide a valuable model for some of the ways that other indigenous peoples may one day also use the internet as Native Hawaiians begin with a two-fold head start. Most of them are fluent in English, currently the dominant language of cyberspace, and most live where access to networked computers is relatively easy.

I look first at the specific example of the Nation of Hawaii, a Native Hawaiian sovereignty group that has made extensive use of the internet for over two years. My focus is particularly on the imprisonment and repeated trials of the leader of this group, Bumpy Kanahele. I examine how the Nation of Hawaii has used the internet to pursue three aims: to improve communication among Native Hawaiians, to establish supportive networks with indigenous people throughout the world, and to disseminate representations of Kanaheles trial and other Native activities that oppose the hegemonic representations offered in the mass media.

The second half of this study examines the claim that cyberspace is headed toward the substitution of speech for texts. I analyze several characteristics of hypermedia speech-texts, including their tendency to encourage multivocality, open-endedness, multilinear organization, and a fundamental reconfiguration of authorship. I analyze each of these in light of the centrality of taro, a rhizome, and of rhizomatic metaphors to indigenous Hawaiian thought and culture. I conclude that Native Hawaiian rhizomatic thinking is finding it easier to evolve and to represent itself in cyberspace than it ever did in such earlier Euroamerican forms as writing, film, photography and print.

The full paper.

Abstracts of other papers (by short titles):
Come into My Web | Becoming Modern | Calligraphy and Dialogics | Virtual Spaces | Internet & English

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