Sweetgrass AR: Exploring Augmented Reality as a Resource for Indigenous–Settler Relations

Rob McMahon, Amanda Almond, Greg Whistance-Smith, Diana Steinhauer, Stewart Steinhauer, Diane P. Janes


Augmented reality (AR) is increasingly used as a digital storytelling medium to reveal place-based content, including hidden histories and alternative narratives. In the context of Indigenous–settler relations, AR holds potential to expose and challenge representations of settler colonialism while invoking relational ethics and Indigenous ways of knowing. However, it also threatens to disseminate misinformation and commodify Indigenous Knowledge. Here, we focus on collaborative AR design practices that support critical, reflective, and reciprocal relationship building by teams composed of members from Indigenous and settler communities. After a short history of Indigenous media development in Canada, we describe how we operationalized a participatory AR design process to strengthen Indigenous–settler relations. We document a series of iterative design steps that teams can use to work through ethical, narrative, and technical choices made in the creation of culturally appropriate AR content, and draw attention to the potential and limitations of this emerging medium.


augmented reality, Indigenous media, Indigenous–settler relations, production/coproduction, participatory action research, copyright/intellectual property, knowledge management, ethics

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