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.
(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
Many assignments go no farther than between the student completing it and the professor grading it. But assignments in Michael Wesch’s anthropology classes at Kansas State University have been seen around the world and by as many as 1.5 million other people, we read in a press release.
We all know Wesch’ video The Machine is Us/ing Us that was viewed more than five million times. He is no one hit wonder. He has created several popular videos together with his anthropology students.
The spring 2007 intro to cultural anthropology class created the video “A Vision of Students Today”, which has been viewed more than 1.5 million times and prompted others to respond with their own videos. The video is up for a YouTube award for most inspirational video of 2007. It features Wesch’s class describing what it’s like for them to be college students today.
Wesch’s students and their video projects also have drawn attention of media from NBC to BBC. Yet the students’ work makes its way around the world without marketing, Wesch says:
That gets at the complexity of today’s media environment. The students don’t advertise. They get the videos out on blogs, people start linking to them, and other people find them.
Indigenous communities have embraced the internet from early on. The website of the Oneida Indian Nation was set up before the website for the White House. Anthropologist Maximilian C. Forte has developped several websites in collaboration with indigenous organisations. Website development is a mode of action research, he explains in an interesting paper that is based on a recent presentation.
In his research on Caribbean indigenous resurgence, he began offline and later moved online, he writes. It started after he has signed a reciprocity agreement with the leader of the Carib Community in Arima. In return for access to the community, Forte would assist them with whatever technological, graphic, and writing knowledge he had.
Website development is no purely technical process:
The websites that were created represented, to a large extent, collaborative writing exercises, emerging from meetings, conversations, and interviews. Viewers would not have known that the launching of some of the websites were also occasions for parties in my apartment, with photographs, drinking, music, drinking, laughter, and much more drinking.
The result of these early experiences led to my creating various online fora with a wider embrace, such as the Caribbean Amerindian Centrelink - part directory, part listserv, part message board, part online publishing centre - and then one of the earliest and still existing open access, peer reviewed journals in anthropology and history, that being KACIKE.
Together with his indigenous partners (informants) he created the field. In contrast to traditional fieldwork, the researcher and his informants predate the site, they don’t arrive at it.
Web-based and Web-oriented ethnographic research, Forte explains, leads to “a series of moves from participant observation to creative observation, from field entry to field creation, and from research with informants to research with correspondents and partners":
The Internet permits the co-construction of cultural representations and documentary knowledge, especially where the resource that is produced is the result of collaboration between those we traditionally sorted out as the researchers and the researched.
Those who were traditionally “the researched about” in offline settings, now have access to the works of researchers, can argue back (as they often do), and produce alternative materials in their own right. No longer is there a simple one-sided determination by the researcher over what research should be about, how it should be done, how it should be written or shown, and what its results should be-researchers are often called to account.
Among the persons and communities that have had access to the technology there has been considerable enthusiasm for the internet from early on. “The Internet may be for marginalized indigenous minorities what the printing press was for European nationalism", Forte writes. “We are not extinct” has become the leitmotif of online self representations by Caribbean indigenous persons and a basis for online activism, especially among Taínos.
These online struggles have produced some noteworthy successes in gaining recognition and some degree of validation from the usual authorities according to the anthropologist.
Educators complain about plagiarism. But it is not principally because material is too readily available that students copy and paste material from the internet to their papers. It’s because new forms of authorships are emerging online, anthropologist Susan D. Blum writes in Anthropology News March 2008.
Blum has done ethnographic research on plagiarism and college culture for three years at “Saint Pastoral’s” University.
Social websites like Wikipedia challenge the romantic notion of the author as the individual genius:
While the romantic notion of the author emphasized creation in a vacuum, without influence, touched only by inspiration from the individual’s genius, the new collectivized idea of the author celebrates the kind of creativity that comes from selecting, from accumulating a pastiche, a patchwork, a sample of others’ work. The line between creation and what “copyright fundamentalists” regard as theft is now completely— and consciously—fluid.
Collectively, one after another, contributors add to or edit Wikipedia articles, without directly requesting credit or payment. The living product is quite essentially collaborative, an accretion of many people’s words belonging to everyone and Common Sense and anthropological Sense no one simultaneously.
Sharing music, video, text and images is routine and simple on the “digital commons” with YouTube, Flickr and other file-sharing interfaces. Items often follow a circuitous path before they end up on some- one’s iPod or hard drive.
Maybe educators should care lass about plagiarism? Blum concludes:
Faculty can attempt to enforce traditional academic citation norms, but we are well advised to recognize that a large portion of the students we encounter do not share traditional academic values of originality, singularity and individualism in intellectual creation. In the area of authorship, educators’ common sense is not necessarily students’ common sense.
In some ways our students have become folk anthropologists, speaking out about the impossibility of singularity, the shared quality of discourse, the reality of fragments of texts incorporated into every utterance (or written document) and the collective nature of cultural creation. Now that’s a story!
This is one of five articles on “Online Engagement” in Anthropology News March 2008.
Anthropology of anthropology: How do anthropologists form online communities? How are open access publishing and other developments that have sprung up online changing community boundaries? Soon, an anthropologist will do fieldwork among us online anthropologists. http://nodivide.wordpress.com/ is the address of the blog by anthropologist Owen Wiltshire, grad student at Concordia University, Montreal, where he writes:
I am interested in collaborative research methods, and the growth of anthropology online. (…) I’m particularly interested in open-access journals, and feel that opening up academic publishing is an enormously important step for anthropology.
Delving into the interesting colonial history of anthropology, and into discussions of globalization and neoliberal economic injustice, it’s pretty easy to see how it makes sense to make anthropological work freely available to the world that it studies.
In this way I’ll be exploring ways to study online communities - in this case communities of anthropologists. Its an exciting time for anthropology online. I’ve been following anthropology blogs for a year now, and its amazing how fast its growing. Its quite inspiring, and I think reflects a very vibrant community thats just itching to work (and fight) with each other!
So while my research proposal is extremely vague, and I’ve been made aware of this, I’m absolutely confident that the internet, blogs, and the desire to liberate anthropological knowledge from the world economy are fueling a change in anthropology, and that within this excitement I’ll find an interesting “field” of study.
In an email to me he tells that he’ll be handing in a proposal in April and hopefully be doing fieldwork over the summer. He has already been investigating the ways faculty at Concordia University use the internet in classroom, and is working on getting access to an anthropological journal to investigate the publishing world “face to face".
Owen Wiltshire worked as a web developer for a number of years prior to studying anthropology: “I’ve always followed developments in open source - so I’m excited to see how similar developments work their way into academic culture", he writes.
Sounds familiar: People on online dating sites are experiencing frustration because it does seem that the internet in many ways is just the same old bar scene. This is one of the findings of research by anthropologist Susan E. Frohlick. She is conducting an ethnographic study of online dating among women age thirty and above.
She says the women on the one hand gained a sense of empowerment from their online dating experiences. But they still wanted the man to make the first move and expected him pick up the tab:
Women are finding it as a useful tool to enter into the dating world, they find that it’s safe, they find that they can be a little more bold than they would in face-to-face relationships. But, at the same time, they are experiencing frustration because it does seem that the internet in many ways is just the same old bar scene.
Complaints include a preponderance of men who are looking for much younger women, as well as men who misrepresent their looks, interests or marital status, or who show little interest in moving the relationship offline, she said.
>> read the whole story on News.com.au LINK UPDATED 30.6.18
Furthermore, women are hesitant to admit that they meet men through the Internet.
One of the most striking findings so far is that there’s a huge contradiction between what women say about the popularity of online dating sites on the one hand and, on the other hand, their own sense of almost shame, and certainly secrecy about it. They talk about how it’s for losers.
Frohlick says she hopes the study will shed more light on how the online dating world might be changing women’s sexuality. She would like to find more study participants from across Canada, including women who are looking for same-sex partners.
>> read more in Canoe.ca LINK NO LONGER AVAILABLE
She is part of the project “Surfing for Love” at the University of Manitoba. The study will be completed in May, 2008, and a summary of the results will be posted online, she writes on her homepage.
Last year’s podcasts from the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) have received much attention. This year they are continuing the project, Jen Cardew writes on the SfAA-Podcast Blog. She is also looking for six team members who can participate in the podcasting project at the 2008 SfAA Annual Meeting, March 24 - 29, 2008, in Memphis, TN. The deadline for applications is January 28, 2008. >> more inforation on the SfAA-Podcast Blog