I wonder if much of what we as anthropologists engaged in blogging are in fact engaging in is public anthropology, or simply anthropology in public. I will not be naming names, and take the charge that I am criticizing a “straw man”, to avoid any unnecessary skirmishes (I have enough battles on my hands already)–from what I have seen, most anthropology bloggers are in fact writing for an audience of anthropologists online, and the discussions, even when vibrant, retain a private quality. Sometimes the posts that are published fit in with narrow professional concerns that they could only be of very limited interest to a wider audience, apart from members of that audience who are curious to gain insights into academic professionalisms. We are not generally communicating anthropology to non-anthropologists, or drawing on non-anthropological blogs in our own conversations, or producing an anthropology that is less self-consciously anthropological because it is too immersed in the give and take of a public debate to pause and ask aloud: “I wonder what Ralph Linton would have said about this?” Some of us seem to be too busy trying to impress professional, even senior colleagues, as if blogging were a shortcut to professional prestige previously gained through print publications, knowing the “right people” and having the “right pedigree”, and lots of hand shaking at conferences. The tone of assessments can resemble that found in the comments of anonymous peer reviewers in print journals, that is, sometimes rather elitist and haughty: “overly simplistic”, “spurious argument”, “specious”, “outmoded dichotomy”, not a good way to invite dialogue. In other words, it’s as if “work” has followed me “home” when I read some of the blogs, when in my case I often seek a break, a refuge, and a space for doing something different, or something that goes against the norms of the workplace. Otherwise, the question I would be directing to myself is: what’s the point of blogging when there’s beer and television?
Well, as noted here, there may be no divide between beer and blogging. And blogs are the new TV: on demand, interactive! Yet, I wonder if any of us here at SM recognize ourselves in Maximillian’s description? Two responses. Yes!: This online world is so open, dynamic, multi-media-ed, polyvocal, synthetic, syncretic, hybrid, assembled, contemporary – in short, so very 2.0 – it seems like anything is possible, and anthropological discourse could work in this environment in inventive new ways and draw in whole new audiences. On the other hand, readers of Anna Tsing are people too, we are a public. Do we not count? Does all writing on the web have to be snappy and quick, tilted toward a general audience? Maximillian has captured something here, to be sure, but what I notice often elsewhere on many anthroblogs is simply collation of interesting articles about, say, hormones and risk taking, from the New York Times. Newsflash: we are all reading the New York Times online. We all saw that article. One thing I like about SM’s sometimes arcane discourse is precisely that it remains rooted in literatures that I find fascinating and that I frankly don’t really see discussed elsewhere on the web (could be my own fault though).