Canadian Inuit, digital Qanuqtuurunnarniq, and emerging geographic imaginations
Abstract Using the Canadian Arctic as a case study this paper explores how Internet-based research can be used to advance area studies in an era of rapid global change. Regions of the world are rapidly changing due to social, technological, and environmental processes, and traditionally marginalized groups are increasingly using digital tools to help shape new geographical imaginations of these regions. Digital research is uniquely capable of analyzing these political uses of digital technologies, to produce a better understanding of how many different stakeholders are shaping emerging geographical imaginations. The Canadian Arctic offers a particularly powerful case study to understand these processes both because it represents a geographic region that is complex, multi-scalar, and rapidly evolving, and also because it is a region in which traditionally marginalized indigenous groups are using the Internet to increase the visibility of their perspectives. This paper develops an innovative methodology, combining computational analysis of ‘big data’ along with traditional forms of qualitative analysis, to analyze representations of the Arctic across the websites of five different organizations. These organizational websites were chosen because each of the organizations has a different relationship to the Arctic, operates at a different geographic scale, has some relevance to areas of the Canadian Arctic in which Inuit live, and has a large website. The analysis successfully reveals how these different organizations use the web to shape different types of geographic imaginations of the Arctic, as well as the types of discursive politics being used by the organizations to push forward their own political goals. The result is a powerful form of area studies capable of highlighting the geographic imaginations and re-imaginations of a complex set of actors operating at many different scales.
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