Navigating Digital Currents: Reflections on the Webinar Weaving Waters

Navigating Digital Currents: Reflections on the Webinar Weaving Waters

Greetings world friends!

On November 22nd, the RIVERS team embarked on a thrilling digital odyssey, proudly presenting the “Weaving Waters: Navigating Digital Streams through Indigenous Knowledge and Podcasting” webinar. Joining forces were myself, Ana Paula García Nieto, and Digno Montalbán Zambrano from ERC RIVERS – UC3M. A special nod to our language virtuosos, Lars Ӑkerson and Daniela Cabascango, who seamlessly translated the magic from Spanish to English.

Now, let’s dive into the heart of the matter. The webinar had a dual mission – launching the Weaving Waters podcast series, a global chorus of Indigenous voices discussing rights issues, and delving into the vast sea of opportunities and challenges in the (co-)creation, transmission, and curation of knowledge within the digital cosmos.

We were honored to host an extraordinary lineup of panelists hailing from Nepal, Guatemala, the USA, Denmark, and Myanmar: * Ian M. Cook from Allegra Lab, UK, Podcasting Scholar consultant; * Wendy Geraldina de los Angeles López Rosales, a lawyer, notary, and advocate for Maya Kaqchikel community rights in Guatemala; *Shankar Limbu, a human rights lawyer from the Lawyers’ Association for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples of Nepal (LAHURNIP); * Maria del Rosario Sul Gonzalez, Maya Kaqchikel, and manager of the Indigenous Rights Radio program of Cultural Survival, USA; * David Nathaniel Berger, the coordinator of the Indigenous Navigator program of IWGIA, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs in Denmark; *Jonathan Liljeblad, representing the Pa’Oh Indigenous people in Myanmar and an Associate Professor at the Australian National University (ANU).

This select group of panelists shared their expertise in navigating the digital currents of knowledge co-creation, providing a rich fabric of colorful insights.

A Digital Platform for South-South Dialogue

The Weaving Waters podcast series acts as a sonic fabric, weaving together diverse voices from filmmakers, judges, lawyers, journalists, and academics belonging to the world’s Indigenous Peoples. The podcasts and webinar Navigating Digital Currents are the platforms that facilitate South-South dialogues.

Digital spaces have reshaped global connectivity, allowing knowledge to traverse continents in the blink of an eye. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the growth of digital media, creating opportunities for novel approaches to knowledge co-production and strategic dissemination. This is why it made sense for RIVERS to embrace podcasting as a means of communicating research results. In doing so, the RIVERS team became attuned to pivotal questions regarding knowledge management, intellectual property, and ethics that require reconsideration in the face of a new reality – one defined by high-speed digital interactions on a global scale.

We then came up with the idea to capitalize on the podcast launching by organizing a roundtable discussion. The aim was to kickstart a conversation about the challenges, possibilities, and potential of digital media, focusing not only on disseminating knowledge to the general public but specifically on strategically channeling and co-producing content with key stakeholders. These stakeholders include Indigenous communities, academia, and professionals in law or justice practitioners.

Here are some of the thought-provoking questions we tackled:

  • How can podcasting contribute to scholarly knowledge production and reshape its connection with Western-based epistemic traditions?
  • In what ways can academic podcasts deliver pertinent information to Indigenous communities?
  • Can digital media, including podcasts, effectively bridge communication gaps among lawyers in remote Indigenous communities in the Global South?
  • What is the impact of high-speed digital media on advocacy in international arenas?
  • How are Indigenous organizations utilizing tools to navigate digital currents and challenge dominant Western epistemologies in the 21st century?

Insurgent and Counter Hegemonic Epistemologies

Insights from our panelists reveal that while digital media, including podcasts, is not a panacea nor isn’t a cure-all, it introduces innovative and somewhat insurgent approaches to knowledge production and dissemination. Academic podcasting, which actively involves Indigenous voices in a South-South dialogue, empowers Indigenous Peoples to recognize common struggles, global systemic and structural issues, and facilitates the exchange of (legal) experiences, knowledge, mutual support, and the learning of legal strategies and techniques.

Furthermore, Cultural Survival enlightened us about the existing landscape of academic podcasting within Indigenous communities through community radio. Ongoing training and support initiatives aim to enhance the quality standards of productions on the ground. Significantly, young individuals and women are taking the lead in digital media communications within their communities.

Community radio and podcasting serve not only as a medium for transmitting knowledge but also operate in a counter-hegemonic manner. This demonstrates that Indigenous Peoples are not mere passive recipients but active contributors to knowledge co-creation in the digital space, challenging Eurocentric epistemologies through practice and actions.

Our engagement with international organizations, such as IWGIA, brought to light tools like the Indigenous Navigator designed for knowledge dissemination. This tool, nurtured by collaborative efforts among Indigenous Peoples and their organizations, integrates a diverse array of knowledge systems, empowering Indigenous Peoples to assert their rights.

Addressing intellectual rights issues, this platform sets an example by demonstrating the possibility of engaging in knowledge curation while respecting the rights of communities to control and maintain ownership of data in the digital world of the 21st century.

Voices on Digital Media’s Impact on Knowledge Production

As a sneak peek, I’m thrilled to share with all of you some extracts from the insights our panelists shared. These excerpts are meant to spark your interest and hopefully inspire you to tune in and listen to the full recording of our webinar Navigating Digital Currents.

Ian M. Cook, Allegra Lab:

“Just by putting somebody together on a podcast doesn’t mean they’re equal. Of course, there’s a work of creating authority the same way we do with our writing. You also do that with a podcast as well. But nevertheless, I still think there’s new and exciting ways in which we can mess with these traditional structures of authority within the knowledge that we produce.”

Wendy G. Rosales, Indigenous Lawyer:

“I really want to emphasize the elementary and important role of women in the fight of human rights and also natural resources. Because, they don’t not only play a role in knowledge transmission, but also in creating bonds and fabrics of solidarity, friendship…”

Shankar Limbu, LAHURNIP:

“It is very important to have this kind of south to south dialogue with the lawyers. I guess this is a very good initiative, and then this can be a bedrock to defend the Indigenous People’s right to ensure social justice, and also educate the Indigenous Peoples. Particularly, not only, to the community, but also to the court and also the policymakers as well.”

Rosario Sul, Cultural Survival:

“We have had some communities that are working on communication and doing it not only in their Indigenous language, but in a trilingual way, in English, Spanish and in their Indigenous language….. And yes, we have to admit that many times it is the communities that are teaching us.”

David Berger, IWGIA:

“It’s also crucial to recognize the data ownership behind the initiative and the firm commitment of the Indigenous Navigator to Indigenous data sovereignty. The data is owned and controlled by the communities and the navigator as a platform and as a consortium are only custodians.”

Jonathan Liljeblad:

“[T]he danger is that Indigenous knowledge can be decontextualized, that if you take Indigenous knowledge away and present it to the world without an Indigenous person and away from the place of origin, the original traditional territory … it certainly loses meaning.”

Ready to unravel the full fabric of Weaving Waters? Tune in to the recording of our webinar [here]

Enjoy navigating the digital currents!


Manuel May – Postdoctoral Researcher at RIVERS project (Universidad Carlos III de Madrid)

Ana Garcia