Last week I reported from #AAA2014 on the emergence of digital anthropology as a growing theme in our discipline and one in need of some legitimacy relative to anthropology’s traditional domains. Readers posed questions interrogating the worth of digital anthropology. What is it good for? What does it add? How should we define it?
I’ve been mulling over this question of what digital anthropology can do that is different from digital sociology or digital communications studies and the answer I came up with is problematic because it points back to these questions of jobs and disciplinary legitimacy. The next frontier for digital anthropology should be participatory design with the added challenge of translating participatory design into conventionally valuable works of scholarship.
As I settled in to browse the conference program for the 2014 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association (just hours before I was scheduled to leave, natch), I was immediately struck by a common thread running through a slew of paper panels and workshops. This year anthropologists convincingly demonstrated that they have wholly embraced the Digital, it was everywhere from topics to methodological choices, technologies and communications.
Here’s a sample of what conference goers had in store:
- ACTIV(IST) DIGITAL SCREENS: THE POLITICS OF DIGITAL IMAGING ACROSS CULTURAL BORDERS
- DIGITAL ANTHROPOLOGY GROUP (DANG) BUSINESS MEETING
- DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES AND THE PRODUCTION OF ANTHROPOLOGICAL ETHICS
- DIGITAL TECHNOLOGY, TRANSPARENCY, AND EVERYDAY FORMS OF POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT
- CONFLICTED FANTASIES: ANTHROPOLOGY AND AFRICAN MEDIA CULTURES IN THE DIGITAL AGE
- DIGITAL ANTHROPOLOGY AND CAREER MOBILITY: DO THESE GO HAND-IN-HAND?
- SEEING ARGUMENTS: VISUAL ARGUMENTATION AND PRODUCTION IN THE DIGITAL AGE
- DIGITAL DIASPORAS: AFRICAN MIGRANTS, MEDIATED COMMUNICATION, AND TRANSNATIONAL IDENTITIES
- DIGITAL MEDIA AND THE PRODUCTION OF ANTHROPOLOGY: A DISCUSSION ON VISUAL ETHICS (PART 1: PRIVACY, ACCESS, CONTROL, EXPOSURE)
- ANTHROPOLOGICAL KNOWLEDGE: ACCESS, CREATION AND DISSEMINATION IN THE DIGITAL AGE
- DIGITAL MEDIA AND THE PRODUCTION OF ANTHROPOLOGY: A DISCUSSION ON VISUAL ETHICS (PART 2: ANONYMITY, VISIBILITY, PROTEST, PARTICIPATION, IDENTITY)
- PRODUCING STORYTELLING IN THE DIGITAL AGE: NEW CHALLENGES
- ON THINGS IMMATERIAL: DATA, USERS, AND PARTICIPATION IN DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES
- THE LIFECYCLE OF ETHNOGRAPHIC INFORMATION – CHALLENGES IN THE PRESERVATION AND ACCESSIBILITY OF QUALITATIVE DATA
- NAPA Workshop: (FREE) Software for Writing and Managing Fieldnotes: FLEX DATA Notebook for PCs
- RESEARCHING ANTHROPOLOGY AND ORIENTALISM IN THE ERA OF BIG DATA: ROUNDTABLE ON THE ARAB STUDIES Institute’s KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION PROJECT
- SMALL-SCALE, BIG DATA: A NETWORK SCIENCE APPROACH TO PRODUCING ANTHROPOLOGY IN SMALL-SCALE FOOD SYSTEMS
- PRODUCING DATA, CRACKING DATA CULTURES
- THE BIG DATA REVOLUTION AND THE FUTURE OF SOCIOCULTURAL WORLDS
- MAKING ISLAM IN MULTIPLE MEDIA: INTERNET, THERAPY, ROMANCE, AND SCHOOLING IN THE FORMATION OF MUSLIM IDENTITIES
- TEACHING ANTHROPOLOGY ONLINE: BEST TOOLS AND PRACTICES FOR E-LEARNING
- Writing Ethnography: Experimenting on Paper, Experimenting Online
- CASTAC BUSINESS MEETING (COMMITTEE ON THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND COMPUTING)
- SOCIETY FOR HUMANISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY WORKSHOP ON UTILIZING FACEBOOK FOR ETHNOGRAPHIC RESEARCH
- SOCIETY FOR HUMANISTIC ANTHROPOLOGY WORKSHOP. BLOGGING BLISS: WRITING CULTURE IN THE BLOGOSPHERE
Add to this the #AAA2014 tweet-up, constant updates on social networks and blogs (not to mention the email and instant messaging we all take for granted) and it is clear — there is no part of our professional lives that is untouched by the online. Research, fieldwork, methods, teaching, scholarly communications. Digital anthropology is a major development in our discipline and rightly so, humanity, our bread and butter, is potentially redefining itself in relation to these technologies. We can’t not study this stuff!
When the Digital Anthropology Group convened for the first time at the 2012 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association we had a full agenda of topics to discuss. In a previous post I covered the professionalization of blogging and the study of online culture. This time out I will be sharing our conversations regarding Open Access. Full notes from the meeting are available here.
It was my observation that at the AAA’s folks seemed generally optimistic about OA in anthropology. Or maybe optimistic isn’t the right word? People seemed to view it as more or less inevitable. To hear the talk late nights in the bars around the conference center you’d think that we’d already won. Continue reading
At the 2012 annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association we hosted the first business meeting of the Digital Anthropology Group. I ran the meeting like a focus group and the forty or so anthropologists in attendance, from grad students to senior professors, participated with gusto.
Growing out of conversations about Digital Anthropology here on Savage Minds the focus questions were arranged around six prongs. I know forks usually have four prongs… but DANG is a really big fork, okay? The purpose of the exercise was to discover what DANG’s mission should be for each theme and to come away with an actionable project.
You can access the notes on the topics we discussed via 01anthropology:
- Cyberworlds/ Digital Studies
- Public Anthropology
- Open Access
- Field Methods
In the coming weeks I’ll share with you our observations about the information we collected and reproduce the suggestions we came up with. In opening up the conversation to the Savage Minds community I am hoping to revive interest in a Digital Anthropology by including more voices.
I am also hoping to cheer, flatter, and shame my colleagues into contributing their time and talents for the future success of the Digital Anthropology interest group. Without a doubt my top priority at this juncture is to keep the momentum we gained from meeting in person from dying out before we meet again in Chicago, 2013.