24 July 2017

Anthropologists everywhere! Alternative Anthro Careers

There have been quite a few posts on this blog where we discuss not-so-run-of-the-mill jobs that anthropologists find themselves in (click on our label 'what can anthro do?' and see quick links below). This is also the case for Christine Moellenberndt who is an Anthropologist & Community Manager at Reddit.

In their post entitled Argonauts of the Internet: Anthropology and Community Management Mx. Moellenberndt describes what the discipline of anthropology is 'good' at doing...and (drum roll) it turns out to be quite a lot.

Mx. Moellenberndt works in a field that is populated largely by those with marketing and business backgrounds and yet, the author finds that their anthropological training sets them up to ask questions that drive the very work that they do: While all of those fields can provide the bulk of the skills needed to be good community managers, it is anthropology that holds a key in tying all of these threads together for effective community management.

Mx. Moellenberndt argues that While this may not be “fieldwork” in the traditional sense of going into a foreign culture and living in it for long periods of time, it is still fieldwork and the work that comes out of it can be ethnography (basically, this is kind of the end result of fieldwork; the write-up of what was observed and concluded). Without good, grounded ideas as to who your community is, what they want, and how they function, you can’t be an effective community manager.

Read more about Mx. Moellenberndt's work at Reddit and the role of anthropology from our quick links.

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20 July 2017

Anthropology in a Tag Line

Anthros...tell me if you've heard this one before:

Question: Oh, you're an Anthropologist? So, you dig up bones, right?
Answer: Well, some anthropologists excavate bones and others work with material culture, but I look at aspects of culture...
Follow up question: So wait...are you like Indiana Jones?
Answer: Erm...Well, I think the film 'tomb raider' is an apt depiction of his real job title... 

This conversation happens with non-scientists and scientists alike and reminds us of the important question: How do you define Anthropology for those who are less familiar with what the discipline does? 

This is not a discussion of Anthropology's "PR problem" (for more on this see Matejowsky and Reyes-Foster's  Guest column: Anthropologists should do a better job of promoting their field from 2013 and Anthrodendum (then Savage Mind's) response entitled Anthropology: It’s not just a "promotion" problem from the same year). 

While Public Relations may be a factor of this conversation, it is also important to think about how anthropologists describe and define what Anthropology is to others because this happens everyday. To make this even more challenging, can we summarize what anthropology does in a 'tag line'?

Enter Andi Simon. Who is Andi Simon? She is a Corporate Anthropologist who helps executives see their companies with more observant eyes, achieve “aha!” moments, and discover new and profitable opportunities. By applying the concepts, methods, and tools of anthropology to business environments, she turns observation into innovation and revitalizes businesses seeking growth.

Simon's tag line for her business is Observation into Innovation

In a synopsis of her book On the Brink (2016), Simon defines anthropology as: ... anthropology – the science of observing humans to understand how they live – corporate anthropology encourages business leaders to step outside their day-to-day processes to observe not only how their enterprises operate, but where unmet needs truly exist.

Is Anthropology so easily definable? I hear a rally cry of NO! and yet, one might argue that the dedication to observation and as we see below, situated observation with an eye to context and holism, do speak to many of the hallmarks of an anthropological toolkit. 

Simon was recently featured in an article by Adam C. Uzialko entitled Adapt or Die: How Cultural Anthropology Can Inform Business Strategy

In this interview, Simon describes anthropology's real value as the ability: to help people pause, step out and look at the way they have always done things in new ways – and then make them happen. Simon continues on to state Anthropology is a vital part of the business toolkit today for those who want to understand their business and how to keep it active and agile in fast-changing times

Simon is not the only anthropologist crafting usable and consumable definitions of the discipline. Such interpretations of the discipline surely drive curiosity of non-anthropologists about who we are and what it is we can do. 

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17 July 2017

Remembering & Memories: there's an app for that...

As we've posted about before, the adoption of new media and technology in our lives has an impact on our social lives in many interesting ways. In many ways, new technological platforms -- such as digital communications and social media -- are already embedded with certain cultural assumptions. At the same time, there are always unexpected outcomes and unforeseen ways in which the incorporation of new media and technology shape our relationships with others, our environments, and ourselves.

Facebook Memories
This relationship between cultural actors -- including the new digital "memory" systems in our lives -- is what Molly Sauter (PhD student in Communications Studies) addresses in Instant Recall (27 June 2017, Real Life). In this short analytical piece, Sauter addresses three types of memory system and how they have shaped our memories, and the act of remembering: predictive text, "data doppelgangers constructed for ad targeting," and more particularly, reminiscence databases (e.g. Facebook Memories).

Sauter explores how digital evocations of memory differ from physical ones, such as "yearbooks, photographs, cars, houses, trees, gravestones."
These physical evocations age, and their value and veracity as objects of testimony ages with them and us. They date, they fade, they display their distance from the events they are connected to and their distance from us. Digital memory objects, on the other hand, although they might abruptly obsolesce, do not age in the same way. They remain flatly, shinily omni-accessible, represented to us cleanly both in the everlasting ret-conned context of their creation and consumption. 
Contrast this algorithmic "remembering" with how another contributor to Real Life describes the nostalgic recreation of community online through her mother's experience using Facebook in "Post, Memory" (7 July 2016, Real Life). Kelli Korducki's mother had grown up in a small Salvadoran village, once decimated by civil war, and now rebuilt online as a closed Facebook group called “Memorias de ______,” boasting "a membership in the low hundreds, which is impressive given the village’s reasonably small size." 

In this digital community space, "long-lost neighbors and relatives resumed contact after decades of quiet separation, strewn from Virginia to Montreal to Los Angeles and points above, below, and in between." On Facebook, members and diaspora descendants of this scattered community came together, sharing and creating artifacts of the long-gone community, juxtaposed with images and details of the living village today.

What do these different insights onto the intersections of memory or the act of remembering with social media tell us about everyday life? How might these examples be useful in discussing social relationships, memory, cultural artifacts, or even imagined communities?


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