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.

Members: 302
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 caseorganic on August 4, 2009 at 4:52am
I practice Cyborg Anthropology, which is a subsection of the Anthropology of Science. It deals with humans and non-human relations and Actor Networks (Bruno Latour). I wrote my thesis on mobile telephony, liminality and technosocial relations.

danah boyd is an excellent resource in this field. Her dissertation was on Facebook. Here are some of the papers she's written.
Comment by rhys evans on June 26, 2009 at 10:49am
Thanks Fausto,

The fact that my questions are methodological, rather than about method, does make for a potentially positive bleed-over from your study. I am looking forward to spending some time with it and will let you know what i discover once i've gone through it.

Comment by Fausto dos Anjos Alvim on June 26, 2009 at 4:37am
Hi Rhys,

I don't know if it can help on your question about "blinding us to human meanings", but I had to do field work for my graduation dissertaion on free software communities some 9 years ago. My teachers asked similar questions and I tried to answer them. If I did it well, I don't know but they did go for it. The media we used at the time, except in a (now) ludicrous pre-Second Life enviroment called the Palace, was just text. But the issues where the same. There is a version in english at (see link to dissertation). I've just came back to school now and I'm working in masters a project on International Public Software that will call for a lot of up-to-date media use in its etnography work. As soon as I get something going, I'll post it.


Comment by rhys evans on June 24, 2009 at 7:21pm
Hi all. I joined this group because the title resonates some something i am grappling with, which i have been calling digital ethnography. For me, digital ethnography is about methods, rather than focuses -- and i teach it in qualitative methods classes. The ideas i have been playing with revolve around methodological questions about data -- are there ontological, or even (shudder!) epistemological implications to data which is constituted out of zeros and ones? Perhaps i get ahead of myself here.

For me digital ethnography involves the gathering of data in digital form and as such renders visual, audio and textual information in digital file formats which are amenable to manipulation and analysis by the same tools -- i.e. N*Vivo, and other qualitative analysis engines. As a method, it is practical, cheap (no more transcription costs), and accessible. The data-gathering tools can be as complex as expensive digital video cameras or as cheap and ubiquitous as all-in-one mobile phones. The data it delivers is portable, easily archive-able, and can be subject to multiple types of manipulation ranging from statistical to discourse analysis.

So much to the good, so far. But what implications does this have for the meanings we make from this data. And, addressing anthropologists in particular, how does it affect our interpretation and making of meaning of the 'analogue' experience of fieldwork? Does digital data enhance our experience of 'being there'? Can it blind us to human meanings which otherwise we might experience 'in our skin'? If we accept that what we do when practising ethnography is a form of 'representation', then how might the media with which we work affect the representations we produce?

Now, i see that most comments here are rather about the anthropology of digital societies, as it were. And that is a really fascinating topic too. However, these issues still remain. Can anyone point me to other forums or authors who wrestle with them?
Comment by Denice Szafran on June 9, 2009 at 4:40pm
Michael Fischer, you posted some very good things to think about, thank you. I hadn't considered AnthroPunk, but instead have been referring to it as Edupunk, which has broader implications and includes methodologies of instruction in my classrooms as well. In my dissertation research, currently still in the embryonic stages, I am looking at this as both the manner in which we investigate and elucidate our research and as the ways in which cyber connectivity allows people to create/recreate/multiply themselves, their communities, and their actions. I would like to "borrow" your thoughts on digital thinking (fourth paragraph) to help explain my proposed research, if that's alright with you, since your words are far more succinct than mine.
Comment by Robertson Allen on June 1, 2009 at 1:50am
Digital anthropology is Ads by Google.
Comment by Michael Fischer on May 31, 2009 at 8:58pm
Digital Anthropology is not my favourite way of putting this, but seems to be the emerging label, and is better than any I've come up with the possible exception of AnthroPunk. On the surface Digital Anthropology certainly includes the impact of communications technology like the internet and mobile phones on people's lives, and I also include the role of computer technology applied to the anthropological research process including the use of communications technology and computing as a tool.

However, a deeper contrast would be with traditional anthropology, what we might call Analogue Anthropology ... wasteful of bandwidth, intrinsically relativistic, imprecise, vague and prone to fanciful interpretations of the static.

At the base, digital implies discrete descriptors rather than continuous ones, but not uniqueness of a given digital descriptor scheme ... usually many many digital representations are possible, and each representation can be examined in detail in many different dimensions. Analogue representations can encode digital representations, but not truly represent them; digital systems can approximate all analogue representations, usually in many many ways. Analogue representations require a base reference to make sense, digital do not (in the sense they effectively include the base reference in their definition).

So rather than just using some kind of technological label as a proxy name, digital anthropology represents a different way of thinking about people and how they hack their lives and those of other people. Digital thinking permits us to more easily consider, describe and compare issues arising from agency, embodiment, performance by many people at the same time. Statistics (and perhaps fiction) are the only tool available for these in the analogue version of the world.

And because it turns out that just as computers have made new kinds of anthropological thinking and methods possible, that other people with access to these technologies also find new thinking and methods are available to them in constructing their lives and impacting others.

Hope this was not too long or boring.
Comment by Katin Imes on May 30, 2009 at 1:13am
I'd say, if Urban Anthropology is the comparative study of human societies and cultures and their development in an urban environment,

then Digital Anthropology is the comparative study of human societies and cultures and their development in the purely digital environment... and to me that means...

Society, cultures and customs in VIRTUAL WORLDS and the Internet!


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