Tricksters, technology and spirit: practising place in Aotearoa-New Zealand
Place is a tricky concept. On the surface it seems a relatively simple notion, yet underneath there are layers of contested meanings. At the same time, places face ‘wicked’ problems – issues difficult to solve by traditional methods and approaches. For these reasons there is a call from across disciplines, for flexibility and creativity in place research.
This thesis weaves together technology, art, spirituality and science to create a place practice inspired by tricksters. Tricksters appear in the narratives of most cultures as liminal, paradoxical and indeterminate figures. In this research they have new relevance at a time when the boundaries of life, including the lines between sacred and profane, are no longer clearly defined. They are an inspiration for a new form of place practice which creatively weaves together ubiquitous technologies, indigenous and speculative ontologies, and integral research methodologies.
The proposition is that geo-locative mobile technologies can support the work of those who work with spiritual sites, and also support the spirit or spirits of those places, when used within a trickster-inspired place practice. What are the opportunities and issues that arise from this approach?
Geo-locative mobile technologies augment physical spaces with digital content and can act as mediators between the self, the physical world, digital worlds and other worlds beyond. Technology is not usually associated with spirit. However, in this research technology paradoxically plays a role in supporting the spirit of place and contributes to a progressive understanding of that term.
The place practice that informed this study was situated around three spiritually significant sites: a cemetery, a marae and a public park. Within each case study, a bricolage of inter-, intra-, and transpersonal data collection methods was enacted. Integral philosophies and trickster traits combined to create the unique methodology.
This research joins traditionally separate discourses: spirit of place, tricksters, and geo-locative mobile technology. It addresses the need for more creative ways of working in and with place, and raises legal, moral, cultural, and political issues in the use of mobile technologies in indigenous and/or sensitive contexts. Findings demonstrate that mobile technologies can shift perceptions of self and place, make institutional knowledge more accessible, and build connections in the third space where cultures, histories, peoples and realities meet. In these ways the practice supports the spirit of place.