Entanglements of digital technologies and Indigenous language work in the Northern Territory

  • Catherine Bow

    Student thesis: Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) - CDU


    This thesis addresses the question of what happens when digital language resources are developed and become entangled with different types of language work in Indigenous languages of Australia's Northern Territory. It explores three specific sociotechnical assemblages, defined as heterogeneous sets of social and technical resources functioning together for various purposes. The types of language work that emerged were the role of language in practices of documentation, pedagogy and identity-making.

    The three projects under consideration respond to different motivations: the Living Archive of Aboriginal Languages is a digital archive of endangered literature in languages of the Northern Territory, motivated by a concern for the fate of materials produced in bilingual education programs in remote schools. The Digital Language Shell is a resource for developing and mobilising curricula in Indigenous languages and cultures, motivated by a need for a low-cost and low-tech template for sharing content under Indigenous authority. The Bininj Kunwok online course is a specific implementation of the Digital Language Shell, teaching an Indigenous language of West Arnhem land in a university context. Each project was created by the author working collaboratively with different teams, to support various types of language work.

    This PhD by publication offers a set of seven academic papers, each focusing on different aspects of the projects, and written for distinct audiences. The methods entailed iterative inquiry, as I reflected on my work as project manager in developing these digital resources, first addressing the technical and practical considerations, then through the lenses of various academic disciplines, and finally in a meta-analysis of the various heterogeneous elements that make up the research. The thesis emerges as an assemblage of heterogeneities – projects, papers, concepts, academic references, and auto-ethnographic stories – that is in itself a sociotechnical assemblage.
    Date of AwardNov 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorMichael Christie (Supervisor), Helen Verran (Supervisor), Jane Simpson (Supervisor) & Susy Macqueen (Supervisor)

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