18 December 2017

A look back at anthropology everywhere in 2017!

As 2017 comes rapidly to a close, here's our annual round-up of some of our favourite posts and content published this year.

Thanks to everyone who has read our over 90 new posts, and checked out our growing list of dedicated pages on things like Advice for Grad Students, our expanding list of links to how people are Applying an anthropological perspective outside of university, and our newly renamed Special Series: Ethnography & ... which now features reflections and insights from blogger Jennifer Long's new pedagogical research in post-secondary education.

Looking back, here are 10 of our own favourite posts from 2017 loosely organized around some key themes...

On ethnography and fieldwork:
Engaging anthropology through social media:
And to round it out, some of our favourite topical posts from 2017:

Thanks for reading this year! We'll be back in 2018 with more resources, more research, and more anthropology everywhere!

What were your favourite posts from 2017? Tweet us @anthrolens
Got ideas for posts you'd like to see (or see more of) in 2018? Send us an email anthrolens@gmail.com

14 December 2017

After a job interview...

Following up on our post about crafting cover letters from earlier this week, we thought we'd share another career-related resource today: "The Checklist You Need to Run Through Right After Your Interview."

We realize that we're kind of skipping over the ACTUAL interview, but there are a lot of great resources available on interviewing. For instance, we like the tips Basalla and Debelius outline in So What Are Your Going to Do with That? You can also check out some of the other tips posted in our Advice for Grad Students | Job Market: Realities & Opportunities page, such as Anthropologizing's Interview questions for people with [applied] anthropology backgrounds (2011).

But, after you had an interview -- hopefully a great one for an interesting position -- what's next?

Well, the muse suggests that first you get a snack (always sage advice), and then you start critically reflecting on and making notes on your interview experience. Sounds a lot like... anthropological research!
  • Write down any important points from the interview. We would add that this should include anything you want to follow up on with your own research. Is there something interesting (or concerning) that came up in the interview? Take some time to pursue these leads with your contacts or through other sources about the organization or type of role you interviewed with/ for. If you're invited to a second round interview, this will be valuable in helping you ask more pointed questions to assess your own fit and interest in the role.
  • Write Down One Reason You’re Excited About This Opportunity. This is a really useful reflection question. If you've been on the job market for a while (ugh!), you may just feel excited to finally be recognized for your skills and experience. What is it about this particular job that actually excites you? How would this opportunity help you to meet your goals (besides the overarching one of gainful employment)?
  • Send Your Thank You Notes. Now that you've had a chance to think about the interview, send a note that reflects your interest in the position. 
  • Finally, Follow Up Correctly (a Week From Now). The muse suggests that rather than waiting to hear from the hiring manager, you take a respectful but proactive approach of following up. 
If you're applying, and prepping for interviews, good luck! If you are still figuring out what career path is (or might be) right for you, check out some of our Professional Development tips and get inspired by what some anthropologists are already doing out there in the world.

11 December 2017

Applying for a job with no experience...

When you have been in university for such a long time, you may feel like you don't have any real experience for the jobs you are interested in -- or, worse hiring managers might look at your resume and make that assumption!

Never fear, UA's Liz Koblyk has some sage advice for what to do to land what might be your dream job: Treat your cover letter as a work plan.

This makes a lot of sense, really. Even if you do have experience in the field you are applying to, why not be proactive in your cover letter? As Koblyk explains, use the cover letter as an opportunity to
discuss what you would do in the role, rather than just what you have done in the past. In order to use this approach effectively, you can’t offer vague reassurances about your potential. Instead, treat your cover letter as a very brief work plan. ... You aren’t laying claim to skills you don’t have, but are giving a window into your thoughts on how you’d manage key tasks of the role.
To do this well, you are also going to have to do some background research -- which is a skill you already have as an anthropologist! (When you get that first interview, you can also roll this angle into how great you'd be for the position...). But before you get ahead of yourself, Koblyk advises that you
Find out what you can about the organization and the challenges you’d be facing, whether through news coverage, reports and SWOT analyses that a company has published, or through networking. For example, it might be through networking that you find out that there is a need for more thorough evaluation of programming, or a more collaborative approach with funding bodies.
Good luck with your next application! For more advice on figuring out what your career as an anthropologist might look like, check out our pages on:

07 December 2017

Race Reconciled - Review by Jason Antrosio

Bloggers Rhiannon Mosher and Jennifer Long wanted to point readers to an important blog post on Living Anthropologically called “Race is not an accurate or productive way to describe human biological variation” by Jason Antrosio.

In this article, Antrosio discusses a special issue of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and, deep in the post, the (mis) use of research in popular media and academic research articles. Antrosio writes:

As I searched relevant articles, I was shocked and disgusted to discover the materials from forensic anthropologists were not only suffering popular misinterpretation, but were also being misused in peer-reviewed academic journals. One of the only 2010 articles citing the forensic anthropology pieces from Race Reconciled is a diatribe by philosopher Neven Sesardic titled Race: A social destruction of a biological concept. Sesardic claims fuzzy-headed social scientists and philosophers have misunderstood the proper biological underpinnings of the race concept. Sesardic then uses the forensic anthropology articles to make his case. Sesardic calls Sauer a “bewildered and exasperated scientist” (2010:156) and goes on to approvingly quote Sauer’s 1992 article as supporting the idea of racial assignment. He similarly cherry-picks quotes from the 2009 articles to portray forensic anthropology as confirming traditional biological races.

What better way to end off the semester than to have students read this post and discuss how scientific research is interpreted in the media. Happy end of semester everyone!

Antrosio has updated both posts recently and they're definitely worth a read.

Quick Links

04 December 2017

Collaboration between Academics and Industry: Canhoto and Quinton

Are you an academic looking for ways to collaborate with industry stakeholders (or vice versa)? Check out a (relatively...) recent blog post on LSE Impact Blog detailing Ana Isabel Canhoto and Sarah Quinton's research which provides five practical principles to make collaboration 'work'.

Why is collaboration important?
Research collaboration is deemed to accelerate the transfer of knowledge between experts and the translation of world-class research into practical applications, which has important commercial, economic and social benefits. Collaboration between academics and practitioners can also produce new knowledge, by bringing together researchers with complementary perspectives, interests, skills and knowledge bases.

Together with Dr. Paul Jackson and Sally Dibb, Canhoto and Quinton investigated the experiences of academic academic researchers and industry practitioners who had participated in successful R&D collaborative projects in the digital arena, to identify the factors that support or hinder research collaboration.

To find out more about their project, follow the link in our Quick Links section.

Quick Links:

30 November 2017

Preventing Academic Dishonesty...

On the heels of our experiences in the Grading Inferno, we are reminded of this very interesting article from UA about The importance of ethics education from October.

Author Emily Bell discusses teaching courses on ethics, and the broader life lessons that she's learned (and hopes her students have learned) from this experience. What is interesting to consider here is how the breaches in academic honesty and ethics in our university classrooms (I didn't mean to/ knwo I was plagiarizing, for instance) spring from the same sources unethical behaviour that occurs beyond academia.

In addition to Obedience to authority and Conformity bias, Bell notes the following factors that play into when and how people choose to act unethically:

  • Rationalization and bias: We believe that we are more ethical than we actually are, and create rationalizations to explain any unethical behaviours. We believe that we are good people and this leads us to make ethical decisions rapidly.
  • Time pressure: Unethical behaviours are more likely when we act under a time pressure.
  • Fatigue: Unethical behaviours are more likely when we are fatigued.
  • Lack of transparency: Unethical behaviours are more likely when we know that no one is watching.
We can see how and when students might test or breach the boundaries of ethical behaviour given these dimensions of our classrooms. For instance, time-pressure and fatigue are near constants during semester crunch-times.

Luckily, Bell also suggests how instructors might consider bringing a discussion of these factors into our teaching, by making room for students to reflect on ethical dilemmas and choices for action. These include a focus on learning objectives, critical reflection on ethically complex case-studies, making space and time for discussion, and encouraging "students to think about how these factors may be present in different contexts (for instance, in business, sports, or in different work environments)."

Check out Bell's article and related resources in the quick links and links to further reading on similar topics below:

27 November 2017

Inside the Grading Inferno

Like many teachers at this time of year, we are currently in the depths of what feels like 'the Grading Inferno' where there are many levels of punishment for our past deeds...or so it feels.

Below is PHDComic's version of Dante's Inferno for graduate students and postdocs:

The Academic Edition of Dante's Inferno (Jorge Cham 2015)
Our Grading Inferno might be described as more like: 
  1. Post-grading haze
  2. Office hours filled with students wanting to know how they can do better next time
  3. Office hours (and emails) filled with students wanting to know how they arrived at the mark they did
  4. Office hours filled with students who think something went wrong (with their assignment or the marking process) *levels 2 - 4 come from Menzies' 2015 blog post*
  5. Carting home piles of papers from campus to home (only to cart them back again before end of term)
  6. Scrolling through emails for students' work (for those who couldn't find the online dropbox)
  7. Online learning management system woes
  8. Emails from students (or calls from parents!) asking why they received the grade they did (or to argue about plagiarism or late penalties)
  9. It's on the Syllabus...
How are practicing anthropologists and candidates experiencing their end-of-term? Tweet us @anthrolens (though we probably wont have time to respond because of the Grading Inferno...)

Quick Links:

23 November 2017

Sample Boilerplate Language for Ethnographic Ethics Proposals

Blogger Jennifer Long has been spending lots of time (too much time) writing ethics proposals these days. However, many university-related ethics boards have very useful tips, tricks and resources to help researchers along.

So if it's your first or fortieth kick of the ethics proposal can, check out your institutions REB home page before pulling out your hair and throwing items across the room.

Although I'm not conducting ethnography at this time, McMaster's REB has an ethnographic boiler plate template for ethnographic studies. It's a useful document with tidbits such as these for the methods section:

This project will be based on standard methods of ethnographic research in the discipline of anthropology. Researchers in cultural anthropology (ethnographers) engage in participant observation, a fieldwork method based on social relationships between individuals and the ethnographer, in which the ethnographer assumes the position of a student or apprentice who learns through participating in everyday activities with community members and observing social life.  This participant observation component of my research is essential because it will provide the broad social and cultural context for my specific research questions that deal with [INSERT YOUR RESEARCH TOPIC HERE].

Following the general methodology of participant observation, this study will involve several specific tasks.  From approximately [INSERT DATE] to [INSERT DATE] I will reside in [INSERT LOCATION(S) ] where I will participate in many aspects of community life including [INSERT DETAILS].  
Because of my [INSERT DETAILS, IF APPLICABLE], I already know many people in [INSERT NAME OF LOCALITIES] and I expect that I will have no trouble integrating into the community.  I also plan to [INSERT DETAILS]. 

Follow the link in the Quick Links to see the whole document. Many thanks to its original authors from the Anthropology program at McMaster: Dr. Badone and Rebecca Plett.

Quick Links:

20 November 2017

Studying People We Don't (Necessarily) Like - Bangstad

Sindre Bangstad wrote (2017) Doing Fieldwork among People We Don’t (Necessarily) Like for Anthropology News' Anthropological Publics, Public Anthropology section. Bengstad writes,

Marcus Banks and Andre Gingrich have suggested that we as anthropologists tend to investigate topics and work with individuals and groups whom we are able to sympathize with. And relatively few anthropologists (though there certainly are some exceptions; if we are honest about anthropology’s checkered past, we should also realize that we have what Didier Fassin has aptly described as a “dual legacy” to contend with here) tend to sympathize with populist right-wingers. In line with this, Joel Robbins has argued that anthropologists since the 1980s have replaced the proverbial “savage slot” with the “suffering slot.”

Anthropologists, in other words, have tended to study those people who in some way or other can be said to “suffer.” When we speak of “suffering,” images of white male populist right-wing sympathizers are perhaps not the first images that cross our anthropological minds though some of them both feel and are marginalized and suffering.

Bangstad ends using Nitzan Shoshan's work which points to anthropologists historical interests in the seemingly abnormal and occult (in addition to the marginal).

Check out his post by following the link the in Quick Links to read more.

Quick Links:

16 November 2017

One Size Does Not Fit All - Preliminary Findings

On November 13th, anthro everywhere! blogger Jennifer Long continued her One Size Does Not Fit All series where she provides readers with an overview of her new pedagogical research project in collaboration with Ms. Silvie Tanu Halim at the W. Booth School of Engineering Practice & Technology. This research explores mature and non-traditional students' educational experiences where we seek to understand how these perspectives differ depending on our medium of instruction: online (synchronous, asynchronous), or face-to-face.

We left off on Nov 12th discussing how blogger Jennifer Long invited students to participate in their survey.

Although the survey is still open, the following is a line graph outlining when we received our 86 responses (thus far):
Figure 1. Responses according to date
As mentioned in previous posts, although we did use incentives to encourage participation, it appears that most participants decided to take part soon after the project was introduced by Blogger Jennifer Long.

Dr. Long attended Ms. Tanu Halim's classes on November 07th (online, yes, I made an appearance in the online course) and November 9th (in class). November 7th sees the greatest spike. This spike can perhaps be accounted for, if we consider that students were already in front of their computer when they were invited to participate in an online survey. The second spike appears to be on the Sunday or Monday following my visit to the classroom (after the weekend) on the 10th.

I also thought I'd share some of the aggregated information about those taking part in the survey. When speaking about mature students, it became apparent that the majority of our respondents were between the ages of 21 and 25.
Age Ranges of Participants thus far (Nov 16 2017)
It will be interesting to compare this information with that of other scholars and how individuals 25+ experience education at SEPT when compared to those in the 21-25 category.

What is also informative are their responses to preferences to learning:
Learning Preferences of Mature Students
It will be very interesting to delve into their comments to understand what we see here, that more respondents prefer to learn new course material in-class rather than online.

Check out future posts to learn how the researchers will collect and analyse their data -- or see all posts in the One Size Does Not Fit All research series on our updated page Special Series: Ethnography & ... (formerly "Ethnography & Tourism")

Want to use these findings for your own work? Please cite this source as follows:

  • Long, J., & Tanu Halim, S. (2017, November 16). One Size Does Not Fit All - Preliminary Findings [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://anthrolens.blogspot.ca/2017/11/one-size-does-not-fit-all-preliminary.html

13 November 2017

One Size Does Not Fit All - Encouraging Participation without Coercing Participation

We take up from where we left off on November 8th when anthro everywhere! blogger Jennifer Long continued her overview of her new pedagogical research project in collaboration with Ms. Silvie Tanu Halim at the W. Booth School of Engineering Practice & Technology. All posts that begin with 'One Size Does Not Fit All' describe a project which explores mature and non-traditional students' educational experiences and seeks to understand how these perspectives differ depending on our medium of instruction: online (synchronous, asynchronous), or face-to-face.

We left off on Nov 8th providing a final overview of our survey questions about educational experiences and preferences. Today, we're going to discuss how blogger Jennifer Long invited students to participate in their survey.

As discussed in previous posts, the target population of our research are our own students. To be more specific, they are Ms. Tanu Halim's students. To conduct this research, Ms. Tanu Halim and Dr. Long had to submit an ethics proposal to our university's board of ethics for research projects involving human beings. This is standard practice for any researchers working with consenting individuals. Unsurprisingly, our research board wanted to understand how we'd be mitigating the pressure students might feel if their own instructor is asking them to take part in research.

First, as researchers, we had to outline how our research was voluntary, as in, our participants would not be negatively effected by choosing not to take part. Therefore, our letter of consent included the following text:

Your participation in this study is strictly voluntary. This study is not an assessment component for this course; therefore, your responses will not be evaluated in any way during this study. As such, your grade for your class will not be negatively impacted if you choose to withdraw or not participate in the study. 

We also outlined the potential risks facing students if students chose to take part. For this project, we identified the potential of both psychological and social risks. The following is the text describing how we will try to mitigate these risks:

Psychological risks:
Participants are informed in the online invitation and Letter of Information that this study is voluntary. If worried about the social risk, students are informed in the invitation text and Letter of Information that they can access the survey and choose not to participate while still contributing to the 70% participation threshold. 

Social Risks:
Further, if participants wish not to answer particular survey questions, they will have the option to skip any question they are not comfortable answering. 

As described in the psychological risks, we're awarding everyone in the class a bonus mark once we've hit a 70% response rate threshold. To maintain anonymous responses, we've decide to dole out these bonus marks to everyone as we're not collecting their identifying information. This could however make some students feel forced to take part and therefore, we've included an option where students can click on the survey and then decide not to take part (selecting 'no' to the consent screen). In so doing, these click throughs to 'non consent' still count toward the 70% threshold.

There has been some debate regarding how much incentivizing participants will influence the responses researchers receive.  As becomes evident, Ms. Tanu Halim and I had to walk a fine line of trying to entice students to participate (online surveys suffer from low response rates) and overstepping our boundaries as instructors by influencing our students to take part.

Another step we're taking to encourage realistic responses and experiences is to collect this information anonymously.  In taking this approach, we're hoping that our students are able to willingly take part and provide us in-depth information about their learning experiences and preferences in ways that are meaningful to them. Further, if we don't know who took part, we can't give preferential treatment to anyone.

Finally, when inviting students to take part in our survey, Dr. Tanu Halim left the room while Dr. Long provided a brief explanation about the research and its project plan. This 'script' is outlined again in our ethics proposal, as a means to avoid undue coercive behaviour. This approach allows students to ask questions and speak to any concerns they may have away from the eyes and ears of their professor. Blogger Jennifer Long told the students about the study and where to find the link, but students have the choice to take part at a later point in time and not, for example, under Dr. Long's 'watchful eye'. This would present few options for some students.

Check out future posts to learn how the researchers will collect and analyse their data.

Want to use any ethics phrasing for your own work?
Please cite this source as follows:
Long, J., & Tanu Halim, S. (2017, November 13). One Size Does Not Fit All - Enouraging Participation without Coercive Participation [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://anthrolens.blogspot.ca/2017/11/one-size-does-not-fit-all-encouraging.html

08 November 2017

One Size Does Not Fit All - Research on Mature Students' Educational Experiences

In a follow up from our post on November 2nd, anthro everywhere! blogger Jennifer Long continues to discuss her new pedagogical research project in collaboration with Ms. Silvie Tanu Halim at the W. Booth School of Engineering Practice & Technology. 

Check out last week's posts to learn the context behind our study. In a nutshell, we seek to know more about mature and non-traditional students' educational experiences  and, to explore how these perspectives differ depending on our medium of instruction: online (synchronous, asynchronous), or face-to-face.

We left off on Nov 2nd by showcasing some of our questions about the demographic information of our participants. In today's post, we get down to the nitty-gritty of the learning experiences and preferences.

The rest of our questions deal with student experiences of online learning. Therefore, we have to narrow our participant group to those with online experiences. 

Question 8 follows: Have you ever taken an online course (including high school, college or university courses, training, or workshops) in the past? Yes/No

Here, we put a little logic into things, if a student answers 'no', they are thanked for their time. If they answer yes, students will continue on to the question set below.

If student participants select yes, they are asked to fill out a matrix  with answers between not very effective (all the way) to very effective for the following items:
  1. How effective do you find time spent attending online lectures (in synchronous [defined in survey] format)?
  2. How effective do you find time spent watching pre-recorded lecture videos (which you can watch at any time)?
  3. How effective do you find time spent reading through course notes (for comprehension of material)?
  4. How effective do you find time spent working through problems in the course textbook (through self-directed learning in complement to online resources)?
  5. How effective do you find time spent discussing course content with student peers? 
  6. How effective do you find time spent discussing course content with your instructors?
Then we ask them questions about their use of resource materials for online learning: 

  1. Do you prefer synchronous or asynchronous learning for online courses? Why?
  2. Do you use the accommodation/preference options on the pre-recorded videos (e.g. slow down, speed up videos)? 
  3. Do you replay videos if you do not understand a concept? Why (or why not)? 
  4. How important is it to have an online community with your student peers? Scale of not at all to very important.
As it happens, our survey opened up last night. Check out some of next week's posts to learn how blogger Jennifer Long invites her colleagues students to participate and how we work to avoid undue pressure on our student participants to take part in our survey.

Want to use these questions for your own work? 
Please cite this source as follows:
Long, J., & Tanu Halim, S. (2017, November 02). One Size Does Not Fit All - Research on Mature Students' Educational Experiences [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://anthrolens.blogspot.ca/2017/11/one-size-does-not-fit-all-research-on.html

Quick Links:

06 November 2017

Did I plagiarize? A flow chart

For teachers and students alike, early November is the heart of the mid-term assignment swamp. As we wade through various assignments, questions of how to maintain academic integrity in one's work are bound to arise.

Well, since I am also in the middle of that swamp, here's a quick, kind of fun infographic to share from The Visual Communication Guy's blog:

Did I Plagiarize? Infographic Flow Chart from The Visual Communication Guy

Click on the photo's caption to follow the link to the original post (and zoom-able graphic).

Good luck getting through the mid-term marking! See you on the other side...

02 November 2017

One Size Does Not Fit All - Anthropological & Pedagogical Research on Mature Students

In a follow up from our post on Monday, anthro everywhere! blogger Jennifer Long continues to discuss her new pedagogical research project in collaboration with Ms. Silvie Tanu Halim at the W. Booth School of Engineering Practice & Technology. 

Here, we as researchers are interested in exploring the educational experiences and learning preferences of mature and/or non-traditional students and, to explore how these perspectives differ depending on the instruction medium. We left off last day promising to further explain the types of questions would wanted to ask.

As mentioned in the previous post, our population would include students signed up to the Degree Completion Program. These students have completed (at least) an advanced diploma from a College. 

What assumptions do we make about this population? 

As mentioned in the last post, we assume that these students will have more or different competing responsibilities for their time. To expand on this point, we find that the majority of our students do not come straight from a college program but are returning to post-secondary education after having begun their career. Therefore, these students typically work a 40 hour work week, may have dependents to care for, and other commitments on their time.

In their exploration of the role of anthropological knowledge outside the classroom, Coleman and Simpson (1999) find that anthropological knowledge provides: (1) a unique opportunity to hold a mirror up to one's own life circumstances and (2) a chance to reflect on one's personal experiences. However, the cultural outcomes of participating in higher education may generate contrasting relationships outside of school and personal change that is not without a problematic middle-class undertone. Citing David James (1995), the authors warn  that post-secondary participation may very well reproduce a social distance between one's university and home life. Importantly, these authors - using Alison James' work - help us question how a return to university may be felt by some to be a world of new possibilities and for others, an alternative form of personal  displacement and dis-empowerment.

How then, are our DCP students experiencing their education here at SEPT? Are they experiencing a new world of possibilities or personal displacement and dis-empowerment. What is the role of the medium of pedagogy - and how does his affect how these students experience their post-secondary education? 

Below are a list of questions we included in our online survey to help understand the rounded picture of people's lives (borrowed from Coleman and Simpson). Next week, we'll follow up with an overview of the questions around the mediums (paths) of learning:
  1. Your gender (multiple options available)
  2. Your age (range)
  3. Hours per week spent on family and household responsibilities (range)
  4. Hours per week spent on work, work-related activities (e.g. travel), or other weekly tasks (e.g. volunteering, searching for work, etc. ) during a typical (or average) work week throughout the year (range)
  5. How do you prefer to learn new course material? (Options include in class, online, or on your own through self-directed learning (i.e. using course materials to complete tasks at your own pace according to set deadlines)? Follow up question: Why? [Open text box]
  6. How do you learn (new course material) most effectively? Options include in class, online, or self-directed learning (definitions integrated into survey). Why? [Open text box]
  7. As a mature student, how will your educational experience differ from those traditional students entering university directly from high school? [Open text box]

Want to use these questions for your own work? 
Please cite this source as follows:
Long, J., & Tanu Halim, S. (2017, November 02). One Size Does Not Fit All - Anthropological & Pedagogical Research on Mature Students [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://anthrolens.blogspot.com/2017/11/one-size-does-not-fit-all.html

Quick Links:

30 October 2017

One size does not fit all - Applying Anthropological Principals to Pedagogical Research

Blogger Jennifer Long has begun a new research project which looks at the various ways in which students' unique context and identities influence their learning experiences. Where you ask? In her new field site: the post-secondary institution where she works.

What is the purpose of the research? Dr. Long and Tanu Halim seek to better understand the educational experiences and learning preferences of mature and/or non-traditional students and how these perspectives differ depending on the instruction medium. To make matters a little more complicated, these instruction mediums include: (1) asynchronistic online learning; (2) synchronistic online learning; and (3) face-to-face in-class learning.

One of the research team's presumptions when approaching this research was that: mature students have different work-life responsibilities than traditional students entering undergraduate education after high school. That is, we assumed that there were more competing responsibilities for their time.

Why is this research important? ... We wanted to follow the money.

Earlier this year, the Government of Ontario made an announcement (May 2017) that they will begin funding research projects that explore technology-enabled learning and highlight best practices in student engagement.

This announcement follows up on past Ontario funding (in 2012 -2013) for universities and colleges that focused on developing further online learning opportunities for undergraduate students (Council of Ontario Universities, 2017). As one of the funded schools under this mandate, the W. Booth School of Engineering Practice & Technology redeveloped many of their courses as online offerings - with a particular focus on Degree Completion courses. The Degree Completion Program (DCP) is a two-year program designed for students who wish to upgrade their advanced College diploma into a Bachelor of Technology university degree. As such, this degree appeals to non-traditional students (as opposed "traditional" younger students who enter university after high school) who may be juggling work and family obligations in addition to their academic responsibilities.

The argument behind moving courses online includes the supposed ease of access to educational options for non-traditional students, for example, greater uptake and attendance if the requirement to commute to class is alleviated.

So how is this anthropology? As an anthropologist, I was struck by the unique set of circumstances this group of students brought to their learning environment. Within the McMaster student body then, this population - although connected - used the campus differently (largely at night or on the weekends for in-class courses), had less access to resources since supports are made more available for daytime students, and typically came from different backgrounds and pathways to education than more traditional students. Our goal with this research then is to challenge assumptions (non-traditional students prefer online courses) and explore these individuals' unique experiences of post-secondary education. 

Here on anthroeverywhere! we'll keep you up to date on the outcome of this research as a means to explore conducting anthropological research, everywhere including inside and outside the discipline. 

Check out this Thursday's post to learn more about the types of questions we'll ask and concerns from the ethics review board.

26 October 2017

Conferencing: Working the (Reception) Room Part II

Conferencing - Just can't get enough! Here on #anthroeverywhere! we've got conference fever and we've been delving into topics all about conferencing. These topics include Writing better Conference Abstracts and crafting better PostersTips for ModeratorsHow to be a great Chair, and most recently, How to Work the Reception Room.

In continuation of these points, we've been exploring and commenting on Diane Darling's, author of The Networking Survival Guide tips and tricks for working a reception room.

In continuation of the list developed in Conferencing: Working the (Reception) Room Part I, we looked at:

  1. Doing your pre-conference research
  2. Travelling light
  3. Walking the walk
  4. Starting at the food table
  5. Who's who
  6. Approaching VIPs pre-talk
  7. Spotting the lone wolves
  8. "And you are?" connection strategies
There are still a few important tips and tricks to add to Darling's list:
  1. Be curious - Darling asks us to avoid pumping those we meet for information just to see if we can 'use' them in our work. Instead, be curious as in, be personable beyond all else. Tying into a point below, you never know if this individual can be a connector to someone who is more relative to your own work. AnthroEverywhere!'take: Got it...be a human being. Check!
  2. Card exchange - Darling puts her own cards in her right pocket and the cards she receives in her left. This avoids having to search through other's cards to find your own.   AnthroEverywhere!'take: Check to see if your department or your supervisor will pay for you to get official cards. If not, or if you'd like to work on your personal brand, check out cheaper alternatives on the internet. 
  3. Get an introduction - Darling argues that connecting to someone new might be easier if you can do it through an intermediary. An introduction functions as an implicit endorsement.  AnthroEverywhere!'take: Ever more the reason to meet with colleagues from other institutions at lunches, in talks, etc. They could potentially introduce you to that big speaker later on in the evening.
  4. Give and take - Darling advocates for you to connect people whenever possible. This makes you look well connected and make others want to return the favour.
  5. It's a wrap - Just like Lee's article for UA from the last two posts, follow-up with your connections in short order. 
Nothing is more frustrating than going to a conference and feeling like you haven't made any real connections. Working Receptions is one more tool for your toolkit when conferencing.

Quick links and further reading:

23 October 2017

Conferencing: Working the (Reception) Room

#AmAnth17, CASCAinCuba, and SfAA 2018 Sustainable Futures meeting, oh my! Here at #anthroeverywhere!, we've used the last number of posts to cover various topics related to best and promising practices in the art of conferencing. Blogger Rhiannon Mosher has covered topics such as Writing better Conference Abstracts and crafting better Posters, Tips for Moderators, and How to be a great Chair, and most recently, Contributing to the Conversation during Q&A period or in networking. In our post today, we're going to pick up on the idea of networking and take it one step further - How to Work the Reception Room.

As suggested in the last post, graduate students seeking networking tips should read Nana Lee's UA article Essential networking tips for graduate students. In her article, Lee suggests:
  1. Doing some pre-conference homework on the work of researchers who might attend the reception/conference
  2. Preparing a few questions to ask researchers which is also relevant to your own work
  3. Be presentable to appear more open and accessible (introduce yourself with a firm handshake, a smile, and a business card)
  4. Request an informational interview (through 2nd and 3rd connections) to land a mentor
  5. Follow up with contacts in a timely manner (following the reception or conference)
  6. Keep in touch with meaningful connections because you never know when you might need them!
Lee leaves us with sage advice: networking is more than just meeting new fun-tastic people, it's about building trustworthy relationships for the future.

Lee's list is a great start, and we're going to borrow more tips from Diane Darling who wrote The Networking Survival Guide to fill out the list.

Like Lee, Darling advocates for all of the above in addition to the following:
  1. Travel light - Darling advocates to travel light during the reception so that you can concentrate on your conversations and appear professional without fumbling for items like your business card. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: We've been to many conferences and remember having to schlep around winter coats, heavy laptop bags, and branded conference bags with the conference schedule. This weighted look affects graduate students the most - we believe - because as graduate students, we couldn't afford to stay in the same hotel as the conference. If possible, keep expensive/irreplaceable items on you and leave your other items to the side of the room. Better yet, ask your supervisor or adviser to stash your items in their room (if they're attending and have a room in the same hotel). Or, are the conference organizers listening?!? We need a free coat/bag check for all conference reception events!
  2. Walk the walk - Smile and carry yourself confidently. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: Don that confidence as best you can. For strategies on how to re-frame yourself as a junior scholar instead of grad student - check out Karen Kelsky's The Professor is In blog. 
  3. Check out the food table for more than just food - People tend to be more open around the food table. Hungry or not, make the food table a stop in your travels around the room.
  4. Who's who - Darling wants us to scan the whole room (do a walk-about) for those we want to speak with but avoid reading name tags while speaking to anyone. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: AAA name tags seem to follow this pattern as of late, making conference goer's first names bigger than their last. Having done your homework before hand to know who's who (advocated by both Lee and Darling), you'll already know who you'd like to connect with.
  5. Approach the VIPs before talks - Darling advocates that we talk to VIPs before their big event as they tend to be swamped after. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: Great idea. If you've done your homework, you'll be able to ask them pointed questions and avoid general dead-ended questions such as, so what's your talk going to be about?
  6. Spot the lone wolves - Darling points out that the best networking and introductions come from one-on-one conversations. If you find a 'lone wolf' standing by themselves, approach them smiling and be ready with a handshake. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: Caveat: while business events are supposed to be professional, it's important to be mindful of one's personal safety. If you're reticent to approach new individuals on your own, find a colleague or new conference goer who you can tag-team the 'working the room' with.
  7. "And you are?" - Darling advocates that we ask others what their connection to the conference is first. This way, you can identify with their interests and lives in your response. AnthroEverywhere!'s take: Sounds like we should treat the reception room like an anthropological field site. Ask questions first, and connect through personal experience.
We'll continue with Darling's tips and tricks in our Thursday post. In the meantime, how is abstract writing going?

Quick links and further reading:

From anthro everywhere!'s #conference series:

19 October 2017

Conferencing: Contributing to the Conversation

Our past few posts have focused on tips for conference-goers, which are timely with the upcoming #AmAnth17 in November. To date we've shared some tips on Writing better Conference Abstracts and crafting better PostersTips for Moderators, and How to be a great Chair. Today we are focusing on the Q&A and networking during conferences in general -- useful tips for grad students and veteran conference-goers alike.

The conference Q&A -- if the chair has done their job well -- can often be the most rewarding part of a panel discussion. It is a place for audience members and panelists to respond to the ideas and data presented, elaborate on points of interest, and possibly spark new and necessary conversations. Unfortunately, the Q&A can also be taken over by those academics in the audience who like to spend quite a lot of time discussing their own research interests and then pretend it was a question.

So, how do you avoid this kind of all-too-common faux-pas and help contribute to a constructive and enlightening discussion?

The Guardian has some answers in their "Don't be a conference troll: a guide to asking good questions." The gist of this advice is that we should find positive or constructive ways to frame questions, even when they are critical. Think about asking questions in a way that opens up conversation rather than shutting it down. It shouldn't be that difficult to do, considering that we're anthropologists. What I would add to this advice -- perhaps especially a pitfall because we are anthropologists -- is to be careful of providing too much context for your question. How can you succinctly ask your question without taking too much time by oversharing your own research experiences that inspired your question?

For speakers, the Guardian also has this advice:
When you’re the one in the spotlight, how should you respond when faced with a question that feels inappropriate or hostile? Remember that a bluntly worded question is not necessarily a malicious one. Audience members have little time to prepare their questions. It may be helpful to respond in a tone and style that is slightly friendlier than the questioner’s. In some cases, this is all that is required to smooth the waters and enable dialogue.
For those of us -- particularly graduate students new to the conference scene -- who struggle with asking questions or approaching speakers during or after the Q&A, check out our past post on A guide to academic conversations (6 June 2016). You might also be interested in prepping for your conference experience by reading UA's Essential networking tips for graduate students, and Academic EQ's PhD Networking Tips for Introverts.

Happy conferencing!

Quick links and further reading:

16 October 2017

Conferencing: How to be a great Chair

With #AmAnth2017 on the horizon, we've been sharing some timely tips for conference goers over the past two posts. Today we are sharing some resources on how to be a great chair.

The chair of any panel or roundtable at a conference has a number of important tasks. The chair must introduce the panel, the speakers, keep time, and ensure an orderly question and answer session. The chair is also usually responsible for providing some concluding comments for the panel.

As The Guardian's Higher Education Network suggests, doing these tasks brilliantly can be accomplished though adhering to a 6-point checklist. An excellent chair should be: Organized, Inclusive, Selfless, Attentive, Firm, and Positive.

In many ways, these different points come back to the chair's ability to keep good time during their session.

We all have our pet peeves during conferences. Mine is when panelists go well over their allotted time! When a speaker goes over their time, it means that everyone else -- panelists and audience -- has less time to share their ideas and questions. In effect, it means that the panel will not be as inclusive as one that gives everyone time to share their ideas, comments, and questions. It is up to the chair to be firm about how much time a speaker may take. When I have chaired, this is a conversation that I begin over email leading up to the conference, helping to ensure that everyone presenting is on the same page.

We also lose time during a session when we struggle with technology. As chair, make sure that you have a good understanding of how to work the AV equipment your panelists will need, who to contact in case it doesn't work, and take the time to load all presentations before the session begins. (A note to presenters: When everyone's PowerPoint Presentation is labelled some variation of ConferenceNameDate, it can be tricky to find the right presentation even when it is pre-loaded. Why not label your presentation some variation of YourNameConferenceNameDate?)

As the Research Whisperer has noted, "Conferences are a necessary and fun part of academia. The more professional consideration and support that’s spread around at them, the better!" So, use these tips and check out our recent posts on abstracts, posters, and moderation to help make your panel the talk of the conference... in a good way.

Quick links and further reading:

12 October 2017

Conferencing: Tips for Moderators

In keeping with our post last Thursday on Writing better Conference Abstracts and crafting better Posters, and with #AmAnth17 next month, I thought it timely to share this article on Tips for Moderators: Don’t Be the Barrier that Prevents Expression (Medium, 15 Sept 2017).

More than just a list of tips on how moderate (rather than dominate) a conversation between speakers, this article also provides a cautionary tale about power dynamics and voice in public platforms. At what sounds like an amazing recent event in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, "Gloria Wekker and Philomena Essed shared their experiences and thoughts as scholars, women, women of color, teachers." Amazing, except these speakers and the audience were saddled with a moderator who stole focus from the speakers rather than guiding their conversation with the audience deeper. As the author of the Medium piece laments,
The biggest failing of the moderator was one I’ve seen at nearly every panel discussion I’ve ever attended, particularly in the Netherlands. I’m sure others will recognize it. It comes from inviting brilliant people and then limiting their space for interacting with each other and engaging in meaningful conversation. It comes from misplaced and misdirected questions. It comes from the habit of control.
So, what lessons can we learn from this event and take with us as we moderate the panels or round tables or public discussions in our futures...?
  1. A good moderator knows their stuff
  2. A good moderator shuts up
  3. A good moderator listens
  4. A good moderator changes tacks
  5. A good moderator asks what the speakers expect of them
  6. A good moderator backs down
Check back on Monday when we will continue the conferencing tips theme by posting about how to be a great chair!

05 October 2017

Writing better Conference Abstracts and crafting better Posters

We originally planned to write this post for grad students, but really, couldn't we all benefit fit from learning a bit more about how to write a great conference abstract or an eye-catching poster?

Here are a couple of interesting resources for helping you do just that.

From the LSE Impact Blog, you might like to read Your essential ‘how-to’ guide to writing good abstracts and their follow-up post How to write a killer conference abstract: The first step towards an engaging presentation. These posts contain some useful tips for grad students applying to a conference for the first time. Veteran conference-goers may also benefit from reviewing these suggestions, and considering how conference abstracts are different from article abstracts.

Conference posters are often less common among social anthropologists than paper presentations. As a visual medium, posters present unique challenges for researchers whose work is based in narrative. However, we're not the only discipline who struggles with how best to represent our findings in this format. Luckily, there are many resources available to help you craft an informative and eye-catching poster:
We've also taken the opportunity to update our page on Advice for Grad Students | Writing Tips with this information on conferencing. If you're getting ready to head to a conference, you might also want to check out our collected tips on networking on our Advice for Grad Students | Professional Development Strategies page.

02 October 2017

Anthropologists everywhere! Filming heavy metal with Sam Dunn

The first time I met Sam Dunn was in the smoking room (when those still existed) of a dive-y bar that my cohort of Dalhousie MA students used to ritually visit on Thursday wing-nights in Halifax. One of my colleagues, a die-hard metal fan and Marxist sociologist, called me over to his table and introduced us. Dunn had completed his MA at York in 2000, and we had both accepted offers to begin our PhDs in Social Anthropology at York University in Toronto in September, 2006.

By September, he decided to postpone and eventually declined his acceptance to the doctoral program -- with good reason!

Dunn had already filmed Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey (2005), and would soon film a sequel of sorts, Global Metal (2008). Yet, rather than a departure from anthropology, both of these films and others made throughout Dunn's career are informed by his anthropological training and perspective.

Besides being a cool example of what you can do with a degree in anthropology, I have found Dunn's work to be a really useful teaching tool. For instance, Global Metal is a great resource for teaching about globalization, and how cultural forms and practices are always reinterpreted locally, sometimes deeply changing the meaning of the original cultural producers.

Check out more about Dunn and the connection between his work and anthropological background in the following links... and more about finding anthropologists everywhere:

28 September 2017

The Event! Designing Human Futures

Dr. Paul Hartley came to McMaster last night to give us a talk about Reassessing our (i.e. Humans') Relationship with Technology.

The talk was extremely useful in that it provided attendees with an 'archaeology' of technology.
What do I mean by archaeology? Archaeology, in a Foucaudian sense, examines "discursive traces and orders left by the past in order to write a 'history of the present'. In other words archaeology is about looking at history as a way of understanding the processes that have led to what we are today" (Clare O'Farrell for Michel-Foucault.com, 2007).

Dr. Hartley's main premise of the talk was to reassess how we think about our relationship with technology because much of what we think about technology and the future, is steeped in mythology of the past. If we think technology will 'save' us by making life easier, that it necessarily drives (good) change, or that technologies will bring the human race to the pinnacle of progress - these narratives are not new - in fact, he traced their lineage over centuries - and they do not necessarily have to dictate our future relationship.

Dr. Hartley spoke of the importance of using a human-centered (what he called the Human Futures Framework) to re-articulate this relationship in future design and innovation projects.

In so doing, he gave the audience 5 steps to this process (i.e. the framework):
1. Deconstruct - what you know about your project/product/problem
2. Observe - for the purpose of building a better picture of the context
3. Understand - analyzing collected data within the context
4. Speculate - identify possible future pathways (of design, of interest, of intent, etc.)
5. Activate - generate next steps and understand the implication of the investigation.

In all, Dr. Hartley's talk helped frame our understanding how the technology - as we understand today - came to be. It also helped attendees recognize what steps they could take to use a human futures approach (where the human bookends the technology - as a hybrid form that enables humans instead of any other scary apocalyptic scenarios where robots take over for humans) in our everyday design practices.

25 September 2017

The Anthropology of Humor - Responding to Everyday Racist Comments and Jokes

In the face of so much bigotry flying around on social media and in our daily lives, it's good practice to remind ourselves of the best practices out there when dealing with everyday racist comments and jokes.

How do anthropologists think about humor as a cultural trait?

According to Anthropologist Robert Lynch, a joke...is like a little brain scan: When we laugh, we reveal what's inside us. In an interview for NPR, Lynch is described as saying: When you and I laugh at the same joke, we signal to each other that we share the same values, the same beliefs. This may be why people all over the world want friends and romantic partners who share their sense of humor. His research on humor can be found here and here.

What are some simple practices we can follow when responding to racist humor?

Emma Thomson and Anne Pederson, Psychologists at Murdoch University, advocate that one simply disagree with a racist statement or to not laugh at a racist joke (acknowledging the importance of personal safety in the face of anger when doing so).

The Southern Poverty Law Centre is a rich resource for those wanting to know how to respond to everyday bigotry. In Speak Up: Responding to Everyday Bigotry, the authors include a diversity of response scenarios, including responses depending on the relationship between the oneself and the individual/structure. From siblings and joking in-laws, to real estate bigotry, unwanted emails as well as one's own personal bias. This is a gold mine.

At the end of this list - they advocate six steps:

  1. Be ready
  2. Identify the behaviour (call it out - not the person - the behaviour in order to receive a less confrontational response)
  3. Appeal to principles (moral humanistic principals)
  4. Set limits (for example, that you're unwilling to hear such jokes, etc.)
  5. Find an ally/Be an ally (find solace in similarly-minded folks)
  6. Be vigilant (making small steps)

Quick Links: