Digital Anthropology Group: UPDATE

Matt Thompson continues to lead the charge toward the creation of a Digital Anthropology Group over at Savage Minds.  Here’s the latest post.  The first step is to decide on a name–there is a link to a survey where you can put in your two cents.  Thompson includes a draft mission statement, and a call for comments and ideas.  Here’s the mission statement:

 The Digital Methods Group is a network of anthropologists interested in how Internet driven platforms of social exchange are challenging the way research is done, how anthropology is taught, and how anthropologists communicate with each other, the public, and our subject communities. Organized as an interest group under the American Anthropological Association it acts as a forum for sharing ideas, promoting online activities, and advancing our professional concerns.

Our aim includes seeking out connections with similar efforts in other disciplines and professional associations who are interested in promoting the professionalization of online activities. We envision creating and maintaining an online presence through multiple formats including a website that will archive all of the interest group’s work and serve as a hub where anyone can freely participate, access material and information, and communicate.

The goals of the Digital Methods Group include:

• To make connections across all major subfields of anthropology by examining how researchers are using digital methods in data collection, analysis, and storage as well as their application in peer-reviewed publications.

• To consider how anthropology courses, classrooms, labs, and field schools at the undergraduate and graduate levels might be transformed by the introduction of net platforms in lecture, seminar, student collaboration, and course assignments.

• To encourage communication among anthropologists through blogging and online social networks, promoting the good work already being done and recruiting others to join the conversation.

• To raise anthropology’s profile among the general public through online communication.

• To document how net platforms might impact the ways in which anthropologists nurture long term ties with subject communities, research participants, and other stakeholders.

• To discuss and refine ethical use and best practices for the above by hosting workshops and roundtables that consolidate our experiences, successes and failures, and spread the technical knowledge necessary for using these platforms with ease.

• To promote the professional interests of its members by framing discourses within the discipline of anthropology concerning digital methods of research, teaching, and communication so that the practice of using such net platforms becomes more widespread.

Check out the post, add in your comments, and then PASS IT AROUND.  The more people who see this, post their comments, and participate the better.


Digital Anthropology/Open Access interest group?

Matt Thompson over at Savage Minds has been putting in a lot of effort toward getting a new “digital anthropology” interest group started.  Open Access is one of the focal points of this effort.  Thompson’s posts have generated a lot of conversation, so let’s keep them going.  Some highlights:

Thompson started off the discussion on the February 15th post “Is there support for an OA interest group among AAA members?”  This is the one that got the ball rolling.  The comments section is full of reactions and discussion.  One of the big questions that people raised is whether such a group should be started within the AAA, or outside it.  Michael E. Smith expresses that position here:

Wouldn’t it make more sense to go beyond the AAA, and get anthropologists from other regions involved? What about joining forces with groups in the Open Anthropology Cooperative? Can a AAA interest group be a component (or at least a subset) of a larger organization that transcends the AAA?

Thompson’s second post on this issue is here.  He outlines some potential goals of this digital anthropology/OA interested group:

The purpose of a Digital Anthropology interest group

  • Officially we are for “networking and/or the informal exchange of information.” So far, four important trends have developed:
  • (a) Be a common meeting place for anthros to brainstorm about new platforms.
  • (b) Compile and communicate important information relevant to our purpose
  • (c) Be savvy about our place within the AAA
  • (d) Build coalitions with other groups outside the AAA

In the comments, Megan McCullen points out that there are basically two different ideas brewing: One being a digital anthropology interest group that focuses on making changes within the AAA, and the other a kind of “hub” for Open Access Anthropology in general.  She writes:

Daniel Lende responded to this discussion with the post “On Forming a Digital Anthropology Group.”  He lists his overall points in the SM comments:

The AAA Digital Anthropology Interest Group – In Brief

The Digital Anthropology Group will provide a common forum so that members help move anthropology to embrace how digital forms of communication, interaction, and research increasingly mediate what we do as anthropologists.

Foment Change
-Open Access
-Online scholarship and accreditation
-Outreach within the field, with practicing anthropologists, and with anthropologists outside the AAA
-Addressing inequalities of access and representation, from indigenous groups to political economic disparities to gender and race online

Focus on Research
-Digital anthropology as a focus of research
-Using digital tools for data and for improving the creation and execution of research
-Support research done in public, including repositories for data and publications

Foster Communication and Networking
-Offer a forum to communicate and interact among members
-Provide resources, ideas, examples and critiques of digital initiatives in teaching
-Draw on digital anthropology as a way to create the flow of ideas and relationships among anthropologists inside and outside the AAA
-Embrace the ways that digital communication can reach the broader public

My comments focused on the need to form some sort of OA “hub” that tries to link various efforts together (hence the revival of this site).  There is a lot going on out there, and it might help to start bringing some of these efforts together in one form or another.

Thompson’s next post asks whether this group should be formed inside the AAA or not.  He lists some of the drawbacks, and then highlights some of the things that could be accomplished by forming this group under the aegis of the AAA.  The general conclusion from the comments is that it might be best to push for parallel organizations–one with specific goals and objectives within the AAA, and one that seeks to build wider connections (international, etc).  Thompson’s most recent post runs with this idea of creating these parallel groups, and asks for ideas about a possible name and mission statement.  This is an open thread that has just started, so the more input from people the better.

On a related note, in order to try to start making connections to other places, I started this thread over at the OAC.  The OAC has gone through similar discussions and conversations, and it would be great to get some of their membership involved and on board.

All of these efforts are just beginning.  The way to keep moving things forward is to take part, to post comments, share links, and help come up with ideas.  If you’re interested in digital anthropology, open access, public anthropology, and pushing for some change within the broad field of “anthropology,” then please feel free to join the conversation.

Open Folklore Links

Those visiting this website may wish to follow discussions of the Open Folklore project happening elsewhere.  Here are some links.

The site itself, with an announcement from the lead partners (IUB Libraries and the AFS) can be found at:

Two detailed blog posts about the project have appeared, one at Savage Minds (here) and one at Archivology (here).

The IUB Media Release is here and a Indiana Daily Student story is here.

I have written several blog posts about the project from my perspective as a participant. These can be found here, here, here, and here.

The American University in Cairo: Digital Archive and Research

I would like to announce that The American University in Cairo via its Digital Archive and Research believes in the open access movement.

As stated in AUC DAR website:

Open Access is a worldwide movement to encourage unrestricted availability of high-quality peer-reviewed research for the greater good of science and society. The Internet has the potential to disseminate knowledge and research farther and faster than ever before, but the drastic price increases imposed by publishers (despite the decreasing costs of providing electronic access to research material) limit the potential exposure of valuable research materials. With journal prices increasing, many university libraries, particularly smaller institutions and those in developing countries, are being forced to cancel subscriptions to scholarly journals, which can diminish the dissemination and quality of those institutions’ own academic output. Open Access provides a solution by offering an alternative to these subscription based access policies.Open Access provides an alternative to these subscription based access policies, especially in these times of economic difficulty.

Hence, AUC DAR aims to host:

Electronic versions of graduate student theses, and existing digital collections, such as the Rare Books and Special Collections Library’s digitized photographs, rare books, and architectural drawings.

Materials submitted to the AUC DAR Repository can be retrieved in search engines like Google and Yahoo.

AUC DAR is encouraging its students and faculty to submit their work to the Repository by stating that it will greatly increase exposure of their work to the scholarly community. It emphasizes that their submission of scholarly works does not restrict their right to publish elsewhere.

You can check some examples that I found it interesting here, here, and here.

M.A. Anthropology theses and researches will be available open access in the soon future on AUC DAR since it is newly launched.

Our Circulatory System (or Folklore Studies Publishing in the Era of Open Access, Corporate Enclosure and the Transformation of Scholarly Societies)

Just a note to note that I have made public an essay titled “Our Circulatory System (or Folklore Studies Publishing in the Era of Open Access, Corporate Enclosure and the Transformation of Scholarly Societies).” The piece began with a series of posts published on this site in 2008 and was a talk given at the symposium “The Form of Value in Globalized Traditions” organized by the Center for Folklore Studies at the Ohio State University in 2009. It is long (about 5000 words) and can be found on my website here:

Social Sciences Open Access Repository

Via John Postill’s Media/Anthropology  blog, a post about a new Open Access Repository for all the social sciences. “SSOAR [Social Science Open Access Repository] is geared towards a scholarly audience in the social sciences wishing to search quality-controlled content across disciplinary boundaries and to access documents directly and free of charge.” This is the first general Social Science OA repository we’ve found (hence our previous post on  EduPunk alternatives). I hope SSOAR succeeds, and that the other institutions (cough, cough, AAA, cough, cough) follow suit.

Editorial on Commerical and Not-for-Profit Scholarly Publishing

Readers of the Open Access Anthropology blog might have an interest in an opinion essay that I (Jason Baird Jackson) wrote recently. In it, I lay out some modest steps  that scholars interested in changing the direction of scholarly communications might take. The focus is a plea to withdraw from working with commercial publishers. The essay can be found on my website here: . Thanks!

Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity

Readers of Open Access Anthropology will want to check out the announcements for (and press coverage of) the Compact for Open-Access Publishing Equity that was just announced by Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, MIT and Berkeley.

I just finished speaking to Inside Higher Education about it for a story that they will run tomorrow.  I had not yet read the “OA Compact” statement yet, which added to my nerves about weighing in on it (via a phone interview). I may or may not need to explain myself after the story runs.  Having now read the core documents, I can just state at this stage that I very much support open access and I believe in new kinds of university (college, museum, etc.) investments in it.  I believe that different ways of spending on scholarly communication can change the publishing landscape in good ways, including equitable ways.  My sense of the equities that matter here include not just equity between modes of publication but also social justice issues.  This new development could lead to good of many kinds, but my own preference would be for institutional investments at the journal (or journal program) level rather than at the article/author level.

This scheme will make the literature more accessible to readers, which is a wonderful thing, but in fields like anthropology and folklore studies, where authors can make very important contributions without being attached to major western research universities, it may increase barriers to authorship in unhelpful ways.  It may also, by handing private for-profit publishers a new business model and the cash payments to go with it, continue the current arrangement in which large commercial firms lay claim to ever larger amounts of the commonwealth–overtly in the form of university-paid page charges, and covertly in the form of research-derived IP (often publicly funded), uncompensated editorial work, uncompensated peer-review, unpaid-for office space, equipment, etc. and freely provided graduate assistant-based editorial staff support.

This announcement is big and dramatic.  As with the green OA mandates, it represents a step by some major universities to change the terms under which our publishing system works.  It is a major move for OA.  I like that.  I hope that it prompts renewed discussion of the many big issues at stake.

PS:  Thankfully the statement’s architects acknowledge that a minority of gold OA journals are author-pays journals (contra the AAA and its associates). If the scheme works, I suspect that most gold OA journals will move towards author-pays.  This is one place where I agree with several AAA-sanctioned voices.  The growth of author-pays models could really harm existing authors in anthropology and folklore studies and could make the inclusion of as-yet-unheard from voices that much more difficult.  If this is the path that we wind up taking toward gold OA, we will have to work really hard to build and fund a subsidy (or waiver) system sufficient for the inclusion of the vast range of people (=potential authors) who will not have access to institutional author-fee support.

The Impact of the Web 2.0 World on Scholarly Societies

A friend who is very involved in the leadership of the American Folklore Society  just shared with me a link to James Lappin’s very effective blog post “The Impact of the Web 2.0 World on the Records Management Society.”  While presented as a case study of information science/archives organizations in the UK, its arguments generalize amazingly well and provide valuable food for thought for all scholarly disciplines and societies–including those that the readers of this weblog care (or have given up caring) about.

Vis-a-vis the American Anthropological Association, the post provides a compliment to the arguments presented in a less immediately accessible way in “Anthropology of/in Circulation: The Future of Open Access and Scholarly Societies.”  (As a contributor to it) I am very proud of the later paper, but it represents a dialogue on a range of issues and features a diversity of voices with several overlapping sets of interests. Mr. Lappin’s essay is a single scholar’s view on the ways that scholarly societies should be confronting the challenges and opportunities of a world in which most of their members will have access to web 2.0 tools. His discussions of the growing irrelevance of scholarly societies in the 20th century mode and his case for a new mission for the scholarly society (amplifying member’s voices in public rather than as a provider of members-only benefits of decreasing value) connects especially well with the case that Chris Kelty was making in “Anthropology of/in Circulation.” He also provides and operationalizes a number of do-able  steps of a clear cut sort–a kind of emulate-able game plan that a society leadership would be foolish not to at least give thought to.