Reflections on a Semester at the GCRC, Carleton University, Canada

In July 2012 I was invited by Professor D.R.F Taylor  to work on a cybercartographic atlas of Baffin Island, Nunavut, as a Visiting Researcher, at the Geomatics and Cartographic Research Centre (GCRC) at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.

I was intrigued by the cybercartographic atlases due to their bottom-up approach and because they are community driven and owned. In the creation of these atlases, the process of making the map is much more important than the actual product. The Cybercartographic Atlas Framework offers an appealing multimedia interface for communities to communicate their own socio-economic reality (e.g. Inuit SIKU (sea ice) Atlas, Kitikmeot Place Name Atlas1st Lake Huron Treaty Atlas). However, converting Traditional Knowledge (TK) in digital content raises a lot of issues regarding intellectual and cultural property, privacy and prior and informed consent. How can we, as researchers, guarantee participants the protection of privacy in the online world? How can we ensure that TK is not misused? These were some of the crucial questions which were raised at the workshop on  Mapping the Legal Boundaries of Digital Cartography, moderated by Dr Tracey Lauriault (GCRC).

Ottawa, Canada

There was a wide recognition that, for doing research with indigenous communities, we need to improve existing ethical codes of practices. This will require us to move beyond traditional ethical consent forms. It calls for ethical advances that capture the need to protect TK in the online world. Collaborative partnerships with communities as well as flexible technologies (e.g. Nunaliit–  a cartographic software designed to create maps based on TK) are urgently required to meet the challenges of converting TK into digitized forms. These are issues which researchers working with communities, regardless of their field of study, should always keep in mind.

I am extremely grateful to all the Professors/researchers at Carleton University who took the time to give me constructive feedback on my research. Namely, Claudio Aporta, Gita Ljubicic, Douglas King, J.P. Fiset, Derek Smith, Amos Hayes, D.R.F. Taylor, Peter Pulsifier, Sebastien Caquard, Glenn Brauen, Stephanie Pyne, Tracey Lauriault, Tina Priest and Nate Engler (in no particular order).  And, to Romola Vasantha Thumbadoo for introducing me to the wisdom of Algonquin Elder Grandfather William Commanda. Legends Never Die!

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