Cyborg Anthropology

Bridging the gap between traditional and cyborg anthropology.
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Why Cyborg Anthropology?

A cursory web search shows little about the relatively new field of Cyborg Anthropology. Worse, there are no lists of resources or even tools to figure out where to find materials. There are no book lists, glossaries, or syllabi. Professors wishing to teach the subject are left to create curriculum for themselves, and students seeking to self-educate are left to dig through journal articles.

A Digital Resource

This site is meant to connect many different people across multiple disciplines as well as those involved in the field of Cyborg Anthropology itself. This site is a collection of journals, conferences, papers, books, and curriculum that can be used by anyone. This site is also a Wiki, meaning that everything is in flux. In the same way that the Internet grows and changes, the field of Cyborg Anthropology must be a flexible field capable of absorbing, classifying and understanding new phenomena, cultural change, and the digital world. Digital Anthropology is also closely related to Cyborg Anthropology and will be discussed here often.

Traditional Ethnography

This site also seeks to provide those without a formal understanding of anthropology a firm foothold in the study of traditional anthropology. There are two types of people present in the universe of cyborg anthropological studies. One is the student of anthropology. The other is the technosocially connected non-academic seeking to better understand the effect technology has had on their world. Cyborg Anthropology lends well to both the professional and academic. Both can benefit from an understanding of each other's fields.

Site Development

This site is an installation of MediaWiki with a number of custom plugins and theme by Aaron Parecki. The site's content is managed by Amber Case. This site welcomes contributors. Things needed are book reviews, new books, conference listings, journal articles, journal lists, films and film reviews, glossary terms, tools and critical analysis. If you'd like to contribute any of these items, or have ideas on what to contribute, please contact us. For more information, see Blogs vs. Wikis.

Have your class contribute to this Wiki

This often occurs when a student writes a paper: the paper is written, turned in, and graded. The paper gets lost in an E-mail account, hard drive or thumb drive. It doesn't generally see the light of day again. Eventually, it ceases to exist.

In addition, it is rare that anyone besides the professor reads it. Thus, if any valuable thought is in there, no one knows it exists. Instead of doing research and finding the work, someone is going to end up rewriting that same paper instead of building off of it and taking it further.

When a class contributes to a blog or wiki, actual published work is contributed to a collectively viewed system. Additionally, technology skills gained in the learning process of formatting and editing content for the web provides students with valuable real-world skills. It gives them the power to publish and defend their work.

Thus:

  • What students have to say is valuable.
  • Homework assignments can turn into actual work.
  • Electronic technology can connect ideas to similar ideas more quickly than paper work.

If you'd like to have your class contribute to CyborgAnthropology.com, please contact us.

About this Wiki

For now the wiki is a way to both make public my work and observations as well as provide a resource for those looking to study technology and culture. I’ve considered grad school (leaning towards MIT), but I was told to take time off between undergrad and grad school to see what the ‘real world’ was like before deciding what to really focus on in grad school. It will likely be a while before it becomes clear what really needs to be done in the field. In the end, cyborg anthropology is a placeholder term for an evolution of anthropological methods and study. It’s about using new tools to do fieldwork in new places, and to study all spaces and types of humanity, not just foreign ones.

The Wiki Way

When it comes down to it, the wiki is an extension of my brain. It’s a place to collect, store and build upon thoughts. It’s also an easy way to share them with others. For instance, if I get an E-mail about a particular theory or idea, and I have a page written about it in the wiki, I can link the page vs. write the response, because I’m really linking them to a part of my external brain. And because it is a wiki, they can add something to it if they feel it is incomplete. Wiki’s age well. They evolve and grow more complex and nuanced and useful over time. I’m only 6 months into this wiki. There’s still much more to be done.

Though I’m not officially affiliated with academia, I collect and frequent many academic papers daily, especially those written 10-20 years ago about the coming “virtual reality” or those who talk about ubiquitous computing and other things. I’ve found that simply replacing “virtual reality” with social networks lends very well to those papers. In addition, I’ve been collecting sites from colleges and universities that contain writing about cyborgs and cyberculture. They’re rather hard to find today, because the idea of cyborgs and high tech reached its apex in the in the early 00’s and then kind of fizzled. Writing about the study ‘cyberculture’ and ‘virtual reality’ had a limited audience since the beginning of the information revolution. Some of the sites are still around, but they are quite obscure. Many are missing, which means that I rely on the Internet Archive as a research tool almost constantly. I’m always digging around the historical layers of the web. The wiki’s goal is to help resurrect some of those briefly-lived resources, understandings and predictions.

What I mean by predictions is that well-written papers about the coming world of virtual reality actually predict a lot about what we’re dealing with now. I feel like I’m doing a bit of future history when I do this research, as I’m often encountering worlds of people who have experienced what it was like to have an identity on the early Internet. What was experienced in labs 30 years ago by only a few people is now experienced by millions every day. There is a lot to learn from going back in time and reading the work of those who were there first. Many don’t realize that it’s already been done before and that those pioneers left stories, warnings and experiences on the way.

I read a lot of social theory. It gives me a lot of ground to stand on when I make my observations. Theodor Adorno, Marc Auge, Zygmunt Bauman, Marshall Berman, Walter Benjamin, C. Wright Mills, Michel Foucault and others like Guy Debord, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, David Harvey, Celeste Olalquiaga, Deleuze and Guattari, Paul Virilio. As far as more traditional anthropology goes, Guy Debord’s Society of the Spectacle and Erving Goffman’s Presentation of Self in Everyday Life are solid foundations for digital ethnography. Virilio writes about speed and culture, which is key to understanding the acceleration of changes that are occurring. Bruno Latour has Actor Network Theory that can help place humans and technology into a system that can be more easily studied.

-Amber Case