Archive for March, 2008

Things that are hard to talk about,

Omar Khadr – Why isn’t he being set free? And why won’t the national post publish my comment supporting his lawyers who are trying to rescue him from hell? Reading the National post is quite scary, I find the reader commentaries are insane. Not just thoughtless, but terrifying, in the way people just go with path of least resistance. Somehow supporting a 15 year old kid who got caught up in a bad scene is beyond the morality of most National Post commentators. They do however, express a lot of sympathy for Sir Conrad Black! (why not.. but lets give Omar some too?)

It brings up the point that we aren’t a very open society, and there are very good reasons for keeping private. On this Omar Khadr issue though, it just feels wrong blogging about nonsense while so many people are turning a blind eye to unethical behavior [particularly Stephen Harper].

Okay thats enough politics from me. I’ll file this next to the emo rants section, and try to stay on focus to get this blog geared towards research.

Oh yes, and for an interesting look into the brains behind the CIA – check this new fear propoganda out – please define a “Western” appearance please.

“”(They) look western (and) would be able to come into this country without attracting the kinds of attention that others might,” Hayden said, without offering further details.”

I wonder what anthropologists and sociologists have contributed to American intelligence so far… Maybe Al Qaeda and the US Army are learning from


Earlier today I posted a long winded rant. It was motivated through negative reviews I received on some classwork.

In the spirit of not turning this blog into a rant board, I deleted it. “blog me a river” would have been a great title for the post however.

But don’t just blabber mr. blogger -make a point! Yes sir. My point is getting “marked” is always an ego-stiring exercise. Anyone have any comments as to how numerical values being placed on your work motivate you?

Answers in the blogsphere – forget the databases

Little did I know Marc Herbert, who recently let me know about a call for papers for a new online journal, runs a fantastic site that deals with exactly the issue I’ve been pondering. For one, I love his use of wiki’s over blog posts for managing information. I need to get out of this confining blog structure asap. I wonder how many gold mine blogs I’ve been missing out on.

Why do anthropologists blog? Check out Marc’s anthropology 2.0 site.

Then go read Max’s post “Path’s Ahead” , which discusses why a public anthropology is important – as a means of reformulating the disciplinary focus, encouraging public engagement, and basically making anthropology something interesting outside the brains of professional anthropologists. I find it particularly interesting to note that theres no quick way to do this, and I’m glad there are no expectations for student blogs like this one to actually encourage public interest! :P

Also, here is a great post from Max about blogging – asking the same questions I have been about who aside teachers and students might be interested in anthropology. He points out that to some extent, it is written for himself. This is very true of my blog, and I do think its helped me focus ideas for my research. And on the issue of public anthropology, blogs are perhaps the richest source for information.

During a discussion related to my mini-ethnography “Why Do Anthropologists Blog?”, one interviewee [lol dare I say informant in public???] felt that to a large extent blogging was part of our mass media, fame, superstar culture where we all want to make it big. This was a fun perspective to consider, even though I do disagree with it. [and if MTV wants to interview me I'm available]. A quick visit to the stats page is also quite ego calming.

Another fantastic resource discussing public anthropology can be found on the Remixing Anthropology blog. Kimberly Christen discusses her upcoming presentation:

“Within these new scenarios for collaboration and exchange come questions (and anxieties) about the properness of sharing—what information can be shared? What should be shared?”

I’ll be very choked if these presentations don’t get broadcast online!

a thought for who?

Alexandre Enkerli, ethnomusicologist, brewmaster, and blogger extraordinaire, recently commented on the possibilities for managing online content distribution in terms of confidentiality and trust. As I look into online communities, playing around with this blog and other peoples, I’ve certainly found it interesting and difficult to moderate what I say. I can’t tell who I’m talking to, and its been a learning experience figuring out the proper contexts to write. Enkerli has created a number of different blogs, and writes on a diverse set of topics. I joked around on one of his casual posts, and after reading it felt I didn’t do it justice in terms of maintaining a formal tone. Blogging anthropology challenges disciplinary boundaries in very interesting ways – especially when it comes to knowing how to relate to each other. Enkerli writes on numerous topics in multiple languages, some very academic, others very casual, and he does it all on the same blog.

What differentiates a comment on blog, from a comment with that same person in a conversation offline. Do anthropological blogs have particular demands for commentators? When mixing styles of messages, how can we target the appropriate audience? It’s not just a matter of writing privately, and publicly.

What exactly will academics gain from increased feedback with those outside the halls of universities? (pardon me as I fart in the air, but I need to get this proposal together asap, and this happens to be whats on my mind). Is it worth exposing formal academic thought to casual feedback? Are the walls of the ivory tower (authority, prestige, discipline) there to protect intellectuals from hordes of casual barbaric commentators? At the same time, lots of very thoughtful discussions are carried on in the midst of casual banter. Am I wrong to differentiate casual from thoughtful? Is thoughtfulness a kind of formality? The demand for thoughtfulness anyways. [this all somehow relates to the part in my proposal asking how anthropological knowledge is distributed online - and how disciplinary boundaries are changed].

To try and get a more rational perspective I need to go back and find out why exactly disciplinary boundaries are problematic. Currently “I know” that we need to be more interdisciplinary, and “I know” we should publish things open access. Unfortunately I can’t support my feelings very well. Off to the databases…

Why do anthropologists blog?

As part of my proposal, and for a class I’m currently taking, I’m working on a mini-ethnography that asks “Why do anthropologists blog?”. This research was inspired by a series of interviews on that looked into online participation by six anthropologists.

Here is the original series of interviews by Lorenz :

An interesting followup discussion on Savageminds can be found here.

I’ve setup meetings with four anthropologists to do interviews over the next couple of weeks. I’ve tried to take the feedback Lorenz received in the Savageminds discussion into this new set of interviews so that they can build on each other. In this way I’ve tried to find anthropologists who do not blog, and who might have pessimistic attitudes to the internet in general. I’ve also asked all the teachers at the university who I know blog to take part.

If you have any questions you would like me to ask while I’m doing the interviews, now is the time to let me know! I’d be happy to integrate your questions into the research!

A few more interesting links to academic blogging:

“Academic Blogging: Some BloggerCon III Afterthoughts”

“Thoughts on Blogging by a Poorly Masked Academic”

Kerim Friedman’s article “Welcome to the Blogsphere”

Reaching out to anthropology students in the blogsphere

A new student run anthropology e-journal run by the National Association for Student Anthropologists (NASA) is inviting anthropology students at the undergrad and graduate levels to submit papers on inclusion, collaboration and engagement. Thanks for letting me know and for using the blogsphere to get the message out. Here is the website.

Details follow:

Attention grad and undergrad anthro students: Please
consider submitting an article to the new anthropology e-
journal sponsored by the National Assoc. of Student
Anthropologists (NASA). The call for papers (pasted below)
is organized around the theme for the AAA 2008 Annual
Meetings. Completed manuscripts of 1000 words should be
submitted by April 21, 2008 to
See below for more information…

The National Association of Student Anthropologists (NASA)
will launch its first online publication, The NASA e-
Journal, under the banner of the 2008 American
Anthropological Association conference theme: “Inclusion,
Collaboration, and Engagement.”

We seek scholarly submissions from undergraduate and
graduate students worldwide about the application of
anthropological theories and methods outside of academia or
across disciplines for the purpose of exploring,
problematizing, or addressing social problems. Have you
worked in an internship, co-op or another job as a student
anthropologist and wish to reflect on how you relied on your
anthropological training? Perhaps you collaborated with
students from other disciplines at a volunteer organization
and seek to describe the value you added from an
anthropological perspective? Is there a paper you submitted
for a service-learning class where you addressed a social
problem using anthropological methods? Have you done
fieldwork in a community where you sought to create positive
social change in the process of gathering data? Tell us
about it! Scholarly articles should be 1,000 words in length
and will be subject to a double blind review process.

We also welcome innovative commentary submissions to the e-
Journal. Commentaries are opinion or avant-garde pieces of
work which are the original work of the authors. These
submissions are to express the next generation of
anthropologists’ ideas, goals and beliefs of the direction
our discipline should head, be it locally, nationally or
globally. We seek a plurality of voices on this issue and
intend to raise awareness among fellow students as well as
more established anthropologists about the direction our
discipline is heading. Commentary submissions might include
such mediums as written pieces (1,000 words in length),
photo stories (10 photos + 1,000 words of commentary in
length) and videos/YouTubeC clips (10-minute maximum in
duration + 1,000 words of commentary in length)

Submission Guidelines:
Please submit a full 1,000 word manuscript for consideration
by midnight EST on April 21, 2008 along with any
accompanying materials.
. Authors should complete their submissions according
to the AAA style guide
. Submissions should be saved in Microsoft Word “.doc”
format with the file title being the first author’s last
name and first initial. (example: HebertM.doc)
. We invite authors to provide drawings, graphs and
maps to enhance the visual component of each article. These
should be included as separate attachments in the email.
Graphics should be saved as “.jpg” format. The file name
should be the first authors last name, first initial and
then the number of the photo. (example: HebertM1.jpg) Please
also include reference in your text where graphics should be
placed by inserting the above identifier in the text.
. Videos should be provided as a link (if located on a
site such as YouTube) or included as a graphics file in a
readily viewable format such as QuickTime or Windows Media
. Please send submissions to the e-Journal editorial
team with the subject heading “NASA Manuscripts – Vol. 1″ at

Authors will be notified regardless if their work has been
selected for publication or not. We look forward to
publishing submissions for Volume 1 of the NASA e-Journal in
the fall of 2008 and spring of 2009.

Anonymous review

Over at Savage Minds there is a great discussion going on regarding anonymous and public peer review. Personally, I think anonymous review is pretty important – and while the community has been kind so far, I sincerely hope someone will rip into this blog in a huge way. I’m confident that I can stand any attacks on me, my personality, my writing, and of course on my ideas. I’m also pretty confident that while some criticisms can be voiced directly, there are challenges to really saying whats on your mind. I also feel that these harsher criticisms need an anonymous outlet. Anonymity for me is a kind of freedom.

Flame wars and flame posts also have a wonderful effect of making a page seem a lot less pretentious. So please. Flame on this post, and on this page, and please do it anonymously so I don’t feel the need to kick your ass :)

Of course, this tough skinned approach only works so far. One of the most interesting academic blogs I’ve come across so far has been danah boyd’s ( I would love to be able to write as openly as she does, but she admits it is quite difficult to do. In her post “Why Blogs Aren’t a Safe Space” (2004) danah boyd discusses how the blog is her space, and that anonymous reviewers have often been the ones attacking her personally. She writes:

“One thing that we’re missing as disconnected souls reading each other’s words is a shared social structure where we can intuitively understand when to critique and when to support. The blog world too easily lends itself to a forum for attacking each other, purportedly to critique ideas. How often are anonymous critiques truly constructive? How easy is it to tear apart someone you don’t know? Stanley Milgram learned that ages ago… if you feel like your responsibility is to critique, you can do so infinitely, regardless of how another might feel. And the further removed you are from witnessing the horrific reactions, the more you can continue on. Sometimes, i think we’re all a bit sadistic.”

And so I realize, that there is an element of sadism involved in writing for the world at large. Whats true of the web however, is also true of the real world. danah boyd writes “I continue to be reminded that blogging is not a safe space for me. There’s no common understanding, common ground. “

Further, not to cite every word from her blog (although I recommend it entirely, as its incredibly open and insightful), she writes:

“Unlike many group blogs, this one has an identity. It’s a blog about women and tech. It’s a blog by women involved in tech. It’s a blog by thinking women who think, say, and create far more than a few posts a month on the site. There is an unspoken context. These are things that i take for granted. I try to keep posts short, but in doing so, i fail to lay out the framework and thus i’m attacked both for what i say and what i don’t say. Instead of creative suggestions, “perhaps you forgot this,” i usually see you’re wrong/foolish/inappropriate. Sometimes i wonder if we created misbehaving as a tool to increase our masochistic lashings. It’s certainly not a forum for interesting conversation in a safe space.”

So when is criticism a good thing, and what rules have been put in place to control the way anthropological work is reviewed? Is there a kind of code of conduct among anthropology websites? danah boyd argues that her blog has a particular identity, and that within that identity there is proper and improper behavior. Just because we can attack someone anonymously, doesn’t mean we should.

My question to everyone out there is: Once your work has been reviewed, how do you go about responding to the critique? Can you simply ignore it if you find it offensive, nasty, or irrelevant? I’m wondering to what extent peer review silences opinions, and to what extent authors appreciate having a chance to change things before they go into print. In the case of anonymous reviews, do you wish you could respond to them directly? Have you ever incorporated the anonymous reviewers statements directly into your work to respond to it?

Are anthropological journals “safe” spaces to publish ideas?

[sadistic] flame on [/sadistic]


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