Digital Anthropology


Digital Anthropology

A group for people interested in digital anthropology. What should people interested in digital anthropology be paying attention to right now.

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Latest Activity: Dec 16, 2014

Discussion Forum

Netnography in Indonesia, a blog

Started by Jessika Tremblay Jan 6, 2014.

Technologies of research 23 Replies

Started by Justin Shaffner. Last reply by Zoë West May 20, 2013.

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Comment by Fausto dos Anjos Alvim on February 23, 2011 at 1:00am

Hi Ellen,


I'm not sure what you mean by "hacking" - it has been badly used in recent times. I go by Erc S. Raymond's definition:

"There is a community, a shared culture, of expert programmers and networking wizards that traces its history back through decades to the first time-sharing minicomputers and the earliest ARPAnet experiments. The members of this culture originated the term ‘hacker’. Hackers built the Internet. Hackers made the Unix operating system what it is today. Hackers run Usenet. Hackers make the World Wide Web work. If you are part of this culture, if you have contributed to it and other people in it know who you are and call you a hacker, you're a hacker.

The hacker mind-set is not confined to this software-hacker culture. There are people who apply the hacker attitude to other things, like electronics or music — actually, you can find it at the highest levels of any science or art. Software hackers recognize these kindred spirits elsewhere and may call them ‘hackers’ too — and some claim that the hacker nature is really independent of the particular medium the hacker works in. But in the rest of this document we will focus on the skills and attitudes of software hackers, and the traditions of the shared culture that originated the term ‘hacker’.

There is another group of people who loudly call themselves hackers, but aren't. These are people (mainly adolescent males) who get a kick out of breaking into computers and phreaking the phone system. Real hackers call these people ‘crackers’ and want nothing to do with them. Real hackers mostly think crackers are lazy, irresponsible, and not very bright, and object that being able to break security doesn't make you a hacker any more than being able to hotwire cars makes you an automotive engineer. Unfortunately, many journalists and writers have been fooled into using the word ‘hacker’ to describe crackers; this irritates real hackers no end.

The basic difference is this: hackers build things, crackers break them."

(In How To Become A Hacker


Lane already pointed out Two Bits by Kelty. Maybe you will find the following interesting too:


Lessig, Lawrence (1999) "Code and other laws of cyberspace". Basic Books

(see also Free culture and Remix by the same author)


Crystal, David (2001) "Language and the Internet".Cambridge University Press


There is also my undergraduate anthropology  work about computer mediated communication, avatars and hackers and Free and Open Source Software . It's from 2000. I wrote it after working nearly 20 years with IT and it is a wee bit outdated, but maybe you can find some historical links there. (


Good luck and have fun :-)


Comment by Ilana Gershon on February 23, 2011 at 12:34am

You might also want to look at Alex Golub's articles on World of Warcraft.  And T. J. Taylor also writes good pieces on being an avatar, her book is Play Between Worlds.  One of the classics on identity and virtual worlds is Sandy Stone's The War of Desire and Technology at the Close of the Mechanical Age.

Comment by Lane DeNicola on February 23, 2011 at 12:31am

Hi Ellen,

A couple refs I might add on the topics of virtual worlds and/or hacking:

Bardzell, S. and J. Bardzell (2006) "Sex-Interface-Aesthetics: The Docile Avatars and Embodied Pixels of Second Life BDSM"
Proceedings of the CHI 2006 Workshop

Kelty, C. (2008)Two Bits Duke U. Press

Langer, J. (2008) "The Familiar and the Foreign: Playing (Post)Colonialism in World of Warcraft" from Corneliussen, H. (ed) Digital culture, play, and identity : a World of Warcraft reader. Cambridge MA: MIT Press, pp. 87-108.

Malaby, T. (2009) Making Virtual Worlds: Linden Lab and Second Life. Cornell U. Press.

Nakamura, L. (2009) "Don't Hate the Player, Hate the Game: The Racialization of Labor in World of Warcraft." Critical Studies in Media Communication 26, no. 2: 128-144.

Nardi, B. (2010) "My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft (Excerpts)" First Monday, 15:7

Pearce, C. and Artemesia (2009) Communities of Play: Emergent Cultures in Multiplayer Games and Virtual Worlds. The MIT Press.

Scacchi, W. (2003) "Free/Open Source Software Development Practices in the Computer Game Community" IEEE Software. vol 21, pp 59-67.
Comment by Hülya Demirdirek on February 22, 2011 at 11:40pm

Hi Ellen,

Very quick couple of titles mainly to show the journals, you may have a look at these journals to get overview of the latest issues etc.. Also have a look at Boellstorff's U Irwin page, he is teaching SL related courses himself.

Jennifer Martin, Consuming Code: Use-Value, Exchange-Value, and the Role of Virtual .... Journal of Virtual Worlds Research 1(2), 2008.


Nick Yee and Jeremey Bailenson, The Proteus Effect: The Effect of Transformed Self-Representation o.... Human Communication Research 33(3):271–90, 2007.


Yasmin B. Kafai, Melissa S. Cook, and Deborah A. Fields, ‘‘Blacks Deserve Bodies Too!’’: Design and Discussion About Diversi.... Games and Culture 5(1):43–63, 2010.


Julian Dibbell, Mutilated Furries, Flying Phalluses: Put the Blame on Griefers, the.... Wired 16.02, 2008.

Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication

Comment by Francine Barone on February 22, 2011 at 10:35pm

Hi Ellen,


Gabriella Coleman's work would be a good place to start on hacking. Be sure to check out her recent Annual Review (Ethnographic Approaches to Digital Media) in the list of publications. Please share anything else you find while searching!

Comment by Ellen McDonald on February 22, 2011 at 10:14pm

I am currently working on undergraduate research that examines the impact of the Internet on contemporary western thought and behaviors, specifically looking at those who chose to 'live' in a virtual world through an avatar, and those who are into hacking. 


I have come across the work by Boellstorff, but I am looking for some help in finding other sources. This may not be the correct group to post my 'help wanted' add in, but if anyone reading this knows of someone researching Internet phenomena or came across information at a bookstore or in a journal it would be much appreciated. 

Comment by Norman Schräpel on November 10, 2010 at 12:37am
Dear Jessika,
We are currently preparing a research project on ICTs in Rwanda. I would be happy to hear more about your research. In order for your search, I perhaps could direct you to some possible supervisors in Europe...

Comment by Jessika Tremblay on November 10, 2010 at 12:15am
Hello friends,
I've returned from my fieldwork in Rwanda studying the impacts of One Laptop Per Child in primary schools. I've found out some interesting things there, so I thought it would be interesting to pursue the topic for comparison in Mongolia for my PhD. I've found an interesting program at UCL, and of course MIT, though I was wondering if anyone had any leads on other senior anthropologists interested in either ICT for development, digital anthropology, or Mongolian studies who may be willing to act as a supervisor. Any help would be appreciated!
Comment by rajaanth on July 8, 2010 at 10:43am
i need to know what kind of study digital anthropology please send about that.... this is my mail id
thank u
Comment by John Postill on June 17, 2010 at 9:33am
Dear All

The EASA Media Anthropology Network will be holding its 33rd e-seminar from
this coming Tuesday 22 June to Tuesday 6 July 2010 via its mailing list.

Jenny Cool (University of Southern California) will be presenting a working
paper titled "The mutual co-construction of online and onground in Cyborganic:
making an ethnography of networked social media speak to challenges of the
posthuman". Antoni Roig (Open University of Catalonia)
will be the discussant.

A PDF of this paper is now available on our site at (with thanks to Philipp

These sessions are free and open to anyone with a genuine interest in the
anthropology of media. To subscribe to the mailing list, go to


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