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Are You an Expert?

A comment of mine on the LINGANTH listserv inspired Mark Allen Peterson to write a post on the Society for Linguistic Anthropology blog, encouraging linguistic anthropologists to promote themselves (or at least their Google page rank) in order to promote the discipline.

One thing is painfully clear: Linguistic anthropology has a public relations problem. The media does not come to linguistic anthropologists. Our expertise on language, collective and individual, is not established. What do we do about this?

Many of us have found letters to editors and producers ineffective. Most media organizations choose letters from the topics that attract the most interest. More importantly, media organizations rarely choose experts from letter writers.

Media organizations get their “experts” primarily from three sources: people with whom they’ve worked before, people recommended, like by university public affairs offices, and by searching the Internet

Kerim Friedman, writing on the Linganth listserv, suggested an experiment: “pick five or six keywords related to your research and try searching for them on Google. Be sure to use search terms that a non-specialist would use to find information on this topic. Do you see your name on any of the top search pages?”

If not, there are fixes. Google and other search engines are not magic. They prioritize hits on the basis of very specific criteria.

He goes on to list some specific actions anthropologists can take. Read the whole thing.


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P. Kerim Friedman is an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures at National Dong Hwa University, in Taiwan, where he teaches linguistic and visual anthropology. He is co-director of the film Please Don't Beat Me, Sir!, winner of the 2011 Jean Rouch Award from the Society of Visual Anthropology. Follow Kerim on Twitter.