Apologies for the delay since my last post but I have started a new job at the Cyberspace Research Unit at the University of Central Lancashire and that has been a bit hectic – I am now living in Lincolnshire, working in Preston and Lodging in Liverpool.
When I first began my research all I knew was that there were people ‘out there’ on the Internet and that I wanted to talk to them. I didn’t know how to do that, who was there, why they were there, or even where to find them. I simply had an unshakeable belief that cyberspace was a real place populated by real people. I remember discussing the problem of trying to find people with my then supervisor, Prof Allison James (now at the University of Sheffield). She told me a similar story regarding her own experience - of walking through the streets of a UK mining town watching the children playing and wondering how she could establish contact.
Much of my experience as a cyberanthropologist has been like that – a voyage of discovery – learning that anthropology as a practice is very similar in every field, not only as a discipline, but also in the minutiae of research… for example, learning a new language: for my friend Michaela it was French, for Julia it was Russian, for myself it was a new interactive text-based language.
I have come to realise that the Internet presents a unique challenge to ethnographers in that the written word is the key means of communication, and presented me with a key epistemological problem - how can I make sense of a culture that does not use verbal communication?
Unsurprisingly, written words are often seen to be either lacking in emotion, or lacking the ability to convey emotion without being supported by sight or sound. For example if someone says they are sad, it is a much more believable performance if their words are accompanied by the sight of tears and the sound of sobbing. Yet in cyberspace these physical modalities of speech are to all extents and purposes absent. As a result, in cyberspace, words have had to be transformed. They also express larger meanings in cyberspace. Words have become emotive and descriptive, active and performative. Thus my earlier question - how can I make sense of a culture that does not use verbal communication was largely irrelevant: instead the problem was one of showing that this is communication like in any other ‘real’ place.
Of course much more work has been done in the study of language and the Internet since I first began. But what I really want to share are the similarities with my colleagues who come back from the field to find their speech peppered with language from the field until they had fully integrated back into academic life. I was taking a walk with my beloved one evening when he said something amusing. To my chagrin I didn’t laugh, instead I said ‘LOL’.
This was the moment when I realised how difficult it was to leave the field behind.
That's what is it about:
A proposed legislation would require final manuscripts of peer-reviewed journal articles based on federally-funded research to be made freely available on government-hosted websites six months after publication by commercial and non-profit publishers (such as the AAA).
The AAA does not like this and joined 65 other disciplinary associations and small publishers etc and protested against this legislation.
Here are their main concerns about the legislation, expressed in a letter by these associations:
1) it would undermine the value-added investments made by publishers in the peer review process;
2) it would duplicate existing mechanisms that enable the public to access scientific journals by requiring the government to establish and maintain costly digital repositories;
3) it would position the government as a competitor to independent publishers, posing a disincentive for them to sustain investment and innovation in disseminating authoritative research. The net result, opponents argue, is that the overall quality of research competitiveness would be lowered.
The AAA is mainly concerned about "the potential impact the proposed legislation may have on the AnthroSource business model and revenue generation".
Three excellent comments on this issue:
Bryan McKay: Will AnthroSource go open source? (Les Faits de la Fiction)
Kerim Friedman: Open Source Anthropology (Concerns over the ethical dilemmas involved in producing knowledge about the “other” have, in the past few decades, radically changed how anthropologists conduct research and write ethnographies. Unfortunately, they have not changed how we publish).
Does the World Cup put a stop to war? It is undeniable that football has the power to unite - but its power to divide should not be underestimated, Daniel W Drezner writes in a Washington Post article where he quotes a 1973 article by Richard Sipes in the journal American Anthropologist. Sipes distilled the debate into two arguments: One is that combative sports and war are substitutes for aggressive behaviour. The other is that sports induce a warlike attitude. Sipes tentatively concluded that sports foster aggression.
Drezner discusses several interesting examples from the history of football and concludes:
The problem is that historically, football has been just as likely to be the trigger for war as the trigger for peace. Football will never bring about peace on its own. The flip side is also true-by itself, Football cannot start a war. The World Cup, like the Olympics, suffers from a case of overblown rhetoric.
PS: It might be interesting to find out under which conditions football may trigger either war - or which conditions may trigger peace
By studying beer cultures, you may learn lot about identity. In the United States, German-American identity is rarely marked. But given the association between Germany and beer, craft beer allows for the active negotiation of German-American identity, anthropologist Alexandre Enkerli writes in a draft of his paper Brewing Cultures: Craft Beer and Cultural Identity in North America, that he 's published on his blog.
"Craft beer" refers to barley malt beer brewed locally by a small commercial brewery. The "craft beer movement", Enkerli explains, is oriented against the beer globalization. Slogans like "Think Global, Drink Local" are popular in the craft beer world.
Enkerli also discusses gender aspects:
Not only is the overwhelming majority of craft beer people male but masculinity and even virility are significant aspects of craft beer culture.
The negotiation of gender identity is an especially significant dimension of homebrewing, Enkerli writes. It often relates to the gender differentiation of food in general:
Historically, alewives and other brewsters have been responsible for domestic beer production. Contemporary (male) brewers often acknowledge the importance of women in the history of brewing. Yet the passage from a woman-centric domestic brewing practice to a male-dominated brewing industry and then to an overwhelmingly male craft beer culture rarely seems to represent a continuous process. It is as if male brewers, and especially homebrewers, were saying that despite their presence in the kitchen, they were still men.
Enkerli is both anthropologist and a craft beer enthusiast and has been homebrewer for several years.
PS: The picture was taken at a Norwegian-German wedding. For the wedding, two barrels of Bavarian beer were transported by the couple from Bavaria to Norway by car. Enkerli's point about negotion of German identity in the US might also be true for Norway.
The magazine India New England writes about a psychologist who has been doing ethnographic fieldwork for two years! :
Sunil Bhatia, associate professor of human development at Connecticut College, uses the tools of ethnography to explore the unspoken, invisible experiences beneath the successful exterior of middle-class Indian immigrants, sometimes referred to as the “model minority.” He conducted two years of research as a participant-observer at community and family events among members of the Indian Diaspora in southern Connecticut.
His research shows that the standard model of the acculturation process is inadequate for understanding changes in immigrant identity:
In the standard model that Bhatia has questioned, an immigrant successfully deals with the new culture of his adopted country by integrating it with the old culture of his native land, shedding values and practices that no longer work, or providing space, often in the home, for the old values to live alongside the new. (...) He notes that the standard model ignores the particular historical and economic circumstances that lead people to move to a new culture. It also treats both old and new cultures as fixed entities practically synonymous with nation states, and its heavy emphasis on assimilation misses intriguing personal struggles where individuals adopt or reject values.
Bhatia says focusing on the immigrant’s own role in constructing both old and new identities, “changes the notion of what it means to assimilate or to be multicultural, shifting the question of what ‘otherness’ means.”
Bhatia sees the modern Indian immigrant constructing a home culture or “Indian identity” in the new country that is markedly different from life in the old. The family that shunned television in India as a waste of time may now have any of seven Indian satellite or cable channels in their American home to be sure their children are exposed to the language, news, and entertainment from “home.” Mothers often have dual roles: college-educated wage earners during the day, and cultural care-takers at night, cooking Indian meals, supervising their children’s Hindi language education, and dutifully securing a distinctly Indian home life — though often without the presence and counsel of their own mothers or the extended family.
These identity-building projects undertaken by Indians — what Bhatia calls “creating a space for themselves” in newspapers, celebrations, temples — require time, energy, individual choice, and struggle.
(via FieldNotes): These are the first words in an article on how the internet is changing life in First Nations communities in Canada:
"This year, the internet saved a child's life."
For Internet may mean different things to life up there in the North:
A broadband connection doesn't mean downloading the latest Bedouin Soundclash album or "messengeing" a friend who lives down the street. For the aboriginal communities that are being wired, internet means school, family, health-care and job opportunities.
High-level physics courses are now available online, and bright aboriginal students who choose to stay in their villages … have the drive to take online classes and strive towards university.
First Nations leaders think keeping kids in the community -- educating and mentoring them -- might stem some social problems.
And previously isolated villages might cooperate and share news via the web:
Turtle Island Native Network has a forum page where aboriginals post essays, ideas and concerns. Chief Tommy Alexis of the Tl'atz'en Nation posted an essay on clean water issues on the afternoon of May 22. By 9:00 p.m. on May 30, it had been viewed 3250 times. Other communities facing water pollution problems now know that they are not alone. Maybe one of the communities new to the web will learn for the first time that other First Nations have similar land-rights issues, or water-quality issues. It is possible that isolation will no longer disempower nations.
At Vanderbilt University, students will work with health organizations in Uganda this summer as part of that country’s response to HIV/AIDS. They are part of a project called "The Kampala Project on Global Citizenship" that has a nice website and they will even run a blog as soon as they have arrived.
Anthropologist Greg Barz, who has studied the successful role music has played in the fight against AIDS in Uganda is the students’ academic adviser during the trip. He says:
These students will be immersed in a different culture, learn firsthand about a global health crisis and have the opportunity to interact with Ugandan political leaders, artists, doctors and non-profit leaders in an innovative human rights dinner seminar series. The experiences gained by these students will be invaluable to them and will enhance the university community once they return.
The program director for the Kampala Project is Mark Dalhouse. He explains:
Our aim is to foster lifelong civic involvement among our students. Their academic coursework helps them become even brighter students, but we encourage them to take that a step further to explore how they can apply that knowledge to promote social justice and public awareness as active citizens serving the community.
Germany's real problem isn't "honor" killers or skinheads. Instead, what keeps this increasingly diverse nation from gaining a strong sense of social cohesion is its self-made confusion over what it means to be German in the first place, Gregory Rodriguez writes in a great article in the Los Angeles Times.
He quotes Barbara John, professor of European anthropology at Humboldt University in Berlin, who says: "We stick to the ethnic definition probably more than any other European nation." He writes:
Indeed, long before Germany's terrible experiment with ethnic supremacy during the Nazi years, Germans had a narrow view of themselves as a people. Unlike, say, the French, who acknowledge that their culture and language derive from the Romans and that they are akin to other Latin peoples, the Germans see themselves as unique.
What he (and many others as well) wonder about: Have the Germans learned from the nazi-period and World war II?:
Even after World War II, when West Germans did everything in their power to rid their culture of chauvinism and racism, they left intact a citizenship law that was based on blood kinship rather than on place of birth. That meant that the children of Turkish guest workers, born in Germany, were not automatic citizens, yet an ethnic German from Romania whose family had never resided in contemporary Germany was.
It wasn't until 2000 that a more open citizenship law took effect. In arguing for a territory-based notion of citizenship, then-Interior Minister Otto Schily proclaimed that Germany needed to rise above "the destructive principle of ethnocracy."
Six years on, Germans are only beginning to differentiate between their ethnic and civic identities. Ethnic Germans still tend to look on non-ethnic Germans as auslander, or foreigners. Even the media, when they acknowledge minorities as German citizens, use tortured phrases, describing someone as a "Turk who carries a German passport," for example. Not surprisingly, such marginalization has negative consequences.
Rodriguez believes that the shaping of Germany's future identity lies in popular culture. He mentions a popular sitcom "Turkish for Beginners," and Turkish-German novelist Feridun Zaimoglu who says:
"The truth is you can't talk anymore of a foreign population and a native population, as if they were enemies. As I understand myself, I am a German," Zaimoglu says. "I love my country, but I don't make a Wagner opera out of it. I don't try to define what it means to be German. I just live it."
If you cannot access the article there, you can read it at CantonRep