This Week in Ethnography: All Tomorrow’s Cultures: Tagging Anthropology

This Week in Ethnography, I have thought about Public Anthropology. Samuel Gerald Collins of All Tomorrow’s Cultures posted a great piece on the subject this week entitled Tagging Anthropology.  Public Anthropology is not a new subject by any means.  A Google search on the subject will show over 600,000 results and limiting your search to Savage Minds will still give you more than a week’s worth of reading.  In fact, this subject is so mature that the The 9th Annual Public Anthropology Conference is just around the corner (not the first or second, but the 9th!)  [Incidentally, 300 word abstract submissions for this conference are due by Monday, August 27, 2012.]  To get a feel for this conference view or read last year’s keynote by Max Forte here:

Beyond Public Anthropology: Approaching Zero

What I like about Collin’s post is that he demands that we define “public”.  Whereas much of this sort or work is on ANTHROPOLOGY with ”public” as an afterthought, Collins wants us to seriously consider PUBLIC.  What is the public? Who makes up the public?

…Is anthropology the same?  In the era of “public anthropology,” isn’t the idea to reach a “public”?  But what is this “public”?   Despite lots of lip service and theoretical interest in expanding the audience for anthropological research, anthropologists seem to have little more than a vague sense of the public that might exist outside of the immediate academic context.   This question becomes more urgent with the advent of web 2.0 social networking.   When we’re blogging or putting something up on Youtube, it seems obvious that we’re making our work “public,” but that public is not synonymous with the “public” of television news or major newspapers. via All Tomorrow’s Cultures: Tagging Anthropology.

Collins’ concludes with a call for us all to put some ethnographic effort into the PUBLIC part of the equation.

…a public anthropology in the age of networked media needs to create its public while it’s doing anthropology, a consciously forged interpretive community. via All Tomorrow’s Cultures: Tagging Anthropology.




The PhD as an Existential Question???

To PhD or not to PhD, that is that a question for you?  Well, at we have years of unsolicited advice to those of wondering if all the uncertainties of grad school are for you or not.

For example those of you have lousy grades for any number of reasons, and question not your own capacity, but that of your chosen profession to give your application a second look, check out “Can Bad Grades and Graduate School Go Together?”  The answer of course is a resounding YES!  But it is not so YES! As if you had better grades.  But what is done is done, so push on.

But let’s say that you’re already in grad school, have a stellar g.p.a. and the luminaries of anthropology are throwing research assistantships, graduate fellowships, and closing in on the Master’s.  Is it ok to bail, and take another path? For you, too, we at have.  Check out “Why I chose not to get a PhD” by one of our more erudite bloggers.

Finally, perhaps you are finally closing in on that PhD and realize that the brass ring of tenure track employment is perhaps just that—only made out of brass, and not gold.  Family, the job market, and life in general is keeping you from the step of casting yourself on the national or international job market, and your life is just fine where it is, thank you Herr Dr. Big Shot Major Professor! Let our blogger assure you that there is nothing inherently essential to life in “PhD or not PhD.”


Culture Rears its Head in the US Presidential Campaign

There is a good editorial about that classic anthropological question “What is Culture?” in the New York Times today by Ta-Nehisi Coates.   This is salient because presidential candidate Mitt Romney recently made assertions about the nature of culture and its relationships to economic activity while he was in Israel recently.  His statements, made in the heat of a political campaign, have meant that the Culture Question will at least briefly (and probably ephemerally) push itself again into the national consciousness.  Still it is a good entrée into the subject for anyone teaching an Intro to Cultural Anthropology course this Fall.  Note that in the very first sentence, Coates gives credit to anthropologists as having a unique identity relative to “triumphalists!”


Romney’s Side Course of Culture


Published: August 9, 2012 259 Comments

When Mitt Romney asserted last week that “culture does matter,” he settled into a pose that was more triumphalist than anthropologist. Romney had begun by asserting that culture explained the difference in G.D.P. between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, but soon he was claiming that culture also made the United States “the greatest economic power in the history of the earth.”  His attempt to define American culture settled in on vague attributes like “patriotism,” “family orientation,” “honor and oath” and “freedom,” a list that seemed cribbed from Ron Swanson’s Pyramid of Greatness.


Is it worth noting that America, itself, was secured from its aboriginal tribes through centuries of oath-breaking, through a malleable regard for freedom, and through the auctioning of families? Continued Here

The Internet Archive

As of this morning, The Internet Archive is now offering content via the BitTorrent P2P networking protocol: Internet Archive Torrents

There is a nice (if unorganized) collection of early anthropology among the 1.2 million books in the archive. As you might expect, there is a large assortment of early journals and classic works. But, there is also a surprising amount of  grey literature: lectures, occasional papers, and so forth.


This Week in Ethnography: Writing Live Fieldnotes With Social Media: Towards a More Open Ethnography | Ethnography Matters

This Week in Ethnography, the big news was Mitt Romney “using” the word culture but that news is already very well described by Jason Antrosio.

So I found another hidden gem that came out this week: a great post on “Writing Live Fieldnotes“.  It describes a technique that could solve a challenge I am facing in a research project where I will be tracking the behavior of a group of high school students. My challenge is to generate solid data on their entire lives without actually following them (minors) off campus.

TECHNOLOGY: I’ve used diary techniques elsewhere but I fear high school students will be less reliable than the college students I have studied earlier.  In the post below, Tricia Wang describes a technique that got me thinking about a solution to my problem.  Technologically I’m considering purchasing a number of Ipod touches, distributing them to the subjects, training them in some basic observation and self reporting techniques and seeing what happens.

METHOD: Shirley Brice Heath was is the first person I ever heard use the phrase guerrilla ethnography at a talk she gave at the U. Penn Ethnography in Education Conference in the mid 1990s.  Basically, she took a group of high school students and trained them to extend her observations at a high school.

What I am thinking of doing is have my subjects, read Tricia Wang’s post and follow her lead.  I’ve added the first few lines of her post her, but I urge you to read the entire thing.  There is real knowledge there!

Writing Live Fieldnotes With Social Media: Towards a More Open Ethnography

I just returned from fieldwork in China. I’m excited to share a new way I’ve been writing ethnographic fieldnotes, called live fieldnoting. I spoke about live fieldnoting in a recent interview with Fast Company that also featured a slideshow of my live fieldnotes. I want to elaborate on the process in this post.

At one point in time, all ethnographers wrote their notes down with a physical pen and paper. But with mobiles, laptops, iPads, and digital pens, not all ethnographers write their fieldnotes. Some type their fieldnotes. Or some do both. With all these options, I have struggled to come up with the perfect fieldnote system.

I have experimented with the Livescribe Pen, regular old notebook, and a laptop. The Livescribe digital pen didn’t work for me because it’s really uncomfortable to use after a half hour of writing and its dependency on digital paper makes it inflexible for fieldwork outside of the US and longterm extended fieldwork (my review of the pen on The notebook seems like the most practical solution. But I can’t seem to find the “perfect” notebook. Do I use a really small one that fits in my pocket? A medium size one that allows me to write more? If it’s too big then it looks like a “notebook.” And what should this notebook look like? Does a black moleskin look too nice for my fieldsite? Does it look too official? Does my notebook allow me to fit in with teens? But the notebook with bears and hearts that I use around teens doesn’t work for my meetings with government officials. And in the end no matter what kind of notebook I use, I still have to type all my notes to Evernote. So using a laptop is inevitable as all notes eventually end up there and are cleaned up there.

But the problem with a digital pen, notebook, and laptop is that they are all extra things that have to be carried with you or they add extra steps to the process. If I forget to charge the Livescribe or if it runs out of batteries, then I would have to remember to pack a backup notebook and pen. If I was in an area where I couldn’t get electricity, then I couldn’t charge my laptop or pen. If I’m in situation where I can’t take out a notebook because it would distract from the situation or it would be too cumbersome, then I would have to memorize everything.

I still haven’t found the perfect fieldnote system, but I wanted to experiment with a new process that I call, “live fieldnoting.”

via Writing Live Fieldnotes With Social Media: Towards a More Open Ethnography | Ethnography Matters.