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The Digital Songlines Environment (DSE) is a virtual reality game system aimed at preserving and promoting Australian Aboriginal heritage, arts and culture. The system features a realistic virtual landscape with local flora and fauna, embedding oral histories as well as mythological stories within its narratives and story line. Similar to currently popular approaches that preserve Aboriginal culture with digital archives and online databases, DSE deploys computers and information technology as the tool and intermediary for storing and representing indigenous knowledge and heritage. Averweg and Greyling, focusing on archival databases for indigenous knowledge preservation, argue that although indigenous knowledge can be authentically recorded in digital form, including text, graphics, audio and video, the database system intrinsically presents culture and heritage in a one-dimensional manner. That is, a database system serves as a “telling object” or an “online museum” that explicates culture and tradition to the audience, rather than allowing negotiation and interaction between people and the indigenous knowledge space. As Christie asserts, interaction and negotiation are highly valued in Australian Aboriginal oral tradition; such practices constitute a crucial part of their cultural heritage.

Some notes here about the writing of this paper – and a response from the instructor (see page 24).