Cultures of Exchange and Gift economies are traditional anthropological topics. Famous are the Kula exchange in Melanesia, the Potlatch in Northwestern America, the Moka and often cited books are among others Marcel Mauss: The Gift and Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time.
Contrary to what many (esp. postmodernists) believe, modernisation and globalisation do not automatically lead to more individualism and "fluidity". Internet and social software lead to the creation of new networks and to a revitalisation of cultures of exchange and gift economies.
As Judd Antin comments, Alireza Doostdar describes in his recent article "The Vulgar Spirit of Blogging" some of the ways that bloggers exchange links, trackbacks, and comments as a way of developing social networks and expanding blog readership.
Many of us know collaborative projects like the encyclopedia Wikipedia, photosharing at flickr and copyright based on sharing like Creative Commons. People help each other in online-forums and what should we all do without all the great freeware software, partly developed by the Open Source community?
One of the best places to stay informed on social software and networks is Dina Mehta's Blog "Conversations with Dina"
There are many articles on internet gift economy.
Jem Matzan: The gift economy and free software (NewsForge) (updated link)
There are many more articles on the internet gift economy: http://opensource.mit.edu/online_papers.php
(post inspired by comments on More and more blogging anthropologists - but the digital divide persists)
This post caused some funny comments in the Livejournal-community:
so . . . many . . . social . . . software . . . and . . . gift . . . economy . . . links . . .
Further down in in the comment-section apropos writes:
"all these new anthro blogs are freaking me out!"
The anthropology group blog Savage Minds is only five days old, but there are already lots of blog entries and even more comments - or you should rather call the entries for articles: they are well written, detailed - "ready to print". It looks like as if Savage Minds is on its way to be the most important anthropology site on the net.
These are at least my euphoric thoughts after reading today's posts Armchair Anthropology in the Cyber Age? (Topic: How the web changes anthropology and its methods) by Kerim Friedman and Alex Golub's answer Anthropology and the Clash of Civilizations where he draws the attention to the influence of popular ethnocentric online-videogames on the relation between "us" and "them" and Dustin M. Wax's reflections Nothing Is Just after an anthropology lecture he held. He discusses one of the most central issues in anthropology: "Nothing is Just. Filmmaking isn’t “just” making movies. Marriage isn’t “just” a marker of committment. Family isn’t “just” the people you are related to. Giving gifts isn’t “just” a form of exchange."
Savage Minds makes one (once more) think of the old-fashioned publishing conventions in social science where only paper publications are "accepted". Here in Norway, the Norwegian Anthropological Association has started to include debates on published articles in their journals. But how is discussion possible when you have to wait three months for the next issue? How up-to-date can paper journals be? Their reviews are about books that are at least two years old! In their last issue they were "happy to announce" that they are going to present some papers of their last years' annual conference in their next issue. Maybe Savage Minds can change their mind?
Savage Mind - the new anthropology group blog is big news and is being discussed in many blogs (interesting to see how fast the news is spread). Recently I mentioned several new anthro-blogs - Kerim Friedman has discovered even more, for example The Old Revolution by "tak", a cultural anthropologist and New Yorker and a Tokyoite who has compiled a list of Anthropology and Japan blogs - even more to explore.
I began to work with this blog (which also includes a kind of Norwegian anthropology journal), because I missed anthropological content on the web. Much has changed since then. But nevertheless, my impression is that Internet is still a quite new medium for many anthropologists - at leasts in Norway. People here do read the national and regional newspapers online, send mails and transfer money. But none of my friends and people I know at the University know what a blog is, let alone RSS. Only a few have heard about Wikipedia. They're not familiar with the gift economy principles on the Internet either (I heard of anthropologists who don't publish online because they don't want their ideas to be "stolen" (!) before they can elaborate them in a traditional paper-journal.
Those people (the majority) don't participate in discussions. They are the unknown passive readers. It's quite striking: All the (few) comments to entries in my Norwegian blog are made by people who already have a website or an own blog.
I think here we see another type of a digital divide - between those who know how to use the internet actively (or are interested in it) and those who don't.
UPDATE: See also the post by Alexander Knorr on xirdalim on academic blogging and its difficulties: "What struck us most was the fact that the vast majority of our institute's anthropology-students (and we have 1200+ !) never made good use of the ethno::log >> continue
Great! A new anthropology group blog! Something like an American version of the German Ethno::log. It was started the day before yesterday. We know some of the authors from other blogs. The authors are Alex Golub, Kerim Friedman, Dustin M. Wax, Nancy Leclerc, Antti Leppänen and Christopher M. Kelty.
From their self-description:
"Savage Minds is a collective web log devoted to both bringing anthropology to a wider audience as well as providing an online forum for discussing the latest developments in the field. We are a group of Ph.D. students and professors teaching and studying anthropology and are excited to share it with you. You can find out more about the contributors by clicking on the ‘about’ pages on the right for each of us."
PS: Their newest entry deals with Anarchists in the Academy: Yale anthropologist David Graeber has been recently fired for his anarchist activism - something that was mentioned in Kerim Friedman's blog before and shortly afterwards by Alex Golub. See some reviews of Graebers "Fragments of an anarchist anthropology". Or download the whole book (pdf, 220kb) and visit the webpage Solidarity with David Graeber
Spring (or summer) has finally arrived in Oslo, so just a short note about another anthropology blog. Just saw it in my site statistics: Antti Leppänen is cultural anthropologist, a Ph.D. candidate at the University in Helsinki, Finnland, working on a thesis about Korea. In an earlier post he explains:
"I have been making net notes on Korea since last spring, to keep up with the developments since my last visit in summer 2002 and make notes of what interests me. Beginning this year I finally decided to change to a blog format. As my anthropology thesis is about keepers of small neighborhood shops, and that kind of an environment is where I've spent the longest periods of time in Korea, my blog entries are mostly about small businesses, "ordinary people", social categories, urban space, and the like."
In his most recent entry he links to a beautiful website: Cycles of Life in a Bengali Town based on the fieldwork of the anthropologists Ákos Östör and Lina Fruzzetti. (I see that also Ideas Bazar commented on this website yesterday)
(via my site statistics) FieldNotes is a brand new anthropology blog, the first entry was written only two weeks ago by its author Thomas ‘Tad’ McIlwraith, PhD Candidate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, NM, USA. Seems to focus on Native Northern America / First Nations. Good to know that there are anthropology-bloggers who are not mainly interested in media and technology stuff. There are many links to other bloggers with related interests to explore. This is good news! >> continue to "Field Notes"
(via delicious)Karen Nakamura is a cultural anthropologist who focuses on disability and minority identity issues in contemporary Japan, currently in Kyoto for fieldwork. While you'll find many camera reviews on her blog, her homepage lists many links related to photoethnography and discusses some techniques. There's also a very interesting photo gallery. Nakamura is also mentioned in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on Asian Blogging.
The Angry Anthropologist has existed already since november last year. Looks like a very interesting blog dealing about social and cultural anthropology issues. In his first post, the anonym blogger with "background in economic anthropology, cognitive anthropology, and social network analysis" writes:
"So why The Angry Anthropologist? For decades anthropologists, especially cultural anthropologists, have had to fight misleading public images of their discipline, replete with popular notions of corduroy-wrapped professors nestled in comfortable offices, and never-ending salary checks. The reality is quite different. We have made important contribution to the fields of marketing, advertising, economics, development, public planning, and public health, and have even moved into business. Contrary to whatever documentary was recently aired on PBS, the vast majority of us are not physical anthropologists, or are endlessly seeking funding grants for obscure projects. We work in a variety of disciplines, and bring our expertise to bear on important questions of the day."