One of my favorite sessions during the 2017 International Conference of Indigenous Archives, Libraries, and Museums (ATALM) was Social Media as Catalyst for Building Communities.

The presenters were Jaclyn Roessel (Grownup Navajo), Warren Montoya (Rezilience Indigenous Arts Experience), and Waylon Pahona (Healthy Active Natives). Each of them uses social media to build a vital community whose members are engaged with the topic area(s) and connected with one another. And each values authenticity and relationships rooted in tradition.

The session fit well with one earlier in the day, The Value of the Real in a Virtual World. Robert Pickering from the University of Tulsa talked about the impact of increased digital access to ideas and artifacts and how that access affects how people relate to objects in real life. He made a statement and raised a question that stuck with me: 1) Access isn’t the same as engagement. 2) How do we encourage people to care about things they don’t know or haven’t experienced directly?

The three communities featured during the social media session all have high levels of engagement—both among members and in how individuals relate to ideas and information exchanged within the community. Their grounding in community and traditions (even if the mode of communication may viewed as non-traditional) make their content and relationship building authentic and effective. The session encouraged me to value access not just for its own sake, but also for the learning and sharing that comes as a result.

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