Within Māori cultural tradition there is a strong orientation to the values-based idea that relationships among people flourish and rely on kanohi ki te kanohi interactions in both important and commonplace contexts. Historically, media and communications technologies have provided Māori with alternative tools and methods to practise culture, without necessarily having to be kanohi ki te kanohi.
Pressures of employment, education, financial and family contexts have become main drivers for Māori to leave their haukāinga. Responsibilities to return home to participate in cultural, social and political activities of the marae have meant that Māori living away seek alternative methods to contribute back to the haukāinga. Iwi, hapū and marae are faced with the challenge of shifting kanohi ki te kanohi practices and rituals to the virtual space to empower their people with the ability and access to participate and engage.
The Internet and social networking sites (SNS) are enabling Māori from all over the world to connect and engage in meaningful relationships with friends, family and communities as well as practice aspects of Māori culture. Interactions based on cultural practices have heralded a new era of the ‘virtual marae’ where language, customs and whanaungatanga are practised daily in SNS.
This thesis investigates the tensions that Māori face as they negotiate virtual spaces and navigate new territories of SNS, highlighting the pressures on kanohi ki te kanohi practice. The study develops a methodological framework of kaupapa Māori research praxis, iwi values and te reo me ōna tikanga to collect databases of individual and focus group interviews, two iwi case studies and an online survey. Through mainly qualitative exploration of these data, the domains of rangatahi usage, whanaungatanga, tuakiritanga and tikanga are traversed, to interrogate the contemporary ideas and trajectory of kanohi ki te kanohi values. It is evident through this research that SNS is changing the ways in which we communicate, articulate identity, socialise and practise culture.
Key findings bring to light a range of issues that Māoridom must grapple with to guide SNS usage in cultural contexts that considers kanohi ki te kanohi values and the future of marae. This thesis contributes new knowledge that marae, hapū, iwi, policy makers and educationalists can consider in order to optimise the potentials of SNS for Māori social and cultural advancement.