Digital Self-Determination

School of Library and Information Studies to host presentation by Dr. Rob McMahon on 27 January

15 January 2016

Digital Self-Determination: Indigenous Peoples and the Network Society in Canada

27 January 2016

12:00 - 1:00 pm

School of Library and Information Studies

Room 3-22 Rutherford South (UAlberta Main Campus)

Dr. Rob McMahon, Assistant Professor, aculty of Extension, University of Alberta


The Government of Canada is promoting digital technologies as drivers for innovation and development. But far from the urban south, many Indigenous communities are struggling to participate in these opportunities. Indigenous people, whether they live in urban centres or in their traditional territories, continue to be impacted by the legacies and ongoing effects of settler colonialism. In remote and rural First Nations, these challenges are compounded by a lack of equitable access to public services and the transportation, electrical, and com-munications infrastructures that southern residents take for granted.

Against these formidable odds, Indigenous peoples are creatively shaping their digital

futures in ways that provide strong lessons for contemporary global challenges of austerity, resilience and sustainability. By ensuring that development initiatives put communities first, they are demonstrating how information and communication technologies can be used to interrogate inequalities, drive community development, and create meaningful employ-ment. Drawing on community-based research, communication theory, and Indigenous scholarship, I show how these activities provide new insights into how Indigenous peoples are encoding aspects of self-determination in the emerging technologies of the 21st century. More broadly, they demonstrate how we can shape these tools to better meet the needs of our communities


Dr. Rob McMahon is a new Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Extension at the University of Alberta, where he teaches in the Master of Arts in Communications and Technology (MACT) program. Rob's research focuses on the appropriation of broadband and Internet technologies by First Nations and Inuit communities. His fieldwork in rural and remote villages in northern regions of Canada highlights the many innovations taking place at the so-called 'peripheries' of the emerging network society. Rob is part of a team of university-based and community-based researchers who collaborate across all stages of re-search - including through a website where they share digital adoption strategies and successes through stories and videos (see: Rob is a co-investigator with the First Nations Innovation Project at the University of New Brunswick, and co-founded the First Mile Connectivity Consortium, a national association of community-based Indigenous broadband providers.