Monthly Archives: September 2012

Applied Anthropology and the Digital Humanities

DANG members and collaborators have been sharing with me their Calls for Papers for some really exciting conferences where digital anthropology can take a leadership role in our discipline. In fact our organization was born from the desire to reimagine a professional anthropology that exceeded the capacity to be contained by the American Anthropological Association and, indeed, any traditional disciplinary boundaries.

Jeremy Trombley writes of his plans to organize a panel on “Online Anthropology” for the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology, in Denver, March 2013.

Over the last year, there has been a lot of attention paid to the work that anthropologists do to promote the discipline, collaborate, and share information online (e.g. blogging, social media, open access journals, etc.). Unfortunately, much of this work goes unrecognized and unrewarded by traditional institutional structures, both academic and applied. The papers on this panel will explore the roles of anthropologists in online communities, the ways that anthropologists have used online media to further their own interests, and the different mechanisms for calling attention to online work within our institutions.

It’s time we built bridges with the applied anthropologists to learn from them and share with them the many ways in which Internet platforms are transforming anthropology. Organizing a DANG panel at the SfAA would be a good way to initiate dialogue with the applied folks over Open Access policy. And drawing upon their expertise in practicing anthropology within and without academia could have a positive long-term benefits for our group.

I attended the SfAA in 2005, in Santa Fe, and found it to be a very different program than the AAA, in a good way. If you haven’t been before join Jeremy in representing DANG. The SfAA does offer funding for grad students awarded on a competitive basis.


Ethan Wattral, associate director of Michigan State’s MATRIX center for the application of new technologies in teaching, research, and outreach is looking for colleagues to join him at the Digital Humanities Conference at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, July 2013. This could be a fantastic opportunity to network among digital humanities scholars both to develop professionally and to benefit our organization.

As many of you no doubt recall “interdisciplinary” was the buzzword of the early 2000’s and it was bandied about proudly by anthropology, self described as the most interdisciplinary of the social sciences. If this is to amount to something more than lip service than anthropologist must step up to the plate and engage scholars outside our field. Digital anthropology stands to gain a lot by nurturing ties to the digital humanities. If this sounds up your alley please join Ethan in making a DANG panel happen in Lincoln.

It’s my understanding that Ethan does not have an abstract pre-drafted, but rather is looking for someone to collaborate with in making something happen. He writes, the proposed panel “could be an ‘in practice’ kind of thing with case studies or a discussion of the current state of digital anthropology… or even a more focused look at how digital anthropology fits into Digital Humanities.”

According to CFP linked to above some funding is available for “early-career scholars” so that might be interpreted as inclusive of adjuncts and newly minted PhD’s.

UC System Discusses Open Access Policy

This Summer, the University Committee on Library and Scholarly Communication (UCOLASC) of the University of California Academic Senate put forward a proposed Open Access Policy for the UC System. The Senate is requesting input and comments on the policy will be accepted up to January 11, 2013.

The Chair of UCOLASC is Chris Kelty, frequent Savage Minds author and Associate Professor at UCLA in Anthropology and Information Studies. In his cover letter to the proposed policy, Prof. Kelty notes that the policy is part of a larger UC effort “to transform the scholarly publishing industry and improve the accessibility and visibility of our scholarly research.” There are already a number of options for scholars who wish to make their research available online – options like SSRN, ArXiv, and many institutions already have institutional repositories – so why this policy? Kelty continues:

The key function of this policy is to change the default relationship that faculty have with scholarly publishers. Currently, each faculty member must individually negotiate open access rights with each individual publisher for each publication. The proposed policy would invert that relationship. It would make open access the default right of faculty and instead force publishers to request exclusive rights (by asking authors to opt-out). By making this a collective policy, individual faculty benefit from their membership in the policy-making group. Moreover, under this policy faculty members both retain ownership of their copyright and have an unobstructed right to opt out of the license for any reason.

What I particularly like about Kelty’s language is the focus on inverting the relationship between faculty and publishers. In the author/publisher relationship, publishers typically have the upper hand: publishers produce a contract requiring transfer of author rights and authors sign away their rights with little bargaining power if they want to get published. Open access policies such as the one proposed for the UC System provide faculty with greater support when negotiating a publishing contract, not just by requiring open access to scholarship, but also by helping faculty understand all of their rights and how to assert those rights.

If the UC System adopts this Open Access Policy, it will be a big deal. Yes, there are other U.S. institutions that have adopted similar policies (including MIT, Harvard, Kansas, and Princeton), but having probably the largest system of public universities in the U.S. support, as a whole, open access to the scholarly output of their faculty will make waves.

If you are faculty at one of the UC schools, please take a look at the policy draft and at Chris Kelty’s excellent presentation on the proposed policy, and talk to your peers, especially in your department and in your campus Senate.

If you are faculty at other institutions and don’t yet have a campus open access policy, take a look at the UC policy and presentation linked to in the previous paragraph and start asking questions at your own institution (if you’re not sure who to talk to, your library is probably a good place to start).