Connecting With Place

Connecting with place means living with one eye on the present moment and the other hovering around looking back and trying to avoid making new mistakes. It means that the world can be our ‘place’, that our birthplace never changes nor does the tie to moral culture restrict us to enacting, living out the expectation of others to conform to their own control structure. 

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Dreaming Our Reality

I have just watched Aboriginal Nyikina Elder, Paddy Roe speaking with Frans Hoogland in the short film which was directed by David Maybury Lewis in 1992 called ‘Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World’.

It’s in a grainy 4:3 format as it was produced for Canadian television with a long list of co-distributors including Biniman Productions Ltd; Adrian Malone Productions Ltd; KCET; BBC TV; The Global Television Network; Rogers Telefund; Telefilm Canada.

Maybury-Lewis, D., 1992. Millennium: Tribal Wisdom and the Modern World, Canada: Adrian Malone Productions Ltd; KCET; BBC TV; The Global Television Network; Rogers Telefund; Telefilm Canada.

{ Millenium Series - Paddy Roe > quote that segment from Paddy talking with Franz }

You must understand it this way, as Paddy and Frans are not in any way a natural fit. 

The conversation between Paddy Roe and Frans Hoogland opens up the most cogent examples of how we can connect the loss of human spirit as a result of the abstraction of living amongst computational intervention. In other words, location is about land, Country speaking into people, not location as computational place marker, rather an instinctual relatedness with the geomorphology and biosphere in which humans exist.

Frans speaks of the holistic expansion of the universe from a physics analogy, an “awareness"  that despite all that western society has tried in abstraction, it is already, always has been, in totality the dreaming that Aboriginal Australians speak of. For example, instead of a boundary marker denoting what is ‘their’ land and what is ‘our’ land as is customary in Western society Aboriginal communities ‘know’ the boundary through an awareness in fluidity as to where those boundaries exist, an instinctual relationship with Country.

The concept of Native Title as it is known in Australia is therefore “white" man speak and is just acts of parliament that force first nations into compromise and with no right of veto for what will occur to themselves and the Country on which they live. The only outcome that Native Title provides is income for a minority who separate themselves from all others who reinforce they are entitled to live on their Country undisturbed, yet in reality mining and rampant destruction of their culture, communities and country continues unabated. 

 In this short film Paddy Roe speaks of how Frans "gets it" or has the capability of being and carrying story forward, as a element of transmergy, like a virus. This whole story Paddy emphasises needs to be spoken of by those who are in ‘essence’ that carry that ‘liyan’ which is a term that most intercultural understandings relate as our ‘instinct’, our own individual moral compass.

The Aboriginal dreaming Paddy explains is the relatedness between people, law and land and that Frans Hoogland became a carrier. The manner in which this knowledge is transposed is that Paddy spoke that into Frans, the past, present and future as spatio-temporal fusion.

This awareness of living and connecting, knowing and being on Country, is together in one ever present reality, not segments of knowledge. So, location is shown here to be critical, in the most accessible way with no satellites, no tracking, no GPS, no GIS, no devices, no networks……

Aboriginal people have for tens of thousands of years by listening and observing known exactly what was happening around themselves, by looking at patterns and shift in patterns across nature. We could get lost on the mythological language barriers however the lines and the story that Paddy draws into the sand to describe how Frans was allowed to hear story is about parallels, not homogeny and a way of being a human existing without colonisation.

The end of the film depicts the two men walking together in their Dreaming as Paddy relates, walking in that dream and that the Dreaming manifests itself in what we put out before ourselves as a humanity. Frans goes to great lengths in the film to reinforce that instead of following the road as we commonly relate in life that it is there already and that we are sending that out ahead of ourselves.

In summary, in western culture humans are obliged to follow a certain path whereas Paddy is relating that humans dream their own lifeworld path forward and it becomes reality. That will be the centre and fullest message that my PhD could ever hope to realise, that we have a freedom to dream our way forward and that all of these western ways of paths to follow are nothing more than illusions.

Sleepwalking through society by contrast comes with a loss of instinct and those who choose to ignore that loss do so at their own peril.

As it is all about location, time and circumstance it is that there is a massive gap here in the social and ethical listening to story....different law....different altogether as Paddy states. With emphasis that point is laboured and by doing so Paddy points to difference as the way out, not homogeneity as the way forward.

As I relate what Paddy Roe has to say in this film with my own research I equate the concepts that Paddy speaks of with deep listening. The converse position will be disastrous for humanity if engineers don’t listen to any more than a western science fiction. As Paddy and Frans relate in listening to Country and being connected fully with our own liyan, humans will come to the realisation that the technology is US, not separate to us. In essence, - humans are responsible for ensuring that humans listen to more than an empty western dream as the way forward.

As humans we can learn from the wisdom of those who have a deep connection to Country, who recognise that we manifest what we dream. In dreaming we bring to creation, not just lockstep in following technology that takes us away from reality, knowing that loss of reality denies us of the opportunity of dreaming that reality.

Implantable Technology

“... On the eve of my flight out in a few hours time to Broome, Western Australia from my home in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory as a Researcher I now reflect on recent news regarding the proliferation of implantable technology sweeping across medical, banking & finance, insurance and social services sectors in the world.”  

On Singularity

If Singularity was a supposed benefit to humanity then why are we all losing our ability to see, hear and feel our way forward as human beings?

I suspect that it is far more insidious than the Singularity nirvana we are being told is technology led and determined. How about we work away from that idea and actually focus on humanity rather rather another brand and corporation mantra?

I’m thinking that this utopia of corporation led upgrades, super-size-me's is all a farce and that the dichotomy between the haves and have-nots is wider than ever…that those alienated from digital connection as oppressed further by virtue of a need to eliminate this not technology corporation controlled.

So from these observances I posit that technology is at fault in many of the ways in which we now attempt to relate (as different to connection).

It is apparent to me I’m also aware of digital technology skepticism as a treated like a chronic medical condition, so, as a Researcher I have to somehow straddle the fence and say everything is a mosaic of greys, not a billion pixel black nor white. 

To acknowledge something new in our lives we must it seems resist, put the camera phone down, be conscious to breathing, to patterns in nature, to detox and feed our brains with stillness. Quite unlike what our would be Gods of the fake spiritual club would be telling us. Both previous sentences would suggest I have a position of this topic and others would claim an outright and abject bias.

I didn’t pick the fight, simply have a personal opinion which seems it places me on a specific side.

The position of technology at fault, that of eradicating humanity and replacing ourselves in the midst of that which we are not suggests we may have to give up trying to make a change and yet as I know all it takes is in listening in on our own feelings when we scroll through Facebook posts, Twitter messages and countless emails only to feel empty and sad thereafter. 

A Singularity of mapped nodes in a network of quantified nothing seems as far from what humans need right now as we strip, rape and pillage the very environment of which sustains us and for how long? Computational zillions of zeros and ones all stacked up to extinguish the Anthropocene and thats a good thing?

I think there is a lot to be said here about the way traditional members of the Australian Aboriginal community disregard digital connections in preference for country led thinking and learning “on country” as it is described. Paddy Roe, Nyikina elder and Traditional Custodian posits that to survive we can’t live a life where we abandon dreaming our way forward that is country connected.

Not a hypothetical rather a manifestation of what exists in absolute reality.

Likewise Nyikina elder and Traditional Custodian Dr. Anne Poelina also suggests that these very technologies we pinned such great hopes on pulling communities out of poverty as nothing more that an edifice, an archetype and remnant of tools so insidious as to be irrelevant to culture, merely a distraction. 

"...Technologies cause us to be automatic, not realistic, They cause us to stop knowing our liyan, our instinct. They stop us knowing ourselves." 

Dr. Anne Poelina, Nyikina Elder, Fitzroy River, Kimberley Region, Australia - Balkinjirr Community - 18 April, 2016

Bringing into focus technology that is for humanity means acknowledging the social and ethical implications these BWC technologies have upon humanity, not simply a slogan that posits a determinism defined by the technology created by a few to rule and lord over many.

The Liminal Self

The following is what I'd originally written in defense of using the term 'I' or first person in my thesis. This decision was soon changed as I learned of the myriad of issues writing in first person causes for examiners and supervisors alike.

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Reluctance Of Interviewees

I’ve now compiled a detailed list of the interviewees (confirmed participants) and the general setup, tools, backups and so on.

To do’s;

  • Write about the ‘reluctance’ of interviewees including [ removed ] who declined to be interviewed;

  • [ removed ] was repeatedly not contactable despite immediate response for all IASTAS’13 preparations through his PR team;

  • Those who didn't wish to be identified for cultural, privacy and personal security reasons;

  • Those who didn't wish to be recorded ie. Professor Teemu Leinonen;

  • Those who wanted everything to be transmitted live rather than a written transcript!

As per my conversation as Researcher with [ removed ] about those who don’t wish to be identified, well it isn’t ideal at all !!

This creates an awareness for the Researcher that will be written into the Interview chapter, that of the reluctance of people to engage in formal discourse where they could be seen to be speaking "away" from their own socio-technocratic indulgent selves. It often happens with those people under constraint of their employer, their position in government and their own personal lives which hinge on them having a technology permeated existence on an hour by hour basis.

The Researcher gets them aside to have a conversation and ask them the drilling questions that I have and what does it reveal? It reveals that they have in fact great reservations about technology and its impact on their own lives and yet they contradict themselves and trip over their own position when it comes to standing by what they said in a probing interview.

Fair Game For The Same

I am sitting here in Broome, Western Australia next to a young Aboriginal Nyikina man who is wearing a GPS anklet bracelet which confines him to the city limits of this small and isolated city in the far north west of the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

I question myself, “…where are the papers written about the Aboriginal Australian’s in the context of colonisation of “body” by technological intervention (ie. the trajectory of ankle bracelets to the implantable) ?”

The room is bare except for a few mattresses and a huge television from which an Xbox gaming console is attached. An old woman lives in the same house and there is nothing to end in the fridge except a three quarter empty plastic container of Black & Gold margarine. To buy anything more means visiting the local service station that charges fifty percent more for every item other than cigarettes and Coca-Cola.   

The only way to purchase anything is with cash of the welfare ID card. I sit and listen outside with the old people on the front balcony to stories of hope and resilience despite the absolute carnage these human people suffer through on a daily basis.  

It occurs to me to ask myself as a researcher, in observance of human people simply struggling to cope with technologically facilitated genocide, to what degree does the State, the Government and more importantly the corporations who mine this country intend using these technologies against these very people? In observations of those humans in other parts of the world who wish to use this technology as a convenience by which to expediently and efficiently navigate and identify by in their lives, I sweat in the topics wondering how long it will be before all humans are subject to even the most “dumb” implantable to track, trace and trigger intervention in their lives.

To me it seems that the next level of intervention is not just of the lands that a community lives on, not the the possession of assets or control of movement of individuals but a colonisation of their own human transdermal state ie. implantable technology.

My partner points me to a book upon my return home, Joe Nangan’s Dreaming, and I turn to page 8 which contains a quote, “…because it was not tilled or harvested or grazed in European agricultural style it was considered ‘empty’ and available. The Government of the time recognised no Aboriginal land rights and encouraged the taking up of land for pastoral use.” 

It now begs the question whether what I am observing as a Researcher is now tied to the same concept where the ‘land’ is now the human body, that if the body is not being used productively then it is ‘fair game for the same’ and exploited by corporations and Government.  


I've avoided writing on this topic until now mainly out of respect for my amazing partner but also that its taken me almost two years to actually grasp....actually  understand fully what the act of 'compersion' means.

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I am writing this in one of the most foul moods I’ve ever experienced to date whilst trying to complete a PhD after so many interruptions and lifes challenges.

I have to trust that the people who have encouraged me to be more than a fat, unhappy and disconnected geek know more than I do of my own fate.

Trust that despite this boiling rage I feel inside me, this black anger and abject hopelessness, this psychosis of flailing mind, that despite what is now my current mental state, that it will all pass and that the thesis will be one day complete.

To unconditionally trust that writing, reading and analysing data to make sense of almost a decade of world wide inquiry, writing till eyes and brain fail late into the night, for years till a document that no more than a hundred people will read in a lifetime. A thesis that on review, within years, redundant in the minds eye of the writer often never read again, mute, viewed with contempt and rejection.

Long days and nights pouring over an abstract digital soup, answering children with an absent groan, grunting at his partner, terrified of the mounting bills, borrowing and bullshitting essential services to extend payment plans.

What drives a technology enamoured, complacent and socially awkward male to abandon a dream of big houses, five cars and a settled down life as director of a tech company, high paid consultant? What could drive a man a decade later to punch a vehicle door so hard he breaks his knuckle in two places, breaks five tonne of concrete by hand with a sledgehammer till blood pours from the callouses on his hands?

What cathartic, cataclysmic and life changing events could possibly drive a mature man to contemplate suicide, scream till his voice box collapses with strain at his own Father so vehement, so toxic and so determined that it scares his own nine year old son to collapse weeping with confrontation?

Grind his teeth in his sleep till they shatter? Write a life story of sexual abuse, violence and crime then publish it publicly via the internet?

Lie awake till he hears the first chirps of dawn herald another apocalyptic day filled with yet more things to do, to be, to achieve, to fail at.

I was told completing a PhD was a process, not a product. I was promised it would change my life forever and that process would provide a basis to live a life worth living.

I wasn't told of the countless attempts that people have made only to find that life goes on around them anyway and is always in the way of finishing neatly. I wasn't informed that many end up with physical and mental health issues, financially in trouble, socially isolated and very often divorced, alone, shattered emotionally.

Suffice to say, these are a small portion of things I have experienced, have endured and now share as an attempt to pull myself out of the nihilism, the self pityingly rancid quagmire.

That process of the PhD without scholarship, as a mature aged student with five children, living in a hand built cabin some say is no bigger than a bedsit for one. That process of enduring seven and eight out of ten points of continuous pain from a chronic rheumatological medical condition rendering me blind from acute iritis, almost dead from heart failure due to acute pericarditis, rendering my neck stiffer than a whiplashed car victim.

This process is killing me slowly or.....if I trust in what others say will win out, a rod with which to support my back not whip myself with it as it is at present.

What drives a man to scream into his own mirrored reflection only to find an exhausted version of his former self?

Terrified I write not knowing what this is about, where this will take me, despondent of the cost on all accounts that this process has had, is having. 

What happened to those who cookie cut their childless way through scholarships, through cocktail parties, high society affairs of the flesh and moral servitude? I suspect the process I've experienced won't be known by flaccid quant jocks, squeaky clean viperous bitches that suck cock for grade.

I don't for a minute expect my findings to be understood by apathetic, upgrades, singular self, cyborg automatons nor am I seeking a ticket to speak on lecterns made from the bones of the communities those 24 hour driverless dump trucks suffocated.

Who the fuck am I to speak of the social impact of technology having Xboxed my street kid students out of juvenile hall? Built a world within a world of Secondlife only to find my own son crying at my office door having missed the candles being blown out on his own birthday cake. 

What the hell would I know about the generational gap between Father and daughters as I ignored them for SMS messages, Tweets, Facebook pokes, Skype pings and Snapchat notifications? What was I to reply to "....Dad put that FUCKING PHONE away and actually communicate with ME" ?

Have I anything to contribute to society who can't find its own way from their capitalist castle to the mall without a corporation telling them which way to turn, street by street, one geo-pinned brainless u-turn after another? Have I anything to say of over fifty interviews of Google IO junkies sucking down the kool aid and attesting to how high resolution photos of their pre teens hairless vaginas in high resolution captured from their head worn computer goes live, daily, poolside from their head worn computer?

Is there anything I could possibly bring to bear on my watch as children as young as 12 and 13 are locked inside refrigerated cells no bigger than a cupboard, on remand, force fed their own faeces, tasered, gagged, tagged, digitally surveilled and water boarded to within a breath of their own First Nation selves?

What of the countless nights hand transcribing hour long interviews of leading figures in the engineering, science fiction and dystopian junctures in-between-worlds that these vultures inhabit leeching of their myopic merchandise mad mass?

Has this mad man, this pushed to the end of his limits and beyond candidate got anything worth saying as we careen towards a certain environmental  disaster, an anthropocene so impressively inept to see demise in a microchipped child, a geofenced recidivist only needing love and social inclusion ? What have I to offer a world whose own memory of the social impacts of technology, loss of connection with each other in a world of trillions of always on internet of things, bits.

What are the socio-ethical implications of head worn cameras, devices, masks that shut us off from seeing, only looking?

What of instinct, what of that basis for living that grounds us in country, in place far from any convenience?

Where does that anger as a candidate derive from? To point at peril? 

I trust that the process is worth every cent, every last breath even to visit a deathbed, every awkward rebuttal, every exclusion if it means that even one, just one person wakes up out of their Singularity, smells the roses and realises that it's not an upgrade, that they are actually experiencing an opportunity to connect with their soul, not triple whipped choc sundaes upsized with fries to go.

Nyikina Collaborative Filmmaking


In October 2016 I worked with Filmmaker Magali McDuffie on visualising the collaborative process that she has employed when working with the Nyikina Community of Western Australia. The figures were created in an online visual editing tool called Gliffy.

These were developed and formed part of a higher degree by research (HDR) presentation at the end of that year.

  • Digital Humanities
  • Language
  • Ethnic Studies
  • Environmental Humanities
  • Media Studies
  • Environmental Science
  • Sociology
  • Anthropology

Suggested Citation

McDuffie, Magali; Hayes, Alexander (2015): Nyikina Collaborative Filmmaking. figshare.


Figshare [ HTML ]

Digital Sickness

For the last two years I've noted my own descent into a digital quagmire, eyes strained, minds anxious, addicted.

"Just five more minutes" my children beg and then unrequited lash out physically and verbally when told they have already used up hours of precious daylight. Nintendo DS, Xbox, Ipad, laptop, desktop, television...they switch from one to another incessantly, sometimes trying to control three or four at once.

I am noticing a complete lack of connection with each other in conversation unless its Pokemon, Minecraft or upgrades related dialogue. Their attention now screen bound, their heads locked into corporation led updates.

So what happened back there with our children who are not even yet teenagers? What happened to those family gatherings around a favourite movie, board or card game?

It seems we have lost control of the very fundamental, minimal grasp we had as parents on our own children's connection with reality. Perhaps, in reflection, as was our own parents battle with the omniscience of the television, our battle with gaming, the trajectory a certain Uberveillance.

My heads nods, heavy, tears well in my eyes as I struggle to comprehend how to save my own 12 year old from self harming, my only control that of intervening in what takes her away from this earth, this reality. Her virtual reality causing her to salivate, unkempt, swearing and not eat properly.

The road back is as much a change for ourselves as we contemplate where this digital world is taking ourselves, never mind the kids. 

As a Researcher and as always a mere and mortal human being human, all I can contemplate is how to transcend this digital sickness and the only answer it seems lies in Booroo, Country. In nature we find the answers to most of what is lacking in a corporation led virtual reality. At stake is not just our sanity, but that of the whole condition of humanity.

Null Hypothesis: On Country, Cyborgs and the Singularity

The researcher engaged with Vance Stevens from Webheads International in an interview which was broadcast via the WebHeadsInAction, Learning2gether 341 in Hangouts on Air via web conference (Hayes and Stevens 2016) on Sunday, August 14, 2016. The conversation centred on the progress of the Phd dissertation, preliminary findings from secondary data and updates in the Google Glass project.

“....Alexander Hayes has been associated with a number of cutting edge education projects over the years, including exploring the potential of StreamFolio, Talking VTE, POV technologies, Drones for Schools, wearable technologies (and the social implications of surveillance, sousveillance, and uberveillance) and most recently, Google Glass through posting his interviews with 60 Google Glass Explorers on YouTube.” (Vance Stevens 2016)


It seems as I plough through hundreds of hours transcribing these conversations with research Participants that as the Researcher the more I listen and reflect on what they are emphasising in conversation, the more I better understand about what is missing from their conversations.

 Things that start and end back at the same beginning or a derivative of that beginning in a changed state seems to drive the whole prototyping, testing, development, marketing, aggregation and normalising of wearable computing technologies and yet….absolute silence except for a very few participants as to what the essence of ‘place’ is for them and how this differs from how wearable computing technologies ‘locate’ them in their personal and professional lifeworld. 

Loops maybe are the essence of things that bring about change or retard a ‘state’ enough for it to return or go back further than its present state, which may mean whole nations equipping law enforcement with BWC claiming this as  ‘beneficial’ research participants equally consider this as evidence of potential ‘detriment’, the results of which are yet to be observed.

In a technological context this could mean that what humanity thought BWC is as point of difference or progress is in fact little more than a loop, incremental perhaps or not at all, which means we need a new frame in which to consider how BWC contributes to the lived state of humanity. 

There are so many loop examples that it seems possible that perhaps everything is in a perpetual state of returns and that what we define as progress is in fact a loop - a non or hardly discernible changed state. In a cultural context this could be attributed to much of what we experience in community but there are exceptions, mutations and derivatives and the most important loop changer beyond a consumer fed digital location, is for those the Researcher has connected with, the lived ’sense of place’.

Country, at the epicentre of all learning.