Around the Web

Welcome to another installment of Around the Web. I am thinking about dedicating a future edition of this post to “Blogs in the Field,” a roundup of what people write online before they write up. People who are blogging from the field or know of someone who is should email me at And in other news…

Migrating Mongolians: National Geographic is reporting that climate change is forcing Mongolians to move to cities.

Shaking up the grant pool: reports on the NIH proposals to revamp grant application process. Not without controversy, the new recommendations ostensibly help younger researchers. But some of the comments posted worry that the proposed process might lack rigor.

Adopt an anthropologist: The Turkish Daily News recently caught up with Leyla Neyzi, an adopted Yuruk daughter. The story continues:

After completing her education in Stanford University, Cornell University and the City University of New York in the U.S., Neyzi gave up modern amenities and wealth to live in the mountains in 1984 to gather data for her dissertation . . .Severing all ties with modern life, Neyzi started to behave like a Yuruk, embracing her host family deeply and changing her eating habits, style of speech and behavior.

The Ties that Bind: Speaking of anthropologists in the family, I never realized that Laura Nader is Ralph Nader’s sister. [cross posted on Culture Matters and Kaldouhn.]

Don’t Try this at Home: Check out this site dedicated to Bad Archaeology.

Academicese– A nice thought piece in the Columbia Spectator on the need for translation between disciplines. I especially like the comparison of the jargon of two colleagues with the lingo using only Napoleon Dynamite references.

Double Bind: Maximilian at Open Anthropology writes on the Catch-22 of contemporary indigenous identity.

Future of Communication from the Field? Most people are probably already aware of Skype, the uber-popular internet service that lets users make calls to landline and cellular telephones. In this short post, Ted from Fieldnotes ponders the use of Skype for field research. Ted makes an interesting point, but isolated ethnographers might not be the only people using Skype in far-off places. As initiatives like One Laptop per Child endeavor to provide affordable computers and Internet access to rural areas and the Global South, some areas of the world might jump past telephone communications and go straight to communication via Internet video conferencing.

One thought on “Around the Web

  1. Re: Future of Communication from the Field?
    Thanks for mentioning Skype. Here in Dakar (Senegal), I have noticed that Skype is ubiquitous, especially in office spaces, but also popular in private homes with internet, and in “cybers” (small internet stations where people pay by the hour to use a computer with an internet connection). Skype is very popular, not just for free calls to friends and relatives in the diaspora (France, the US, Dubai, etc), but also for calls across town or across the country. People rarely use SypeOut (the functionality allowing one to call a landline or cellphone from Skype), but mostly call through the internet only. It should be noted that Skype is not, here, a technology used only by the hyper-tech savvy nor only by computer owners. A recent newspaper article here discussed the use of Skype (and video chat) by illiterate Senegalese women married to migrant laborers overseas, who use the technology to communicate with their husbands. Many people I know have standing prearranged dates to talk to people overseas through Skype (prearranging the date and time being most common between people who do not both have internet at home). I should note, however, that people without internet at home (or the office) seem to rarely use Skype for local calls (maybe it’s the hassle of setting up a talk date?)

    Anyhow, the reasons for the popularity of Skype are fascinating. It is obviously the most rational way to make overseas calls (if both parties have access to the internet, or can make a date to hook up through intenet cafe computers). An international call from Senegal currently costs 150 fCFA a minute, which is roughly 40 cents. An hour of internet time in an internet cafe costs about 300 fCFA. (I have yet to find an internet cafe that doesn’t have at least one headset for Skype chatting, and in Dakar’s markets a headset–of Chinese manufacture–sells for 2,000 fCFA–about $2.35.)

    This does not, however, explain why people use them for “local calls.” Though internet is expensive (I currently pay the lowest possible rate for internet: about $53/mo.–this includes a landline phone with free incoming calls), local calls are also quite expensive. Cellphone to cellphone calls, between two people on the same network (there are two), currently cost about 90 fCFA/min (roughly 25 cents) before 11 pm, and 50 fCFA/min between 11 pm and 5 am (and sometimes on weekends, there is a lack of transparency here). This is very expensive! Calls from cell to land line or cell to cout of network cell are very close to the international rates. Land line to land line calls are also billed per minute (and landline calls to cell phones are very expensive). So, if one already has internet available at homeor at work, using Skype makes sense. Further, the phone networks are less stable than is Skype, and less reliable than the internet network. It is often the case that one cannot get through on a cellphone call (to a member of one’s own network, who is in the city and thus theoretically near a tower), sometimes one can’t get through for 3-5 calls, sometimes, one can’t reach anybody for hours at a time. Skype’s sound quality is also often better than cell quality.

    I had a very good laugh about this with a Senegalese colleague (also an anthropologist), when we were happily text chatting away over Skype, and she received an SMS I had sent her an hour before (SMS costs 25 fCFA, about 5 cents).

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