Occulted Relations and Digital Revelations: Freemasonry and Secrecy in the Information Age

Friday, November 20, 2015: 3:15 PM

Capital Ballroom 6 (Hyatt Regency)

Christopher Neil Butler (Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison)

With a visible architectural footprint in virtually any North American town or city, as well as possessing a broad global reach, Freemasonry is often described by members as the world’s largest secret society. However, many Masons have a seemingly uncomfortable relationship with the secrecy that characterizes their fraternity. Grounded in fieldwork with Masons at all levels of the institution’s hierarchy throughout Oklahoma, this paper explores the various strategies used by Masons to position themselves in relation to secrets that are at once both closely personally held and broadly acknowledged to be perpetually revealed in digital spaces and in the mass media. When asked about ritual or secrecy, members frequently assert that there are no secrets in Masonry, as they can easily be found online. At the same time, Masons also elide the ritual in conversation, often including ritual language published by state Grand Lodges, which are effectively public. One member summarized this position, stating that, although this information is widely available, no one would ever hear the secrets from him. In this context, in which even the revelation of secrets is made banal by digital accessibility, Masonic secrecy is not an instrumental mechanism for concealing information but rather a means to express loyalty to their organization and establish personal connections to fellow Masons. The deeply personal nature of this secrecy reinscribes the power of the ritually conveyed architectural and geometric symbolism that characterizes Freemasonry and endows everyday tools and structures with fraternal meanings for Masons.



Friday, November 20, 2015: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM

Capital Ballroom 1 (Hyatt Regency)

As digital technologies become ever more ubiquitous as artefacts and infrastructures via which human relations are conducted, this panel explores an approach to digital relations that asks not whether the digital is virtual or real, but just what kind of reality the digital is. Rather than taming digital technologies by incorporating them into standard anthropological accounts of either technology design or technology use, we approach the digital real as a specific space of alterity with rich implications for anthropological theory. From the sensory infrastructures which feed data streams that are analysed by algorithms, to the distributed networks of programmers and players that make gaming environments, digital technologies do not simply provide representations of an external world, but participate in the organisation of relations through which new worlds are brought into being. Moving beyond a dialectic of human/technologyPMr virtual/real, this panel aims to both explore the epistemological dynamics by which such separations and boundaries are reproduced, and to push towards an approach to digital technologies that allows for the relational specificity of a variety of digital forms (e.g. computer models, social media platforms, digital devices, and online games) to be interrogated as active and often unfamiliar(/Other) participants in human social worlds. Looking to the disruptive, unsettling, or transformative effects of digital technologies, this panel aims to explore how they raise new questions about the role of difference, identity, simulation, fakery, newness, automation, unpredictability, invisibility, authenticity and agency for anthropological accounts of social relations. To explore these ideas, we invite papers from a wide range of ethnographic settings to address such issues as the semiotics of algorithms, the phenomenology of number, the materiality of digital infrastructure, the relational extensions of networks and the ontological cuts that such technologies effect. In drawing attention to ontology, we are interested in the question of how digital technologies not only perform and produce the boundaries of the ‘real’ as we know it, but are also active in defining new, strange spaces beyond those boundaries; and what implications this might have for reframing what we might call a ‘digital’ form of anthropology.

This session would be of particular interest to:
Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students

Organizers:  Antonia Caitlin Walford (It University of Copenhagen) and Hannah C Knox (University College London)

Chairs:  Antonia Caitlin Walford (Open University and University College London)

Discussants:  Patricia G. Lange (California College of the Arts)

4:00 PM
Making Air Pollution Visible: Negotiating Data and Their Visual Forms in Scientific Practice
Emma Garnett (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)

4:15 PM
Internet Sexual Offending and the Construction of Less Disciplined Online Space
Jonah Rimer (Oxford University)

4:30 PM
The Gender of the Interface: Are Men to Hardware As Women Are to Software?
Jordan H Kraemer (Wesleyan University)

4:45 PM
‘Being Deaf’ at Work – Technology, Identity and Belonging in Sweden
Rebekah Cupitt (Royal Swedish Institute of Technology)

5:00 PM
Reading Invisible Infrastructures, Revealing Ethnography’s Invisible Work
Lindsay Poirier (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute)

5:15 PM
Patricia G. Lange (California College of the Arts)

5:30 PM

DANG Business Meeting at #AAA2015

DANG: Digital Anthropology Group Business Meeting

Saturday 12:15 to 1:30 in room 405 at the Colorado convention center

(Open to All Interested Parties)

Business Meeting Agenda
We have completed our first three years as an interest group. The American Anthropological Association has approved our reauthorization for another three years. In this time we have successfully introduced the DANG brand to the AAAs. At our last meeting we pondered the purpose of DANG. As an organization dedicated to promoting digital anthropologists and digital anthropology in all its wide variety, DANG is a resource for scholars. Now it is time for us to began to formulate our plan for making our dreams a reality.

DANG will only be as great as the people who are willing to invest their time, ideas, and effort in making building it as an organization we can all be proud of and come to rely on. This directly leads to our next point. A call for volunteers who are willing to participant in DANG in a leadership capacity. These can be as formal or informal as we want, but I definitely know I cannot do this on my own. Matt Thompson has done an amazing job bringing this idea to fruition as he passes the torch, I want to make sure his legacy continues to shine and that we grow and mature as an organization.

DANG Leadership
As our growing young organization enters its 4th year, it needs a strong group of dedicated scholars to lead it. We will discuss new informal leadership roles with DANG. Rather than the formal elected positions of societies, the roles will instead be more practical positions which will distribute the workload of promoting digital anthropology in all its variation and digital anthropologists. Here I imagining titles like DANG blog editor, DANG social media coordinator, and topic based chairs: Online Comminemunities Chair, Social Media Chair, Digital Methods Chair, Digital Ethics Chair. These roles and their titles are still up for discussion and will be shaped by those willing to lead.

Advisory Board
An idea suggested to me by Heather Horst, is that DANG might consider inviting distinguished senior scholars to serve as a board of advisers for DANG. The advisory board serves two purposes. First and foremost, it is designed to be an honor for senior scholars working in digital anthropology. Secondly, the advisory board would be a resource. Consulting with DANG leadership. The details for this advisory board still need to be nailed down, but the first I want feedback on the concept. Is this something we want to pursue?

DANG collaboration
Finally, I will conclude with a discussion of future collaboration with EASA Media Anthropology Network and CASTAC.

DANG “Re”Organization: Part 2 Informal Leadership

New leadership roles within DANG.

These do not need to be fully formalized. Rather than a few elected positions like other societies have, DANG would have practical positions which will distribute the workload of promoting digital anthropology in all its variation and digital anthropology. I think it might be good to make the focus of each position narrow to reduce the burden of responsibility. Here I’m thinking to look for individuals encharge of promoting specific topics: open access, studies of online communities, public anthropology online, digital methods, ethics, etc. Then each can be encharge of bloging on the DANG blog about their topic, promoting it on social media, potentially arranaging panels, round tables, online discussions, whatever. Start small with the Digital impact and build. Additionally, I would say we do also still need a blog editor and a social media coordinator. 

I’d love to hear your feedback especially if you will be unable to attend the DANG business meetings. What do you think about making “official” positions? I have listed the positions I brainstormed. What other areas do you think we need to cover?

If you are interested in a leadership role within DANG, please contact me and let me know. Remember it doesn’t have to be one listed.


Thursday, November 19, 2015: 7:45 PM-9:00 PM
Centennial D (Hyatt Regency)
Anthropology has always been at the forefront of engaging disparate communities and social issues. The digital revolution has expanded this potential reach and capability, but has brought with it new sets of challenges: issues of authenticity, accessibility, and scholarly credibility weigh on researchers looking to work in the field. Anthropologists interested in the digital must develop new technological skills and explore beyond well-trodden career paths. How is the digital not only changing the communities anthropologists study but also the anthropologists themselves? With Tom Boellstorff as moderator of an AAA sponsored roundtable discussion, key anthropological figures will discuss their own digital research experiences: highlighting how they became interested in the field, the challenges they have faced, and what skills and knowledge helped them along the way. They will address how the use and examination of the digital as a frame has enhanced anthropological endeavors and how we as a community can foster anthropologists in a digital age through education, training and refinement of digital methods and ethics.

This session would be of particular interest to:
Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students, Those involved in mentoring activities

Organizers:  Andrew Russell (American Anthropological Assn) and Katie Vizenor (American Anthropological Association)
Introductions:  Tom Boellstorff (University of California, Irvine)
Chairs:  Andrew Russell (American Anthropological Assn) and Samuel G Collins (Towson University, Department of Sociology, Anthropology & Criminal Justice)
Roundtable Presenters:  Thomas M Malaby (University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee), Alex J Golub (University of Hawai‘i Mānoa), Lynne Goldstein (Michigan State University), Patricia G. Lange (California College of the Arts) and Haidy Geismar (University College London)

Go to this site to watch it online http://aaalive.conferencecontent.net/


Thursday, November 19, 2015: 12:15 PM-1:30 PM

112 (Colorado Convention Center)

Digital communication has made it easier for anthropologists to publish for audiences abroad. This roundtable invites journal editors, writers, bloggers, and visual anthropologists to come together to discuss useful strategies for translating and disseminating contemporary research.

Organizers:  Carolyn Rouse (Princeton University, Department of Anthropology)

Presenters:  Oona Schmid (American Anthropological Assn) and Gordon Mathews (Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Crypto-Activism: Hackers’ Resistance to Digital Mass Surveillance

Thursday, November 19, 2015: 5:00 PM

102 (Colorado Convention Center)

David Bozzini (Graduate Center CUNY)

Cryptography has always been embedded in warfare, but debates over using cryptography to protect personal communications are new. Technologists use the term “cryptowars” to refer to political disputes over the legitimacy of using cryptography to protect digital communications between citizens. Intelligence and law-enforcement agencies have tried to weaken cryptographic systems; for example, by installing backdoors and forming data-sharing relationships with corporate entities. Meanwhile, actors advocating for their rights to private conversations have developed encryption tools and anonymizing technologies to help computer users avoid state and corporate surveillance. This paper explores the debates between government agencies and hacktivists (in particular, crypto-activists or “cypherpunks”) to reveal the dynamics that are revamping resistance to digital mass surveillance. Drawing from online sources and interviews, this paper sketches three aspects of the contemporary response to digital mass surveillance. First, it examines how crypto-activists are reframing digital surveillance as an issue of broad social importance rather than simply a matter individual privacy. Second, hacktivists are focusing efforts on reaching out to “users” in order to educate them about surveillance. Third, hacktivists are developing ethical assumptions and political critiques of technical infrastructures, protocols and work-flows. In many cases, these critiques inform the experimental design and implementation of privacy-centric software and alternative distributed architectures. This paper aims to underline the increasing political and social importance of debates around cryptography.