Concentration and the Internet

A few tips to quickly share.

I am easily distracted, and easily inspired. As a result I’ll be in the middle of a thesis paragraph when I’ll jump over to a web browser [note how its constantly running] where I’ll end up reading random news websites (well, not random at all… actually I read terrible annoying right wing news sites that get my blood boiling. Sites like and msnbc. I read other sites too, but these two I consider a waste of time when compared to a beautiful anthropology thesis.)

It turns out I’m not alone. Websites, social media, the internet, iphones, etc, have all been merging into annoyingly busy interfaces.  From this page where I write a blog post, I can twitter. I can see my inbox (all 3 of them). My battery has 39 minutes remaining. I should turn on some battery saving feature no? Oh wait I was writing. That’s right!

There are solutions. Improve your concentration with this Google Chrome App. “Writespace” turns your browser (online or off) into a beautiful black screen. Hit f11 to maximize it into full screen and there it is. A blank black screen. A clear white font. I love it. It reminds me of my days playing diku muds. Why a black screen? No distractions. Just a page to write on.

Another great one – “Stayfocusd”. This app let’s you create a list of websites you waste too much time on, and then it blocks the sites after you spend more than 10 minutes (or whatever you configure) on them. Perfect for stupid news sites, facebook, etc.  Try giving yourself more time and the program opens up a page on procrastination! Love it.

You may now return to work.


Anthropology and Science

A recent Inside Higher Ed article, “Anthropology Without Science”, discusses the American Anthropological Associations recent changes to its’ “vision” (not definition for some reason) of Anthropology. I tried work a definition or two of anthropology into Chapter 2, and where I thought I’d really messed it up, it turns out others are having just as tough a time,

“More fundamentally, the dispute has brought to light how little common ground is shared by anthropologists who span a wide array of sub-specialties, said Elizabeth Cashdan, chair of anthropology at the University of Utah. For example, some anthropologists might mine the language and analytical tools favored by such humanities as literary criticism, while others may be more likely to deploy statistical methodology as befits social science. Still others might rely on the biological metrics, hard data and scientific method used by natural scientists. “This is reflective of tensions in the whole discipline,” said Cashdan, a bio-cultural anthropologist who described herself as “very dismayed” by recent developments.

Hugh Gusterson leaves a great rebuttal, pointing out that the new definition does not dismiss science and that the entire debate has been blown out of proportion,

“… The old wording said “The purposes of the Association shall be to advance anthropology as the science that studies humankind in all its aspects, through archeological, biological, ethnological, and linguistic research; and to further the professional interests of American anthropologists; including the dissemination of anthropological knowledge and its use to solve human problems.” The new wording says, “The purposes of the Association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects. This includes, but is not limited to, archaeological, biological, social, cultural, economic, political, historical, medical, visual, and linguistic anthropological research.” The document goes on to make numerous references to “anthropological knowledge, expertise, and interpretation.” Fair-minded people will recognize this as a modest change and will see that science is still there in the mission statement (after all, what are biology and archeology if not sciences?) even if the wording has been slightly changed. You would think from some of the hysterical statements here that the AAA had issued a statement condemning science. “

The new emphasis on “public understanding” is interesting given the critiques I’ve read arguing that anthropology needs to engage itself in public debates, and that the “science” of anthropology has played a role in limiting its’ ability to engage itself beyond a select, expert, audience (who happen to depend on its’ success for their livelihood).

In other news, the thesis has moved to Google Docs, (wooops, apologies to readers, here I mean, MY thesis draft), and it is open to edits and comments from anyone online. Printed draft by Monday? It is going to end!! incredible really.

See also,
“The Joy of Pseudoscience”

Chapter 3 v2 now online!

Just a quick note to let a few interested parties know that Chapter 3 v2 has been posted. The thesis is coming around second base now and well on its way home. The next chapter, “Making Research Accessible”, needs to pull together quite a few issues. Looking at the Open Access debate, chapter 4 will build on the publishing challenges created by the changing audiences of anthropological research that were discussed in chapter 2 (need for collaboration with people involved in research, need for interdisciplinary access, and the need for “public engagement”).  It will also explore the different forms of OA publishing – OA journals, self-archiving (websites and repositories), and the copyright issues that come with them.

Speaking of anthropology repositories, the Mana’o anthropology archive, which I will be discussing in this next chapter, has reopened its doors! Hopefully it’s website will soon rank higher than the “Shuttering Mana’o” post that currently ranks #1 on Google (if you search for Mana’o and anthropology).

Once the need for open access to research has been established, the thesis will turn against itself, looking at the ethics of conducting research and sharing the knowledge gained openly. Having argued for an “open” anthropology, and for “open” access to research, the thesis will explore how “openness” is a problem, and it will try to do justice to the thoughts and opinions of anthropologists who are not publishing Open Access, and/or who have no desire to maintain a presence online.

Chapter 3 wordle included to make the giant runonsentence a little more 2.0
Wordle: Ethnography and the Internet

Moving along

I’m working to build back some momentum, and I really appreciate the interest and encouragement others have shared recently – it worked – things are starting to roll. Coherently? Perhaps not, but I’ll take what I can get.

A big thanks to Alexandre Enkerli, Max Forte, Jeremy, Lorenz Khazaleh, and Socect, who have helped dig chapter 2 out of its grave. It still has all sorts of issues and I still want/need to rewrite it, but I’ve come to the realization this thing isn’t going to be perfect, and rather than blame myself, I’m going to blame its nature. A thesis is meant to suck. That’s why people don’t read them, and that’s why people don’t usually share them. So I apologize for breaking with tradition, and thank you to those who have bothered to read it – even if it made no sense whatsoever, having far too many run on – and brutally hyphenated – sentences.  I’m pretty sure however, that I could shrink the chapter into 2 pages and do the world a favour.

Instead of spamming the blog with the drafts, I’ll just link to the permanent pages from now on when there is something new up there. This hopefully will make room to post some thoughts about how the project has gone, what sacrifices I made in terms of my own standards to get here, and if all goes well some discussions about everything else that has gone on in the past year. After traveling through Mexico and Sri Lanka I spent a fair bit of time hanging out in traditional anthropological settings. i talked politics, spoke with all sorts of people in marginalized war torn communities, and well, decided to write about the Internet and open access publishing! It’s been quite the journey – and along the way I met a lot of very helpful individuals. Hello Brent of Zipolite. No I haven’t read the 100 references you wrote down for me to include in this thesis. I have the list and I’m hoping to read one or two more of them before I hand this thing in.

I also ran into a few vegetarian and vegan activists active in academia. Hello Cornelius and Masala Meatballs! Food, farming, and animal cruelty are an easy research project for me to get behind. I can see joining the food and ethics academic debates if I ever successfully complete this thesis. Or I’ll get a job. Anyways, I’ll finish it first and figure out the big picture later.

The Introduction remains the same.

Chapter 2v3 has been updated.

Chapter 3 draft is now up. It’s missing a few sections, but its a start.


In other related news,

As I struggle to complete this thesis, a friend of mine very active in the undergrad program recently posted some thoughts about his future. He’s a passionate undergraduate anthropology student who wasn’t accepted into any graduate programs. He’s applying for *any* kind of work to pay off his student loan, and feeling exceptionally frustrated about the future. I can’t help but feel terrible feeling ambivalent about academia. Then again, I’ve quite enjoyed it so I won’t worry about troubling facts. Questions about my own future have probably played into my slow as !@#! writing style. I realize everyone who finished there degree already knew exactly what they wanted to do with it. I have never enjoyed that clarity!

Thankfully, his enthusiasm and frustration felt hitting a roadblock, have motivated my ass to get this thesis done. I’ve enjoyed my time and its time to move along so some of the more eager can join the fun. I just can’t believe they’d turn down someone who is actually that passionate about the subject. Finding someone who will talk anthropology 24/7 in the hallways of your school is not easy!!! don’t turn em away people!

Revisiting the runon sentence. Chapter 2. v3

Big thanks to Jeremy and Socect who helped motivate the next round of editing and corrections. I apologize for drafting such spam online, and did my best to cut some of the bs out of the previous version. Ended up adding more though. Can’t help it! Again, comments I’ve received about this chapter will be included in the following chapter in a section “introducing commentary”  (perhaps slightly edited for space).

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Another Chapter 2

Meant to post this up last week then got carried away having fun again.

2. A Changing Anthropology.

It has been suggested that ethnographers are tricksters who use rhetorical techniques to convince readers of the truth of their words (Crapanzano 1984). One such technique is the tale of entry, where one begins an ethnography by establishing the distance of ones subject, it’s ‘otherness’. It reflects the starting point of ones cultural transformation. I appreciate Crapanzano’s argument and in the past I enjoyed a righteous yet silent chuckle whenever such a tale of entry popped out in my assigned readings. Yet here I continue the tradition, not to deceive, but because having a common structure makes ethnographic tales easier to write. The true challenge facing ethnographers today is not that of truth, but of purpose – “why should we care if you were there or not? Why does this story matter to me?” So let us begin this ethnography with a twist, not with story of a journey into far off lands, but rather with a tale of a naïve student-researcher returning from a trip to Mexico:

‘Hey great to see you! Nice tan! I’m happy you are back!”


‘Where did you go?’


‘Oh wow, what a great place for an anthropology project. Do you have pictures?’

‘umm.. yeah… well Mexico wasn’t really the ‘place’ for my anthropology project… I just had to get away… my project is on how academics share and make knowledge accessible online. You know, like open access publishing, blog…’

She looked at me for a brief second, then cut me off while looking at her friend, “Owen is soooooo funny.”

Turning back to me she excused herself, “I’m so glad you’re back. Your tan looks great! I have class and have to go. Message me k? Bye.”

‘umm.. yeah… see ya soon I guess.’ I replied. Not surprised at her reaction I could have expected to be cut off sooner. I always ran into trouble describing exactly what it was I studied, especially to friends and relatives who had never heard of cultural anthropology. I made a mental note to keep such descriptions as brief as possible.

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How to present a thesis

Check out the 2010 Dance Your Ph.D. Contest. I’ll link  two of them, but there are more!

I’ve started swing dancing recently and if I ever do a Ph.D., I’ll be joining in!