Posts Tagged ‘anthropology’

Why the delay

[to explain, since this post is not very self-explanatory, this is a story about how two sections of my thesis have changed drastically over the summer - one section, on self-archiving, part of a larger discussion on open access, discussed the Mana'o Self Archiving Repository for Anthropology, which coincidentally, a day after writing this story, officially announced it is shutting its doors. It is also about my exposure to all sorts of different kinds of anthropology on the OAC. And yes, its been turned into a ridiculous story with absolutely no regard to objectivity or science. Enjoy.]

The thesis could, err… should?… have been finished in June. The topic was clear and arguments were starting to take shape. Yes, it should have been finished.

But as I was writing I was hit in the face with a tweet, which while not quite a lightning strike, ended up burning just the same. It was a news flash – one announcing the new Open Anthropology Cooperative.


Lemmings by Surreal Art
surrealart.com
Within a matter of weeks a thousand members had signed up to the cooperative, and with the encouragement of my thesis supervisor who had sent me an overzealous welcome to the OAC, I began to explore.  A thousand anthropologists in a room? Yes, very exciting. And a fantastic example an idea I had been developing in the thesis: “anthropology in public”. Funny thing is my supervisor bailed out on it after a week, being the wiseman he is.

Through the OAC I have been exposed to all sorts of anthropology. Kinds of anthropology no parent would ever allow their children to witness, and certainly not study. Yes, the OAC hit me head on, and it knocked me right out. Or perhaps I dove in head first and forgot to check how deep the water was. Either way I ended up unconscious floating out into an ocean. When I woke up I found I had drifted far away from home.

I woke up in the south of France. The weather was perfect, the wine was fantastic, and the girls were of course stunning. Anthropology you say? Okay then, let’s get back to the story – no, not the one about the girls. And not the one about the OAC, although I’ll share some of it here (that post will come very soon, once I get home). No, this story is about being delayed, and about why such delays have been exceptionally lucky.

As I said, the OAC hit me pretty hard. All sorts of emotions and reactions stirred as I wandered its classrooms. At first I was ecstatic to see so many anthropologists jump into the water. The thought of thousands of anthropologists sharing ideas openly was incredibly motivating – but I was pushed through that excitement pretty quick. Maybe it was the waves.

“Silent Scream” by Diane Dobson Barton. 15×16″ (38×40.6cm). Acrylic on canvas.
© Diane Dobson Barton 2002

Soon I realized that there were hundreds of shadow-anthropologists around me. Avatars of sorts, but with their mouths sewed shut. I wondered if with the hit to the head I’d lost my hearing. Thankfully a few voices came into focus. Some of these voices I’d encountered before in the blogsphere, others perhaps in my dreams. I listened for a while then decided to sing a few songs of my own. Others chimed in, and pretty soon there was almost a chorus playing along. Whale songs? As I said, I’d been hit pretty hard.

That feeling faded too. Soon the voices wouldn’t stop. I kept hearing the same voices over and over. I shut my eyes and listened carefully hoping to pick up on the chorus again but a louder, harsher voice dominated my ears. I screamed loudly hoping it would go away. It didn’t. My head started to pound, and I passed out again. This time with an empty bottle of rose (from Bandol).

I woke up confused and again on a beach. I felt strange, as I probably should have after dreaming so vividly about an anthropology cooperative. Or was it the rose? I could see a small island a short distance from shore. A red neon sign glowed above it, reading “Repository”. I remember stuffing messages into bottles and casting them off into the waves, hoping they would reach the little island. I remember it being a magnificent paradise, an oasis of hope. But I couldn’t remember if I’d corked the bottles, and I worried they never quite kept float.

And then the strangest thing happened. The big red light went out, and with it I could have sworn I saw the island start to sink.

Yes, this brings us back to my fortunate delay. Well, in time anyways.

I looked out again over the ocean but everything had disappeared. I couldn’t see the island. My head still pounded. Where did those lights go?

Strolling along the beach as one does in the south of France, I found three bottles washed up ashore, all corked. I opened them, tearing out the messages inside. Each paper was titled “Mana’o”. A clue perhaps. But where was that island again? I felt uneasy but comfortable. The air was warm and the sand soft. I lay down, resting my head in the sand.

Then I remembered. I was on an important quest. Travelers had warned me not to stray from the road, and no matter what, that I would tempted away from the path. They had warned me to take notes, to write as many details as possible in a magical book which they called “the field”. With those notes they said I’d find my way home. I surprised myself, looking at it, that I’d even organized the field into numerous chapters.

Like the notes in the bottles I’d found on the beach, one chapter read “Mana’o”. I opened the book to that chapter, and before me was a beautiful rendition of an island and with it a picture of the glowing sign “repository” that had disappeared. But none of the field notes made sense. Where was this place? How would I ever find it now that I could not see it? Was it even real?

And so I set off once again, wandering in search of a road, and I started writing again – this time painting the larger ocean.

“all those who wander, are not lost.” were the words of another traveler I’d met somewhere along the way.

“Bullshit” I thought.

I was bloody hell lost, and worst of all, I was lost in France. And my head hurt like hell…

[all that = OAC has proven to be an exceptional, and exceptionally depressing, field site - which while sometimes feeling like a kick in the face, has proven to be quite rewarding - funny how being kicked in the face can be appealing. I'll be developing this much more soon, as after a few months of existence, some of the more terrible things have turned into quite positive ones...  and if you haven't already go check out the OAC - i'd love to hear your thoughts!]

[my chapter on self-archiving proved to be way too naive, given that the Mana'o anthropology repository has gone under - servers broken, and manpower lacking, and well, overall willingness to keep it afloat - nonexistant... or at least.. i don't know the story and hence can't write about it hence its a wonderful thing to have delayed the thesis over the summer. ]

[sun and wine are nice. taking a break from anthropology lets you see just how unexciting it is, which is good when you are trying not to exaggerate in your thesis].

[all images copyright by their original owners - which each image links to...]

Steven Harnad on self-archiving

I’ve never met the man, even though he teaches in Montreal, but if I was to put a face on his written voice, it would look something like this.

When the U.S. congress tried to pass a bill mandating the self-archiving of research, publishers bounded together to lobby against the bill. The American Anthropological Association signed on too.  The lobby group raised numerous arguments against self-archiving, and even claimed to speak on behalf of researchers – to which many have since argued it did not.

In response to Scott Jaschik’s article, “In Whose Interest?” (2006), Steven Harnad unleashes a powerful advocacy strategy:

“The AAA (and AAP and PSP and FASEB and STM and DC Principles Coalition) objections to the FRPAA proposal to mandate OA self-archiving (along with its counterpart proposals in Europe, the UK, Australia and elsewhere worldwide) are all completely predictable, have been aired many times before, and are empirically as well as logically so weak and flawed as to be decisively refutable.

But OA advocates cannot rest idle. Empirically and logically invalid arguments can nevertheless prevail if their proponents are (like the publishing lobby) well-funded and able to lobby widely and vigorously.

There are many more of us than there are in the publishing lobby, but the publishing lobby is fully united under its simple objective: to defeat self-archiving mandates, or, failing that, to make the embargo as long as possible.

OA advocates, in contrast, are not united, and our counter-arguments risk gallopping off in dozens of different directions, many of them just as invalid and untenable as the publishers’ arguments. So if I were the publisher lobby, I would try to divide and conquer, citing flawed pro-mandate or pro-OA or anti-publishing arguments as a camouflage, to disguise the weakness of the publishing lobby’s own flawed arguments.”

To achieve this, Harnad supports self-archiving with 8 points:

All objections to the FRPAA proposal to mandate OA self-archiving can be decisively answered:

(1) Open access has been empirically demonstrated to benefit research, researchers and hence the public that funds the research, by substantially increasing research usage and impact.

(2) There is no evidence to date that self-archiving has any negative effect on subscription revenue.

(3) With an immediate-deposit/optional-access (ID/OA) mandate, deposit must be immediate (upon acceptance for publication), not delayed; only the access-setting (Open Access vs. Closed Access) can be delayed (“embargoed”).

(4) In recognition of its benefits to research, 94% of journals already endorse immediate OA-setting; so the semi-automatic email-eprint request feature of the Institutional Repository software (allowing would-be users to email the author individually to request and receive the eprint by email) will only be needed for 6% of articles, to tide over any embargo interval.

(5) OA is optimal for research and immediately reachable via self-archiving mandates right now; publishing models can and will adapt, if and when it should ever become necessary.

(6) In response to attempts to delay and filibuster the adoption of the self-archiving mandate by calling for more “empirical studies to test for its likely impact”: mandating self-archiving is itself the empirical test; the impact of the mandate can be reviewed annually to see what other effects it may be having — apart from the positive effects evidence has already shown self-archiving to have.

(7) The way to answer any suggestion that it is unfair to put publisher revenues at potential risk for the sake of general public access to a literature most of which none of the general public is ever likely to want to read is to note that OA is intended for the sake of the public benefits of the research that the public funds, which are maximized by making research maximally available to the users for whom it is mostly written, namely, researchers, so they can use and apply it in further research and applications, as intended, for the benefit of the public that funded it. (It will be publicly accessible to everyone else too, but only as a secondary benefit, not the primary rationale for OA, which is free access to publicly funded research, for researcher use, for public benefit.)

(8) All evidence indicates that voluntarism, invitations, etc. simply do not work to generate self-archiving, whereas mandates do.

(Harnad 2006)

http://openaccess.eprints.org/index.php?/archives/93-guid.html)

Open Access and the AAA – more notes.

In his article, “Open Access or Faux Access” (2008), Scott Jaschik writes:

“The anthropology association has been divided for years over open access — the view that research findings should be online and free. Many rank-and-file anthropologists embrace the idea, seeing it as a way to most effectively communicate without imposing huge financial burdens on their libraries. But the association relies on revenue from subscriptions to its journals and has resisted repeated pushes from its own members to move in the direction of open access.

These tensions are not unique to anthropology, but the discipline has seen more than its share of flare-ups over the the issue, with pro-access scholars horrified that their association lobbied against open access legislation in Congress and that the scholarly society replaced a university press as its publishing agent with a for-profit publisher.”

Nice to see links making their way into articles. Jaschik’s article discusses the move by the American Anthropological Association to make material in two of its journals available free of charge, after a 35 year period. This way the journals continue to earn subscription revenue as academics require the latest research, but at least it eventually makes its way out.

Of course, such a version of Open Access was heavily rebutted in the blogsphere – and Jaschik’s article integrates many of the juiciest criticisms, some saying that the AAA was diluting the concept of Open Access.

Alex Golub argues that this would never have happened without public criticism of the American Anthropological Association by Open Access advocates, stressing the value of vocal bloggers even further:

“At the same time, he [Alex Golub] said that [the] association was way behind where it should be — and where many members have been pushing it to go. “This decision clearly represents the success of the OA community’s decision to hold the AAA accountable, in public, for its actions,” he wrote. “I honestly do not think this decision would have been made if the OA community had not called out the AAA and demanded to know what the hell it thought it was doing.”

It is interesting that blogs provided so much insight for Jaschik’s article, showing how blog discussions are rich sources, and as Golub argued, effective means of advocacy and change. (no shit you say? hey i’m working on a thesis – I’m learning how to state the obvious. deal with it :).

References:

Scott Jaschik (2008)

“Open Access or Faux Access”

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/10/07/anthro

omgwtf!!! After integrating links, and comments into its online profile, Inside Higher Ed. does not support the Zotero bibliography manager! I can’t just click and add this article to my bibliography? F.A.I.L.

Also interesting, a commentor correctly states that “Open Access” is not the same as “Open Source”. No matter how much peer review we have, it’s impossible to get people to use the same definitions!

OA publishing in anthropology – some more notes.

Unresolved oppositions -

Alex Golub arguing toll-access publishing model is broken:

“If you think that making money by giving away content is a bad idea, you should see what happens when the AAA tries to make money selling it. To put it kindly, our reader-pays model has never worked very well. Getting over our misconceptions about open access requires getting over misconceptions of the success of our existing publishing program. The choice we are facing is not that of an unworkable ideal versus a working system. It is the choice between a future system which may work and an existing system which we know does not.”

(Golub 2007:6)

Stacy Lathrop arguing the system isn’t broken:

“Reading through old AAA Bulletins, Newsletters and Reports, a reader quickly discovers that at times when the AAA has reached bumpy finances, decisions were made by the executive board to assure publications are sustainable.”

(Lathrop 2007:7)

Stacy Lathrop on the extra costs many OA advocates ignore:

“Beyond that, an electronic publishing program should account for costs to market its electronic journals, for training users to use the new means of production, and for responding to users’ questions, problems and needs.”

(Lathrop 2007:7)

This point really caught my attention – what kind of marketing does the AAA do for its journals? In the survey of students I held last year, students were only aware of a few key journals. Online, well… AnthroSource champions all the AAA journals?

I imagine there is a market of librarians to which most journals try to target with whatever marketing budget they have – going for subscription income. Any editors care to share how they allocate their marketing budget, and perhaps share numbers? ie: how much is spent marketing?

My own gut reaction:

I don’t think “anthropology” as a whole is very good at marketing anthropology, aside to itself.  Part of my thesis was motivated from my life in the grad program, constantly explaining to my friends and acquaintances what anthropology is, and isn’t.

But perhaps the AAA publishing program is sustainable – but just barely. And in this rough environment the change to OA is seen as being too risky. But why aren’t they at least promoting self-archiving? Or turning Anthro Source into a real community driven site? (As Alex Golub and others have been pushing for).

Stacy Lathrop. 2007. “Friends, Why Are We Sinking?.” http://0-www.anthrosource.net.mercury.concordia.ca/doi/abs/10.1525/an.2007.48.4.7

Alex Golub. 2007. “With a Business Model Like This, Who Needs Enemies?.” http://0-www.anthrosource.net.mercury.concordia.ca/doi/abs/10.1525/an.2007.48.4.6

What is anthropology? A Carnival of Answers.

Looking purely at this blog would be a terrible way to understand the question “what is anthropology?”. I will shed light on the question, usually by making it extremely complicated. A better way to learn about anthropology would be to read the “Four Stone Hearth” posts that circulate along blogs. It is a collaboration between anthropology bloggers of all kinds – scientists, activists, archaeologists, linguists, etc. If you want to see what interdisciplinary can do for you, this is a great way to learn.

Check out the 58th edition of Four Stone Hearth at Moneduloides.

It’s very cool to see what the biology side of anthropology is up to, and Modeduloides’ about page hooks cultural anthropologists brilliantly:

Corvus moneduloides, or the New Caledonian Crow, is endemic to New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands of Melanesia. This particular species of Corvid is the only non-primate organism believed to pass on the knowledge of tool manufacture and manipulation from one generation to the next. It is argued that this could be considered “culture,” but this crow knows better than to argue culture with anthropologists.”

Not only that, but the author is a poet,  (and on open access, i love it!)

Cyberethnography class – blogging student research

Max has posted his new Cyberethnography (v2.0) class website, blog, and syllabus. And i’ve been given word I’m going to have the opportunity to TA for it! And this time, students will be blogging publicly as a way of developing their research papers. As Max writes, all the projects from last years class were interesting, and I’m looking forward to seeing how things turn out.

A few thoughts -

  • Time. – Will the blogs have enough time to develop links/readers/reactions online? It took me about six months before major comments appeared [with a few exceptions,  based on previous relationships]. By the time students are done the class the feedback could start piling in. If the class keeps going year after year, it would help to focus the topics so each class can build on the work and comments of the others. [This would involve sacrificing topic flexibility...] [and even with no reader interactions the blog still works to focus research materials]
  • competition. – I hate academic competition, and if I wrote my first blog post, and it got the fewest hits, or fewest comments in the class, I’d be !@#!. Anonymous or not.  Then again, it’s no big deal either. Writing collaborative posts with a group might get around this, at least at the start to get things warmed up.
  • Could other cyberethnography classes get involved? Teachers can make an assignment out of reading and commenting on another classes blog. This would encourage that student-student communication I get so psyched about… If you have a cyberethnography class, or anything like it, let me know if this sounds interesting!
    [and yes, comments will be moderated lol... I can just imagine the kind of comments people doing homework anonymously could lead to].

Oh yeah, happy new year everyone!

self-archiving and anthropology v2

The original self-archiving and anthropology post I wrote reads like an attack on the Mana’o repository, based on a single email server issue. I consider the original post one of my worst (the post is one of those written-in-the-moment blog specials that did not turn out so well). After re-sending my emails to the repository, and successfully incorporating one of my professors articles into the archive, I can say they do an amazing job and I’m amazed at how simple the process is.

I checked out the copyright legalities before sending in the article, but this was unnecessary as the project team does all this work for you. It really is as easy as sending an email, with the desired work one wants to be self archived attached.

Many thanks to the Mana’o Project for making self-archiving so easy for anthropologists! Now I have an excellent example to convince more professors to embrace OA.

a proposal revisited

Getting lost is part of a great adventure, but finding a path again took quite some effort. Part of this involved rewriting the introduction to my thesis proposal, as a way of tightening up the projects goals.

INTRODUCTION

This research will examine how the internet is fueling change in anthropology, looking at how anthropologists share knowledge online. In this way the research will focus on the culture of publishing in anthropology – paying special attention to the role of new communication technologies. Through online participation, interviews and small surveys, the research will explore what is unique about new communication mediums and how they are changing anthropology. As an ethnographic project it will explore ways of participating and engaging online communities of anthropologists. Unlike traditional projects, this research will be shared publicly on a blog as a way of engaging others to share their thoughts and opinions while the research progresses. The blog will serve as a field site created to invite collaborators to share their own perspectives, and in doing so it will explore opportunities and challenges of online collaboration. This experience will serve as an interesting backdrop to investigate traditional publishing. What happens to anthropology when it serves different audiences?

To inform this question the project will investigate the motivations researchers have for publishing in particular venues. Who are they writing for, and where? A series of stories, informed through interviews, will detail individual researchers publishing experiences. This will form a backdrop to look at new publication opportunities online, and it will investigate the choices anthropologists make to disseminate and develop their ideas. This will touch on issues of peer review, authority, tenure opportunity and discipline, as well as issues of audience, distribution and production of anthropological work, accessibility, and style. It will highlight new participants, new audiences, and new ways of speaking in anthropology.

The research will be carried out online and at Concordia University. Blog interactions, interviews with researchers, and email surveys, will serve to inform current issues surrounding the dissemination of anthropological work. A major goal of this project will be to engage anthropologists in debates surrounding public engagement and accessibility to knowledge.

This week in blogging

It’s been a rough week for the faithful here in anthro-blog world. Blogger spats spurred by the ability to write fast and inability to delete brought a quick end to one blog I followed. And another blog is pondering the idea of changing the blog into an open journal.
Yes that’s right – the blog vs. journal debate is back! Would you rather post your work on a blog, or in an “open journal”. What motivates the preference? A few quick thoughts -

Not everyone appreciates or feels the need to be unprofessional! Blogging can be a reaction to stiff academic culture, but many people want that professional identity to be carried and developed online. For them, there is concern that blogging their ideas would work against that image. They would prefer to post their work in a journal, with less responsibilty for frequent posting and discussion. Another possibility here is, they are happy to make their work available, but they don’t want to commit to regular interactions about it. Or they choose to make these interactions elsewhere, like in academic conferences.

Others take issue against any sort of professional label being dumped on them! Bloggers can react negatively to the idea that they are “anthropology bloggers”, preferring instead to blog from a personal space. More than one blogger I’ve interviewed has expressed this concern, arguing their blogs were not really “anthropology blogs”.

This points to the wonderful flexibility blogging gives, since it’s not a genre at all. It’s a writing/publishing platform and that’s it. So it leaves a lot of room for all sorts of more specific categorizations for those who chose to do so. The one thing that differentiates the blog generally however, is that it revolves around self-publishing without peer review!

Blogs are a space to express yourself more freely. Here’s to keeping faith that free expression is a good thing, and that learning to write in public is a worthy academic goal. [and learning to write to a broader public, which I'll play with someday!]

[Don't you dare label me]   –> don’t professionalize my blog

[but.. it's just a blog... I want my work in a journal!]  –> blog is too unprofessional!

[this blog is both professional and unprofessional. Deal with it.]

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