Check out my post on the Digital Anthropology Interest Group’s website. Digital Research Hub.
Check out the Digital Anthropology Call for Papers: Call for Papers: Digital Anthropologists’ Current Engagements with 21st Century Publics.
Google calls Internet users to Take Action
“it is ours and it is free
a free and open world
depends on a free and open web
and a free and open web depends on me” (Google’s Internet Poem)
A free and open internet is essential to democracy in the 21st century just as freedom of speech and freedom of press were essential to the founding father of the United States of America.
On the Internet we are free and we are equal. A sea of voices from all over the earth pour forth, and those voices, those ideas are judged for their worth, for their ability to resonate in the hearts and imaginations of others.
I know sometimes this means absurdly ridiculous things become wildly popular, but that just means that sometimes we (collectively) need absurdly ridiculous things in our lives. The Internet is a collective expression of our humanity. Yes, sometimes things get out of hand and people say horrible things to one another, but sometimes people are also able to truly come together and help each other out. A free and open Internet contains all our flaws and all our potential. Don’t allow politicians to in act policies which will quash our collective potential simply out of fear of our flaws.
While it is frequently difficult to identify paradigm shifts as they are happening, I believe I stumbled upon one tonight. My boyfriend, Greg Wright, was telling me about this fascinating new project he discovered that will allow people to interact and play RPGs online in the dynamic new way in a world that is ultimately the players creation. He found this project through a fascinating site called kickstarter, which allows people to share their creative new projects and to follow and fund creative projects posted by others. Through a system which in many ways mirrors the concept behind microloans, creative entrepreneurs of the 21st-century are funded not by banks, corporations, investment firms, or entrepreneurial capitalist, but instead individual cyber citizens from around the globe. Each project sets a minimum required budget and posts what might be called a “business plan” which includes project related incentives promised each backer according to the financial pledge made. Individuals can make small donations, most have a minimum of $1, or people can make substantial donations and become more directly involved in the project. This site allows new business ideas a to flourish or parish based on their ability to convince other people on the Internet of the value of their idea and the utility of the project.
Hearing about the site reminded me of how growing up during the birth of the digital age my generation received innumerable speeches about how we would all be working in “jobs that the yet to be created.” In my previous blog post, I wrote about the frustration felt by many in my generation about the failure of this promise to manifest immediately upon graduating from college and how in my opinion the occupied movement is a manifestation of my generation’s frustration at this failure and what is even many of the failure of the capital system. My immediate response to hearing about Kickstarter was that this was the perfect springboard for all of those promised “jobs that have yet to be created” that I generation grew up expecting to make into their careers.
If the occupy movement is a global declaration of the “problem,” then the idea behind kickstarter is the solution. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the specific website is the only solution. However, the same way that eBay and its partner PayPal revolutionized online sales, kickstarter’s application of Kiva’s microloans system to creative projects offers creative individuals a means of turning cyber capital into the financial backing necessary for taking projects from imagination to innovation. In this, I see the paradigm shift which might be categorized as being post-capitalist. the paradigm shift being generated by the cyber market is not Marxist or Socialist because individuals and companies are definitely capable of making substantial profits. However, the global reality of cyberspace has left governments struggling to keep legislation up to date as evidenced by the recent attempts in the United States (SOPA, PIPA) and the international treaty (ACTA) to legislate against piracy. Cyberspace has its own morality and self-governing mechanisms which it seems only “digital natives” understand. cyber capital is intrinsically linked to the ability of a the website, idea, video, picture, or phrase to “go viral.” going viral can have either a positive or negative impact through the equivalent of the social sanctions of honor and shame. While many people tend to dismiss things happening online as “not real,” viral honor and viral shame can have extremely real world implications. In the United States, News/Media outlets and general public were focused to acknowledge the “real world” implications of cyber events during the chain reaction of cyber-bullying leading to suicides which led to the It Gets Better movement and the passing of cyber-bullying laws. But there are other concrete examples such as the temporary stock crash of AT&T, KONY2012, Clint McCance, even the importance of the youth vote and Obama Girl to Obama’s election.
While that guy from the KONY 2012 video miscalculated when saying, “there are more people on facebook today, than were on the planet 200 years ago” that doesn’t mean powerful idea he was trying to monoplize on was incorrect. The human race is infinitely more connected today despite our ever growing population recently hitting 7 Billion. Digital communication is so much faster, and frequently more reliable, than the News. This has actually led to the News reporting about what is being said and done online. However, the importance of cyberspace, digital communication, and social networking can no longer be ignored or dismissed as a passing childhood phase. Cyber capital generated by viral honor and viral shame shapes our lives in very real ways. As more and more people are finding ways to “make a living” in cyberspace this is one subsistence pattern which can no longer be ignored. This paradigm shifting subsistence pattern is post-capitalism or at the very least post-neoliberalism. In honor of its importance to the digital age and the because its value system is one of the core cultural value of cyberspace, I suggest we call this new way of getting things done OpenSource-Capitalism. After all people are still making money… eventually, but this isn’t your father’s capitalism.
Recently the discussion of digital anthropology has really begun to take off. The history of digital anthropology is lined out in Daniel Lande’s blog http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2012/02/23/on-forming-a-digital-anthropology-group/ Four days ago, Matt Thompson put forward his vision of digital anthropology and pushed for the formation of a digital anthropology interest group within the American Anthropological Association. http://savageminds.org/2012/02/21/alright-how-about-a-digital-anthropology-interest-group/comment-page-1/#comment-718935 The response to this idea has been rather exciting.
From the comments that followed Matt’s blog, it became clear that the term digital anthropology is still rather unclear. Three distinct issues are being encompassed within the concept of Digital Anthropology. The first is anthropology which utilizes digital technology, digital formats, and includes a new form of Public Anthropology which is available on the internet. The second anthropological issue brought up is anthropology which is done digitally or looks at cyberworlds. This is any anthropological research examining video games, online communities, computer-mediated communications (such as blogs, facebook, and instant messengers like skype) and all the rapid social changes and social complications caused by this shift in social realities on a global scale. Daniel Lande addresses this issue and how it was discussed at a recent AAA panel in this blog entry. http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2011/11/28/digital-anthropology-projects-and-platforms/ The third, issue being addressed is Open Access specifically in regards to Open Access publications of anthropological research. This is the issue which I know the least about, having had no personal experience with Open Access beyond the use of Open Office software. There as been a bit of contraversy over the use of Open Access software in anthropological publications and the impact the lack of using it has on libraries. Again Daniel Lande’s blog informs as well as Jason Jackson http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2012/01/31/american-anthropological-association-takes-public-stand-against-open-access/ and http://jasonbairdjackson.com/2012/02/03/another-world-is-possible-open-folklore-as-library-scholarly-society-partnership/ This controversy, which was spurred by a letter sent by the Executive Director of the AAA, seems to actually be the driving force behind the push to create an interest group for Digital Anthropology within the AAA.
In responses to Matt Thompson’s call for brainstorming on the matter, I am posting my own suggestions for the future of Digital Anthropology. This is partially a re-post of my comments on that blog, but I wanted to put forth both my support of Digital Anthropology and my suggestions for a practical plan for implementing an organizational structure to Digital Anthropology. I situate my own interest in Digital Anthropology in three ways. First and foremost, I am a digital native by all accounts. My first science fair project was written on a computer when I was 9. I got my first email account at 10 (email account = access to most websites, a frequently no adult supervision). Technology was an integral part of my academic career, never turning in a hand written academic paper past the 8th grade. Digital communication and cyberworlds have also greatly influenced my personal as well. Secondly, early in my academic career I conducted research on computer-mediated communication (texts, emails, instant messenger, online forums, facebook, etc). I plan to come back to this research later in my career. Finally, the importance of online publication of anthropological research can not be understated. It allows publication and feedback on preliminary findings. It is communicates research findings to the broadest audience possible. From the beginnings of my anthropological research in undergrad, I have utilized online publications to disseminate my research to the general public. The importance of Public Anthropology to the long term impact of anthropological research of utmost importance in my mind. Digital Anthropology allows anthropologists to make an impact beyond the classroom and the possibilities are ever growing.
The possibilities of a Digital Anthropology organization are only limited by the foundations we lay for it at this moment of initiation. With that in mind, one of the first recommendations I would like to make is organizational. In alignment with the principals behind Open Access, Digital anthropology should be organized with the openness and connectedness of the cyberworld. Digital anthropology needs a social networking site which will allow for the free and open discussion of its goals, agendas, and progress. In addition to allowing for social networking between anthropologists interested in both digital anthropology and the anthropology of cyber worlds, this site should include an open forum to discuss the issues relating to both as well as the progress being made in individual projects. Finally, the site could also include a collection of open access publications and links to anthropological blogs. In regards to Daniel Miller’s concern about the American exclusiveness of this project, I find it rather bizarre to imagine a cyber community limited by national boarders. Perhaps, I am examining this question as a digital native rather than as an American Anthropologist, but such limitations would only serve to stunt the growth of this project. Instead, I suggest the digital anthropology community could sponsor an interest group for the AAAs as more of a “delegation” to represent Digital Anthropology’s interests at the AAAs, however, members of the Digital Anthropology community could also form interest groups in other national and regional anthropological associations. Beyond, the goals of Digital Anthropology within academia, the group should also be of value to the general public. After all, writing anthropological blogs has always been about sharing our ideas and knowledge with the world.
1) Social Network Site- open to all anthropologist and other scholars interested in the topic
2) Create a Online Forum connected to the social networking site- this will allow open international discuss of current issue and new ideas/ research findings
3) The site can also be a repository for Digital Anthropology and Anthropology of Cyberworlds- hosts both original posts and links to various blogs
4) Create Professional connections- example Interest Group for AAAs
5) Create a Public Anthropology digital database resource, and promote online publications/blogs as the Public Anthropology of the 21st century
The first question of course is where are we going to get the funding for this website, to that I have no idea. I am grad student and in no position to find a solution to that part of the problem. However, I am very interested in the development of this project. I would love to continue brainstorming as this project develops.
Please share any suggestions and ideas about the future of this project in the comments section.