Do anthropologists approach YOU? Do you want them to?

Uh…. does anyone else think its incredibly creepy that the AAA’s new ‘Registry of Anthropological Data Wiki‘ is hosted by Wikia and festooned with ads? Did you ever dream of the day that you could both locate the field notes of Mary Clifton Ayres and learn 3 questions that are PROVEN to make women want you?

Awake, sleeper, for your dreams have become reality.

In principle a wiki where people could advertise their archives is a good idea — a similar effort to get people to share syllabi is really useful and cool (confession: I’ve been too busy to upload mine). But a site where the AAA supports its technology costs through banner ads? It seems like a parody, frankly, and I wouldn’t be convinced that the site is actually run by the AAA if I hadn’t seen the announcement on their blog.

In the past I’ve often been critical of the AAA for insisting on taking the high road when a more DIY approach would do — outsourcing web design to expensive consultants instead of paying a grad student to whip one up, and so forth. Taking the high road is simply too expensive for an organization our size and we end up being bled dry. But, whatever: the AAA wanted to go high-brow, sell off our creative work to Wiley-Blackwell, and so on in order to keep our association looking like a Lexus rather than a Corolla. I respect that choice, as much as I disagree with it.

It’s just that I’m not sure what sort of shift is being signaled now that our association is sharing a hosting service with the Dungeon Defenders Wiki. Except, frankly, my prediction is that in the long run the Dungeon Defenders wiki will do a much better job of informing the public about Dungeon Defenders than the AAA’s wiki will about anthropology.

I’m guessing this is part of the ‘grey literature portal’ that the AAA was asking members to donate money to support? Because I don’t see why we should have to pay for a grey portal site when we could simply rent out space on it to let people know about the new vaginal ring that prevents dryness or the new chicken crispers at Chili’s (you can order online!).

Even as I write this I’m sure the AAA is ponying up for the money to make the ads on their wiki disappear. I think, with complete seriousness, that this is a real shame. Now that the AAA has let the neoliberal genie out of the bottle I see no reason to put it back in. In a previous post I complained that the AAAs were a regressive tax on grad students and adjuncts. I think now I see the solution: why not seek corporate funding for the annual meetings and use the increased income to let adjuncts and grad students come to the meetings for free? It would be easy: we could simply change the name of the meetings from “American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings” to the “Frito-Lay American Anthropological Association Annual Meetings”. Perhaps instead of giving the under-employed name tags we could ask that they indicate their free registration to the security guards outside the book room, we could provide some sort of bright, colorful jersey for them to wear with advertising on it — you know, like sports teams wear in some countries. That way they would be earning their keep. Perhaps if we got Monsanto to sponsor American Anthropologist, we could give it away open access. After all, that’s the business model listings mags use.

I’m not kidding. Let’s run the numbers folks.

Alex Golub is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. His book Leviathans at The Gold Mine has been published by Duke University Press. You can contact him at rex@savageminds.org

5 thoughts on “Do anthropologists approach YOU? Do you want them to?

  1. i have to wonder if they went to Wikia out of Tech Intimidation. Wikis are pretty easy to set up (okay maybe i’m biased, i used to work for the Wikimedia Foundation), but having someone handle all the “hard stuff” like hosting, installation, etc. is pretty appealing, especially if they’ll do it for free, until you figure out if this will work out or not.

    i’d also like to point out that the Muppet Wiki is hosted on Wikia and that thing is one amazing wiki, and one i’d be proud to share a hosting service with.

    What does Wikia do? Allow people to set up VERY niche wikis. Some could argue that the information we as a discipline produce is very niche. So perhaps Wikia is a place for us, as a proof of concept, and then the AAA can go the extra mile and set up a full wiki on their own servers, away from Wikia.

    Or… someone could volunteer to do it. Take agency ourselves to do it instead of waiting for the AAA to do it, and then whining about how they did it.

  2. I for one look forward to collaboration with our new academic brethren- their Wiki looks very well peer reviewed.

    In all seriousness though, academic organizations are never exactly rolling around in money, especially not right now. I can laugh at who the AAA has to share web space with, but I can’t really judge.

  3. Yeah I mean I actually use Wikia wikis all the time for the video games I play. They vary in quality but there are some stellar ones out there. What surprises me is that the AAA is sullying itself by mixing with the hoi polloi. If that’s the sort of thing they are up for, why don’t they let us install OJS on my uni library’s servers and be done with it?

  4. @Rex

    I love the idea of seeking sponsorship, but I think it might work better at the section level.

    For instance…

    Association of Senior Anthropologists – brought to you by the AARP
    Council on Anthropology and Education – Kaplan
    Society for Psychological Anthropology – Pfizer
    Culture and Agriculture – Cargill

    In seriousness, the AAA blog is at: http://blog.aaanet.org/ A wiki should follow the convention and live at: http://wiki.aaanet.org

    I applaud the idea behind the registry, but pushing it off on a wiki farm is a very bad move. Especially a wiki farm as controversial as wikia.

  5. In a serious register, I would just note that the meetings of the AAA are already sponsored. The annual report for 2011 shows that Oxford University Press was the largest donor for the year. I believe that that funding was used in a meeting context. Weren’t the tote-bags OUP branded? Wiley contributed specifically to an different recent meeting. The Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC), which has a relationship to the AAA that I do not understand, has an impressive roster of corporate sponsors. Such sponsorship has come to be normal in many fields in which attendees control spending decisions–museums, libraries, medicine. Thankfully there are at least open conversations in such fields on the corruption that follows from this established practice. (One can search for “swag ethics” debates in fields such as libraries and technology journalism.)

    I am disappointed with the new wiki but am still trying to figure out how to address it fruitfully.

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