Many adults worry that children are wasting time online, texting, or playing video games. In the first in-depth ethnographic study of its kind, researchers of the Digital Youth Project found that the digital world is creating new opportunities for youth to grapple with social norms, explore interests, develop technical skills, and experiment with new forms of self-expression.
According to the report, youth could benefit from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration. Rather than assuming that education is primarily about preparing for jobs and careers, the researchers question what it would mean to think of it as a process guiding youths’ participation in public life more generally.
The report was presented at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in San Francisco and is availbable online, as anthropologist Mizuko Ito, who lead the research, announced on her blog.
The major findings:
Youth use online media to extend friendships and interests.
They can be always “on,” in constant contact with their friends through private communications like instant messaging or mobile phones, as well as in public ways through social network sites such as MySpace and Facebook. With these “friendship-driven” practices, youth are almost always associating with people they already know in their offline lives. The majority of youth use new media to “hang out” and extend existing friendships in these ways.
Youth engage in peer-based, self-directed learning online.
In both friendship-driven and interest-driven online activity, youth create and navigate new forms of expression and rules for social behavior. By exploring new interests, tinkering, and “messing around” with new forms of media, they acquire various forms of technical and media literacy. By its immediacy and breadth of information, the digital world lowers barriers to self-directed learning.
New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in a classroom setting. Youth are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented by set, predefined goals.
“This was a large ethnographic project by far the most challenging and rewarding research project I’ve undertaken so far", Mizuko Ito writes. She is particularly proud of the shared report, which was “a genuinely collaborative effort, co-authored by 15 of us on the team, and including contributions from many others":
We took a step that is unusual with ethnographic work, of trying to engage in joint analysis rather than simply putting together an edited collection of case studies. We spent the past year reading each others interviews and fieldnotes, and developing categories that cut across the different case studies. Each chapter of the book incorporates material from multiple case studies, and is an effort to describe the diversity in youth practice at it emerged from a range of different youth populations and practices.
What are the best anthropology websites? Last night, at the annual meeting of the American Anthropology Association in San Francisco, the Savage Minds Awards were handed out. In the category “Most excellent blog", antropologi.info was voted second best, behind my favorite, Culture Matters.
Thanks a lot for voting for antropologi.info ! Unfortunaltely, I could not be there.
Here are the results:
Most Excellent Blog or Journal that does not end in “Matters” (The Category formerly known as Most Excellent Unclassifiable Digital Thingamajob)
Runner Up: Digital Anthropology
Most Win: Neuroanthropology
Congratulations! As the above list and the list of the nominated sites show, there are a lot of great anthropology websites! There has been a huge development during the recent years. This is great news!
The voting has begun - the winners will be announced at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. antropologi.info is one of seven blogs that were nominated for the Most Excellent Anthropology Blog category (currently number two behind Culture Matters).
There are two more categories: “Most Excellent Open Access Journal in Anthropology” and “Most Excellent Uncategorizable Digital Thing-a-ma-job for Anthropology”
Read more about the Teh Savage Minds Awards Ceremony over at Savage Minds: http://savageminds.org/2008/11/14/teh-savage-minds-awards-ceremony/
How has Free Software transformed not only software, but also music, film, science, and education? Anthropologist and Savage Minds blogger Christopher M. Kelty explores this question in his new book “Two bits” that now is “available for purchase, for download and for derivation and remixing” as he writes.
A really web 2.0 book in other words. It is both available on paper (published by Duke University Press) and online - freely accessible. Both book, blog and wiki!
From the book description:
Drawing on ethnographic research that took him from an Internet healthcare start-up company in Boston to media labs in Berlin to young entrepreneurs in Bangalore, Kelty describes the technologies and the moral vision that binds together hackers, geeks, lawyers, and other Free Software advocates.
Kelty shows how these specific practices have reoriented the relations of power around the creation, dissemination, and authorization of all kinds of knowledge after the arrival of the Internet.
The number of young newspaper readers is declining. In order to better understand the behaviors of young readers, Associated Press commissioned a team of anthropologists to follow 18 young individuals around the world and examine their media habits, the Editors Weblog reports.
The Anthropologists found few major cultural differences. “The young digital consumers in Hyderabad were very similar to the ones in Silicon Valley in the United States", said Jim Kennedy from AP.
The researchers uncovered the social aspects of reading news: Almost all of their informants shared news with each other, through text messages, emails and social networks. “These young consumers are looking up to news as a form of social currency", Kennedy said.
Strangely enough, 16 of the 18 individuals consumed news through email, “a popular and powerful platform that often tends to be discounted by traditional media", according to the Editors Weblog.
The full results of the study will be presented at the 2008 World Editors Forum in Gothenburg, Sweden, to be held June 1-4.
After five years participant observation, anthropologist Jenny Ryan has published her masters’ thesis about the social network sites Facebook, My Space and Tribe.net. She created a beautiful web version of her thesis at http://www.thevirtualcampfire.org/
In her thesis, she proposes that everyday involvement with these sites can be metaphorically represented as a “virtual campfire” that “bridges the gap between the place of the hearth and the space of the cosmos, potentially reversing what has been called “the disintegration of the public sphere” (Habermas 1962: 175).
She explains in her introduction:
Thousands of years ago, our early human ancestors gathered around campfires, creating communal hearths of warmth and light. There they might tell stories, converse about the day’s events, perhaps engage in shamanistic rituals involving plants, music and dance, or simply gaze silently at the flames in collective meditation.
Today, the fireplace in my family’s living room shares its centralizing power with the television, around which we gather with our laptops and cellphones by our sides. Our time spent together is increasingly mediated by new technologies, enabling new forms of storytelling, altering our processes of individual and collective identity formation, and extending the possibilities for creating and maintaining social relationships.
My central argument in this thesis is that online social networks can potentially serve as both places of the hearth and avenues to the cosmos. Over time, these sites function as personal records of one’s experiences and relationships. These archives are made up of a variety of forms akin to older modes of record keeping, such as address books, journals, diaries, photo albums, personal correspondences, and yearbooks.
Additionally, they serve as gateways to the greater milieu, enabling the circulation of information about the world and granting members the capacity to participate in various ways. For teenagers and marginalized groups, in particular, these sites can be safe spaces for exploring and experimenting with identity, as well as for connecting to new people and ideas.
Ryan plans to add interactive features to the website version of her thesis, maybe she’ll turn it into a wiki, she writes in her blog.
Have anthropology journals ignored students? Is this one of the reasons for the popularity of anthropology blogs? Anthropology journals are not well known among students, Owen Wiltshire writes in his class assignment Why do anthropologists blog? A mini ethnography, a story, and a field report:
A restrictive publishing environment gives little voice to students. Not only that, but anthropology journals have ignored students and perhaps in doing this they have missed out on generating a name for themselves. As more and more material becomes freely available online, it becomes a matter of knowing where to look – and my small survey of students revealed that journals are not well known.
My small survey revealed that students had a hard time identifying a prestigious journal in their field, and the survey from Savage Minds shows that graduate students make up a large percentage of the readership. In my exploration of blogs I found a number of graduate students writing them. So perhaps the limited distribution of academic publishing contributes to the desirability of the blogsphere.
Owen Wiltshire found much “interesting thought” in the blogosphere and wonders if journal publications would only serve for the purposes of gaining prestige: “Everything is being said in conversations elsewhere, but is ‘proved’ in journals".
In his text, he discusses several reasons for why anthropologists blog - or do not blog. Among other things he talked to several anthropologists who wish there was more room for new ways of writing anthropology.
Several students don’t want to share their thoughts online because they fear of having ideas “stolen":
Another anthropology professor discussed the way societies he had studied were hierarchical, depending on secrecy and not necessarily the democratic exchange of knowledge – but as my interviews revealed many students worry that ideas can be stolen, and this is perhaps another reason people might have to not blog. Anthropologists in this sense are a hierarchical organization too, and secrecy is indeed a reason many do not feel comfortable sharing or discussing their ideas.
Here is his prelimarlary summary:
Why do Anthropologists Blog?
- Public engagement – feedback from beyond the discipline
- Less formal – much broader range of style, more complex ways of manipulating knowledge
(video, text, dynamic content)
- Community, feedback. Enjoy discussing ideas with others.
- Prestige – great place to get known, at least by other anthro bloggers
- Younger generation growing up with online publishing – not worried about privacy as much
- Perhaps an escape from work/professionalism when reflecting on anthropological ideas
Why Don’t Anthropologists Blog?
- Fear that their work isn’t good enough
- Do not want to have their name associated with it
- Generally not part of internet culture – accessibility
- Lack of time – anthropology is a professional topic – there aren’t many “amateur
anthropologists” - although this is one thing many bloggers want to change
- Fear of having ideas stolen – desire to “own” ideas.
- Prefer traditional publishing mediums – books
- Desire for more filtered knowledge
- Desire to maintain privacy outside of work
Wiltshire explored this issue by participation in the blogosphere through his own blog, and reading and writing on numerous other anthropology blogs. He also discussed blogging, sharing information, and public engagement with a focus group of six students, and multiple interviews with students and one professor – all at Concordia University.
Related issues are discussed by Erkan Saka in an e-seminar at the EASA Media Anthropology Network 19 May - 1 June 2008. “Blogging as a research tool for ethnographic fieldwork”.
(via Bits and Bytes) The true value of IT will come not from information or technology per se but from the social side. Therefore anthropologists and other social scientists will become more important to Information Technology (IT) Departments than IT itself, says IT analyst Tom Austin in an interview by Fast Company.
The interview does not deal with user centered design but with shaping a climate of creativity in the workplace in the Web 2.0 era with Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis and other online social network tools:
A new species of Information Technologist is emerging from the primordial ooze of Web 2.0 – social scientists and humanists who focus on human behavior more than software code. (…) As computer systems become ever more automated and transparent, attention will shift to how to use these tools as social lubricants in the workplace.
MySpace or Facebook will become models for business interaction, Austin thinks:
Look at teenagers today. They’re teamagers. They work on projects as a group and think nothing of doing it that way. I expect to see that kind of thing percolate through the enterprise as an unstoppable force over the next two decades.
Austin tells about companies that are using websites like Facebook to help reinforce or build a social network inside the company to enhance collaboration and productivity:
They use a variety of tools where employees are encouraged to create a personal page where they share not only name, rank, and serial number but also information about prior jobs, interests, hobbies, other skills they may have, projects they’ve worked on, and so forth. That becomes a dynamic and important tool for navigating through the network of people inside the company to find others who may be able to help you.
In this world of the “ad hocracy” that we live in, where people get thrown into project after project, it helps to look at information and figure out, these three people I’m meeting with tomorrow who I’ve never met before. What are they like? Is there something we share in common – a hobby, a background, education, a boss we hated – that you can use to strike up a conversation?
The problem with IT today is there are too many engineers and not enough social scientists. Look at the numbers of features and controls we put on how things are done. That’s an engineer’s approach, versus some of the free form approach of Enterprise 2.0 and social networking.
There is another business anthropology story in the news: In the article Can the Cellphone Help End Global Poverty?, New York Times author Sara Corbett writes about the work done by Nokia-researcher Jan Chipchase, a “human-behavior researcher” and “user-anthropologist” (but with a degree in design, not anthropology):
His mission, broadly defined, is to peer into the lives of other people, accumulating as much knowledge as possible about human behavior so that he can feed helpful bits of information back to the company — to the squads of designers and technologists and marketing people who may never have set foot in a Vietnamese barbershop but who would appreciate it greatly if that barber someday were to buy a Nokia.
He works in a similar way as many design anthropologists:
Rather than sending someone like Chipchase to Vietnam or India as an emissary for the company — loaded with products and pitch lines, as a marketer might be — the idea is to reverse it, to have Chipchase, a patently good listener, act as an emissary for people like the barber or the shoe-shop owner’s wife, enlightening the company through written reports and PowerPoint presentations on how they live and what they’re likely to need from a cellphone, allowing that to inform its design.
The whole article in The New York Times is interesting but quite long. For a summary including comments see the post over at Neuroanthropology Cellphones Save The World. For more information, see Jan Chipchase’s blog
For an earlier entry on Jan Chipchase, see Capitalism and the problems of “High speed ethnographies”
UPDATE (14.4.08) Anthropologists are part of a research team that wants to find out how mobile phones might be used to allow people to share content with each other >> more information at The Engineer