In this post, I will be applying the methods of Mary Hocks’s rhetorical analysis of digital writing environments as explained in her article, “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments” to the indigenous website:
Idle No More to examine how this digital site is being used to build indigenous dissent and identity.
First on the webpage, my eyes are drawn to the running header in which visuals of people with indigenous facial features are combined with words or word phrases. There are four images that are automatically streaming one after the other. In one a seeming family is standing together, wearing sweatshirts with the slogan, “Got Land?” and the printed word over the image says, “Got Land?”. In another, there are children drumming/dancing together with the word printed, “Sovereignty”, In another, there is a group of people holding picket signs together combined with the printed word “Solidarite”. Additionally there is an image of young people dressed in street clothes and walking up a concrete staircase with the printed word, “Waskuhwee”. In all of the photos, there is a sense of community that is captured, usually with faces smiling or with the expression of deep connection.
If we left click over the word, “Got Land?”, the site takes us to a page (www.idlenomore.ca/got_land) where you can order a shirt with the slogan, “Got Land? Thank an Indian” or you can download a stencil to make your own. The site encourages the viewer to wear the shirts to “spark conversation” about Canadian indigenous land rights. It features the testimony of a thirteen year old girl of the Star Blanket First Nation in Saskatchewan. Her picture is posted next to her testimony, and she is proudly wearing her sweatshirt, as indicated by her smiling face. The site features a function to upload photos to instagram to “#gotland”, with encouragement to upload a photo of yourself wearing your “Got Land?” shirt. Widgets are located beneath with comments that have been posted on Facebook and Twitter in response to this page of the website.
Returning to the homepage, we note under the header is the site menu. Beneath the site menu, Idle No More’s purpose is clearly stated, “IDLE NO MORE CALLS ON ALL PEOPLE TO JOIN A PEACEFUL REVOLUTION To Honor Indigenous sovereignty And to protect the land & water”. Beneath this address is a digital box where you can submit your email address to “Join the Movement”. Next, your eye is quickly drawn to a stylized graphic of a hand holding up an eagle feather. Next to the eagle feather is a list of Idle No More events with the header as invitation, “TAKE ACTION NEAR YOU”. Below the events list is a graphic of the world map, which can be enlarged by scrolling up or down with the scroll button on the mouse. Event locations are pinned on the map. Scrolling further, we encounter a quote with a Canadian picture of mountains behind the quote. The quote is by Eriel Deranger of Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations, “OUR PEOPLE AND OUR MOTHER EARTH CAN NO LONGER AFFORD TO BE ECONOMIC HOSTAGES IN THE RACE TO INDUSTRIALIZE OUR HOMELANDS. IT IS TIME FOR OUR PEOPLE TO RISE UP AND TAKE BACK OUR ROLE AS CARETAKERS AND STEWARDS OF THE LAND.”
Following the quote is a section of the page devoted to “Featured content,” or links to “news”, “videos”, “featured statements of support”, and “images and graphics.”
Next the phrase, “#IdleNoMore” appears with two icons symbolizing Facebook and Twitter invite the reader to remain connected to Idle No More through these social networks.
Next there is a section of tiles with artwork of indigenous peoples engaged in prayer.
Another quote precedes the bottom of the website, taken from the Guardian, UK: “First Nation’s Peoples–and the decision of Canadians to stand alongside them– will determine the fate of the planet.”
At the bottom of the page is a sitemap menu.
Idle No More’s website, as a digital writing environment blends the graphic with the textual in a hybrid synergy where the two elements cannot be separated into binaries without losing the effect of the whole. The flow of the page includes the use of color to assist the reader in seeing the transitions between the sections and to identify opportunities for further interactivity. The hypertext links and linked graphics create a nonlinear and nonheirarchical experience of the website as the viewer clicks and explores the many links. The site offers information on the movement; but possibly, even more important to indigneous identity, it offers many ways to connect with the indigenous community through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The inclusion of photographs of indigenous peoples today combine with the textual quotes to create a sense of community. Concern for the environment provides a focus for the community, which is reinforced in visuals of nature that lead the viewer to seek more information through the links to news and videos. The ethos of the site urges the viewer to become a participant in immediate action, to join in a community of dissent against industrially driven ecological devastation.
Hocks, Mary. “Understanding Visual Rhetoric in Digital Writing Environments.” College Composition and Communication 54.4 (2003): 629-656. JSTOR. Web. 13 Mar 2012.
“Idle No More.” Idle No More. Web. 3 April 2014.