DANG Panel Accepted

The BRIDGING DIGITAL AND PHYSICAL PUBLICS: DIGITAL Anthropologists’ CURRENT ENGAGEMENTS WITH 21st CENTURY PUBLICS panel has been accepted!!  It is being reviewed by the Society of Visual Anthropology. The panel with include the following papers:

Anastasiya Travina (Texas State University-San Marcos)                    500,000 Tweets and Posts During The First Two Hours Of The London Olympics: Does IT Mean The Olympics Is A Universally Lauded Event?

Meghan M Ferriter (Smithsonian Institution Archives)                           “It Boils Down to Respect”: Defining the Values of a Fandom Through Conflict Online

Sarah Elaine Dillard Mitchell (Indiana University, Department of Anthropology)                                                                                       TIFF’s Immediate and Mediated Public: Social Media, Public Relations, and the Economies of Talk At the Toronto International Film Festival

Michael P. Oman-Reagan (Hunter College of the City University of New York)                           Occupying Cyberspace: Indonesian Cyberactivism and Occupy Wall Street

Laura C Jarvis (Southern Methodist University)                           Facebook Or Face-to-Face: Studying Youth In and Out of the Field

Sarah S Ono (Department of Veteran Affairs)                                         By the Time We Get to the Station Will the Train Already Have Left?: Keeping Up With New Media in the Public Sector

Alissa Beth Kaplan Soto (Hunter College)                                    Women’s Autonomy Through Self-Insemination and Cyberspace

Congratulations and Thank You to all the panel participants and DANG!

Check Us Out on the 112th Annual AAA Conference!

 

Call for Papers: Digital Anthropologists’ Current Engagements with 21st Century Publics

Check out the Digital Anthropology Call for Papers: Call for Papers: Digital Anthropologists’ Current Engagements with 21st Century Publics.

 

 

Freedom of Speech 2.0 #freeandopen

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.

Politics and Wikipedia

Wikipedia is currently in fundraiser mode.  It reminds of the PBS phone-a-thons of my childhood.  But it also reminds me of an interesting component people frequently neglect when discussing social programs and taxes in relation to institutions seen as a “public good.”  In the debate over who does a better job of address the needs of the public, the arguments are frequently framed in Public vs Private….  what about the 3rd option of non-profit/charity?  Websites like Facebook, twitter, Gmail, etc are free because they’ve figured out how to profit from data mining and running ads, while other sites like Wikipedia rely on user donations.  Comparing Wikipedia and the Recovery.gov site which the government spent over $9.5 million to redesign, makes me wonder if discussions on government spending should be aimed at government vs non-profit rather than Public vs Private.

Most people I’ve talked to about this in person tend to point out that most people won’t give willingly unless the government makes them.  But I have to wonder is this true?  Am I being too much of an idealist?  I know I prefer to directly donate $15 to an institution than have an additional $20 added on to my taxes.  Of course, I’m somewhat assume that at least $5 is lost in the bureaucracy it would take to get my $15 to Wikipedia if Congress decided to financially support Wikipedia.  Something I know will never happen, but the thought experiment is still the same.

This brings up a few questions for me.  Is it feasible to run all Open Access on a Wikipedia model or fundraising and user donations?  Is the model somehow better suited for the Internet?  I’d love to know if anyone has come across studies comparing Private, Public (government), AND Non-Profit models for providing public goods and services.

Nationalism, Communitas, and Spiderman…

Considering I was in Ireland for the 4th of July, I decided to get a little imaginative in the way I celebrated America’s Independence Day.  Greg and I went out to eat, I got a milk shake and we watched the late showing of the new Spiderman movie in 3D.  (The 3D is totally worth it on this movie)  Now, one important thing of interest to note is that in Ireland, the Irish celebrate the 4th of July.  Greg was actually a bit surprised by the depth to which the celebration extended beyond simply going out to the pub for a drink to celebrate.

We took the day off, had a relaxing meal at one of our favorite pubs and then headed into Castlebar (the nearest city with a movie theater).  However, it was in this “time-off” that I had a major realization about the connection between Nationalism and Communitas, and it is all thanks to The Amazing Spider-Man.

So what is communitas, you might be asking? The best way to explain it to people who grow up in a Western culture is to say it is that feeling in which your sense of self is fully united with your sense of community.  It is a moment in which your sense of individuality is overwhelmed by a strong feeling of community.  Communitas is in essence community spirit, but a sense of community spirit which deeply resonates within you.  It is found in those moments in which you deeply connect with others because you know in that moment you and a those other people are experiencing almost exactly the same thing.  Anthropologists describe this happening in rites of passage, pilgrimages, and moments of community action.

Communitas is the feeling of oneness, togetherness, solidarity, and deep sacred connection with others.  Now the community can be as small as your cohort growing up or as large a nation.

What does this have to do with the Amazing Spider-Man?  Well, not to give any spoilers, during a particular scene I was flooded with a feeling of communitas.  It was actually a pretty profound moment for me because it was the first time I realized that that perticular feeling was communitas.  I’ve had an intellectual understanding of the term for about four or five years now, and I’ve experienced the feeling numerous times throughout my life without putting a word to it.  Experiencing during a movie, and realizing it, however, opened up a large can of worms for me.

Wow I just felt communitas during a movie…

1) If communitas can be generated, felt, and shared through movies …  then it is possible to share through all forms of digital media I bet.  This reminded me of my friend Jacob Oliver’s honors thesis about music and how people today have come to experience as sense connection to particular pieces of music which were really important to them really hitting home to their situation in the moment in time.  Movies do this as well.  Like it or not, movies, TV, and music connected all of us digitally long before the internet.

2)   Nationalism…  Sitting in a theater in Western Ireland, in a room full of 50 or more people, Gerg and I were the only Americans.  I am not always the most patriotic person, but in that moment, I was an American.  I was filled with patriotic pride and an overwhelming sense of connection to America and Americans.  I argue this is how communitas functions to make self-identity and group-identity unite absolutely, even if it is only for one moment.  The implications for humans as a social species cannot be underestimated.

However, beyond the importance of communitas to community building and group solidarity, I was also taken back at the notion of me feeling communitas while watching  Spiderman and people in New York City.  I was born and raised in rural Arkansas about as far from New York City as you can get and still be in the United States.  Both distance and culture separate me from these people.   I’ve never been to New York City outside of the airport, either.  And currently, I am not even in the United States.

Yet somehow, I was able to experience this deep-connection from Ireland.   Communitas at the national level was never something I considered before that moment, yet as I finished watching the movie it was staring me straight in the face.  Isn’t national communitas exactly what the nation as a whole had experienced in the wake of September 11th?

3)  Spiderman is a hero in American mythology.  Ok, ok… I knew this before but the profoundness of Spiderman as American mythology did not truly set-in until I realized there was a spiritual dimension beyond the “moral of the story.”  For me at least, “real” mythology has to not only guide its readers to culturally specific ideals and heroic behavior, but it also has to unite those readers on a deeper, spiritual level.  I suppose, in essence I am saying that while mythology from all over the world has lessons to teach us, it is the culturally specific mythology which holds the most power over the reader.  It gives us the cultural script of what it means to be heroic and villainous.  The aspect of mythology lost on many Modern Americans, is that the hero does not have to have actually lived to be REAL.  For a myth to truly be American, it must then speak to American culture and adhere to the Religion of America.

The concept of the Religion of America is something Religious Studies Professors and Theologians have put forward and it is something that my mind has toyed with since I took a course on Religion in the US with Dr. Jim Dietrich and Dr. Julia Winden-Fey.  The idea is that beyond the formalized religions and denominations of the United States, there is a separate and distinct Religion of America which is very much tied up with patriotism and matters of state.  The idea is that despite the separation of (a particular) Church and State, politicians, the government, and public events at large still very much acknowledge a form of spirituality which embodies American ideals and is devoid of the sectarianism that might indicate divine preference for one faith over the other.  In other words, the God of America is the God of liberty, equality, freedom of choice, and responsibility of freedom, but this God is no less Mormon than Catholic, no less Christian than Muslim.

Spiderman is an American hero and his story is a heroic epic of American mythology.  When his story is told well, it is capable of inspiring people to achieve the heroic ideals he stands for and it strengthens our connection to one another.

Questions to Ponder:

Did other people experience communitas while watching Spiderman?

Was this feeling of communitas limited to Americans?  How does nationality influence media’s ability to provoke communitas? 

What role does communitas play in social health?  Do moments of communitas impact our sense of social well-being? If so, what are the ramifications for our mental and physical health?

Where do people experience communitas on the national level?  What events, experiences, and media provoke communitas on such a grand-scale?

If you have an experience of communitas you’d like to share with me please feel free to email me at slyeager@smu.edu  I’d love to hear about other people’s experiences.

Also, please take a second and respond to my poll:

OpenSource-Capitalism

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.

Paper Writing vs. Bloging

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I’ve been having a case of writer’s block all day…  That is to say, I’ve already written 3 posts on my blogs and started planning a new project for my boyfriend and I to work on this summer.  So, I’ll admit I’m a bit of a multitasker but who isn’t these days.

So now, instead of actually getting down to business I’m writing another blog post.  But this time I actually have productivity in mind.  I’m going to do an experiment for my next post.  The section of my paper I’ve been trying to finish for the past 24 hours, should be fairly easy to write because it is something I know a lot about.  So as a sort of  “free writing” meets blogging experiment, I’m going to trying writing this section of my paper as a blog entry and see if it frees up my writers block.  If if it works out well, I may be on to something very useful for my fieldwork and dissertation writing.

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Digital Anthropology…?

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.

Recommendations:

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.