Category Archives: Annual meeting

CFP “Learning to Labor in the Digital Economy”

Call for papers
“Learning to Labor in the Digital Economy”

AAA 2016, November 16-20, Minneapolis, MN

Organizer: Matthew Hale (Indiana University/Kennesaw State University)

Discussant: Mary L. Gray (Microsoft Research/Indiana University)

Deadline:  April 1, 2016 to

This panel critically examines the transformation of labor within the twenty-first century. The new millennium brought with it many advances in digital technology—exponential increases in computational power and connectivity, the emergence of a new digital infrastructure, the proliferation of mobile devices and the rise of social media, a rapid growth in digital commerce, cloud computing, and the formation of the so-called “sharing” or “access” economy. These seismic shifts in production, exchange, and consumption derived from and propelled a fundamental transformation of the nature of labor and the status, power, and agency of workers worldwide.

In a world of crowdsourcing, automated and algorithmically-derived data collection and marketing, neoliberal deregulation, and labor surplus, the worker has become disposable. They are no longer an asset, but rather represent an impediment to the maximization of surplus value. Just as Marx argued that the worker became but a cog in a machine under the forces of industrial capitalism, within emerging systems of always-on, hyperconnected, and on-demand interactive technologies, highly contingent forms of labor—a kind of always-on, on-demand labor (contract, temporary, and freelance employment and under-or-unpaid labor)—is fast becoming one of the dominant forms of employment within the global workforce.

This panel will draw on a range of theoretical perspectives and approaches in order to understand, critique, and address these emerging social configurations and the problems that workers face within the twenty-century.

We invite papers that address, but are not limited to, the following questions:
How has digital technology changed how, when, and where work gets done?
How have corporations used new technologies to shift from long-term or permanent employment to highly contingent positions that undermine workers’ rights?

How do workers imagine themselves—both as individuals and as collectives—within the digital economy? And how have or might they effectively mobilize to affect social change and combat injustice?

How does digital or “immaterial labor” differ from traditional material forms of work?

How have always-on communication technologies eroded the traditional division between leisure and labor?
How do individuals and communities employ new media to create opportunities for themselves and to develop new forms of labor?
What might anthropologists bring to and gain from studying the changing nature of work?

We welcome contributions from all sub-fields and encourage proposals from any geographic region or culture.

Please submit a 250 word abstract to: by April 1, 2016. Please include the title of the paper, author’s name, affiliation, and email address.

Notice of acceptance will be sent out April 5, 2016.

CFP PROPOSED AAA 2016 Panel: “There’s an App for That”: The Anthropological Study of Religious and Religion-Themed Mobile Apps

PROPOSED AAA 2016 Panel: 
“There’s an App for That”: The Anthropological Study of Religious and Religion-Themed Mobile Apps

Abstracts Deadline: April 3rd, 2016
Send to Jacqueline Fewkes (

Conference: 115th American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting ‘Evidence, Accident, Discovery’ 16-20 Nov. 2016, Minneapolis, MN, USA

Organizer: Jacqueline H. Fewkes (Florida Atlantic University)

As smartphone use becomes increasingly widespread globally, the development of mobile apps has a potentially significant impact on contemporary religion.  Mobile apps can reach large audiences; one of the most popular religious apps available, the Biblical app “YouVersion”, has an estimated 200 million users worldwide.  From Roman Catholic confession apps to Jewish Kaddish assistance apps and Muslim halal food apps, religion-themed mobile apps may create complex sites for potential new forms of religious expression, worship, discussion, and practices.  The purpose of this panel is to explore from an anthropological perspective the impact of mobile apps that focus on religious practice, communities, and religious issues, and/or those that may be used for religious purposes whether or not they were originally developed for that purpose.

Anthropological studies of religious mobile apps may focus on a range of potential issues, such as ethnographic accounts of app use, or emic critiques of digital modes of religious authority.  The studies may emphasize the cultural significance of widespread use, or explore the ways in which a focus on the globalizing influences of mobile app technologies minimizes attention to the significance of local contexts of production, pre-existing knowledge networks, and non-digital relationships of power.  Such studies can be situated in a broad historical context, thus placing what may seem to be “revolutionary” technologies into cultural narratives that span centuries to include literacy, printing, and other long-established human innovations and technologies (Hofheinz 2011).  To focus on the digital and to reify it as some new form of culture, is, as Miriam Aouragh pointed out, often done so in ways to project Orientalist notions of modernity, civilization, and progress on the Other, ignoring human agency.  Thus our analysis must be critical and recognize the complex ways in which in-app and on-ground (as opposed to online or virtual) contexts interact (Aouragh 2012).  Whether this comes in the form of conceptualizing the in-app and on-ground as “collocations” or critical reconceptualizations of the human, methods and insights from the growing subfield of digital anthropology may be useful to apply to the study of religious mobile apps (Whitehead and Wesch 2012; Boellstorff and Nardi 2012; Boellstorff 2015).

Technology has been credited with almost super-powers in terms of its ability to effect change and shape human experiences, frequently without, as John Rahagi has pointed out, “a clear understanding of the context of what is actually transpiring” (Rahagi 2012:154).  Thus while the large numbers of religious app users such as those mentioned earlier may be impressive, there is also a need to examine in more detail how those numbers may shape religious participation along lines such as gender, class, and national origins.

A detailed anthropological understanding is therefore necessary to examine the actual impact of mobile apps on religion and religious beliefs, behaviors, and ideals, and the range of issues associated with this topic.

Potential panel papers may consider issues such as:
·      How do particular mobile apps create new ways for religious communities and believers to communicate, share information, solicit support, or disseminate viewpoints? 
·      What is the source of religious authority in a religious app, and how does this authority intersect with other forms of authority within the community of users?
·      How do the economics and technology of mobile apps shape religious ideas and practices through variables such as programming and corporate policies?
·      What are the best anthropological methods for studying digital technology such as mobile apps?  How might methodological perspectives from various sub-disciplines be applied to the study of this topic?
·      What on-ground practices, power relations, and other non-digital contexts shape the development of the digital world constructed through religion-themed mobile apps?
·      Do religious mobile apps create new networks of religious knowledge sharing or forms of community?
·      How do religious mobile apps contribute to globalization or localization processes?  How are they challenged by the same?
·      How do religious mobile apps interact with the physical bodies of religious believers; thus potentially contributing to digital anthropological discussions of the “virtual human” and/or “post-human”?
·      How does the use of religious apps transform users’ relationships with technology and their digital environment?
This is not a definitive list of possible directions, and all those with ethnographic evidence or anthropologically informed theoretical interests related to the broad topic of mobile apps and religion are encouraged to propose a paper.

If interested please send a 250 word abstract with a title and five keywords to Jacqueline Fewkes ( by April 3rd, 2016.  Presenters accepted for inclusion in the panel will be informed by April 6th, 2016 and will need to register for the AAA 2016 conference by April 15th.

Evidence, Accident, Discovery in Digital Anthropology

DANG @ #AAA2016
I wanted to stir the pot for Digital Anthropology panels at the AAA Conference this fall.

Annual Meeting Theme

The 115th Annual Meeting theme, ‘Evidence, Accident, Discovery’, raises issues central to debates within both anthropology and politics in a neoliberal, climate-changing, social media-networked era: What counts as evidence? What does evidence count for? What are the underlying causes and foreseeability of violence and catastrophes? How is misfortune interpreted, and causality, attributed in cases of humanly preventable harm? And in the give and take of relationships on which anthropological evidence typically depends, Who gets to claim that they discovered something? We welcome proposals that debate these and other questions stimulated by the conference theme, in the opportunity that our annual meeting provides for “big tent” debate.

The Deadline for Panels and Abstract Submissions is April 15th.

This year’s theme Evidence, Accident, Discovery fits easily into DANG’s preview. If you have any Calls for Papers you would like to share with DANG members or panel ideas you’d like to brainstorm let me know in the comments below or by emailing me at

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.