Searching for the Digital Fāgogo: A Study of Indigenous Samoan Storytelling in Contemporary Aotearoa Digital Media
Tielu, Amy Jane
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This research analyses the manifestation of fāgogo – an indigenous form of Samoan storytelling – in the digital media of Aotearoa. It argues that digital media and their associated frameworks have the potential to supplement historical fāgogo practices, nurturing cultural identity through connection in the diaspora. This is pursued through the analysis of storytelling designed to interweave the strengths and historical principles of fāgogo practice with principles of digital storytelling designed for participation. This research builds upon the available literature of fāgogo with a contextual review conducted by Talanoa with eight scholars and practitioners of fāgogo across Samoa and Aotearoa. This enabled the development of working classifications to analyse digital media by Samoans in Aotearoa. Case studies of digital media found a distinct taxonomy: fāgogo told in a non-digital framework, and later digitised; and contemporary fāgogo natively designed for the online digital environment. Both categories illustrated the cultural negotiation underway at the intersection of indigenous stories with the unique challenges of a distributed, digital framework. Significantly, these case studies also demonstrated how Samoans are indigenising foreign narratives and digital social spaces to tell their stories. This research addresses the relationship between a ‘digital’ and ‘historical’ concept of fāgogo (or as I will henceforth call it, ‘formational’) before connecting best practices found from case studies (those most in resonance with formational fāgogo principles), with relevant principles of participatory production and transmedia storytelling. Considerations of linguistic and technical accessibility, ethics and multicultural negotiation are also highlighted. This research concludes with the proposal of five principles for a digital fāgogo – fāgogo designed natively within the digital, networked environment to fulfil formational fāgogo principles. These principles are described as 1) Su’i fefiloi (Interweave of different media), 2) Education, 3) Collaboration, 4) Conversation, and 5) Fa’afailelega (Nourishment). Future recommendations and potential research directions are provided in closing.