"Rebekah Nathan" isn't the only anthropologist who is studying students.
The article in Democrat & Chronicle starts like this (quite typically for journalists who are somehow puzzeled by recent changes in anthropology)
On and off for two years, anthropologist Nancy Foster lived with and observed the Wapishana, an indigenous tribe in Guyana and northern Brazil whose members live as hunters, farmers and fishermen. Now she's studying a group nearly as exotic — college students.
And it goes on:
Employing the same methods numerous companies use to study their workers, University of Rochester's River Campus library system is dissecting how its students live and work. The goal is to figure out ways of making the library more accessible to them for research papers and other projects.
The work comes on the heels of a similar study led by Foster of UR faculty to see how they used the library, particularly its online offerings. The result was that UR faculty now have personalized pages on the library's UR Research Web site — it being a repository of various studies and papers done by faculty.
>> read more in the Democrat & Chronicle (updated link)
PS: We read about the possible consequences of this research. Students might be able to send an instant message to a reference librarian with questions. Something similar is already possible at the public library in Oslo. You can send sms and chat with librarians, see here
(via Putting People First) Worldchanging has "tracked projects that use new technologies to empower indigenous cultural survival -- from digital applications using Inuktitut, the Inuit native language, to the Aboriginal Mapping Project, which harnesses the power of GIS to help indigenous peoples manage their lands and resources, to the networked reindeer tracking of Saami Networked Connectivity Project". Additionally, they point to the latest volume of Cultural Survival Quarterly. It is devoted to Indigenous Peoples Bridging the Digital Divide. Much to read! >> continue to Worldchanging
PS: Worldchanging is a blog devoted to "Models, Tools, and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future" and Dina Mehta (Conversations with Dina) is one of the contributers
In a bid to eventually sell more chips, Intel plans to announce Monday that it has set up four new offices around the world that are staffed with anthropologists and engineers to help design computers with features for emerging markets. Traveling from dusty rural villages in India to busy Internet cafés in Brazil, these Intel employees will collect data from weather to the content needs of people in regions where computers are not yet popular.
The company began sending ethnographers to study how people interact with technologies. One anthropologist spent a year living in rural China. With the creation of its new business unit and four development centers, Intel has set up permanent and locally hired staff to do ethnographic studies and engineering. The efforts appear to be paying off. >> continue
Comment by Judd Antin, Technotaste: What I particularly like about their approach is that they aren’t just sending Western researchers overseas, they’re hiring local folks to help understand their own communities
Hadi Ansari, OhmyNews International
Only four years have passed since Hossein Derakhshan, Iran's leading blogger and Internet activist, published a guide to making a weblog in Persian. Now the influence of weblogs has spread to every aspect of Iranian people's daily lives. Farsi has become the third most prominent language of bloggers on the Net, despite the fact that Farsi speakers around the world number just 100 million (including Afghans and Tajiks who speak Farsi). >> continue
New methods in the anthropology of science and technology is the topic of the new issue of the anthropology online journal "Anthropology Matters" that was published these days. The papers developed out of a panel at the Association of Social Anthropologists (ASA) Decennial Conference at the University of Manchester in July 2003. I the introduction we read:
"On the basis of the papers published here, we suggest that not only does ethnographic research prove extremely adaptable to new environments, contexts and conditions, but it also serves to make important contributions to current debates and discussion, particular in the field of science and technology."
We find articles on dynamics how to study and theorize environmental protest movements in West Bengal (by Amites Mukhopadhyay), the role of computers in Hungarian civil society (Tom Wormald), on the relationship of information technologies to anthropological fieldwork through a consideration of internet-based clinical trials (by Jenny Advocat), on fieldwork in a web design company (Hannah Knox) and on how anthropological fieldwork might rise to the challenge of the bureaucratized, ‘objective’ forms of evaluation that anthropological researchers are increasingly facing (Susanne Langer) >> continue to Anthropology Matters 1/2005
Anthropologist Dina Mehta
Today, I believe that no crisis on this scale or magnitude will ever be handled again without sms, blogs, and wikis. That social tools will become a natural extension of rapid adaptation to chaotic conditions. While traditional media was doing its job, the World Wide Web was engaged in reaching people in ways that traditional media was not - by speaking in real voices, in real time - creating this huge wave of empathy, solidarity and action. Apart from the speed of dissemination of information, the blog also had a 'face' - people had access and could call or email. As a result, lowering barriers to getting information. Technology with Heart. >> continue
The Internet Gift Culture
The Globe and Mail
Cultural lag is the term first coined by anthropologists to describe the gap between an invention and society's ability to actually use it. It took about 50 years for the typewriter to displace the pen. When electricity first came to my father's Cape Breton village in the 1930s, it was viewed with distrust and adopted by few. But cultural lag is not just about machinery and inventions, it is also about ideas. >> continue
PS: The Cultural Gap - also an explanation for the reluctant active use of the internet by academics?
I've collected lots of articles on Corporate Anthropology but maybe this one here in the Financal Times, written by an anthrologist (Gillian Tett)who has "tried to incorporate what I learnt about “people watching” into financial journalism", can be used as the standard introductory text as it provides lots of examples of anthropologists in the business field.
Among others, she interviews Simon Robert, who many of us know from his blog at Ideas Bazaar. For his PhD, Robert had investigated the impact of satellite TV on households in an Indian city and on how they looked on the world (see Ideas Bazaar's website for some of his papers)
He explains how he is studying the Office culture at the company Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC):
“Studying PwC is like looking at a town - you try to see how the bits all interact, and you are looking for patterns,” he says. “What we try to do is describe what is happening, but we don’t present solutions. We let the company decide that.”
The article starts explaining that anthropologists ask unusual questions based on their unusual knowledge they gather via their unusual method - participant observation. Anthropologists "translate" as they have alwas done:
"“Many companies assume that if they want to have a global website, say, all they have to do is translate it into different languages,” explains Martin Ortlieb, an anthropologist who now works at a global software group. “But that isn’t true - what works in German can’t just be translated into Japanese with the same effect."
Here is a good explanation of the anthropologists' different way of asking questions. Anne Kirah, who was hired by Boeing to study passenger behaviour on flights, and is now the senior design anthropologist at Microsoft, is interviewed:
"Kirah does not ask much about technology per se - let alone about how people might use computers. But that is the whole point - and part of the defining nature of anthropology. A normal marketing person might approach a family with a barrage of highly directed questions about computers. But that way, Kirah argues, they are likely to just get the answers they expect to hear - and will only offer the consumers products that the software designers have already created. The anthropologist starts by observing everyday life, with all its odd little patterns, and then tries to work out how computers might eventually fit into that. Microsoft’s hope is that this will inspire entirely new applications for technology.
But I doubt everyone agress with Kirah here when she says:
"Yes, there have been periods in history when anthropologists have been abused by governments... but as long as I believe that I am helping the voice of the consumer to be heard, I am happy to do my job at Microsoft." >> continue