La Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE) and La Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana (CONFENIAE) online and on-the-ground: representational choices and Indigenous media sovereignty




Hagestedt, Elizabeth

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The development of new Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) has influenced all aspects of communication and representation, altering the ways in which humans interact on a daily basis. Within politics and rights activism, where many issues overlap and representational needs develop and change from one day to the next, these changes are particularly noteworthy. The use of ICTs, particularly social media and mobile technologies, has been widespread in popular protests around the world, and has become an effective aid in the organizing and implementing of large-scale rights campaigns. Indigenous organizations in Ecuador, like those in other parts of the world, have actively adopted new ICTs as they have become available, utilizing websites, social media and mobile applications to connect with members and supporters. Using these technologies requires careful consideration of a wide range of issues, however, such as best practices to ensure inclusive representation, how to overcome infrastructure challenges, how to develop skills for creating high quality media, and how to control and shape messaging through social media. This dissertation analyzes the example of two of these organizations, La Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas del Ecuador (CONAIE) and La Confederación de Nacionalidades Indígenas de la Amazonía Ecuatoriana (CONFENIAE), each of which represents a large number of Indigenous peoples through a carefully developed communications plan. While firmly based in anthropological literature on representation and media sovereignty, this work pulls from a wide range of disciplines, including Latin American organizational and communications scholars. Drawing from two fieldwork trips to Ecuador from September 2016 to February 2017 and October to December 2017, as well as data collection conducted online throughout that time period, this research takes a broad approach that combines traditional ethnographic, participatory, visual and digital methodologies. These diverse methods led to the development of a broad work with many interwoven layers, which includes chapters examining online communication structure, the example of a social media campaign, discussion of networking, and the relationship between online and on-the-ground actions. The visual and participatory methodologies led to a chapter discussing the development of a series of photovoice workshops with CONFENIAE, which provided an opportunity for the organization to increase the photography skills of their members and begin the creation of an online communication team. Through these various threads, this dissertation broadly examines the representational choices that CONAIE and CONFENIAE make in the course of developing their communication plans, including the ways that websites and social media can be used to supplement campaigns while remaining anchored in on-the-ground actions.



online communication, indigenous peoples, Ecuador, visual media, representation