I've been told many times over the past 3 years that Indigenous augmented reality projects are a great idea, but unlikely to succeed. That I would be unlikely to attract funding to deliver the project, and that I would be unlikely to succeed in working with Indigenous people to develop products that are attractive to the consumer market.
At this point it would be very easy and cathartic to dedicate my time to the challenges involved in being a female Indigenous founder of a tech start-up, creating Indigenous driven tech products. The times in the foetal position on the floor, the times I've faced straight up sexism and racism on this journey so far, and the never-ending financial brutality and risk associated with my venture. Not to mention the degree of myth busting I do on a daily basis when I'm confronted with the pervasive 'Indigenous People don't use technology' statement. I'm sure there's a book in there somewhere and I'm sure I will never write it because there is so much more to be written on what has worked instead.
Indigital CEO Mik Jade, with Senior Bininj Kunwaral Children's Ground Artists Graham Rostron (holding Yok Yok Dreaming) and Abel Narborlhborlh. Yok Yok is the next augmented reality experience character.
The Senior Artists and Traditional Custodians that I have been working with in Kakadu are stellar examples of why the idea of a remotely based digital Indigenous-created economy is already working. We have demonstrated that a small initial investment in a working prototype has major benefits that should be further explored as a new model for digital inclusion.
In addition to the upfront work our company has done to ensure Indigenous Cultural and Intellectual Property and Moral Rights are protected in the digital environment, our process works because:
All our work is Indigenous owned and led using a principle-driven design process (thanks for reminding me of the words here Rob Fitzgerald!)
Our project teams are inclusive of diversity - that is, non-Indigenous people from around the world also work on the team and we respectfully find ways to cross-culturally communicate the building of dreams into tangible products
Our project teams are driven by code-switchers who understand in intimate detail the ins and outs of the technology we are using, and are available to us
Our project teams self select to participate around a loose concept rather than a hard nosed project plan with a defined budget and outcomes. It’s always an experiment, and this is agreed upon when people join the team
The project and get together’s around the project are always possibility and future-focussed - it’s a fun time working together as we invent new futures
The project team decide what technology to use, how it will be used and they invent ways to use the technology to achieve the vision for their product that is in their mind’s eye
The project team are self-paced (our work has been very quick so far)
The project teams negotiate their pay rates with Indigital
The project teams negotiate their benefits from the sale of products with Indigital for on-going financial outcomes to themselves and thier community
The project teams appreciate, understand and use analytics, but we aren’t obsessed by them because our measures of success aren’t only numerical
Yesterday I was overwhelmed to the point of tears by the professionalism, creativity and drive of the Senior Artists of Bininj Kunwaral Children's Ground in developing this cutting edge AR project.
When we filmed the actions, songs and voice of the AR character Namande with Senior Artist Neville Namarnyilk in the recording studio it was hard not to smile at the teenage boys hopping up the wall to try and see through the tall window what Neville was doing. People want to be a part of what we are all doing.
I can tell you Neville’s characterisation of Namande is powerful, charismatic and to be respected - I can see why he drew a large crowd. It is going to be a very special experience for those who download the app! Thank you Neville - your work is incredible.
We've worked hard to have attracted enough funding from the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet to see our 2 apps released into the consumer market for their chance to fly, and we've created a real and working financial economy in Kakadu. I overwhelmingly state we are winning, and the small Dept PMC investment is paying dividends in this community.
We have a second beta AR app that is working in remote areas without the internet. We have created AR experiences on artworks, cultural objects and cultural places. We have a growing list of pre-orders for our products - the consumer market is responding positively. Everyone is being paid fairly for their work , and everyone will benefit from the sale of the products into the future.
It's not the typical way of operating a business, but this way of working works. It works quickly because it’s inspiring and makes our teams want to work in better ways together. It draws on the personal and collaborative strengths of the team, and includes the community.
I’m most proud of the fact that our project changes the overdone conversations foisted upon our communities about deficit and welfare to innovation, creativity and wealth drawn from cultural ways.
We aren’t worrying about what can’t be done in the eyes of others. We’re doing it anyway, and having a great time in the process.