31 July 2017

The Packaging Anthropological Knowledge Part Two

As an anthropologist teaching technical communications, I often reflect on the merits of active, concise, and accessible communication styles that I didn't learn while studying my undergraduate or graduate degrees.

If I were to summarize how I would change my anthropological writing on account of teaching technical writing, I would advocate for the following three rules:
  1. Write in an active voice. Always. 
  2. Connect all the dots. Give readers a sense for what they're going to read, write it, then summarize it for them. It's not a mystery novel. Descriptive prose has a place of course (C. Geertz need not roll over in his grave) - perhaps in ethnographic vignettes or when describing initial contexts or landscapes.
  3. Write with information/knowledge dissemination in mind. Accessible writing will make your ideas spread further.
Academia Obscura recently (Jul 28 2017) posted about a resource for academics, Doodling for Academics by Julie Schumacher. The publisher's website writes that the resources is a bitingly funny distraction designed to help you survive life in higher education without losing your mind. Sardonic yet shrewdly insightful, Doodling for Academics offers the perfect cognitive relief for the thousands of faculty and grad students whose mentors and loved ones failed to steer them toward more reasonable or lucrative field.

Below are two sample doodles from the book. You can access a sampler of the book here.

Doodle from Julie Schumacher via Academia Obscura

Doodle from Julie Schumacher via Academia Obscura
While this book is supposed to be a fun mental release from the hierarchies and pseudo-political power plays, the peculiar colleagues, the over-parented students, the stacks of essays that need to be graded ASAP - I also see these doodles as examples of repackaging knowledge in new and accessible ways. 

While these doodles may be the starting point for larger discussions (as the medium would limit the capacity to elaborate on complex ideas), I can think of a place for such doodles in ethnographic texts perhaps as a means to personalize readers' experiences of the work as a colouring book (the original intention of Schumacher's book). 

One could also use such doodles and the act of colouring as a methodology. For example, I'm reminded of Diane Farmer, Jeanette Cepin, and Gabrielle Breton-Carbonneau's article in the Journal of Social Science Education which can be found here Students’ Pathways Across Local, National and Supra-National Borders: Representations of a Globalized World in a Francophone Minority School in Ontario, Canada

Any time that I see Anthropologists and Scientists try to disseminate their work in new and creative ways, I can see its role as publicly engaged intellectuals.

Quick Links:

27 July 2017

Anthropology Blogs for the Affluent Tech-Thusiast?

Scientific American identifies its 9 million strong readership as educated and affluent adults. The magazine is #1 when reaching “tech-thusiasts" who they define as individuals who own and use new technology and who are apt to buying the latest devices. Why is this important?

This digital magazine has had a long running a series (since 2011) called Anthropology in Practice: Exploring the human condition. The main contributor is Krystal D'Costa who is an anthropologist living in New York City. Much like us here at anthroeverywhere!, D'Costa's posts explore everyday life from the anthropological perspective.

The following list demonstrates the range of topics:
These interesting reads would be useful discussion starters for a second year anthropology classrooms or as a quick link share for friends, parents or managers who are trying to answer: well, what can anthropology do?

Quick Links: 

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?', our page on Applying an anthropological perspective outside of university, 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.

Quick Links:

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. 

Quick Links: 

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?

Quick links:

13 July 2017

To PhD or not to PhD...

To PhD or not to PhD... this is a question that many prospective and current students haven't thoroughly considered. As Daniel McCormack notes in "Some Lesser-Known Truths About Academe" (CHE), part of the problem here is that students often ask their professors' advice, which is "a little like asking The Rock — aka Dwayne Douglas Johnson, the world’s highest-paid actor last year — whether you should become an actor."

Luckily for prospective PhD students today, the rise of social media has made it much easier to find a range of advice from people who aren't already professors -- whether they are current students, ex-students, alt-academics, adjuncts, or tenured professors. This should mean (and hopefully does, if you're reading this blog) that students should have a much better idea of not only whether pursuing a PhD is right for them, but how to pursue this long-term degree in a way that gives you more fulsome, recognizable career options when you complete. We've posted a couple of these discussions for prospective PhD students on our Advice for Grad Students page, such as What you should know before entering a PhD programme (Hortensii), and What is a PhD, anyway? (Jennifer Polk on UA).

So, what does McCormack want you to know? From his perspective as someone who left a postdoc position after a smooth and rather successful experience in academia, he wants you to consider some of the difficult questions about how and where you are willing to work (especially if you have your eyes on the tenure-track prize). He writes: "I want to focus on the aspects of academic work and life that are selectively bad — that is, they’re bad for some people, but not for others." Consider whether any of these potential deal-breakers with an academic future apply to you:
@AcademicsSay on twitter: "Academic life is less
like a box of chocolates and more like a pie eating
contest where the prize is more pie."
  • You have to like long-term projects
  • You don’t need to feel like you’re succeeding
    • As one of McCormack's mentors advised early on: "You absolutely must condition yourself to fail. Constantly. For every small success I had in graduate school, I am certain I had at least a dozen failures: rejected articles, brutal conference reviews, unexpected flaws discovered in something I’d just spent days working on, etc." (Basically, you have to be comfortable with few markers of progress, develop an ability to thrive on constructive criticism, and accept inhabiting "imposter syndrome".)
These final two deal-breakers have more to do with life on an academic career track than grad school itself:
  • You don’t care where you live
  • You don’t mind moving frequently
With that said, if you are open to thinking differently about what a PhD means and what these studies can do for you (for instance, as a way to pursue an alt-ac career through a more holistic approach to your professional development), the last two considerations might not necessarily apply. You can check out our collected advice on ways to think about what a PhD might mean for you beyond a tenure-track position.

Quick links:

10 July 2017

The Refugee in Anthropological Perspective

Over the past decade, we have witnessed new and ongoing crises around the world that have forced many people to uproot their lives in order to seek refuge elsewhere. On the news we see aerial shots of battered and dilapidated boats overflowing with passengers, or throngs of people on foot carrying their meager belongings, dusty and tired from the long trek. The visual rhetoric we see in these spaces deeply shapes how we understand refugees, and 'their' lives in 'our' national spaces. Through their movement, refugees raise many powerful questions of interest to anthropologists, but also for policy makers, governments, local communities, and for those who endure forced migration themselves.

We've collected here a few interesting resources for discussing anthropological approaches to refugees, especially in light of the more recent and very visible migration of asylum seekers around and across the Mediterranean into Europe.

First, Mayanthi Fernando and Cristiana Giordano's curated "Hot Spot" in Cultural Anthropology on "Refugees and the Crisis of Europe" collects a number of anthropological perspectives on this phenomenon. As they note in the collection's abstract, the "unprecedented" movement of refugees from Middle Eastern and African countries to Europe since 2015 has "turned immigration, asylum, border control, and state sovereignty into interconnected problems, making migration not only a political event but also a media spectacle." The diversity of issues raised in these short articles -- a mapping of "the histories, geopolitics, ethical imaginaries, forms of sovereignty, and patterns of circulation that state categories of crisis and emergency render visible and/or invisible, in Europe and elsewhere" -- recommend them as course texts in discussing a wide range of anthropological questions centred on this highly visible public issue.

In thinking about what an anthropological perspective can bring to understanding this "crisis," I would highly recommend the interview that appeared in Peeps online forum between anthropologists Monica Heller and Sarah Green on "Shifting the global conversation on refugees" (2016).

For other interesting, but non-anthropological sources, instructors might be interested in the New York Times' feature from earlier this year on the the integration of Syrian refugees in Weimar, Germany. While the journalists who wrote this piece spent months in Weimar, this long-form journalism might be interesting to use in also raising the question of how journalistic and anthropological approaches differ.

Lastly, the Refugee Atlas (http://refugeeatlas.com/) is a visual atlas, whose creators suggest could "help to construct the anthropology in motion, referring to crucial aspects of human condition without any recourse to national, ethnic or cultural essentialism."

The Refugee Atlas project is part of the larger "the European History Atlas Under Construction - the transgenerational project of Strefa WolnoSłowa Foundation organized in collaboration with artistic and research organizations from Warsaw, Paris, Bologna and Antwerp." While this is rooted in a fine arts approach to understanding migration, refugees and multiculturalism, the atlas' juxtaposition of diverse and thematic historical and contemporary images and maps may make it an interesting visual for anthropological discussions. The project organizers worked with youth and seniors of both European and migrant backgrounds to explore themes around memory and history in connection to migration. According to the atlas' creators:
The phenomenon of mass migration often cuts across traditional cultural formations, reveals hidden tensions or unmasks shameful continuities. It catches culture in its movement and shows its perpetual fluctuations, irrevocable unrest. This is why making a visual atlas on the experience of migration requires stepping out of both the journalistic news culture, which changes the “refugee crisis” into another viral celebration of the ignorance, and the injunction to always associate the suffering of the oppressed with documentary sensibility.
What kinds of narratives do these images generate, and how might they reflect or differ what we typically see in the news, or in a quick "Google Image" search?

If you have other resources that would be a good addition to this short list, please let us know via email (anthrolens@gmail.com) or tweet us @anthrolens.

Quick links:

06 July 2017

An Anthropologist In Situ Part II: A Business Accreditation Conference

I (Jenn) have recently been reflecting on the ways in which we can bring anthropological knowledge into non-traditional anthropological places - particularly, during conference season. First, I spoke about anthropological ethical standards in engineering classrooms and more recently, when I showcased lessons on intercultural competency during group work at an engineering conference. Just this past week, I attended a conference about accrediting our business program (within the Engineering faculty) and was struck by one unique practice of identifying other conference participants.

When one arrives at this conference, we're given your standard name badge. Like other conferences, the name of the individual (without title) is given and, in smaller font, their university's name. At anthropological conferences like the AAA or CASCA, conference-goers have seen their first name printed in bigger font than any other information in recent years, perhaps to create a more equitable approach rather than singling out or emphasizing those individuals who have risen to anthropological fame (henceforth called the anthro-glitterati ™ anthro everywhere!). This practice of identification and labeling fits into symbolic anthropology where anthropologists study "the way(s in which) people understand their surroundings, as well as the actions and utterances of the other members of their society" (Hudson et al. 2009).

Hudson et al. (2009) describe Victor Turner's perspective of symbolic anthropology where symbols help dictate and allow others to discern and interact with one another. "Turner felt that these "operators," by their arrangement and context, produce "social transformations" which tie the people in a society to the society's norms, resolve conflict, and aid in changing the status of the actors" (Ortner 1983:131).

Jenn's conference name
tag & basic ribbons
It was in this light that I understood the use of ribbons or badges at my most recent conference. As will be further described below, these ribbons allow conference-goers to discern their connection and placement of other conference-goers not only through individuals' and university names but also through the practice of attaching ribbons.

For example, I was told by a helpful and experienced conference-goer that I needed to identify my accreditation region (so that others would know which region I came from) as well as my own or my university's accreditation level (where they stood in their accreditation process, i.e. candidate, accredited, re-affirmation, etc.). You'll see from my badge I'm a first time conference-goer.

Further, if you held a position within the organization, there was a badge for that too, including evaluator, chair elect, etc.

The ribbon station (photo below) was clearly marked in one of the main halls of the conference and included many ribbons:

Ribbon Table

Ribbon choices
In addition to the ribbons describing your rank and geographic category, there were 'silly' ribbons, for example, my ("I heart bacon" and "totes magotes") ribbons:

Jenn's badge with the
addition of 'silly' ribbons

"Are you showing your ACBSP pride today? This attendee certainly is."
From my four day experience of this conference, I noticed that this practice of collecting and displaying silly ribbons was a mechanism to identify and distinguishing oneself from others and was often used as a talking piece either face-to-face or online. Here are three screen shots from the conference's twitter feed:

Tweet from Conference-Goer
#ACBSP2017 Twitter feed:
"Badges - High Impact Practice
I'm hearing about everywhere."

This last photo I took was of two participants who told me that ribbon collecting was tradition at the conference and the longer the chain, the better.

Conference attendees display their ribbons
Thus, as an anthropologist in situ, these identity making practices show a moment in time where individuals are able to identify and distinguish themselves among other conference goers and, I would argue, find new collectivity in the practice of ribbon gathering and displaying.

Quick links and further reading:

03 July 2017

#Canada150, Indigenous nations 13,000...

Image result for colonization 150 canada
If you live in Canada, you will know that the country has just celebrated its sesquicentennial. You might have even learned the word "sesquicentennial" recently to describe what is the otherwise inescapable Canada 150.

JustUs! Coffee in Wolfville, Nova Scotia:
Canada 150; Mi Kmaki 13000
As anthropologists who have studied and taught about nationalism, it has been an interesting year, especially as the celebrations of a settler-society increasingly rub up against demands for the recognition of Indigenous peoples as founders of what is today "Canada," or as other Indigenous people publicly reject this nation-state as illegitimate (as Audra Simpson has so engagingly discussed in her work and life as Kahnawà:ke Mohawk).

As many scholars have discussed, in our national mythology, Canadians learn about Indigenous peoples are part of our foundation, our national past, rather than our national present.

The discussions that have emerged around what it means to be Canadian (or what it should mean...) have been fascinating to follow, and raise many important questions for public and ongoing discussion.

Canadian news outlets, for example, recently reported on the billboard message of Just Us! Coffee Roasters in Grand Pré, N.S. (shown right) where the owners of the coffee shop signaled "a reminder of how long this land has been inhabited: "Canada 150. Mi'kma'ki 13,000."

A local newspaper followed up with the owner who stated that the purpose of the message “[w]as meant as, we need to recognize multiple communities in our country and some of them get under-represented, I think,” he said. The Chronicle Herald went on to state that Grand-Pré is (...) located among three Mi’kmaq First Nation communities — Glooscap, Annapolis Valley and Bear River — in the Annapolis Valley. Just Us consults with them for partnerships, and recently began accepting status cards.

There are other settler initiatives that seek to educate other settlers. If one visits http://native-land.ca/ they can find an interactive map that is meant to be used as a resource to help North Americans learn more about their local history. Once there, you can search your address, or add territories to map below and click on polygons to learn more about the past histories and present narratives of where you live and work. On the 'about' page, you can read about why the author has created this resource:
"I'm Victor. I am a settler, born in traditional Katzie territory and raised in the Okanagan. I am concerned about many of the issues raised by using maps and colonial ways of thinking when it comes to maps. For instance, who has the right to define where a particular territory ends, and another begins? Who should I speak to about such matters?
There are over 630 different First Nations in Canada and I am not sure of the right process to map territories, languages, and treaties respectfully - and I'm not even sure if it is possible to do respectfully.
I feel that maps are inherently colonial, in that they delegate power according to imposed borders that don't really exist in many nations throughout history. They were rarely created in good faith, and are often used in wrong ways. I am open to criticism about this project and I welcome suggestions and changes."
In teasing apart the celebrations, the news coverage (both positive and detracting), and dialogue (both positive and negative) surrounding the Canada 150 celebration by Ottawa (our federal government) and Canadians (settlers and non-settlers alike), we wanted to highlight and recognize the opportunities for learning more.

In taking a holistic perspective from an anthropological toolkit, we can ask ourselves:

  1. Who is telling the story of this celebration? Why are they telling it in this way? 
  2. Whose voices may have been muted or not well listened to in this telling? 
  3. What other perspective or realities exist of this event (and those leading up to it)? 

In speaking about this 150 celebration in terms of varying perspectives, one gains the sense that the national celebration that Ottawa is supporting is just one version, one rendition, of a multi-faceted history.

To end this post, the bloggers (writing under 'anthro everywhere!' for the first time) would like to leave those interested with a few links to gain different perspectives:
  1. Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler (statement here)
  2. Anishinabek Nation Statement on Canada 150 (statement here)
  3. UNsettling 150: A Call to Action (link here)
  4. UNsettling Canada150 Webinar: Ellen Gabriel, Russ Diabo, Beatrice Hunter (link here)
The Scream, on the cover, The Subjugation of Truth, by Kent Monkman (from Pamela Palmater's article in Now Toronto):

The Scream (2017) converted.jpg

Quick links: