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.

3 thoughts on “Digital Anthropology/Open Access interest group?

  1. ryan Post author

    Francine Barone’s reply to the SM thread and discussion (her comment is on the OAC thread linked above):

    “Back in 2009, the creation of the OAC was in fact inspired by a very similar discussion about Open Access and the AAA initially sparked by Kerim over at Savage Minds. We’re engaged in the same overall movement towards greater openness for anthropology, so if you joined the OAC, then you share similar hopes and expectations for progress.”

    Exactly. Lots of people thinking along the same lines.

    Just in case you don’t feel like scrolling up the page, here’s the link to the OAC thread:

  2. Giovanni da Col

    If different orientations and interests are falling under the umbrella of ‘Digital Anthropology’ movement rising at SM, Neuroanth, here, OAC wouldn’t it be better to start a new SECTION of the AAA? A section would need 225 members but looks like there is enough traction. A section would make a difference, have a committee instead than just a convener, a space in Anthropology news, possibly a publication, etc.

    Deadline for new applications is March 15

  3. Matt Thompson

    I think achieving section status is definitely within reach, but its also a bigger hurdle to clear. I refer not just to the minimum membership requirement, which is much higher than for interest groups, but to concerns I’ll dub “political” and “realist”.

    The political concern entails convincing the Section Assembly to admit us to their club of sections. In particular they do not want to admit a new section that duplicates any ongoing efforts, nor do they want to set us up for failure. This is why I said in my third post on organizing within the AAA (or not) that there’s a certain amount of proving our group useful to the membership that will be required first. For this I was blasted as looking to others for validation, but that misses the point. It’s more about converting others to our viewpoint that digital anthropology is worthwhile.

    The realist concerns are about how much help we can expect to get from others in making our group a success. The interest group is a low risk, low commitment venture and so its fine for a short term goal. A section will require writing a governance document, getting elected officers, enforcing dues collection and so on. It is a much more time intensive venture. Of course, you get more political clout out of that, but what a lot of work. Let’s make that a long term goal for after we see how far we can take this interest group thing.

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