Category: "University / Academia"
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.
This morning, the journal Museum Anthropology Review was launched as an open access journal. The content that was published during 2007 (the journal’s first year) is now available in both HTML and PDF format - free for all readers all over the world.
Editor Jason Baird Jackson said that making scholarly work more easily and affordably accessible is especially important in fields like folklore and anthropology that are rooted in the study of local cultures worldwide:
“If, for instance, a scholar spends months documenting the work of an elderly woodcarver living in a small American town and then writes about what she learned in a peer-reviewed research article, I have an obligation as her editor to make it as easy as possible for the schoolchildren of that town – or the artist’s grandchildren – to gain access to her writing. Open access repositories and journals, in their varied forms, help make this possible.”
UPDATE: Inside Higher Ed reports:
There are hundreds of scholarly journals published online, plenty of them free. But what makes Museum Anthropology Review’s launch notable is that it is being led by the same editor as the traditional journal, Museum Anthropology, using the exact same peer review system.
For years, the criticism of the free, online model has been that it would be impossible for it to replicate the quality control offered by traditional publishing. When online journal publishers have boasted of their quality control, print loyalists have said, in effect, “well maybe it’s good, but it can’t be as good as what we’re doing.”
To this subjective criticism, open access advocates can now point to someone who knows exactly what the standards are at both journals, as he’s leading them both.
“This is the last article that I will publish to which the public cannot get access. I am boycotting locked-down journals and I’d like to ask other academics to do the same", writes Danah Boyd on her blog:
On one hand, I’m excited to announce that my article “Facebook’s Privacy Trainwreck: Exposure, Invasion, and Social Convergence” has been published in Convergence 14(1) (special issue edited by Henry Jenkins and Mark Deuze).
On the other hand, I’m deeply depressed because I know that most of you will never read it. It is not because you aren’t interested (although many of you might not be), but because Sage is one of those archaic academic publishers who had decided to lock down its authors and their content behind heavy iron walls.
What’s the point of writing papers if no one can read them? The journals are “god-awful expensive and no one outside of a niche market knows what’s in them", she writes:
Digital copies of the articles have intense DRM protection, often with expiration dates and restrictions on saving/copying/printing. Authors must sign contracts vowing not to put the articles or even drafts online. (Sage -allows- you to posts articles one year following publication.) Academic publishers try to restrict you from making copies for colleagues, let alone for classroom use.
The result? Academics are publishing to increasingly narrow audiences who will never read their material purely so that they can get the right credentials to keep their job. This is downright asinine. If scholars are publishing for audiences of zero, no wonder no one respects them.
This has to change, she writes. Scholars have a responsibility to make their work available as a public good.
- Tenured Faculty and Industry Scholars: Publish only in open-access journals
- Disciplinary associations: Help open-access journals gain traction
- Tenure committees: Recognize alternate venues and help the universities follow
- Young punk scholars: Publish only in open-access journals in protest, especially if you’re in a new field
- All scholars: Start reviewing for open-access journals. Help make them respected
- Universities: Support your faculty in creating open-access journals on your domains
Anne Galloway does not think boycott is the way to go: “I fully support open-access scholarship, but find danah boyd’s recent post on boycotting “locked-down” journals naive at best, and offensive at worst", she writes in her blog. Furthermore she think Danah Boyd “overstates the “lock-down".":
I’ve published articles with Sage and Taylor&Francis, and was able to publish almost identical draft versions here. All I did was hand-write that provision onto my contract before I signed it, and no one ever objected.
There are now more than twenty comments on Danah’s post, including by publishers, a very interesting discussion!
A quick guide to selv-archiving for anthropologists (mainly USA/GB-related, it seems) by Kerim Friedman
The U.S. military is not only interested in employing anthropologists. Now, they have started attending anthropology conferences. Anthropologist Caroline Osella from the University in London and one of the editors of Social Mobility In Kerala, is worried.
In a post in the ASA Globalog (run by the Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth) she tells us about her recent experience from a conference at the Exeter Gulf Studies Centre where she met people from the U.S. military both in the bar and in the conference:
Bad enough to have to check oneself and what one says in conferences…but to have to be on your guard in the bar afterwards in case you say something of interest about the Gulf-connected Muslim Indians you work among is surely one step too James Bond for an anthropologist?
A week before, she had attended a conference on south Asian studies in Leiden and “also found some of these security types there, listening in on the panels on south Asian Muslims – and even presenting papers themselves!”
Do we have to tolerate this?, she wonders:
I still maintain that this is a worrying trend and that effectively, academic freedom and decent research is jeopardised if all our conferences are gatecrashed.
Conferences are places where we try out ideas and present first drafts of our work; we may later decide to alter some things before going to publication in order to protect the people we work with.
By letting security personnel or academics form the military into conferences then effectively our work is going into the public realm before we are ready for it to do so.
Washington and whoever else is welcome to read the published versions of my and Filippo’s work, like any other members of the interested public. But they can download it and read it in their offices.
They can please keep away from academic conferences, where I want the freedom to try out my ideas, decide which details I might want to keep confidential for ethics’ sake, and feel free to engage in discussions which are not monitored or where the information I may pass on is not feeding into any policy agenda. And I want to be able to go and drink and talk shop in the bar in the evening without wondering who is listening.
We teach our undergrads about our shameful past with regard to colonialism. Are we going to find the next generation of anthropologists teaching about us and our pathetic accommodations to state power and our polite refusals to speak out?
On the website of the Network of concerned anthropologists (NCA), Hugh Gusterson tells a related story. During a panel at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting featuring three NCA members, witnesses saw two U.S. Army personnel writing down the names and institutional affiliations of anthropologists who had signed copies of the NCA pledge of Non-participation in Counter-insurgency circulating during the panel.
“The American Anthropological Association (AAA) is starting to remind me of the recording industry and their rearguard actions against file-sharing and online dissemination in general", Eric Kansa commented one year ago.
I was reminded on this comment when I read about the the Februrary issue of Anthropology News that focuses on Open Access Anthropology. Five articles are available online - but only for one month. Then, the articles about Open Access Anthropology will be hidden behind login-boxes.
UPDATE: Dinah Winnick, Associate Managing Editor Anthropology News writes to me and clarifies that the articles will continue to be accessible after the 1st of March:
To clarify, these articles will appear on the Featured page for one month, after which they will be moved over to our Archives page and also be available through AnthroSource. They are moved from the Featured page monthly so that we can feature new content from our latest issue. I appreciate your bringing this misunderstanding to my attention and I have added a phrase to our website for clarification.
Four of the five articles provide lots of good arguments for Open Access Anthropology. It’s only Jason Cross, member of the AAA Long-Range Planning Committee who is reluctant. He is mainly concerned for the financial consequences and proposes “careful research on business models to assess whether and how to make an OA transition".
So download now:
The AAA has also set up an Open Access blog “where members and non-members alike can offer both their reactions to the In Focus series and their general thoughts on the Open Access issue".
PS: The AAA has redesigned their website, see discussion over at Savage Minds
A quick guide to selv-archiving for anthropologists (mainly USA/GB-related, it seems) by Kerim Friedman
The Anthropologists - Last primitive tribe on earth? (Take a look at indigineuos people’s use of online communication as a mean of resistance and raising awareness.)
How can I find research papers and theses that are freely available? ScienceCommons is a search engine and portal that is still in beta but now lists 893 repositories (according to Peter Suber at Open Access News). A search for anthropology gives more that 44 000 hits but a quick check reveals that not all papers or theses are open access.
The major aim of the project is to develop the world’s largest communication medium for scientific knowledge products which is freely accessible to the public. A key challenge of the project is to support the rapidly growing number of movements and archives who admit the free distribution and access to scientific knowledge
There is another search engine as well: OAIster. There a search for anthropology gives 54679 records - but also included some papers with restricted access (f.ex. from journals like Current Anthropology)
See also 2007 Highlights over at Savage Minds: “2007 was a great year for the open access movement".
Not even more and more anthropologists are blogging. Now, even anthropology organisations have discovered the internet. A few days ago, ASA (Association of Social Anthropologists of the UK and Commonwealth) has launched their blog “aimed at providing a new platform for anthropological discusion". Their first guest blogger is Alberto Corsin Jimenez of the University of Manchester.
PS: More updates soon
(post in progress) The American Anthropological Association (AAA) sounds quite diplomatic in its final report on the growing ties between the military and anthropology. The report was released yesterday at the annual AAA meeting and says:
There is nothing inherently unethical in the decision to apply one’s skills in these areas. Instead, the challenge for all anthropologists is finding ways to work in or with these institutions, seeking ways to study, document, and write transparently and honestly to an anthropological audience about them, in a way that honors the discipline’s ethical commitments.
We do not recommend non-engagement, but instead emphasize differences in kinds of engagement and accompanying ethical considerations. We advise careful analysis of specific roles, activities, and institutional contexts of engagement in order to ascertain ethical consequences. These ethical considerations begin with the admonition to do no harm to those one studies (or with whom one works, in an applied setting) and to be honest and transparent in communicating what one is doing.
The AAA has set up another blog to discuss these issues
(but it seems that they haven’t enabled the comment feature yet?).
Inside Higher Education: Secrecy and Anthropology (another summary) and Wired: Academics Turn On “Human Terrain” Whistleblower (incl excerpts of a speech)
The report was discussed at the AAA meeting. Inside Higher Ed reports: Questions, Anger and Dissent on Ethics Study:
Can an association urge its members to apply the principle of “do no harm” in research when there isn’t much agreement on what “harm” is? (…)
The discussion was sufficiently heated that a graduate student who spoke to the group to defend the concept of scholarly engagement with the military was crying at one point, and at another point, the audience applauded the suggestion that any anthropologists who work with the military should be kicked out of the organization.
A few weeks ago, the Executive Board of the AAA decided to oppose the embedding of anthropologists in military teams (HTS) in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was, I suppose, a preliminary statement as the final word would be said in the final report.
For more news on the AAA meeting see Circumcision: “Harmful practice claim has been exaggerated” - AAA meeting part IV, New media and anthropology - AAA meeting part III, and “The insecure American needs help by anthropologists” - AAA-meeting part II