Archive for August, 2008

choosing what to write and to who

As part of my research into publishing and anthropology, I’m looking for stories about getting published.

I’d love to hear about your first publishing experience (especially if you are an anthropologist, but I welcome stories from all academics).  What inspired you to try and publish an article? At what point in your academic career did you start on it? What obstacles did you run into? How did the article change during the review process?

I’d also love to hear about responses to the publication. How was the response? Who did you write the article for, and where did you chose to publish it? Did you decide on place to publish, or a topic, first?

Who do you write for, and who do you want a response from?

Do you ever want to edit those publications? Update/fix/correct them?

If this stirs some memories, please share them here!

choosing what to read

I’ve been thinking about the “need” to make anthropology publications more accessible.

How important is it to have access to the latest publications? With so much out there, is it important to be able to access all of it, or just the best of it?  I’m getting at the idea that maybe less is more.

I have no answer to this question, but I would love to hear from any anthropology teachers out there about how they choose readings.

How often do you change the reading list for a class? How important is it to deal with current material? How soon does it get dated? Do you consider the costs of assigning the material to students (ie books costing 100$ vs 15$).  Let me know how you pick those readings! thanks.

Enthusiasm and learning

Alexandre Enkerli recently posted a presentation dealing with enthusiasm, teaching, and active learning. The post builds on his earlier writing, “Technology Adoption and Active Reading”.  The discussion between Pamthropologist and Michael Wesch also dealt with motivating learning, and I think the idea of “enthusiasm” is pretty important.

Using new technologies can be a way to bring out enthusiasm in the class, which in turn motivates interest and hence learning. Enkerli’s WiZiQ presentation discusses the need to get teachers, students and administrators motivated to use these new technologies. He writes,

To a large extent, universities and colleges have been slow to adopt the online tools and approaches which are taking educational technology by storm. Apart from technical hurdles, there are diverse obstacles to the adoption of “neat new toys” in the context of higher education. By discussing these obstacles, we may be able to overcome them. Simply put, how can we get college and university people excited about the possibilities afforded new online technologies? This WiZiQ session will be a workshop on some ways to generate enthusiasm for educational technology in higher education. A short presentation about online advocacy will be followed by an open discussion about people’s experiences in motivating learners, administrators, and colleagues into trying out new tools and approaches.”

I highly recommend listening and watching, as I’ve been laughing all morning after listening to first part of the discussion where they test the technology to make sure everything is working correctly. I’ll also be looking out for more future presentations using the WiZiQ platform as it seems to work really well.

[My notes from the presentation and discussion]

I really like the idea of “playfulness” Enkerli advocates. I think its true that the university promotes a kind of seriousness that is related to being “professional”, which I find is unnecessary to learning.

He discusses the possibilities of bridging life and learning.

  • Building context for learning.
  • Informal learning.
  • holistic exploration of technology as opposed to causal/deterministic
  • “tools meant to be used” -> “does it do what you want” = not technology fetish, but rather about possibilities to use it. [options are good]
  • rehearsal vs performance -> use rehearsing strategies with technology integration. [best use not always immediately apparent]
  • “Who do we want to enthuse?” – learners (primary audience), colleagues (tech staff, teachers, administration) [cannot act alone]
  • Diverse group of learners – different backgrounds, learning styles, “ways of knowing” model. Different ways of teaching too. [need options, best not to impose]
  • Types of motivation – can be very motivated in the wrong directions. Need to channel/direct motivation rather than develop it.
  • Different levels of comfort with technology. Many students uncomfortable with new tools. “It’s not necessarily the students who want us to use the tools.”
  • Need to develop enthusiasm among teachers. “The more teachers that use the tool, the more useful it becomes” -> “network effect”.
  • Some teachers very much against new technologies -> and some department chairs/heads -> “decision makers”
  • Need to collaborate with technical staff to find right solutions. [hard to do it all yourself. Value of community support]
  • Enthusiasm spreads – powerful effect getting more people involved – snowball effect.  “The entourage matters”.
  • Resist tools based on social identity – “don’t want to be a geek”. “negative reactions to technology”.
  • Adopting technology through consensus in community.
  • Don’t impose tech or ideas, just “plant the seed”   -> “planting land mines”. [who knows when it will be useful]
  • Need to get some momentum and at some point “things just start to happen”.  [ie, students use of a forum]
  • “Unintended uses” -> adoption. Example he gives of how a class adopts a chatroom – first used to discuss pizza, but developed comfort and soon started using it for the math class as well. “assess the comfort level”.
  • Not forcing students to use tools, just make them available. Allow people to adopt at their own speed. “Here’s whats possible” + adapt to different groups.
  • Encourage getting students to speak to one another -> forums, etc.
  • Let students manage their own privacy – give them more credit. “I think they are aware of the issues”. [discussing the use of facebook]
  • Other techs discussed -> refworks, diggo, wordpress, blogger, twitter, identica, slideshare, Wikipedia

One participant in the discussion mentions that Facebook has been banned at her university. [not sure which University]

A middle-school teacher is having trouble with the schools banning technology/website. Ie: Voice thread.  Enkerli points out that those technology decider’s are one of the primary group that needs to be encouraged to use the tools [not just teachers and students, but administrative staff too!].

  • “Using technology as a backup to things going on the class” – Participant – Ron.
  • “Need the tech staff to be our friends”.
  • but technology staff also overworked, often only focusing on tech problems like viruses, and keeping machines working. They aren’t focused on using technology for learning. Need to develop enthusiasm among tech staff too.
  • WiZiQ -> good sound quality, but still issues with people not muting the mic (“push to talk” would be nice).
  • “Very visual – almost like a private lesson.”
  • Lots of speaking over each other.

The WiZiQ platform is a great virtual classroom. The participants “played” around with the whiteboard features, listened to the presentation, and then discussed it online. There were issues getting mic levels setup properly, and there was also some talking over each other/leaving mic on (feedback) issues, but overall it was a very succesful presentation – Next time I’ll be sure to show up on time so I can participate. [but it sure is nice to be able to review the whole thing as if it were live!].

two sides to sharing knowledge

[aka the good, the bad and the ugly]

Within discussions of making information freely available online there are numerous terms floating around. The open access movement is working to open up (make accessible) traditionally published material (ie, all those scholarly articles hiding behind expensive logins, or within expensive books). So most discussions assume that the material published remains the same, its just easier to access and share.

But scholars engaging in self publishing, blogging, and other forms of online distribution are beginning to share new kinds of information. Material that was previously considered unfit to publish (for reasons of print space, cost, quality, authority, etc…).

Is it okay to publish field notes? Does it work against confidentiality? Who can it harm? Max Forte’s recent comments point out that there is indeed a powerful intelligence gathering community that obtains most of its information from “open source” sources. For the U.S. military, open source information is all information that is not classified. They have teams of researchers compiling information from academic databases (which they pay to access), blogs, websites, etc. So the military is quite media literate, and benefiting from increased access to information. Anthropologists often deal with people struggling against such military powers – so what kinds of information should be published?

On the other end, are teachers in well off countries teaching at “lesser” academic institutions with no budget to access material. There are also hundreds of NGO’s, and schools around the world who would benefit from access to such material, but cannot afford it. Pamthropologist discusses the lack of material her students have access to. She writes,

“Every year we get lists of journals with a request as to what we can cut, not add. Our institution pays NO money to subscribe to any journal listing service. No JStor and very few books, most dating to the 1960’s. I loan students my own books, sometimes never to get them back. Honest.

To suggest that my students can “find articles” to post to a common wiki, ain’t going to happen. I hope that they can discuss an issue on a specified set of readings that I provide. And I still maintain there is precious little on the internet that is useful for students of cultural anthropology (the archaeologists do much better, IMHO).”

So there is clearly a need to make more information available, and at the same time there is a real possibility that such information could be used to harm and control. The Open Access movement is mostly concerned with pushing scholarly journals to make their material more accessible. So it hasn’t dealt so much with issues related to publishing new kinds of information.

As anthropologists begin to share more and more ethnographic information online the ethical issues relating to confidentiality and “doing no harm” magnify.  I had doubts as to how much ethnographic information intelligence communities would care to read, but Max pointed out a few interesting links which show just how active the intelligence community is. According to the OSIS website,

“About 85% of requirements in the intelligence business can be met with open source, unclassified sources, and can be exploited by qualified military reservists working by telecommuting.”

So there are all sorts of people out there digesting accessible content online. I’m not sure what kinds of information they gather, but it does reinforce the need to be careful with what one posts about particular people and communities. Is it worth exposing a communities practices just to earn a degree? How will the information be used in the future? Of course, these issues are not new, just made more important with increased accessibility online.

See also:

Max Forte’s comments on Open Access and Anthropology.

Pamthropologist wonders if she should publish old interviews online.

Kimberly Christen’s upcoming presentation.

Open Access and Anthropology – a free and easy interview

(via OA News)

I’ve been having trouble getting away from the blogsphere to do research. One of my goals is to develop a slew of great interviews, but I’m finding the blogsphere is providing that too!

Christopher Kelty and a bunch of co-authors have published a conversation that deals perfectly with my research topic, titled “Anthropology Of/In Circulation: The Future of Open Access and Scholarly Societies”. They discuss issues relating to the circulation/distribution/sharing of anthropological productions. Particularly interesting is the discussion surrounding the role of Wiley-Blackwell publishing now that it manages the American Anthropology Associations publishing program.

They wrote the paper by circulating a draft written by two of the contributors, with each person adding bits and pieces to the conversation. The text was then edited and published.

It also points out how new generations of scholars are ignoring traditional scholarly societies, and so they ask, what is the purpose of them today? They state it cannot be simply about dissemination, as open access and online publishing make that unnecessary. They argue the AAA needs to adapt its methods to new publishing environments, and in order to that it needs to focus less on simply distributing work, but instead to put more emphasis on review, promotion, discussion, teaching, and reading.

In order for AAA publishing to survive, they argue anthropologists need to think beyond the budget of the AAA, to the budgets of libraries, schools, NGO’s, and other interested parties. Jason Baird Jackson writes,

“But if we want to think seriously about “sustainability” we
must realize that sustaining anthropology means more than sustaining the AAA budget—it means sustaining the viability of research libraries and of our not-forprofit university press partners as well. More and more research libraries today are responding by partnering directly with scholars to “publish” (in Chris’s sense) research, and thus they are expanding the library’s role in new ways. They are trying to make scholarship more open and more sustainable by cutting out the middleman, the publishing companies.”

They also discuss the possibilities for an improved Anthrosource which properly integrated new internet strategies. Jason Baird Jackson argues that outside Anthrosource and the AAA, a “shadow anthrosource” is emerging that in many ways threatens it. By not adopting new technologies, scholars are going elsewhere and sooner or later Anthrosource will be made irrelevant. He writes,

“AnthroSource was going to have a subject repository in which we
could have put our field notes, white papers, unpublished book manuscripts, etc. I saw this vision die during my first year as an editor. When the AAA couldn’t find a university to partner with, the repository was given up and AnthroSource became just a journal bundle.”

Self arching repositories, internet promotion on Youtube and blogs etc, have all taken up the roles traditionally held by journals. In many ways, the discussion brings to light the failure of traditional scholarly societies/journals/publishers to properly promote material and build interest, and that scholars are bypassing these instutions using new communication technologies to achieve results far greater than ever achieved by the AAA and its publishing program.

It is a great discussion. In the paper they link to a site where more discussion can take place, but its not working right now. Hopefully it will be up soon. (

interesting anthro links

Sara’s collaborative blog project covering Anthropology and Sociology blogs is now live. Check it out and contribute at

Pamthropologist discusses the challenges involved in motivating students to read assigned material – “The issue consistently and overwhelmingly reported as an issue by faculty was reading.” How do you deal with new media literacy when it is already such a challenge to motivate reading?

Rex at Savage Minds discusses the way Linguistic Society of America is RERO’ing their ethics policy statement to get feedback prior to finalizing the document. He writes

“… I’m sort of blown away by the fascinating use of blogging that is happening over at Linguistic Society of America. They are just now drafting an ethics statement and they are doing it posting each section of the statement as a blog entry and letting people comment on them. Now that is innovation in blogging. Fascinating.”

And Max Forte announced he is taking a blogging holiday – but don’t worry, he reassures us readers:

When this post vanishes and is replaced by a new post…then I will of course be back.”

private blogs for research

When discussing the role of a blog as a research tool people often assume that public field notes would work against the confidentiality of those being researched. This assumes however that blog posts are unfiltered thoughts which simply is not the case. Blog posts are constructed and filtered with the knowledge that an audience will read them. So blogging field notes is not the same as posting raw field notes. It is something quite unique and different, in that one must think about how the material will be received, who it can harm, etc…

But blogs can also be made private (a point I mentioned during the recent Media anthropology seminar on blogging as a research tool). Many teachers are using access controls to promote blogging between classmates. In this way students write not only for a teacher but for each other. It provides an environment to learn how to write to a broader audience and I’ve always found it incredibly helpful to hear how others are responding to the material.

My classmates and I are now using a private blog to discuss our field research. It’s providing a means to stay in touch while some of us are off “in the field”. It’s also a great way to get feedback on ideas that are too challenging to speak publicly about. I’m excited to see how the private blog develops, but already I am finding it useful to have a semi-private place to keep notes where I can be even more opinionated and controversial. I’m also finding it interesting to see how different levels of exposure [private, semi private, and public] change the way I take notes. I’ve so far done most of my note taking online.