Posted to the Ethnos Project by on November 3rd, 2013


Neither the effects of information and communication technology (ICT) on culture nor the cultural roles of ICT are widely understood, particularly among marginalized ethno-cultures and indigenous people. One theoretical lens that has received attention outside of Native American studies is the theory of Information Technology Cultures, or “IT Culture,” developed by Kaarst-Brown. This theory was a groundbreaking and foundational way to understand underlying assumptions about IT and the conflicts surrounding IT use. Kaarst-Brown identified five archetypal cultural patterns or sets of “underlying cultural assumptions” about IT that impacted strategic use, conflict, and technology innovation. These dimensions included assumptions about the control of IT, criticality of using IT, value of IT skills, justification of IT investments, and perceived beneficiaries of IT. These dimensions clustered in five archetypal patterns: the Fearful, Controlled, Revered, Demystified, and Integrated IT Culture.

The research study described in this thesis builds on Kaarst-Brown’s work. This thesis determines the appropriateness and fit of the IT Culture theory and pervasiveness of archetypal patterns within a Native American tribe—the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. A mixed-method design, rather than traditional ethnography, is used to explore evidence of Kaarst-Brown’s five cultural patterns and their dimensions within the Choctaw Nation. By extending this theoretical lens and utilizing a mixed-method approach, this thesis research contributes to an understanding of the assumptions about technology within a subset of culturally respected Choctaw families.

This thesis project highlights the challenge of applying a broad IT theory to a specific ICT and context. Even though there was not 100% correlation between the theoretical lens and the data gathered, this theoretical application yielded valuable results. These results offered insights into the nature of the assumptions about ICT found in a multi-generational subset of people, and potential implications for future ICT development. Choctaws deeply invested in the Tribe’s cultural heritage preservation and sharing efforts can now understand the potential impact of ICT before a new ICT is even introduced, rather than after the fact. Also while the original IT Culture theory utilized metaphor and symbols to explain the archetypal patterns, this thesis interpreted a new set of symbols from Choctaw folklore better suited to describe assumptions about ICT within the specific ethno-cultural context.

In this project, the researcher is a non-Native American embedded in a community of a once-marginalized and long-suffering Native people, and thus, special considerations are discussed. The Choctaw have found their voice in contemporary society and are passionately asserting their self-determination as a proud Nation. As such, this thesis concludes with a discussion of practical implications for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, as well as implications for Native American, ICT, and mixed-method research.

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