One of the organisations we worked with in Roebourne in 2008 was the Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation. The NAC is the formal organisation that represents the Ngarluma people who are one of the traditional owner groups in the Pilbara region. Roebourne is in the heart of Ngarluma country.

While we were working in Roebourne we received a lot of assistance from the Language and Culture Unit of the NAC. Andrew Dowding and Tyson Mowarin are the two NAC team members who we spent some time with during our stay. Their focus at the moment is on creating resources which document the Ngarluma language and they have some exciting projects in the pipeline.

During our time at the NAC we talked a lot with Andrew and Tyson about our mode for using digital media in communities, All Around You online platform. We showed them our prototype and some of our other online projects and we ended up running a short seminar on using online technologies, in particular social media tools. One afternoon Shakthi, Andrew, Tyson and myself sat around a whiteboard and brainstormed some ways that the Ngarluma people could use internet technologies to document their own culture and stories and knowledge.

Andrew and Tyson already gather a lot of important and valuable cultural content as part of their larger projects and we all looked for ways to leverage some of that content in an online context. We came up with a lot of ideas but there were a few really simple ones that we had the chance to prototype with them.

The first idea was using Flickr to create a visual dictionary of plants and animals from Ngarluma country. The titles of the photos would show the names of the plants and animals in Ngarluma with the English names in the captions. It’s a really small simple project but something that could accumulate over a long period of time and become something really cool. The other important part of the project was the low-barrier to entry both in terms of production cost and also effort. Uploading an image with a title and a caption isn’t too tricky. If 10 images get uploaded each week, that’s 520 images at the end of a year. That could be a 520 page visual dictionary in the Ngarluma language which is accessible to kids in local schools but also kids on the other side of the world. The prototype got started that afternoon.

The next idea we ended up prototyping with Andrew and Tyson was another small language resource using short format videos. The idea was to use video as a way to combine the idea of a visual dictionary with audio of the Ngarluma language. Each video would show an object with a voice over asking “What is this?” and then a person naming the object to camera in Ngarluma.

This is the kind of collaboration that gets us really excited because we end up working on ideas that can only come about by combining forces with other groups and cultures and ideas. CuriousWorks and the Ngarluma Aboriginal Corporation will definitely be staying in touch and exchanging more ideas so we’ll keep you up to date on further developments.