Nomadic Peoples and Nomadic Technologies

I have just returned from the local courthouse here in Umeå where a judgement was announced regarding the right of the local First Nations people, the Sámi to move their reindeer herds over land that is not actually owned by them. Three Sámi villages had mounted a case against local landholders in the Vilhelmina township area. The judgement was made in their favour based on recognition of ancient use of the land. This is relevant to me at that moment (apart from a personal interest) as part of the Sámi-Pygmy Cultures around the Fire project that Billy Marius is making in HUMlab. It also sparked other questions and ideas regarding mobility or nomadism in the 21st century.

The Sámi were not expected to win this case, having lost a similar case in Härjedalen in 2005. There may be appeals but what surprised me was that it possible for a nomadic herding culture to be protected under a contempory system of European law. I wonder if the lifestyle of the reindeer herders is perhaps making a comeback in this century. Following the seasons in order to earn a living is certainly nothing new but now there is technology available that allows geographic location to be included in the equation of income. This may not be by necessity either but rather by choice. An article in a recent Guardian Newspaper expanded on the idea that it is no longer necessary to actually go to work for many people. Looking further a field I have been following the Doors of Perception blog and conferences with growing interest. The “Doors” organisation is concerned with innovative design, particularly in relation to communities in need. The Doors 8 2005 conference last year in Delhi, India paid a lot of attention to the “suitcase entrepreneurs” of Asia who operate business’s out of ….small premises. The question was asked “What infrastructures are needed to enable bottom-up, edge-in social innovation?” in media design. John Thackara, the Director of Doors of Perception stated after the Doors 8 conference that this should be considered around three criteria:
“they should creatively engage the people they are intended for;
they should help people to evaluate the new against the old;
they should help local people retain control over their own resources.”
Reflection On Doors 8 In New Delhi By John Thackara

As another strand to this web there is also the enormous field of mobile learning technologies. Just as two resources in a sea of many we in HUMlab last year hosted Agnes Kukulska-Hulme Senior Lecturer in Educational Technology at the Open University in England. Her experience and vision in mobile learning was inspiring. As well I have been reading the writing and recommendations of Stephen Downes for a couple of years now and the pace of development in mobile technology is evident by his reports. His blog is a rich resource for links and shareware/open source tools.

When I saw the ecstatically happy faces of the Sámi group in the Umeå courthouse today I wondered if something was changing in society. My optimistic self hopes that it is a sign that radically different cultures can live together and that different lifestyles are possible in relatively small spaces. Technology can play a role in this.

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