At its Canadian premier, Dominic Gagnon's Of the North (2015) launched a passionate debate regarding the ethics of image appropriation and digital filmmaking about Indigenous communities. Of the North follows Gagnon's “natively” digital method, which involves the sampling and montage of public domain images and sounds posted by internauts with the stated intent of documenting how people represent themselves online. In a controversy that crystallized around questions of “digital sovereignty,” Inuit critics decried the recontextualization of personal video posts by a film, they argued, that did not promote an Inuit view of Inuit experience. This article addresses the ways in which Gagnon's digital method collapsed cultural contexts, bringing to light divergent cultural and generational expectations regarding digital presence and sovereignty. An analysis of the film's heated reception and new digital works by young Indigenous filmmakers suggests an intercultural ethics for visual ethnographies.
Of Digital Selves and Digital Sovereignty: Of the North
Michelle Stewart is Director of the MFA in Media Arts and Culture and Associate Professor of Cinema Studies, Purchase College–SUNY. With Pam Wilson, she is co-editor of Global Indigenous Media (Duke University Press, 2008). Her latest research addresses digital heritage and digital cinema, especially the ways in which internet art and culture complicate our expectations and standards for self- and cultural representation.
Michelle Stewart; Of Digital Selves and Digital Sovereignty: Of the North. Film Quarterly 1 June 2017; 70 (4): 23–38. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fq.2017.70.4.23
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