Talk, Text and Technology in Remote Indigenous Australia

Multilingual Matters author Inge Kral’s book Talk, Text and Technology is published this week and here she explains a little about how the book came about. 

I have worked in remote Aboriginal Australia for more than 20 years as an educator and researcher. I worked with the Ngaanyatjarra Lands communities in the isolated desert region of Western Australia on education, language and literacy projects before, during, and after, undertaking research for Talk, Text and Technology. Importantly, this foundation allowed me to develop the kind of collaborative relationships with people that made this ethnographic study possible.

By having a long-term perspective on Indigenous education and by developing deep relationships with Aboriginal people, I knew that the literacy story was more nuanced and complex than was typically depicted in media and public policy accounts of literacy in the remote Indigenous sector. I deliberately chose to use a lifespan perspective that addressed the social, cultural, ideological and economic contingencies that have enabled (or disabled) literate practices in everyday life, as well as fine-grained ethnography in order to give voice to Aboriginal people’s own perspectives and experiences.

Young people’s early engagement with digital technologies

The case study setting is unique. I was fortunate enough to encounter an extraordinary confluence of factors when embarking on this study of literacy as social practice. Not only was I able to gather stories from those who had made the transition from oral to literate modes of communication, I also witnessed the arrival of digital technologies and was able to document this profound change. During the time that I did fieldwork, intermittently from around 2003 to 2010, I was able to observe and interview Ngaanyatjarra people whose experiences spanned the entire spectrum of the encounter with alphabetic and now digital literacies. From the very old who were born into the traditional hunter-gatherer existence whose first experiences of the white man’s world was the mission school at Warburton Ranges, to the current youth generation who have grown up in a world where computers, the internet, and digital technology are the norm. A case study such as this throws the spotlight not only on literacy, but also on the infinite human capacity for learning and for adoption of, and adaption to, change no matter what social or cultural context.

For further information on Inge’s book Talk, Text and Technology please take a look at our website.