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Presentation: MyKnet.org: The cultural history & social life of an indigenous web-based environment

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Budka, P. (2019). MyKnet.org: The cultural history and social life of an indigenous web-based environment. Paper at “The Web That Was: Archives, Traces, Reflections” Conference (RESAW19), Amsterdam, Netherlands: University of Amsterdam, 21 June. Presentation (PDF)

Ethnographic Vignette

In the summer of 2006, during my first field trip to Northwestern Ontario, I visited the Frenchman’s Head community of Lac Seul First Nation which is one of the region’s few non-remote indigenous communities that can be reached by car and by boat. In the Band Office, the community’s largest administrative building, I was introduced to 16 year old Candice, a well known MyKnet.org user. She told me that she did set up her first MyKnet.org page a couple of years ago to stay in touch with friends and family and to let people know about her life. To communicate with friends and family members, she added a c-box to her homepage where people could leave messages.

As I found out later, almost everyone in the Band Office had a MyKnet.org homepage. Even though some didn’t know how to work with their websites. They needed the help of young, web-savvy colleagues, friends and family members. Candice introduced me to an older lady who told me that she had to register for a new MyKnet.org page only two weeks ago because her original page was registered under her now divorced husband’s name. And since she didn’t want to be constantly reminded of this, she needed a new homepage. KO-KNET, the First Nations internet organization that has been managing the MyKnet.org homepage service, only approves registrations with real, locally known, First Nation names that are then displayed in the URL of the page.

Candice helped her setting up the page, finding and applying the right layout and updating the content. As she told me later, she was regularly reminding other employees at the office to keep their respective homepages up to date. She also told me that she has started to use other, commercial website providers, such as Piczo (2002-2012). They were easier to use than MyKnet.org and provided more web space and technical features and possibilities.

Seminar: Media Activism

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For the MA Program “Visual and Media Anthropology” at the Free University Berlin, I am organizing a newly developed seminar on media activism.

Course Description

Activism with/in/through media can be broadly understood as forms of technology mediated activism that intend to spark, create and/or support social and political change. So change (and therefore continuity) is at the heart of media activism, as, for instance, Kidd and Rodriguez (2009: 1) note: “Grassroots media have grown from a set of small and isolated experiments to a complex of networks of participatory communications that are integral to local, national, and transnational projects of social change”. Since media activism is related to a diversity of phenomena – such as power relationships, conflict or globalization – as well as to questions about the conception of time and space, organizational structures, collective identities and different forms of sociality, it has become a broad, interdisciplinary research field. This course gives an overview of media activism from a predominantly anthropological and ethnographic perspective.

When engaging with media activism, a variety of contexts, theoretical conceptualizations and methodological approaches have to be considered. In this course, students learn about these aspects by reviewing relevant literature and by discussing different forms and examples of media activism and related questions, issues and problems:

  • How can we contextualize media activism and related practices in anthropology?
  • What historical developments can we identify? And what does this tell us about contemporary activist processes and practices?
  • What is the role of (sociocultural and technological) change, politics, power, globalization and (de)colonization in an anthropological engagement with media activism?
  • How can we ethnographically describe and analyze media activist processes and practices? What are the possibilities and challenges?
  • How can we understand media activism in digital times and in the age of social media? What has changed?
  • What does it mean to interpret and conceptualize media activism as (a form or a part of) cultural activism?

Reference

Kidd, D., & Rodriguez, C. (2009). Introduction. In C. Rodriguez, D. Kidd, & L. Stein (Eds.), Making our media: Global initiatives toward a democratic public sphere, Volume 1: Creating new communication spaces (pp. 1-22). New York: Hampton Press.

Selected Literature

Barassi, V. (2015). Activism on the web: Everyday struggles against digital capitalism. New York: Routledge.

Budka, P. (2019). Indigenous media technologies in “the digital age”: Cultural articulation, digital practices, and sociopolitical concepts. In S. S. Yu & M. D. Matsaganis (Eds.), Ethnic media in the digital age (pp. 162-172). New York: Routledge.

Couldry, N., & Curran, J. (2003). The paradox of media power. In N. Couldry & J. Curran (Eds.), Contesting media power: Alternative media in a networked world (pp. 3-15). Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Edelman, M. (2001). Social movements: Changing paradigms and forms of politics. Annual Review of Anthropology 30(1), 285-317.

Gerbaudo, P. (2012). Tweets and the streets: Social media and contemporary activism. London: Pluto Press.

Ginsburg, F., Abu-Lughod, L., & Larkin, B. (2002). Introduction. In F. Ginsburg, L. Abu-Lughod, & B. Larkin (Eds.), Media worlds: Anthropology on new terrain (pp. 1-36). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Juris, J. S., & Khasnabish, A. (2013). Introduction: Ethnography and activism within networked spaces of transnational encounter. In J. S. Juris & A. Khasnabish (Eds.), Insurgent encounters: Transnational activism, ethnography and the political (pp. 1-36). Durham: Duke University Press.

Mazzarella, W. (2004). Culture, globalization, mediation. Annual Review of Anthropology, 33, 345-367.

Melucci, A. (1996). Challenging codes: Collective action in the information age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Postill, J. (2012). Digital politics and political engagement. In H. A. Horst & D. Miller (Eds.), Digital anthropology (pp. 165-184). London: Berg.

Postill, J. (2018). The rise of nerd politics: Digital activism and political change. London: Pluto Press.

Wolfson, T., Treré, E., Gerbaudo, P., & Funke, P. (2017). From global justice to Occupy and Podemos: Mapping three stages of contemporary activism. Special Issue of tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique 15(2), 390-542. https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v15i2.897

Book: Ritualisierung – Mediatisierung – Performance

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Luger, M., Graf, F., & Budka, P. (Eds.). (2019). Ritualisierung – Mediatisierung – Performance. (Ritualization – Mediatization – Performance). Göttingen: V&R Unipress/Vienna University Press.

Abstract
Ritualisierung, Mediatisierung und Performance dienen als konzeptionelle Hilfsmittel, um Veränderungen und Kontinuitäten im Alltagsleben sozialer Akteurinnen und Akteure sowie in spezifischen Kontexten zu situieren. Dieser Band zeigt anhand konkreter ethnographischer Beispiele, dass rituelle, mediale und performative Prozesse und Praktiken idealerweise gemeinsam, in ihrer Relationalität zueinander betrachtet werden. Neben einem Schwerpunkt auf Transformation enthält der Band Beiträge zu ausgewählten Aspekten der Theorie, Methode und Geschichte der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie und zu einer Ethnographie und Kulturgeschichte der Karibik, die sozialen Status, religiöse Praxis und Erinnerung behandeln sowie Texte, die Verbindungen zwischen politischen, medialen und kulturellen Sphären diskutieren.

Ritualization, mediatization and performance are conceptual tools to situate sociocultural change and continuity in everyday life and in specific contexts. By building on ethnographic case studies, this volume demonstrates that ritual, media and performative processes and practices are best explored in relation to each other. In addition to a general focus on transformation, this book includes contributions on selected aspects of the theory, methodology and history of social and cultural anthropology. Chapters about the history and ethnography of the Caribbean that discuss social status, religious practices and cultural remembrance, as well as texts that explore the connections between political, media and cultural spheres complement the volume.

Inhaltsverzeichnis
Martin Luger / Philipp Budka / Franz Graf
Kultur- und sozialanthropologische Perspektiven auf Ritualisierung, Mediatisierung und Performance. Eine Einleitung
Marion Linska
Selbstfürsorge im Feld. Überlegungen aus existenzanalytischer Perspektive
Yvonne Schaffler / Bernd Brabec de Mori
»Cuando el misterio insiste« – »Wenn sich der Geist Gehör verschafft«. Die Kunst der Überzeugung im dominikanischen Vodou
Stephanie Schmiderer
Präsenz der Gottheiten. Zum Verständnis transformativer Performance im haitianischen Vodou und seiner Diaspora
Elke Mader
Rund um die Palme. Rituelle Prozesse, indigene Politik und Medien in Ecuador
Birgit Bräuchler
Praxeologische Überlegungen zur Mediatisierungsdebatte. Eine ethnologische Perspektive
Philipp Budka
Von der Cyberanthropologie zur Digitalen Anthropologie. Über die Rolle der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie im Verstehen soziotechnischer Lebenswelten
Manfred Kremser
»Shango is a Powerful Fellow!«. Repräsentation spiritueller Macht in afrokaribischen Kulturen
Adelheid Pichler
Artefakte und Erinnerung. Ein Beitrag zur Interpretation materieller Kultur in den afrokubanischen Religionen
Werner Zips
»She’s Royal« – »Queenmothers« in Ghana. Ein afrikanisches Rollenmodell für Jamaika
Manfred Kremser / Franz Graf / Gertraud Seiser
»Ein Leben scannen«. Fragmentarische Retrospektive von und auf Manfred Kremser

Book Chapter: Indigenous Media Technologies in “The Digital Age”

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Budka, P. (2019). Indigenous media technologies in “the digital age”: Cultural articulation, digital practices, and sociopolitical concepts. In S. S. Yu & M. D. Matsaganis (Eds.), Ethnic media in the digital age (pp. 162-172). New York: Routledge.

Introduction
Indigenous engagements with digital media technologies have been analyzed from different angles and by discussing a variety of issues, from technology access and literacy, to language, culture, and politics (e.g., Dyson, Grant, & Hendriks, 2016; Dyson, Hendriks, & Grant, 2007; Landzelius, 2006a). By drawing on a literature review and on an ethnographic case study, I am providing an anthropological perspective on the relationship between indigenous people and digital media technologies that focuses on digital practices related to the mediation of culture and the formation of (cultural) identity. Within this mediation process, cultural elements of the dominant, non-indigenous societies are recombined with elements from indigenous cultures. “Indigenized” media technologies promote thus an open and dynamic understanding of culture in “the digital age.” But when it comes to characterizing and understanding non-Western media phenomena and processes, terms such as “the digital age” or “the network society” have their conceptual weaknesses. These concepts are inherently ethnocentric, that is, Euro-American centered, implying an evolutionary world view that tends to ignore culturally different ascriptions of meaning to digital realities. I am following here Ginsburg (2008), who states that these concepts are rather reinforcing the imaginary of “the other,” existing in “a time not contemporary with our own” (p. 291). Thus, this chapter presents an anthropologically informed approach to the relationship between media technologies, culture, and politics that advocates the significance of non-Western perspectives and realities in conceptualizing and understanding the diversity of digital life.

Seminar: Digital & Visual Technologies as Material Culture

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In the summer term 2019, I am giving a seminar on digital and visual technologies as material culture at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology (MA & CREOLE study programme) of the University of Vienna. Find more information online.

This course gives an overview about material culture as a conceptual and practical approach to understand digital and visual technologies. In doing so, it focuses on digital technologies, their visual aspects and how they are integrated and utilized in everyday life.

Mobile networked digital media technologies, such as smart phones, as well as social media platforms and services, such as Facebook or Instagram, have become important (visual) communication and (re)presentation tools. For social and cultural anthropology it is of particular interest how these digital devices and technologies are integrated and embedded into everyday life, by considering changing sociocultural, political and economic contexts. This course focuses in particular on the material aspects of digital and visual technologies and how they are utilized on a day-to-day basis. Questions about the relevance of a material culture approach for (the understanding of) technology appropriation on a theoretical and practical level as well as questions about (culturally) different usage practices are discussed. How does the understanding and conceptualisation of digital and visual technology as material culture contribute to the exploration and analyses of contemporary and emerging sociocultural practices and processes in increasingly digital societies?

By working on different case studies, students get a comparative overview about material culture in the context of digital and visual technologies. Students conduct small empirical research projects within teams.

Lecture: Ritual & Religion in Social and Cultural Anthropology

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Together with Martin Luger, I am organizing a lecture on ritual and religion in social and cultural anthropology at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna (in German). Find more information online.

Die Lehrveranstaltung gibt einen Überblick über zentrale Konzepte der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie zu rituellen und religiösen Praktiken, Prozessen und Phänomenbereichen. Ausgehend von klassischen Werken unterschiedlicher Denktraditionen werden den Studierenden Einblicke in die Entstehung rezenter Sichtweisen und Debatten vermittelt. Mit Hilfe ethnographischer Fallbeispiele erlangen sie Kompetenzen im Erfassen unterschiedlicher Wechselwirkungen der zentralen Themenbereiche.

Die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie befasst sich mit unterschiedlichen Glaubensvorstellungen, spirituellen Praktiken und Ritualen sowie deren soziokultureller und alltäglicher Einbettung. Religion und Ritual sind eng mit anderen Bereichen des menschlichen Lebens verflochten, etwa mit sozialen Beziehungen, Wertvorstellungen, Moral, Ethik, Vorstellungen von Gesundheit und Krankheit, politischen Organisationsformen, Ökonomie und Ökologie.
Religionen zeichnen sich beispielsweise durch eine ausgeprägte performative Ritual-Praxis aus. Das rituelle Geschehen als Feld des sozialen Dramas, der Initiation und Transformation sowie dessen Mittlerfunktionen zwischen Ordnung und Chaos, Communitas und Rebellion werden thematisiert. Ebenso wird anhand des Begriffs der Performativität der Frage nachgegangen, ob der Körper durch das Ritual geht, oder das Ritual durch den Körper.
Rituale stehen zudem in Zusammenhang mit bestimmten Wertvorstellungen und Normen sowie mit spezifischen Menschenbildern. Dabei haben Vorstellungen und Praktiken Auswirkungen auf die Subjektivität und Personalität von Praktizierenden. Dies hat sowohl ethnographische Erkundungen über jene Dinge gefördert, die im Leben von Menschen am wichtigsten scheinen, als auch Sensibilitäten dafür geschaffen, wie sich diese mit breiteren Prozessen und Kontexten überschneiden. Rezente Unsicherheiten betreffen beispielsweise die ökologische Zerstörung und ihre Ursachen, und destabilisieren Konzepte, Um- und Lebenswelten. Gleichzeitig entstehen neue religiöse Bewegungen mit dem Versprechen von ökologischem sowie sozialem Gleichgewicht (Stichwort: green religions, spiritual ecology).

Die Vorlesung spannt einen Bogen von evolutionistischen Ansätzen, über struktural-funktionale, bis hin zu post-strukturalen Ansätzen und den Ontologie-Debatten des 21.Jh. Die Inhalte werden anhand zentraler Texte und ethnographischer Fallbeispiele erläutert und ermöglichen die Diskussion eines breiten Spektrums kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Forschungszugänge. Die Lernplattform der Universität Wien wird genutzt, um Lernmaterialien zur Verfügung zu stellen sowie den inhaltlichen Austausch und die Kommunikation zwischen den Studierenden zu fördern. Zusätzlich sieht die Lehrveranstaltung eine aktive Beteiligung der Studierenden mittels Diskussionsrunden vor.

Paper: The anthropology of digital visuality

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Budka, P. (2018). The anthropology of digital visuality: Notes on comparison, context and relationality. Paper at Vienna Anthropology Days 2018 (VANDA2018), Vienna, Austria: University of Vienna, 20 September.

Sociocultural anthropology provides theoretical approaches and concepts to comparatively study local life-worlds, to contextualize cultural meaning, and to (re)consider human/non-human and socio-technical relations that have been emerging with digital media technologies (e.g. Horst & Miller 2012, Moore 2012, Whitehead & Wesch 2012). Ethnography and ethnographic fieldwork, as methodological tools, allow for investigating digital practices and processes by considering the above aspects (Pink et al. 2016). For anthropology it is of particular interest how people engage on a day-to-day basis with digital media and technologies, internet-based devices and services, mobile computing as well as software applications and digital platforms.

In this paper, I discuss, from an anthropological perspective and through brief ethnographic examples, digital visuality as a contemporary phenomenon that constitutes emerging patterns of visual communication and culture. In addition, I am briefly discussing digital visuality as a concept to approach and investigate the visual in digital times.

Digital media technologies and mobile networked devices, such as smart phones, have become ubiquitous means of visual production, communication and representation (e.g. Gómez Cruz et al. 2017). Moreover, digital platforms and social media services, such as YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, are utilized to share and consume visual artefacts. Constituting and changing thus communicative practices and visual culture alike. Consequently, these transformation processes provide new challenges and possibilities for the anthropological and ethnographic study of the visual (e.g. Pink 2011).
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Panel: “Digital Visuality” @ VANDA 2018

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PANEL “DIGITAL VISUALITY” @ Vienna Anthropology Days (VANDA) 2018 (September 19-22, 2018)

Convenors:
Elke Mader & Philipp Budka

Thursday, 20 September
11:00-17:00
Room 4 (New Institute Building (NIG) of the University of Vienna, Universitätsstraße 7)

Paper Presentations:
(Timetable)

Philipp Budka: The Anthropology of Digital Visuality: Notes on Comparison, Context and Relationality

Harjant Gill: Introduction to Multimodal Anthropologies

Petr Nuska: “Changing the Equipment or Changing the Perspective?” – Exploring Film and Video Approach in Visual Ethnography

Katja Müller: Contemporary Photography in India – Post-media Aesthetics, Traditional Art and Economic Professionalism

Uschi Klein: What Does a Photograph Really Tell Us? The Photography of Young Male Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Fatma Sagir: “We Can See Your Hair, Dina!” – Muslim Female Embodiments of Digital Visibilities

Nadia Molek: Argentinian Slovenians Online: Facebook Groups of Slovenian Descendants in Argentina as Mediators of Identity Performances and Rituals
(via Skype)

Daria Radchenko: Digital Anthropology and/or Digital Traces: Seeing the City Through the Eyes of Locals

Elke Mader: Mediating the Krampus: Digital Visuality, Ritual and Cultural Performance

VANDA 2018 Full Program

Review: Digital environments: Ethnographic perspectives across global online and offline spaces

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Budka, P. (2018). [Review of the book Digital environments: Ethnographic perspectives across global online and offline spaces, by U. U. Frömming, S. Köhn, S. Fox & M. Terry]. Anthropos, 113(1), 303-304.

The edited volume “Digital Environments: Ethnographic Perspectives Across Global Online and Offline Spaces” is a collection of 16 essays by students and graduates of the M.A. Programme in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin. This is the first special feature of the book. The second is the anthropological and ethnographic perspective from which the individual texts discuss a diversity of digital technologies, platforms, services as well as related sociocultural phenomena, events and practices. As Sarah Pink in the book’s foreword notes, these texts and the underlying projects “focus on central issues of the discipline … through the prism of visual and media anthropology” (p. 10). Being not part of the anthropological mainstream, this visual and media anthropology perspective holds the potential of providing exiting new insights in digital culture and our increasingly digitalised societies. The digital ethnography perspective, on the other hand, focuses on “the ways in which technologies have become inseparable from other materialities and human activities” including ethnographic fieldwork, as Urte Undine Frömming, Steffen Köhn, Samantha Fox and Mike Terry note in the introduction chapter (p. 15).
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Paper: Indigenous articulations in the digital age

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Budka, P. (2018). Indigenous articulations in the digital age: Reflections on historical developments, activist engagements and mundane practices. Paper at International Communication Association 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practice”, Prague, Czech Republic: Hilton, 24 May. Full Paper (PDF)

The relationship between indigenous people and digital media technologies is ambivalent and enthusiastic at the same time; reflecting individual experiences and expectations as well as collective sociocultural contexts and developments. Considering indigenous people’s colonial history and colonization’s continuing effects on indigenous communities, it is not surprising that many indigenous representatives are particularly concerned about issues of power, control, and ownership related to digital technologies and new ways of knowledge production, circulation, and representation (e.g., Ginsburg, 2008).

There is a strong sense of sociopolitical activism and agency in indigenous people’s collective engagements with digital media technologies which are closely connected to the (re)construction and mediation of cultural identity, cultural articulation, social intervention, and self-determination. At the same time, indigenous people’s digital practices are related to mundane necessities of everyday communication, social networking, family bonding, or self-expression. To understand indigenous articulations in the digital age, the collective and the individual dimension need to be considered.

Idle No More Twitter Account
Screenshot: Idle No More Twitter Account, 2018

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Call for Papers: “Digital Visuality” – Vienna Anthropology Days (VANDA 2018)

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VIENNA ANTHROPOLOGY DAYS (VANDA 2018)
September 19-22, 2018

Call for Papers
Session “Digital Visuality”

Prof. Dr. Elke Mader and Dr. Philipp Budka
(Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna)

Presentations in English or German, max. 15 min.
Abstract of 350 words: https://vanda.univie.ac.at/call-for-papers/
Deadline: 1 June 2018
Venue: New Institute Building (NIG) of the University of Vienna
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria

Abstract

Visual communication and visual culture have been a research focus in social and cultural anthropology for quite some time (e.g. Banks & Ruby, 2011). With the advent of digital media and technologies, internet-based devices and services, mobile computing as well as software applications and digital platforms new opportunities and challenges have come to the forefront in anthropological research, education and communication of visuality (e.g. Pink, 2011). Digital media technologies have become ubiquitous means of visual communication, interaction and representation. For anthropology and its subdisciplines, such as digital, media and visual anthropology, it is of particular interest how people engage with digital media and technologies, how “the digital“ is embedded in everyday life and how it relates to different social practices and cultural processes in human societies. By considering changing sociocultural, political and economic contexts and through ethnographic fieldwork, a continuously growing number of anthropological projects is aiming for a better understanding of contemporary digital phenomena (e.g. Horst & Miller, 2012).
This session contributes to these endeavours by inviting papers that focus on the visuality and visual aspects of digital life and culture. Papers could present ethnographic studies and discuss some of the following questions:

  • What does “the digital” mean for visual anthropology and/or the (interdisciplinary) relationship between anthropological subdisciplines and other visual research fields?
  • How does visual anthropology provide new perspectives on digital visuality?
  • How do specific conceptual approaches contribute to the analysis and understanding of digital visuality (e.g. ritualization, performativity, representation, material culture, practice theory)?
  • What theoretical concepts and analytical categories of sociality can be used to study (differences of) visual culture?
  • How does digital visuality co-constitute and mediate cultural performances and rituals?
  • How do digital platforms and social media services, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat, and related practices constitute and change (visual) communication?
  • How does digital visuality impact and redefine ethnographic research (e.g. research techniques, tools, ethics)?
  • What are possible futures for digital visual anthropology and ethnography?

For questions concerning this session, please contact philipp.budka@univie.ac.at
For questions concerning registration, abstract submission and hotel reservation, please contact congress@univie.ac.at

Conference: ICA 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practices”

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International Communication Association (ICA) 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practices”
May 24, 2018, Prague, Czech Republic

Conference Program
Book of Abstracts (PDF)

At this interdisciplinary conference, several papers in the field of media & digital anthropology are presented by researcher who are actively involved in the European Association of Social Anthropologists Media Anthropology Network:

  • Sahana Udupa, U of Munich, Germany: “Enterprise as practice: Fun and aggression in online political discourse”
  • Philipp Budka, U of Vienna, Austria: “Indigenous Articulations in the Digital Age: Reflections on Historical Developments, Activist Engagements and Mundane Practices”
  • Nina Grønlykke Mollerup & Mette Mortensen, U of Copenhagen, Denmark: “The Contested Visibility of War: Actors on the Ground Taking and Distributing Images from the War in Syria”

Paper: Internet for remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario

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Budka, P. (2017). Internet for remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario. Paper at “3rd CoRe Workshop – Mobility and Remoteness: What is the Connection?“, Vienna, Austria: University of Vienna, 26-27 May. Full Paper (PDF)

Introduction

In 1994, the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Kuhkenah Network (KO-KNET) began to develop and provide internet infrastructures and services for the remote First Nation communities in Northwestern Ontario, Canada. Public and private institutions have been reluctant to invest in this “high cost serving area” with no year-round road access, where residents have to travel by plane for medical treatment or to meet with relatives and where people have to move to southern towns to continue their high school education or to find work. In close cooperation with the region’s First Nation communities, KO-KNET has built local broadband internet infrastructures to provide services such as cell phone communication, e-health, online learning, videoconferencing, and personal website hosting. Overall aim of this initiative has been to give people a choice to stay in their remote home communities.

For my first field trip to Northwestern Ontario in 2006, I decided not to fly but to take the train from Toronto to Sioux Lookout, Northwestern Ontario’s transportation hub. This ride with “The Canadian”, which connects Toronto and Vancouver, took about 26 hours and demonstrated very vividly the vastness of Ontario. I could not believe that I had spent more than an entire day on a train without even leaving the province. Finally, I arrived at Sioux Lookout, where I would be working with KO-KNET, one of the world’s leading indigenous internet organizations.

After my first day at the office, KO-KNET’s coordinator wanted to show me something. We jumped in his car and drove to the outskirts of the town where he stopped in front of a big satellite dish. Only through this dish, he explained, the remote First Nation communities in the North can be connected to the internet. I was pretty impressed, but had no idea how this should really work.

While the satellite dish was physically visible to me, the underlying infrastructure of interconnected digital information and communication systems was not. In the weeks and months to follow, I learned about the technical aspects of internet networks and broadband connectivity, about hubs, switches, and cables, about towers, points of presence, and loops. And I found out that internet via satellite might look impressive, but is actually the last resort and a very expensive way to establish and maintain internet connectivity for remote and isolated communities.

KO-KNET satellite dish, Sioux Lookout
KO-KNET satellite dish, Sioux Lookout

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Vortrag: Medien und Literalität in der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie

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Budka, P. 2017. Medien und Literalität in der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie: (Digitale) Medienpraktiken aus kulturvergleichender Perspektive. Vortrag im Workshop “Dark Side of Literacy” am Bundesinstitut für Erwachsenenbildung, Strobl, Salzburg, 20. April 2017. (PDF)

Inhalt:
Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie (KSA)
Medien in der KSA
Literalität in der KSA
„Moderne Oralität“
Digitale & Soziale Medien in der KSA

Paper: Reflections on media anthropology’s legacies and concerns

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Budka, P. 2016. Reflections on media anthropology’s legacies and concerns (in digital times). Paper at “14th EASA Biennial Conference”, Milan: University of Milano-Bicocca, 20-23 July 2016. Full Paper (PDF)

Why anthropology matters – an EASA statement as starting point

I recently came across a statement compiled by the Executive Committee of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) entitled “Why anthropology matters” (Executive Committee of the European Association of Social Anthropologists 2015). In this text, several distinct features or key terms of anthropology as academic discipline are highlighted.
(1) Cultural relativism as “methodological tool for studying local life-worlds on their own terms”;
(2) Ethnography as important tool in anthropological research and as main form of data collection which enables anthropologists to “discover aspects of local worlds that are inaccessible to researchers who use other methods”;
(3) Comparison as method to look for sociocultural similarities and differences to develop “general insights into the nature of society and human existence”;
(4) And finally, (social) context, relationships and connections as anthropology’s main concerns.

With these “tools”, the statement’s authors argue, anthropologists are well equipped to generate knowledge that “can help to make sense of the contemporary world” (Executive Committee of the European Association of Social Anthropologists 2015).

Even though one doesn’t have to agree on all of that in detail, the text very briefly discusses features or markers of the discipline of anthropology and consequently its subfields, such as media anthropology. I don’t want to discuss “why media anthropology matters” – I think this question has been, for instance, answered in the course of this panel – but rather build on selected aspects of the statement which I find particularly relevant for looking into media anthropology’s relevance, legacies and concerns (also in times of increasing digitalisation). I can, of course, only scratch on the surface here, leaving much for further debates and discussions.

Continue reading Paper: Reflections on media anthropology’s legacies and concerns