Sydney Yeager

What does it mean to be human in the digital age? How has technology impacted everything from our relationships to our health to the way we make a living?

As a digital anthropologist, I am passionate about the role technology has in our lives.  As a UX researcher and product advisor, I am dedicated to intentional design that puts human experience front and center throughout the product life cycle from empathizing with user’s needs and discovering root problems, to designing solutions with the user in mind, through development, delivery, and evaluating how to optimize products for future delivery. 

I’m a traditionally trained cultural anthropologist who specializes in medical anthropology, religion, and social organization. After completing my master’s in 2012, I decided it was time to go all in on digital anthropology and brought my very traditional department at SMU with me.  For my Ph.D., I took a very traditional topic Mourning Practices and Grief Experiences and decided to come at it from a new angle. How was social media changing the way we mourn and experience our grief? How was Facebook’s design unintentionally promoting mourning and landing it in headlines proclaiming the “Internets Graveyard”? How was user experience impacted with a Facebook user came across an emotional mourning post or shocking death announcement while causally scrolling through their newsfeed? 

May 2021, I graduated with my Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Southern Methodist University, my dissertation examines communal mourning on social media. I explored virtual rituals as a vibrant part of user’s lived religion and grief experiences.

I am a mixed methods researcher with over 15 years of experience. I utilize ethnographic storytelling to connect business and product leaders with their users, customers, and the larger communities they serve. I’ve worked with startups and small businesses on their go-to-market strategy, marketing strategy, business strategies, and product roadmaps. I also consult on research, innovation, and strategy projects and guide small businesses through digital transformations and digital marketing. Applying my anthropological tool kit, I’ve worked in user research, market research, and product management since 2017.

Most recently, I’ve put my skill set to use as a UX researcher at a fintech / agtech startup, AcreTrader. An investing platform that connects investors to farmland investment opportunities and farmers to the capital they need to improve and expand their farm businesses. Prior to my time at AcreTrader, I gained valuable experience in product management with Boston Scientific | Preventice Solutions. Both experiences built on my seven years of experience working as a social media specialist and web designer, while working on my Ph.D.

I also have a strong background in teaching. 2021-2022, I served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Global Health at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL. Prior to that, I taught Anthropology and Sociology at Hendrix College and University of Central Arkansas.

I am the current chair and convenor of the Digital Anthropology Interest Group of the American Anthropological Association known as DANG. As chair and conference convenor, I promote and support the work of digital anthropologists around the world. As a digital anthropologist, the implications of the role algorithms and AI play in our daily lives from mental health to politics remain top-of-mind concerns for my research agenda. In September 2021, UNESCO and the LiiV Center launched an initiative for digital innovation in anthropology. I am proud to represent DANG and play a role in the initiative that raises concerns regarding AI ethics, privacy, and the role of technology in democracy.¬† The long-term goal of the initiative is to put anthropologists trained in digital methods into key roles in the public and private sectors to balance data science’s Big Data with anthropology’s Thick Data.

Last spring, I retired from my post of webmaster for the Society for Medical Anthropology, but I maintain my close connections with SMA, its leadership, and members. As a medical anthropologist, I have conducted research on traditional storytelling and alternative healthcare practices in the Ozarks. I have also researched cures and faith healing in the Republic of Ireland. My work in the Ozarks and Ireland led to my interest in how social relationships and social networks influence overall well-being and individual health outcomes.


For more information, check out my resume.

Sydney Yeager Resume

Sydney Yeager Curriculum Vitae

Social Media

Twitter: @slyphi


Society for Medical Anthropology:
Dissertation Website:

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