Crowdsourcing Indigenous Knowledge to engage alternative ontologies of Space Exploration: A case study among the Khasi of Meghalaya

Muniyappa, Prathima, Danielle Wood. "Crowdsourcing Indigenous Knowledge to engage alternative ontologies of Space Exploration: A case study among the Khasi of Meghalaya," IAC 2020, October 2020.


Whether it was the pulse and bloom that is the lunar cycle, the iridescent swirls of dust that span across the Milky Way, the shimmering clusters of constellations that pinprick against the inky depth of the night sky. The vast canopy of space has had civilizations straining their necks skyward, seeding origin mythologies amongst the heavens, straining to make journeys that lay the horizon at their feet long before the existence of the nation state or the modern institution that is the corporation. Indigenous people the world over have a distinguished provenance of origin stories that invoke the cosmos. They have evolved centuries of rich cosmology and star knowledge that relate to space and its exploration. The Khasi are one such community, who trace their ancestry back to the stars. Hailing from the North eastern state of Meghalaya in India, the Khasi are an indigenous tribe who are famous for having evolved a synergistic technology of weaving living architecture by braiding tree roots into architectural structures, like bridges, platforms and stairs. Their origin mythology is replete with allusions to the cosmos, their origin mythology abound with stories of space travel to meet their sister tribes in the sky. It offers a wealth of nuance in considering space explorations relationship to the environment and climate change. This paper the design of a tool SCRIBE in a case study with the Khasi community to crowdsource and document oral histories, ecological memory and indigenous knowledge and practices relating to ecosystem management using new media. In crystallizing process into product and research into a technology that can be used for conservation, the paper seeks to dwell deeply on devising the methodology of interaction with the communities, on the co-creation of a structure of engagement, of humbling learning from both their knowledge and their ontologies to inform the design principles for a tool that can address the complex questions of justice that underly the politics of knowledge conservation. 

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