Author Archives: ryan

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.