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Digital Anthropology

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Digital Anthropology

  1. 1. DigitalAnthropology (2012) HeatherA. Horst and Daniel Miller ed. Palmer Anth 205 ONLINE Spring 2017
  2. 2. Humanexus (2014) • Produced under the guidance of Katy Borner, IUB School of Library and Information Sciences. • Evolution of communication • Speech, writing, digital media. • Confronts the dangers and potential benefits of technology.
  3. 3. Vocabulary  Agency  Dialectical  Digital  Multivocality  Authentic 
  4. 4. Questions to consider 1 What are the risks and rewards of the digital age? 2 How does anthropology help us understand digital cultures as well as the experiences of people in their lived experiences? 3 Is your life online more or less authentic than your analogue life? Explain. 4 What challenges does the digital world present, solve? 5 How has the way anthropology is done changed?
  5. 5. Six Principles of Digital Anthropology 1. The digital intensifies dialectical nature of culture. 1. From German philosopher, Georg Wilheim Hegel - dialectical thinking refers to the relationship between simultaneous growth of the universal and the particular that are interdependent rather than oppositional. Internet provides us with numerous examples e.g. https://www.wikipedia.org/ 2. “Humanity is not one iota more mediated by the rise of the digital” (p. 3). 1. In this case Miller and Horst are using mediated to mean exposed and influenced by media, Implied in their explanation that predigital or analogue life is no less “authentic” than digital life. 2. It is simply nostalgia to say analogue life is more authentic. 3. They use the example of medieval Christians influenced by the media of their time. Instead of websites, Reddit, or FB, they had stain glass, architecture. 3. Digital anthropologies is the commitment holism. 4. Reasserts the cultural relativism, which counters the homogeneity of digital worlds. 5. Digital cultures are ambiguous regarding limitlessness and unlimitedness, bordered and bordered. 6. Digital worlds are no more or less material than analogue worlds!
  6. 6. “Disabilityin the DigitalAge” by FayeGinsburg  Editors Horst and Miller argue that " all people are equally cultural" regardless if they are in the face to face world or digital world (p. 12).  Authenticity of digital world is questioned.  Digital worlds are not more or less real than analogue worlds.  Virtual v. real (p.13)  No reason to privilege one over the other.  Ginsburg addresses  Disabled people are largely invisible in analogue world and popular media.  Make up 15 – 20 % world population.  Multivocality and agency  References Amanda Braggs “In My Language” (8 minutes).  Ideas of personhood and norms  Accessibility and design for multiple modalities.  Motives of her research  Activism  Raising a child with familial disautonomia  Argues that exposure leads to acceptance  Rethinking traditional kinship models.  Findings  “These cases help us see how the capacities of digital media enable significant interventions in our everyday understandings of what it means to be human for the estimated 15 to 20 per cent of the world’s population that lives with disabilities, a category that anyone can join in a heart beat” (p. 119).
  7. 7. New MediaTechnologies in Everyday Life by HeatherA. Horst  3 motivations to commit to holism (p. 16).  Individual  ethnographic  global  No one lives a completely digital life - all digital needs an analogue component.  Choice of media – smart phone, PC, tablet, etc.  Horst frames her research using Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of habitus (patterns of everyday life).  Examines effects of modernization, urbanization, and globalization on domestic spaces and practices.  Double articulation of technology
  8. 8. Horst’s ethnography  Five years researching.  Informants “digital natives”  Three case studies from SiliconeValley  A family with two sons whose mother rearranges their public space to monitor technology.  Spatial arrangement/negotiation of new media in the home  A family with two daughters that take ownership of their own space and negotiate their own technology use.  Notions of the self, coming of age, and privacy.  A high school senior with a vibrant online life (Fandom) that does not mix with the analogue.  Role of media consumer producing material traditionally associated with producers and broadcasters.  Findings: New Media signals a return focus on the home.  Taking digital ethnographies seriously does not mean privileging one space (analogue) over the other (digital), rather necessary to understand how the spaces come together.  Focusing on the mundane reflects the importance of how media practices emerge and change over time.  Valuing the emic perspective
  9. 9. Technology’s cultural relativism • VOICE ANDTHE PRINCIPLEOF RELATIVSM: • Debate and representation of digital is derived from the Imagination of scifi and modernism that predicts a homogenized global world, without expression or cultural uniqueness (p. 18-19). • The Internet is always a local invention by its users. • “Social Networking Sites” by Daniel Miller • Trinidad & Philippines • Liming – which refers to hanging out on a corner is a wayTrinis indigenize Facebook. • Shows the importance of connecting migrants and family back home. • Showing how Facebook is changed by users, vice versa. • SNS enable Filipino mothers and their left behind children to maintain contact. • Allows for increased surveillance, but sometimes leads to broken hearts. • Separating SNS depending on network wishing to maintain ties with.
  10. 10. Challenges of DigitalWorld  E-waste - the exploitation of raw materials, dumping of e-waste, exploitative employment, racist stereotypes in role-playing games, digital inequality.  E-waste follows global and political economy - Africa/Asia  Downloads - lessen material waste. videoconferencing save on gas, lessens carbon footprint.  Design imposes ideology.  Digital privileges North America and Europe leading to English hegemony, and cultural dominance.  Ultimately many digital anthropology studies used to legitimize corporate interests.  AMBIVALENCEANDTHE PRINCIPLE OF OPENNESSAND CLOSURE  Allows for authenticity.  A Rape in Cyber space - explores earlier virtual worlds where users create avatars in an imagined gentler world than the analogue.  Avatars taken over to engage in unspeakable sexual practices with selves and others.  Victims felt violated, began to see cyberspace as a threat, seeking equivalent of cyberpolice to address violation of online selves (p. 21).
  11. 11. Prosumer  Traditional divisions between consumer and producers break down as creativity of consumers incorporated into the design of product for purchase.  Digital facilities encourage consumers’ creativity: blogs, FB, MySpace, fandom.  Producers deliberately delegate creative work to consumers and designers must follow trends of created consumption.  Online feedback culture:TripAdviser, RottenTomatoes…  The digital is dialectical.  Main impact of digital has been to make these contradictions more explicit or expose contextual issues of power and political control. 
  12. 12. NORMATIVITYAND THE PRINCIPLEOF MATERIALITY  • Impossible to be humans without artefacts (24). • Artefacts do more than express human intention, they also allow humans to act in the world. Material is also present in the digital world. This relates to the 6th principle in the book. • Material of infrastructure • Analysis of hard disk, ephemerality v. forensic nature it is hard to erase data. • “The more effective the digital technology the more we tend to lose our consciousness of the digital as a material and mechanical process, evidenced in the degree to which we become almost violently aware of such background mechanics only when they break down and fail us” (p. 25). • Computers material environment built and engineered to propagate the illusion of immateriality.
  13. 13. Digitalas the Norm.  Digital technology shifting our perceptions of time.  Investigate how different technologies require our attention at different levels.  Mobile phones immediate  IMs, FB less attention, email depending on sender.  Astonishing speed at which technology innovations are taken for granted.  When it breaks down we feel we have lost a human right or a prosthetic arm.
  14. 14. Establishing Cyber Norms  Speed at which people learn the rules.There may be a short moment of uncertainty. Users help educate each other.  Kayapo video appropriating challenged the idea that tribal people are intrinsically slow or passive or what Levi-Strauss called cold cultures (29).  The faster the trajectory of cultural change the more relevant the anthropologist because there is absolutely no sign that the changes in technology are outstripping the capacity to regard things as normative (30).  Boellstroff argues that the virtual and actual are not separate. Rather they are intimately linked.
  15. 15. “Rethinking Digital anthropology” byTom Boellstorff  Second Life  Cloud based  Avatars  Boellstorff cites Malinowski’s classic ethnography Argonauts of theWestern Pacific “the essential core of social anthropology is fieldwork” (p. 42).  Describes an ethnographic moment – participant observation of Becca, Richard, Susan learning to skate.  Establishing norms.  Communication, ways of doing things.  Replicating gender norms in cyberspace  Digital anthropology is more than studying things you plug into.  Ethnography is a product not a method and takes a long time  Is flexible but not boundless.  Participant observation core of anthropology.  Interviews let people think about what they do or will do.  Shows the difference between what people say and what they do.  Provide insight into practices as they unfold.  Time is necessary for digital anthropology  Imagination required to understand the “consequences might be for social inquiry” (p. 57).
  16. 16. Conclusion Digital location not death of space rather further inscription. The virtual is a new type of space. Paradox of digital: creates problems and solves others. Anthropological apprehension is to refuse to allow the digital to be viewed as a gimmick or, as a mere technology. All anthropology is digital anthropology because research is Internet-mediated and technology is ubiquitous.

Notes de l'éditeur

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DEOvBgyQoyg
    How does this “Humanexus” video relate to the edited volume we have been reading Digital Anthropology?
  • The digital is defined by Miller and Horst (2014, p. 3) as everything that has been developed by, or can be reduced to, the binary-- that is bits consisting of 0s and 1s.

    Nationalism and ethnicity developed under through changes in media by which culture circulates. They cite Christians in medieval Europe being subjected to or objectified in countless media and their intertextuality. Media would have been buildings, writings, clothing accessories.
    Catholics - heavily mediated v. Protestants - rejected the materiality of Catholics (13).
    Today humans are mediated through digital.
    Ironically, Protestants now use digital media to proselytize.
  • “Real” - regarded as colloquial NOT epistemological (p. 15).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ysdPfRHE7zw
    Amanda Braggs

    Digital giving voices, a person can be present but not necessarily seen (p. 26).
  • Coleman argues all conventional anthropology has a digital inflection (16).
    Anthropology and ethnography are more than method.
    Online worlds have own integrity and own intertextuality (18).
    Impact of digital is expansion of involvement but is still for most people contained in familiar points of participation.
    Cultural relativism at the heart of anthropology. Closely connected to holism (18).
    Bourdieu showed us a major part of what makes us human is what he called practice or habitus.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vt1b5tBKcw cyber rape

    Second life - users become producers and consumers. Early users adventurous but later users become mundane less creative.

    Contradictory nature of digital openness
  • Virtual worlds made us increasingly rather than decreasingly aware of the materiality of information itself as a major component of such content (p. 26).
  • Being human is a cultural and normative concept

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