Cultural Anthropology 2.0

The first issue of Cultural Anthropology under the editorship of Kim and Mike Fortun is out, and I am a willing participant in the media blitz. The first issue has a few articles that look great (although, as we already know, you need to be a AAA member to access them). One is an article on memory in Sierra Leone–articulating nicely with an article in Sunday’s New York Times Magazine on child soldiers–I’d love to see her reading of the use of memory in that autobiography. An article by Ilana Feldman on Human Rights in Palestine and an article by Michael M.J. Fischer revisiting culture.

As I am on the editorial board of CA, I’ve been privy to some of the discussions about what Kim and Mike want to do with CA. Despite what some people have assumed, it’s clear that they aren’t interested in making it a science studies journal, or in giving undue preference to work in science studies. Instead, there is a clear focus on public impact–on making the work that appears in CA reach a broader audience, instigate more conversations, and hopefully find its way into discussions that happen beyond the classroom and conference. One great idea, that I hope we are able to follow through on is the constitution of a “Public advidsory board”–an advisory board made up of people who are not academics, but who may nonetheless be readers or concerned participants in the work that anthropologists produce. The goal is to have such board members help promote the work of anthropology in domains other than academia, to raise the quality of analysis and discussion. I don’t know of any other journal in anthropology that has tried such a thing–and indeed, only journals like Foreign Affairs, Daedalus or the like seem to have crossover memberships on their editorial boards. If you submit something to the journal, make a suggestion for who in your area would fit this bill and might make a good addition to the board. To me this seems an obvious way to include our collaborators in the field in ways that go beyond the acknowledgements, at least in some cases.

The new CA has also gone web 2.0 crazy. The main site has the potential to be a point of discussion and “refraction” of both current and past articles as they relate to current events and ongoing discussions in the discipline. The editorial board has been urged to blog (and I am) and wiki (and I will) the issues and articles. They are looking for any and all alternative revenue streams (witness: google ads on the site– but where are the t-shirts and cool swag?) and any and all good ideas for working with, through or around Anthrosource. And don’t order yet, because these knives will saw through a tin can and still slice a tomato like butta. Oh, and by the way, it looks much cooler now too, the design has been redone, the text is more readable:
CA Cover 22-1


Christopher M. Kelty is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has a joint appointment in the Institute for Society and Genetics, the department of Information Studies and the Department of Anthropology. His research focuses on the cultural significance of information technology, especially in science and engineering. He is the author most recently of Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software (Duke University Press, 2008), as well as numerous articles on open source and free software, including its impact on education, nanotechnology, the life sciences, and issues of peer review and research process in the sciences and in the humanities.

8 thoughts on “Cultural Anthropology 2.0

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  2. I just posted this on Long Road, but figured it also belonged here…

    Perhaps, we’re requiring registration of that sort for a reason.

    I’m the editorial assistant and new website admin, and I’ll just say a bit about that.

    1.) On average I get about 20-30 bogus account requests a week deriving from automated web-crawling easy-account request savvy spam-bots (some of my recent favorites: Belinda DVD, Anchorman DVD, Tlc DVD). Registration of this kind helps us get past that.

    2.) It allows us to find new reviewers we might not know about. It also lets us know a bit about folks interested in using the site to discuss articles. Or who is using the site and in what ways.

    3.) We’re trying to provide a space for people to talk about articles where a user using the ID “Mike Fischer” who isn’t Mike Fischer actually means something. So We’re trying to balance that.

    4.) It’s all an experiment right now. We’re open to suggestions. Why didn’t you register and voice your thoughts on the forum? Asking your areas of interest, affiliation, AAA/SCA membership status, and real name (already (possibly) posted in your blog) is too invasive?

    But, at the same time you are right, the forums are bare right now. Just having an improved web-presence doesn’t do the whole trick. We’re trying other things too.

    We’re also hoping some interested folks get involved. We’ve got nearly 120 people who’ve registered. Honestly, I’m amazed that not a single one of those people have posted. I’d like to see the forums with material, but the editorial office is four people strong managing a 30% increase in manuscript submissions for a journal that already receives quite a few submissions. We’re also new at this.

    I hope I don’t come off snarky, it’s just that after having spent the entire day doing media publicity for the new issue seeing a post saying that I’m not doing enough isn’t easy.

  3. Casey, do you want to know why no one’s posted on your forum? It has bad organization. Most good forums (on any topic) have a general and only a small number of other forums (usually a section for figuring out how to use certain forum functions, an faq board, a board to mention tech issues and maybe three or four specific sub boards). Once forums divide their sub-boards into multiple specific forums, the boards usually die as no one is sure where they should post or

    Beyond the general board, you have fifteen different sub-topic areas. There are many topics that crosscut each area. It would make more sense to concentrate on three or four topic areas that crosscut cultural anthropology (e.g. theory, ethnography, regional discussions and humanitarianism/activism). By having so many subtopics, it appears that the board doesn’t have a focus and that certain topics might be ignored.

  4. I just realized another reason why people aren’t posting. You can’t have an anonymous user handle. I don’t think I want my professional reputation to be in jeopardy because I happen to post on message board something about theory that others don’t agree with. Someday I’ll be going on the job market and I don’t want big shot professor who used to post on the forum voting against me because I hapened to argue against his theoretical perspective.

    While it is true that this could happen through published journal articles, message board posts tend to be less proofread and more “raw”. In an article or book there’s a far more deliberative process involved (and in the case of an article, peer review). For me, a message board for any social science is a way to test ideas and see if they “stick” or if everyone rejects them (with legitimate criticism of course). By not allowing anonymous posting, this experimentation is cut off. The not fully formed thought you posted at two AM could now affect your career in deliterious ways.

  5. Interesting comments all.

    I somehow didn’t make the Web 2.0 connection in my head for numerous reasons. I read the CA 2.0 as more that we’re attempting to move to a new version of the journal rather than Web 2.0.

    I also have a lot of respect for the experimentation argument, though I’ll say that my random board posting even under various pseudonyms over the years is no more anonymous than somebody with some Google skills ability to find me. That’s why I tend to post now under “codonnell” “ckodonnell” because it’s my way of just always being forward with what I’m up to. It is interesting however, because it brings up one my concerns about things like myspace or facebook being brought up in job interviews. Certain spaces are or ought to be for certain uses, and their being brought into other arenas is a bit strange. For me it’s not about privacy, but about providing spaces where it’s safe to experiment with new ideas. How precisely? I’m not sure. Definitely worth thinking more about.

    As far as the sub-fields being scattered, I think if you looked at the lists that they were associated with, you’d see that certain articles do cross-cut, and as such, so would the forums. I see the difficulty this would cause for the forums, but the lists themselves I see it as a strength. The forum organization is a first shot, and even the forum asking for feedback doesn’t have any, so I just don’t really know what to say.

    Right now, our primary concern is really broader reading of the journal and we’re leveraging the website for that at this point (readership/membership/etc is our bread and butter remember). Our hope is that providing professors and other interested individuals a means or mechanism into the journal. For example, pretend I’m a professor (anthropology or otherwise) with a course on humanitarianism. The goal is to provide resources that would help people find CA articles on these topical areas. We’re planning to continue adding new topics, basically making lists out of different tagging schemes. So, if someone wants to do a “games/play” list (which I am) for CA, then go for it. Perhaps someone in a game studies department will find it and check out a few articles. I’ve also heard that someone was forming an “imperialism” list, sounds great.

    Thanks again everyone for the feedback.

  6. Casey, Since Kim did not note this in her comment or exchange, her engagement with, and support of, your journal is evidenced by the fine paper that she published in it in the August 2006 issue (two issues ago). A risk with journal related blogging is that core constituencies (=authors) can come away from these exchanges more alienated than empowered by feelings of community and intellectual vitality. I am not trying to speak for Kim or disregard your own feelings of being put upon as a part of the journal’s staff. As an editor of a journal (Museum Anthropology) with a modest companion blog, I am just reflecting on the nature of the undertaking. If I were Kim, I’d feel less rather than more committed to CA on the basis of this exchange. Even when a journal is in CA’s situation, with very high submission rates, the capacity of blogs to generate ill will is a problem editors have to keep in mind. This relates to Graduate Study Guy’s observation on the unrefined nature of blog commenting. Here is where being “snarky” or creating a misperception of being “snarky” does not serve a journal’s larger project. Frankly, your job is harder when Kim says no rather than yes to a request from you, two months down the road, to do a peer-review for CA.

  7. here here, I hate all this talk of Web 2.0 🙂

    No, I was giving CA credit for more than just the website, but for the idea that the journal should take an active role in promoting its authors works in new media and outside of the conventional arenas. The fact that this discussion is happening, here and on long road is the proof. I hope it eventually starts happening on the CA website itself also.

    I also want to commend Casey for doing yeoman\’s work– there aren\’t as many people as skilled or as willing to do this work in anthropology/science studies as Casey– and I wish there were a lot more.

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