The name “CyberTracker” refers to the combination of indigenous tracking skills (Tracker) with modern technology (Cyber). CyberTracker combines technology and human expertise in a way that has been recognised internationally as unique and ground-breaking.
The word cybernetics is rooted in the Greek kybernetes, meaning steersman (of a sailboat) or guide. In modern times, the term became widespread since 1948 when Norbert Wiener published his book Cybernetics: Or Control and Communication in the Animal and Machine. It connects control (actions taken to achieve a goal) with communication (information flow between the actor and the environment). Both animals (biological systems) and machines (non-biological or “artificial” systems) can operate according to cybernetic principles.
Cybernetics involves a self-correcting process of positive and negative feedback to achieve a goal, in the same way that animal tracking is a self-correcting process involving positive and negative feedback to find an animal. Tracking is therefore a cybernetic process.
The CyberTracker Tracker Certification system involves a process of positive and negative feedback to achieve a goal and is therefore also a cybernetic process.
Pierre du Plessis, who wrote his Master of Social Science Thesis on the CyberTracker project in the Kalahari, found that the Kalahari San takes great pride in knowing that they played an important role in the development of the CyberTracker software and the importance of their tracking expertise, and that they took ownership of the CyberTracker name as their own. Throughout the Kalahari, the “CyberTrackers” are known and highly regarded within their own communities.
Du Plessis writes: “!Nate and Karoha were key players in the creation of CyberTracker. Louis Liebenberg’s ideas about developing CyberTracker came about through his work with !Nate and Karoha while researching the depth of tracking knowledge in the Kalahari. The two, especially Karoha, also played an integral role in its pilot testing. This is tremendously important to the trackers and has major implications in the way that they have incorporated this technology into their lives, to the extent that they have come to consider themselves ‘CyberTrackers’.
!Nate’s account speak to the ways that he views the technology as representative of the interest and value people have in his knowledge: “Louis came to me! He was looking for someone who knows how to track. He wanted me to work with him to so he could make CyberTracker. He found me at Lone Tree, and he learned that I am the chasing guy for the kudus (persistence hunting). He said, “I want you to teach me how to chase the kudu, and give me the knowledge of the tracks for all of the animals.” So I worked with him and then Louis said he’s going to make this computer, the CyberTracker, with the knowledge of my father, of my mother, of my mother’s mother’s mother. They are going to be the knowledge of my uncles! That is how he made CyberTracker.
Du Plessis continues: “One of the key points reiterated here is that Louis Liebenberg came to !Nate. This allowed !Nate to assume the position of Louis’s teacher. !Nate takes pride in this and is quick to mention it when discussing CyberTracker. The work that they did together led to the development of a technology that utilizes !Nate’s knowledge, while also recognizing that of his ancestors. The knowledge trails of his predecessors are present in the very existence of CyberTracker. Though he has had relatively little interaction with computers, he now has computer software designed specifically for his knowledge that is often regarded as an extension of himself (remember !Nate referring to his ‘knowledge’ as his ‘CyberTracker’). CyberTracker owes its very existence to the world of tracking and, to a degree, has been embraced by the trackers as such. During my fieldwork it was immediately evident that all of the trackers take pride in calling themselves ‘CyberTrackers’.