This week’s roundup is a choose-your-own adventure. About half of the things I found interesting this week seemed to be about online communication, and a there was lot on facebook. So, those of you who get bored with all the techno-modern exoticism can just skip to the second half, which is all about established scholars making news. And, of course, you can leave comments or email me with other stories for next week.
“I Can Log Off Any Time.” Daniel Lende at neuroanthropology has been posting his students’ final projects for a class he taught on the anthropology of substance abuse. One of the projects on Internet addiction is a pretty interesting synthesis of how increasing online use is changing behaviors as well as normative attitudes towards internet use (like the potential inclusion of Internet addiction in the upcoming DSM V). In other news, Jon Witt at Sociocultural Images wrote a small piece on the Oregon extension, a one-semester college sequence where students and faculty form an unwired intellectual community. (But that doesn’t mean it can’t have a facebook page).
Gifts in Our Times: Claudia Dreifus at the New York Times interviewed Pauline Wiessner about her 30-year research relationship with !Kung communities and the changing patterns of !Kung social networks in a globalizing world. When asked if she saw any contemporary analogues to !Kung storytelling and gift exchange, Weissner answered, “Facebook.” She continues:
One constantly hears stories of people finding jobs and business opportunities through these sites. Hey, and what does a blogger do? Tell stories! The videos and snapshots that people post echo the exchange gifts of the !Kung. They are a kind of token that says, “I’ve kept you in my heart.”
Voice from Nowhere: Over at Language Log, Eric Bakovic wrote on the ways users adapt to changing syntax structure of the facebook user status update. Bakovic notes that, while some users communicated and mobilized around changing the format of the update, other users simply ignored the conventions of the genre and used the status update as a quotation rather than a declarative sentence.
New at the Institute: Eugene Raikhel at Somatosphere commented on Didier Fassin’s appointment at the Institute of Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ. Raikhel ponders whether this will encourage more of Fassin’s work to be translated into English, and if this appointment and Ian Hacking’s election to the College de France marks the beginning of a new intellectual cosmopolitanism.
New Works: Lorenz at anthropologi.info found this recent online interview with Benedict Anderson on Anderson’s recent work on the forgotten body of work of Chinese-Indonesian journalist Kwee Thiam Tjing, the uneveness of power, cosmopolitanism from below, and the value of theory.
To me, theorizing is like watching a drop of water: you can see the water and that’s all it is, a drop of water. But the minute you actually bring a microscope in, it’s completely different. Theory is really good at a sort of long-distance framing, but how people live their lives is something else, and I’m personally more interested in that than abstract theorizing.
New Collective on the Block: Anthropologi.info and Teaching Anthropology have both linked to Keith Hart’s new venture, Open Anthropology Cooperative, hosted by Ning, allows for online fora, blog posts, etc.