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Dr. Flor shares insights on indigenous knowledge research with devcom students

30 July 2012 by RBVillar

By Paoloregel B. Samonte

Dr. Alexander G. Flor, a professor at the UP Open University (UPOU) Faculty of Information and Communication studies and one of the pioneers of the Los Baņos school of development communication, presented his research at the DEVC 299 Graduate Seminar Series on July 26 at the College of Development Communication (CDC) Drama Studio. 

His paper entitled "Inhibiting Factors in Open Access to Indigenous Knowledge and Learning Resources" pursued an inquiry about the possible impacts of technology to indigenous people (IP). This inquiry was propelled by the research assumption that IPs are among the most educationally marginalized in Asia due primarily to access, equity and quality issues. Dr. Flor explained there seems to be a need to develop their capacities to download and share among themselves content from the internet, on which the primary technological intervention was the mobile device.

An advocate of open educational resources, Dr. Flor cited his conviction that knowledge should be free and that all explicit knowledge must be made available on the internet. Thus, indigenous knowledge (IK), shaped by generations of practice and native wisdom, should likewise be made freely available in the Web, especially because it can result in the flattening of generation learning curves. 

"There are many indigenous people who feel their indigenous knowledge is not preserved and that the next generations cannot carry on the torch," explained Dr. Flor. This problem, he added, may be resolved by digitally capturing these indigenous practices.

Employing ethnographic research methods, Dr. Flor, with a research team, trained a group of Bicol-based Aetas under the leadership of their female chieftain to use cellular phones in order for them to record their own indigenous practices. The group spent several days in the area to teach the Aetas specific technological skills such as mobile video capture.

"[We had] a written agreement that they submit six sequences of indigenous practice. [And] after a week, we felt that they were ready," Dr. Flor said.

Eventually, the conduct of the research methodology encountered several intervening variables that block the attempt to acquire open access to IK. These variables are the following: the imperative to honor belief systems; the respect for privacy; prejudice and value judgments; misrepresentation; and institutional protocols protecting the transfer, sharing, and reuse of IK.

Dr. Flor cited that uploading indigenous practices in YouTube would be ethically indefensible and the privacy of IP communities should be respected. In line with this, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) put together a set of legal protocols that determine the proper use of IK. Clearances from the community up to the NCIP are required for the capture, digitization, publication and distribution of IK.

His paper concluded that although IPs are counted among the educationally marginalized communities in Asia, open knowledge resource may not be appropriate, especially because there are valid exceptions against open access to IK that requires ventilation and articulation.

The seminar was attended by several graduate and undergraduate students of the college, and other CDC faculty members.

"The study case is commendable. The fact that the rights of the IPs intervene with our need for the preservation of indigenous knowledge is eye-opening," responded Chenier Nicu Villanueva, BSDC '09 student who attended Dr. Flor's lecture.

This lecture is the third of five lecture seminars of the DEVC 299 Graduate Seminar Series held every Thursday, 4-5pm, at the CDC Drama Studio.