Category: "Open Access Anthropology and Knowledge Sharing"
Nearly every hour an anthropologist somewhere on this planet publishes a blog post in English. The antropologi.info overviews over the newest blog posts in English are now updated with several new blogs. I’ve also removed some blogs that haven’t been updated for a while and tried to fix some bugs.
It’s not the edited overview with hand picked posts that Greg Downey at Neuroanthropology is looking for, though (and I hope will be realised somehow in the near future as well). I haven’t included all anthropology blogs, though, so there was some editing.
I’m sure I’ve missed some blogs, so please let me know if there are anthropology blogs that should be part of the overviews:
Overview over anthropology blogs and their latest posts: http://www.antropologi.info/blog/
Overview over the latest anthropology blog posts including blog search http://antropologi.info/feeds/anthropology/
The need for more spectacle in academic presentations: What anthropologists can learn from wrestlers
Now, only a few days before the largest gathering of anthropologists in the world, it’s time to take up again the banner of the well-prepared, well-written, well-presented conference paper, writes Rex in his post Defending the form at Savage Minds .
In the following text, antropologi.info contributor Tereza Kuldova and Jan Martin Kvile explain why we need more spectacle in academic presentations:
Wrestling With Others for Self for Others: on the Need of Spectacle in Academic Presentations
Tereza Kuldova & Jan Martin Kvile
PhD Fellow in Social Anthropology at Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo & The Ultimate Math Teacher, Holmen High School
Have you been recently at a conference? How many people could you count dozing off at the beginning, in the middle and at the end of the presentations? Or maybe, you too were dozing off, unable to even count your fellow colleagues who shared that miserable state of existence at an utterly boring presentation…
Or, maybe, you are one of those who really try to give people a chance and engage with their ideas, but you are on a verge of becoming disinterested in even the most spectacular and thought provoking subjects just because the presentations kill it? Or maybe you are the presenter who makes people doze off? In that case, you need to learn something from wrestlers.
So here we are, at yet another anthropological conference. We, anthropologists, write about incredibly interesting, exciting things in the world, cultures, myths, religions, hierarchies, imaginations from all corners of the world. Yet, when you come to an anthropological conference, with some exceptions that merely confirm the rule, you will see a room full of people with almost disinterested expressions on their faces - these are possibly intended to signify the seriousness and depth (oh yeah, the anthropological obsession with ‘depth’) of their intellectual endeavor (however, it is enough to wait for the dinner and a little wine and, before you know it, you are listening to stories from the very same people’s bedrooms /possibly a way how to get ‘deeply’ familiar with each other/).
Better to get back to the conference room now. So they have a script and a plan. Each gets 20 minutes to present a paper. For some reason very few understand the simple concept of 20 minutes (yet all of them seem to be heavy users of watches) and for some even more miraculous reason most do really believe that presenting equals reading. Some basic arithmetic would make this clear immediately, if 2=2 and an apple is an apple, then presenting and reading can hardly be equal. These are namely two very different concepts.
Reading ≠ Presenting
Reading means comprehending and understanding the written word, deciphering its meaning and interpreting it while engaging with the text and its ideas. It is a relation between the reader and the text, a private and intimate relation too. Reading paper out loud disrupts this. It intends to invite the listener in, yet at the same time it never really succeeds, and by the very nature of this awkward relationship it cannot. Reading out loud does not invite the listener into a dialogue, the listener is not part of that exclusive bond between the reader and the text, and is rather ambivalently included and dis-included at the same time.
Presentation on the other hand stands for performance, act, demonstration, display, exposition, giving. Reading a paper out loud is hardly a performance (if it is, then it must be a really bad one), it is not a demonstration, not an exposition, not a show that invites participation.
And so we are sitting in the conference room, another speaker is being introduced. Interesting topic, the title sounds amazing. We sit back on our chairs and wake up a little. Then the word goes to the speaker himself.
First thing that he says, “eergh, I was rushing to the airport yesterday, was a bit delayed and had to catch the flight, so it happened I forgot my USB somewhere, still have not figured out where and with it the presentation, and it is not even in my laptop or on my email, so I am left without it, but I will really try to make up for that, I promise” (‘so you promise, eh’, we think to ourselves).
And he goes on (as if this was not already enough), “my paper is a little longer, so maybe I talk into the discussion time, but that is fine I guess, it is important” (we are beginning to sense frustration, which is the first stage of dozing off later on). So he sits down (‘oh no, not one of those again’, crosses our minds), and puts his paper right in front of his face and starts reading, as if reading for himself, no intonation, no enthusiasm.
We try really hard to follow with the fast flow of unintelligibly long sentences, five minutes into the reading we lose it, look out of the window and watch the birds outside, think of our lovers or our deadlines, suddenly our minds re-enter the room and we try to re-focus. Impossible, we lost it. This ‘reader’ does not know what highlights and repetition are, we are done and our imagination flies back to our lovers (or deadlines). Thirty minutes into the talk we start wondering, wasn’t he supposed to be finished by now, hell, what’s the time.
Around the 35th minute the speaker starts blabbering something about finishing off soon, we sharpen our ears, we get one sentence. We match it fast with the title of the paper, get the picture of what was probably going on and then we manage to formulate few relevant questions. Then one of us says, “thank you for the very exciting and stimulating lecture” (though the only thing that in reality really excited and stimulated us was probably the thought of our lovers) and add, “I have one little remark…”.
And so we go on with the theatre.
After the speaker is done the others start coming to him, “very good presentation, you have some nice points, see you at the dinner”. Do you want to know what they really think? “It sucked and I am definitely not going to read your paper, but I am going to pretend I will”.
Good reasons for that, the moment our speaker stepped in on the stage and wasted five minutes on diminishing himself giving us a story of lost USB, he was doomed to fail. The moment he started reading while hiding himself behind the paper, he confirmed that. The moment he went over his time, he showed he does not care for others. Yes, it is disrespectful. And yes, it shows your disinterest in discussion. Creating engaging dialogue should be the aim, yet, instead you fear, fear the questions. Grow up, the questions are there for you, through engaging with others’ reflections you will emerge as a transformed person! Stop fearing what others have to say! Embrace it instead.
‘Argument is war’ is one of the famous metaphors we live by (Lakoff and Johnson 2003). It is through dialogue and juxtaposition of different voices that meaning emerges (Bakhtin 2004). In knowledge, disruption is the goal! If dialogue ends, everything ends, as Bakhtin says. What is the ultimate spectacle of violent conflict, the ultimate metaphor of an argument? Wrestling! Yes, we should learn from wrestling and that too on more than one level!
Can We Academics Learn Something from Wrestling?
A wrestler is charismatic, has a stage presence, he is there to please the audience and that is how his success is determined. His performance is designed to create desired effects. He is a “a self-promotional device to draw the crowds and build reputation that would precede his entrance in the town” (Mazer 1998: 24) – not unlike an academic in this respect. Now don’t you want to be more like that? And less like the one who makes the audience doze off?
Did you know that young wrestlers have only twenty minutes in the program of the day to impress the audiences and create ‘heat’? Well, they happen to stick to the time. And most of them create considerable amounts of ‘heat’. Now next time you go out there, think about your audience first and about yourself as a wrestler! You want your audiences’ brains to heat up! You want them to focus their attention on you and what you have to say! Talk briefly but with impact, like a wrestler – Bang! Get your point across – Bang!
You have been researching for ages and you know your stuff, so how come you have to read it (that is just suspicious by the way)? Talk to your audiences, get them engaged in your ideas and thoughts, and create a dialogue instead of killing it. Maybe you are the enemy of yourself in this staged performance that we call ‘presenting a paper’.
Our whole endeavor in anthropology is like wrestling. We wrestle with others and their ideas, for ourselves and for others and when it comes to presenting we have to wrestle with ourselves for others, for the audience. Show the world the power of your ideas, be bold, talk loud and rehearse your stage performance, give us the spectacle! We want to remember what you say and we want to get interested in what it is you do. Get me interested and I read your work, those 20 minutes, those are a teaser, a commercial, an advertisement. So start writing down your punch lines (it is not a coincidence it is called a punch line, come alive wrestler!).
Now to the more profound importance of ‘wrestling’, Roland Barthes once said that “wrestling is a sum of spectacles, of which no single one is a function: each moment imposes the total knowledge of a passion which rises erect and alone, without ever extending to the crowning moment of a result” (Barthes 1993).
Maybe, we should like a wrestler turn our presentations into a sequence of little spectacles, open these up with a puzzle, engaging paradox or ambiguity. Maybe the inevitable ambiguity of the worlds we research and try to describe and thus the ambiguous nature of our findings should be understood as a productive force. The world is dirty and fuzzy; full of artificial categories we create to grasp this fuzziness and mess. Oh yes, and to top it, we create other categories intended to describe these ambiguous cases, such as hybridity and creolization.
We should get rid of those statements beginning with “I argue that” or “I conclude that” (note that wrestling is not about winning, it is about the process) and maybe we should instead open possibilities and let ambiguous voices speak. We are dealing with dialogical materials we are in dialogue with, how can the product be anything else than an invitation into that dialogue, a dialogue that is a part of the ongoing dialogue of humanity?
Maybe loose ends should never be really tied up, never really resolved for the sake of further dialogue and for the sake of knowledge, which itself is only a sort of metadialogue. Words are power and they can carve us versus them very easily, they objectify and transform what is fluid into something static. Categories thrive on pollution and love for purity. The more pollution the stronger the desire for purity (Douglas 2002).
But can it be that tidying all dirt is not such a good idea? Maybe we need to deal with garbage and dirt differently (Eriksen 2011). This struggle for perfect labels and neat categories is no more than an act of violence against life that is an unending and ambiguous dance of merger and division (Anton 2001). If that is so, the question is, could we think of hypocrisy and wrestling as a virtue?
Anton, C. 2001. Selfhood and authenticity. State University of New York Press.
Bakhtin, M. M. 2004. The Dialogic Imagination. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Barthes, R. 1993. Mythologies. London: Vintage.
Douglas, M. 2002. Purity and danger: an analysis of concepts of pollution and taboo. Routledge.
Eriksen, T. H. 2011. Søppel: avfall i en verden av bivirkninger. Oslo: Aschehoug.
Lakoff, G. & Johnson, M. 2003. Metaphors we live by. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Mazer, S. 1998. Professional wrestling: sport and spectacle. University Press of Mississippi.
Sources of original images: unknown
While George Monbiot is right when he is attacking the academic publishing industry, it is important not to forget the positive developments.
More and more journals go open access. A few days ago, the first issue of the Nordic Journal of Migration Research was launched.
It is a continuation of two well known journals, the Norwegian Journal of Migration Research (paper only) and the online Finnish Journal of Ethnicity and Migration. These journals chose to close down their independent activities in favour of this larger international venture that gives free access to all their articles.
Nordic Journal of Migration Research will publish three or four issues per year. It is peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary, and focuses on migration theory and analyses of migratory processes, integration policies and intercultural relations. The journal prioritizes Nordic issues, but in a global perspective, and therefore also welcomes comparative studies in Nordic and non-Nordic countries.
Here is an overview over the first issue:
On the Birth and Profile of the Nordic Journal of Migration Research (Ulf Hedetoft and Hakan G. Sicakkan)
The Ethics of Immigration Policy (Nils Holtug)
Migrants in the Scandinavian Welfare State. The emergence of a social policy problem (Grete Brochmann and Anniken Hagelund)
The Multilingual City. The cases of Helsinki and Barcelona (Peter A. Kraus)
Book reviews (including a review of Paradoxes of Cultural Recognition: Perspectives from Northern Europe edited by Sharam Alghasi, Thomas Hylland Eriksen and Halleh Ghorashi
See also an overview over anthropology open access journals
Who are the most ruthless capitalists in the western world? The banks? Oil companies? No, academic publishers! In an article in the Guardian, George Monbiot explains why academic publishers make Murdoch look like a socialist.
The need for open access publishing has been one of the most debated topics in the anthropological blogosphere. Monbiot has done a great job in transfering the debate into the general public. He shows that the current models represent a democratic problem:
Everyone claims to agree that people should be encouraged to understand science and other academic research. Without current knowledge, we cannot make coherent democratic decisions. But the publishers have slapped a padlock and a “keep out” sign on the gates.
You might resent Murdoch’s paywall policy, in which he charges £1 for 24 hours of access to the Times and Sunday Times. But at least in that period you can read and download as many articles as you like. Reading a single article published by one of Elsevier’s journals will cost you $31.50. Springer charges €34.95, Wiley-Blackwell, $42. Read 10 and you pay 10 times. And the journals retain perpetual copyright. You want to read a letter printed in 1981? That’ll be $31.50.
Murdoch pays his journalists and editors, and his companies generate much of the content they use. But the academic publishers get their articles, their peer reviewing (vetting by other researchers) and even much of their editing for free. The material they publish was commissioned and funded not by them but by us, through government research grants and academic stipends. But to see it, we must pay again, and through the nose.
What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.
Monbiot’s piece has received lots of attention, the reactions have been mostly positive, including over at Savage Minds.
Some researchers call for action.
Catarina Dutilh Novaes calls for civil disobedience:
What, if anything, can we do about the tyranny of academic publishers? Here’s an obvious suggestion: so far I’ve been very ‘obedient’ and have never put final versions of my papers online (It’s always the pre-print version, uncorrected proofs etc.), as required by the copyright transfer agreement. But now I’m thinking that that’s not the way to go; and if we all start putting final versions of our papers online, what are they going to do? Are they going to sue everybody, install a special department just to keep track of who has been posting ‘their’ valuable papers online for free?
Moreover, open access journals should receive all our support. Especially established academics who do not need to ‘score points’ with ‘fancy’ publications would do well to contribute to open access journals so as to increase their reputation. If we all do it consistently, the day will come when publishing in a highly regarded open access journal will give you more ‘points’ than publishing in one of the overpriced journals published commercially.
We need a call to arms", Martin Paul Eve writes on the phd2published blog:
Monbiot’s article has served as an excellent wake-up call to researchers, but an alarm clock is not what is needed. We need a call to arms. Researchers: get yourself a copy of Open Journal Systems installed. Get your journal set up and ask your library for support! This game has gone on too long and only through action can the system ever be changed.
Maybe more easily said than done? On his personal blog he explains why he still publishes in closed journals:
I am not a tenured professor. If I had academic job security, I could afford to publish purely in open access destinations, preferably Gold, Libre. As it is, I am still at the mercy of the metrics and systems that make publishing in closed venues a requisite for obtaining long term employment. Academic freedom is the freedom to hold a view; it does not extend to implementing the view. However, those who can afford to do so, should.
Immanent critique has value. The people who solely value closed-source journals (who I would argue are unaware of the constraints they place upon themselves through such behaviour) undoubtedly perceive OA publications as being of less worth. By publishing critiques of the system they value, within a framework valued by that system, the message can be heard in places it would not otherwise reach, avoiding the “fringe looney” accusation.
By the way, at the UK Scholarly Group conference next year – the biggest gathering of librarians and academic publishers - he will argue for that we don’t need academic publishers!
Open access anthropology needs a civil service, a staff, a personnel, argues Alex Golub at Savage Minds. “Serious institutionalization is a necessary next step for the movement.”
Jon Butterworth points to a different culture of publishing in particle physics:
In particle physics, everything worth reading is posted on the arXiv server, which is why I am able to link original articles from my blogs and you are able to read them free. No one I know would consider publishing in a journal which didn’t allow this.
The Guardian has collected some comments on Monbiot’s pice in a follow up post.
Christoph Stueckelberger and Dr Stephen Brown add an important aspect Monbiot didn’t mention:
If subscriptions to academic journals in Britain consume 65% of library budgets, and three giant commercial publishers from Europe and the US control 42% of scientific journals, imagine what this means for libraries and institutions in developing countries. Not only can it be prohibitively expensive to gain access to the results of research but such practices also accentuate a “knowledge divide” between the global north and south.
Addressing such a divide was one of the reasons for the Geneva-based Globethics.net Foundation setting up a digital library on ethics, which has more than 750,000 full-text articles and books available free of charge. Such initiatives offer a modest but determined attempt to redress the balance in global knowledge transfer. Fair publishing models by commercial publishers and open access efforts are needed to promote benefit sharing in knowledge production between north and south.
Strangely enough, the internet has worsened the situation, Patricia de Wolfe from London comments:
I am a member of the group Sociologists Outside Academia. Our major problem is access to materials. The advent of the internet has worsened the situation because many libraries subscribe to online versions of journals only. So whereas in the past a vacation ticket issued by a sympathetic librarian might enable you to catch up on your reading, it now does not because the relevant journals are not on the shelves, and nobody will give a visitor an electronic log-in. Anyone who is not a member of a university is excluded from academic debate.
While Jason Baird Jackson regards Monbiots piece as “a single article explaining much of what motivates me to work on reform in scholarly communications and academic publishing”, Kent Anderson on the blog by the Society for Scholary Publishing describes Monbiots article as uninformed, unhinged, and unfair.
Important to note: Much what is said here applies to the English speaking world only. In Brazil for example, and Portugal, a large degree of social science articles are available open access online.
As Maximilian Forte pointed out three years ago, innovations in the dissemination of anthropology are coming in large part from the so-called periphery, from the outside of the disciplinary centre of gravity.
And don’t forget, it’s soon time for the global Open Access Week! (24.-30.10.2011)
Phd-theses belong to the least accessible academic publications. Anthropologist Johannes Wilm chose to make his thesis available to the public - both online as a free download, as e-book and affordable paper book. In this email-interview he explains us how he did it and why he thinks students should set up their own publishing company.
Why is open access publishing important for you?
– Open access is the best way of ensuring that your material is available for anyone who cares to look. Writing this thesis, I realized that much of the background literature from just 25 years ago already is impossible to get at, even when printed with a top university press. While publishing this with for example Cambridge University Press may have had some advantages in the short-term in terms of marketing, in a perspective of some decades it would have had the opposite effect. Others have told me that the financial gain of publishing an academic book may be up to 700 USD. In comparison to current Scandinavian wages that really means very little, so I don’t think that earning another 700 USD should be a motive to restrict the access to one’s thoughts.
What is your thesis about?
– The Sandinista movement in Nicaragua, and how I believe it has changed since the 1980s. There are elections in Nicaragua this fall, and while the Sandinistas have been in power since 2007, this may change a lot and interest in Nicaragua may grow around the elections, so I feel it’s necessary to have this out right now.
– I have been wondering whether I should wait with the free web version until real-life small-scale bookstores have had a chance, but what they have been telling me at the Revolutionary Grounds bookstore in Tucson, AZ is that people still buy the real paperback version even if things are online. So based on that the current plan is to put out everything at the same time.
– By the way, I should add that the text I will publish has a lot in common with my current thesis draft, but it is not the same. The book-version has a completely different conclusion than the thesis version. It is much less academic, aimed more at the general public, and looks more at the political outlook the country currently has. The requirements of what needs to go into a PhD thesis these days are unfortunately such that the text that comes out of it is not really interesting to read for anyone beyond the exam committee.
You chose to set up your own publishing entity instead of using well known publishers. Why?
– I thought about that. I found the handful of publishers that do open access publishing and contacted them. They all sent me encouraging comments, but said that my field was too strange or too specific. I also considered printing it with a traditional publishing house. With the exception of the top 10 university presses it seems like there is no real advantage of doing it that way. On the contrary, they impose their not-so-well founded ideas, then have someone edit it who has no knowledge of the field and end up hijacking the manuscript for at least a very long period of time – possibly forever. The publishing house should give some quality assurance, but given that many smaller presses just appear and disappear within very short time, that is not really given.
– Printing with a certain university press makes your work unavailable to almost anybody, with the exception to those few living close enough to a bookshop that sells it. People in the “Third world” are generally cut off from access to these books also due to the price, which oftentimes is upward of 35 USD. Using the techniques described below one should be able to offer a 300+ paged book in softcover for under 20 USD, while still being able to pay for returns and some more and offering the required discount to booksellers.
Johannes Wilm created the book cover with the Open Source software Scribus
I learnt that prestige is important for many researchers. Their argument against self publishing may be that it won’t give you much academic credit compared to publishing via f.ex. Columbia University Press?
– It is true that in the past there was some prestige connected to the label. Academia is currently changing massively and so is the publishing business. Nobody can quite know what things will be like in just a few years, so I think one should look at what makes sense technically. Who published Das Kapital? Does anybody know? Does anybody care? Not really.
– Great books should be able to stand on their own merit. That is also the case for the less famous books. When I was looking for books about Sandinismo in Nicaragua in the 1980s, the publishers were all over the place. Had I decided only to stick with books printed by the top university publishers, I would not have read any of the best books.
How did the faculty react? Did they support you?
– I think the faculty was mainly surprised. Everything about publishing is currently changing and so they didn’t quite know how to react. Unfortunately it seems to me that some felt the need to try to find some rule or other which would prevent me from being able to do this. Such a rule fortunately does not exist at the University of London, but other universities do make their students sign a note I which they specify that the work has not been published when they submit it. I am still a bit afraid that they may suddenly change the rules in order to prevent me from going ahead with my plan, so I decided to wait with publishing it until two hours after I hand the thesis in.
Now some more practical questions. Your aim was to make your phd thesis accessible to the public, both online as free download and offline as affordable paper book. How easy was this undertaking?
Michael Wesch and his Digital Ethnography Research Team of 2011 has released Visions of Students Today: an exciting “video collage” about student life created by students themselves.
The collage consists of a large number of vidoes that can be watched seperately by clicking directly on the thumbnails (or on YouTube). Each of the students has been working for months to put together their own vision.
Striking: Several students criticize the current education system… (here the video by Derek Schneweis)
and call for a change (video by Haley Marceau)
One of the aims of the project is to enhance the students and the public’s media literacy in the digital age and to prevent that “many of the basic freedoms we have become accustomed to” as for example net neutrality", sharing and mixing (…) may be stripped away without the public even noticing".
(via Cognition and Culture Blog) More and more open access anthropology journals are popping up. The newest one is Anthropology Of This Century (AOTC), edited by Charles Stafford from the London School of Economics (LSE).
The journal publishes reviews of recent works in anthropology and related disciplines, as well as occasional feature articles. The first issue was published a few days ago. Apart from a “feature article” by Maurice Bloch, the issue consists of six book reviews.
Although the journal name seems to signal innovation, it is a rather conventional academic publication. It is written for other social scientists and does not take use of the possibilities that the internet provides. No links, no multimedia, no interactive parts. It has a nice design, including illustrations by Ed Linfoot.
Here’s an overview over the first issue:
Maurice Bloch: The Blob (a theoretical article about “what kind of phenomena people are")
James Laidlaw: Morality and Honour (review of The Honor Code: How Moral Revolutions Happen by Kwame Anthony Appiah)
Harry Walker: A Problem With Words (review of Christian Moderns: Freedom and fetish in the mission encounter by Webb Keane)
Charles Stafford: Living with the Economists (review of Economic Persuasions edited by Stephen Gudeman and Economy’s Tension: The Dialectics of Community and Market by Stephen Gudeman
Emma Tarlo: Reflections on Ghetto Anthropology (review of Mitzvah Girls: Bringing up the next generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn by Ayala Fader)
Sherry Ortner: On Neoliberalism (review of The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein, A Brief History of Neoliberalism by David Harvey, and Inside Job a film by Charles Ferguson)
Chris Fuller: Timepass and Boredom in Modern India (review of Timepass: Youth, Class and The Politics of Waiting in India by Craig Jeffrey)
What’s the point of science when the public lacks access to it and researchers hide in their ivory towers? The internet provides new ways for researchers and the public to exchange knowledge. How do antropologists make use of blogging, Facebook, YouTube and new modes of publishing, for example Open Access journals?
Sharing Knowledge: How the Internet is Fueling Change in Anthropology is the title of Owen Wiltshire’s master’s thesis in anthropology at Concordia University, Montreal.
“Plans to study anthropological online communities and Open Access movement”, I wrote three years ago, when I first heard about his project. A few weeks ago, he’s defended his thesis. So, here’s a short email interview with him.
– How was the thesis defense? What kind of reactions did you get?
The history of anthropology section was meant to reveal that anthropologists have reasons for increased collaboration with non-anthropologists, reasons to engage with public audiences, reasons to give people outside academia a place to respond to what anthropologists write.
Unfortunately, the way I did this led some people to think I was attacking them and their profession.
– Why did you choose to study your own discipline online instead of studying mobile phone use in Papua New Guinea or immigrants in Toronto?
– I saw open access publishing and new online publishing options as being important new developments that might contribute to “decolonizing” the creation and dissemination of anthropological work.
– So how is internet fueling change in Anthropology? Can you give us 3 examples?
– The desire for changes in anthropology that I discuss had been occurring well before the Internet became popular. But the Internet, of course, is a revolutionary technology that allows anthropologists to target all sorts of different audiences in new ways.
The main points of change I addressed were:
1. Open Access (OA) publishing is helping researchers disseminate work that might normally remain geographically bound due to the costs to access it.
As Max Forte pointed out, most OA journals in anthropology come from what would be the periphery of anthropological publishing. This is interesting when we see that that academic publishing, at least in terms of the American Anthropological Association, continues to be very geographically centered, even ethnocentric to a degree.
Open Access journals are a way for international scholars to make their work accessible to researchers abroad. OA might help scholars in places like Brazil have their work recognized in North America. Of course language divides remain.
2. Blogging and other ways of creating publicly accessible, archived, discussions are an awesome way to develop ideas throughout and after the research process!
It really opens the door for anyone to participate, to react, and to help guide research through feedback (however nasty it might be). It helps make writing research reports a more iterative process, where researchers can bounce ideas off each other and other audiences, prior to publishing.
For anthropologists who have been criticized for misrepresenting communities (as I have with anthropology!) it makes sense to work in as much discussion like this as possible. I tried to show how this could occur by incorporating blog responses into the thesis. Where I may have been wrong about anthropology as a whole (you can make that decision yourself), I think my biases are balanced out to a degree by the included responses.
3. Welcome the uncensored, unreviewed voice of the anthropology students.
I think we can be a pain in the ass, but I can’t imagine going through the program without reading so many other blogs by people going through the same thing in different institutions.
– Anthropologist have been described as “the last primitive tribe on earth”: They hide in their ivory towers and look with suspicion upon new technologies like the internet. Does your research challenge this assumption?
– I made this argument in my thesis, and its true to a degree, but I take it more as a argumentative point. Anthropologists and other academics are making use of the internet and just about every new tool that comes their way.
The point I make in my thesis is that the ivory tower remains even when we use these tools in public.
I used the distinction which had been developed in discussion with a number of anthros, including some people at Savage Minds, and Max Forte, and Erkan Saka, of there being “anthropology in public” and “public anthropology”.
Even if you write about anthropology in public, it doesn’t mean you are addressing interests outside the ivory tower. That is where public anthropology comes in, where anthropologists address issues outside the ivory tower. When they do this however, it is a challenge to identify what makes the work academic. Michael Wesch’s youtube videos are a great example of this that I discussed very briefly in the thesis.
– Why are some anthropologists interested in sharing and open access, while others are not?
– Some see the discipline of anthropology as being an expert and professional society. They want to share their work with other anthropologists who have the same interests and concerns as themselves. Feedback from random Youtube users, or even people in other disciplines, isn’t very valuable to them. The feedback they can get through peer review in professional anthropology journals is exactly what they want, as is the recognition.
Also, I don’t think every researcher agrees that expensive academic journals fail to disseminate work. They only want to share their work with a select audience, and don’t see the point in making it available free online. In the end they disagree that free access would improve the impact of their work (it comes down to who they are trying to impact).
– What are in your view the main barriers to open access publishing?
– Some professors encourage students to look at select journals, and they don’t consider the Open Access journals that are out there. If researchers only use Jstor and Anthrosource to find material, they are missing out on a lot of what is being discussed – yet this is standard practice and considered to be acceptable.
Is it a researchers responsibility to make themselves aware of everything that’s being published out there? Or is that unreasonable? The increasing number of journals around the world make it quite difficult to do a complete literature review! If we can’t funnel it down to a select number of publications, it is impossible to ask researchers to keep up to date. But if OA journals are ignored, many researchers may never realize how beneficial it is to be able to openly link to, discuss, and talk about publications online.
– But you stress that OA Publishing does not necessarily lead to a more public anthropology?
– Yes, OA publishing is just about making anthropological research more accessible to its desired audience. It doesn’t mean anthropologists are writing with the intention that public audiences interact with it, or that it be relevant to public interests. Also, if you look at OA repositories, theres still no effort being made to host responses, so we can’t say that OA is an attempt to get more feedback.
– Do you think we need a more public anthropology? OA Publishing is not enough?
– I think it’s easy to adapt anthropology and research to public contexts, but at that point it ceases to be anthropology as we know it. I would have loved to come out of my masters degree program with more experience producing video, and documentary-like productions. Maybe I should have studied communications. Speaking of which, my roommate studies Communications, and we shared many of the same readings. Finally, as I develop in the thesis, theres nothing inherently good about public engagement – take a look at the Human Terrain Teams for example.
– You’ve done your fieldwork mainly online. An interesting experience?
– Yes. I think the blog experiment worked out rather well, showing that the blog can be used to solicit feedback throughout the research process and not just as a way of disseminating/publishing ideas.
– The most interesting thing you have learned?
– It is really easy to piss people off when you critique anthropology.
– What are the implications of your research?
– Feedback is important, and sharing ideas openly online is a great way to solicit that feedback!
– Final words to the readers in front of the screen?
– Job wanted.