Indigo Holcombe James is one of the passionate and creative team members that help make Kalinya happen. Indigo is a social media researcher who is interested in the roles played by whiteness and privilege.
Tell us about yourself, where did you grow up?
I was born in North-West New South Wales, in a tiny little town called Wee Waa. It’s where my mother was born, and where much of her family still is, although we didn’t spend long there. We moved around a lot until I turned twelve and we ended up in Launceston, Tasmania. My parents and younger siblings are still there, but once I finished uni I headed to Europe on a backpacking trip and moved to Melbourne on my return. I’ve been here for four years now.
What is your role with Kalinya?
I work with Kalinya on research. This can all be pretty varied – from figuring out what cutting edge social media theorists are saying about concepts like the filter bubble and how this can be applied to Kalinya work, to developing evaluation frameworks, and writing project proposals.
What sparked your interest in social media and online communities?
I’ve always been interested in how people communicate to tell their stories and to gather. The development of social media and web 2.0 technologies have created infrastructures and platforms for these processes to occur at faster rates, and across broader populations, than ever before. This is all super exciting but has a bunch of implications (and caveats) that I think we sometimes forget to look at – and that’s where (I’d like to think) my research comes in.
Aboriginal and other Ethnic communities are huge content producers but in your studies you have found staffing at social media corporations are overwhelmingly White, can you tell us more about this?
So, a bunch of theorists reckon that the advent of social media means that historically marginalized populations are now being provided with platforms and opportunities to have voices heard by the majority. They point to examples of use, like in the Arab Spring in 2011, to prove their point about emancipatory possibilities.
These things are all positive, and true, I think. But maybe only to an extent.
Facebook and Twitter are massive companies, but their employment statistics clearly demonstrate a lack of diversity. Each are staffed and run by an overwhelming majority of white people (and of these, most are men). A bunch of other theorists have proven that when companies hire from one demographic, innovation is stymied, and outcomes are restricted. Social media platforms serve white interests because they’re made by white people.
As a white person, I think it’s pretty important to take on a portion of the emotional labour to engage with and critique these structures, and that’s where my research sits.
You are currently completing your PhD, what are you studying?
My research looks at social media and ICT infrastructures as an extension of white privilege, and works particularly with the Australian context of remote communities. A combination of colonialism and the incredible vastness of this country has created a unique market failure that restricts ICT access. This has a range of implications that I’m working to try and figure out.