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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. The university’s online learning management system is used to provide resources and content as well as to encourage student’s exchange and communication beyond the classroom.

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.

Seminar: Indigenous Media 2018

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For the 4th time I am organizing the seminar “Indigenous Media” for the MA Program Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin.

In this course, students are introduced to indigenous media technologies by actively discussing in 10 units/sessions different questions, issues and problems:

  • How do indigenous people produce, distribute and utilize audiovisual media?
  • How has ethnographic and anthropological film making changed through indigenous media?
  • What role do politics, power, globalization and (post-)colonialism play in the production, distribution and consumption of indigenous media?
  • How do indigenous people utilize media to construct and negotiate their individual and collective identities?
  • How are indigenous cultures and languages represented through media?
  • How do indigenous people appropriate and (co-)develop digital media technologies?

We start our seminar with the contextualization of indigenous media within an anthropology of media. In the second unit students are introduced to selected debates about the meaning and relevance of (mass) media for indigenous people and their sociocultural life worlds. We then discuss ethnographic film making and visual anthropology in the context of indigenous people’s changing role from “objects” for ethnographic films to partners in (collaborative) media projects. The fourth unit deals with (post-)colonialism and decolonization and their implications for indigenous media. This discussion leads us to the self-controlled production of indigenous media and its relevance for issues such as (self-)representation, appropriation, control and empowerment. Globalization, modernity and related questions of collective indigenous identity construction are the topics of the sixth unit. The following three sessions are closely connected, discussing aspects of identity, community, networking, ownership, activism, empowerment, aesthetics, poetics and popular culture in relation to indigenous media. In the final unit, students learn about the significance of digital technologies and infrastructures for indigenous people.

Through several case studies, students are introduced to the similarities and differences of indigenous media projects throughout the world. These case studies take us to different regions, countries and continents: from Nunavut, Canada and the United States to the Caribbean, Guatemala, Mexico and Brazil, to Nigeria, Myanmar, Australia and Finland. The seminar’s assignments include the preparation of an essay at the end of the seminar and short weekly literature and film reviews/critiques as well as an active contribution to discussions during the online sessions, which are organized with the online conference tool Adobe Connect.

Article: Transforming learning infrastructures in the social sciences through flexible and interactive technology-enhanced learning

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Budka, P., & Schallert, C. 2009. Transforming learning infrastructures in the social sciences through flexible and interactive technology-enhanced learning. In: Learning Inquiry, 3(3), 131-142.

Abstract
The changing higher educational landscape in Europe creates new learning infrastructures and transforms existing ones. Students are thus provided with new possibilities and challenges. Through the case study of a newly developed common curriculum for the social sciences of a public university in Austria, this article discusses the interacting social agents, elements, and tools of a flexible and interactive technology-enhanced learning model. In doing so, the transnational, national, and local infrastructural conditions and challenges are critically examined from a socio-technological perspective. Selected evaluation and survey results highlight students’ learning practices, usage behavior, and suggestions to improve their learning situation. The article concludes that student-centered learning models focusing on flexibility and interactivity can support the stable implementation of a common curriculum and its technology-enhanced learning infrastructure for the social sciences at public universities with high student numbers.

Keywords
Higher education – Learning – Infrastructure – Social sciences – Austria

Article: Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext

Article: Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext published on 2 Comments on Article: Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext

Budka, P., Trupp, C. 2009. Indigener Cyberaktivismus und transnationale Bewegungslandschaften im lateinamerikanischen Kontext (Cyberactivismo indígena y paisajes de movimientos transnacionales en el contexto latinoamericano / Indigenous cyberactivism and transnational movements in the Latin American context), in J. Kastner & T. Waibel (eds.) „… mit Hilfe der Zeichen | por medio de signos …“ Transnationalismus, soziale Bewegungen und kulturelle Praktiken in Lateinamerika. Münster: LIT-Verlag, pp. 207-226.

Abstract

Prozesse der Globalisierung beeinflussen vor allem jene Menschen, die an den Rand der Gesellschaft gedrängt werden, wie zum Beispiel ein Großteil der rund 30 Millionen Indigenen Lateinamerikas. Ausgeschlossen von politischen, soziokulturellen und ökonomischen Diskursen, wie sie über die Massenmedien geführt werden, verwenden Indigene Bewegungen im zunehmenden Maße Internettechnologien, um sich zu vernetzen, zu (re)präsentieren, Identitäten zu (re)konstruieren und aktivistisch tätig zu sein. Aufgrund eingeschränkten Zugangs zu Internettechnologien sind sie oftmals auf Akteure angewiesen, die ihre Anliegen vertreten und sich mit ihnen solidarisieren. Wie indigene Bewegungen im lateinamerikanischen Kontext transnational distribuierte Internettechnologien nutzen, adaptieren und praktizieren, wird aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive anhand der Zapatisten in Mexiko und der Mapuche in Chile in diesem Beitrag diskutiert.

Los procesos de la globalización influyen sobre todo a aquellas personas que están en el márgen de la sociedad, como por ejemplo una mayoría de los indígenas de latinoamérica. Excluidos del discurso político, sociocultural y económico como lo llevan los medios de masas, los movimientos indígenas utilizan cada vez más la tecnología del internet para conectarse en redes, (re)presentarse, (re)construir identidades y practicar activismo. Debido al restringido acceso a tecnologías de internet muchas veces dependen de actores que representan sus intereses y se solidarizan con ellos. En este artículo se discute desde una perspectiva de la antropología cultural y social de cómo los movimientos indígenas en el contexto latinoamericano usan, adaptan y practican las tecnologías de internet distribuidos transnacionalmente tomando como ejemplos el EZLN en México y los Mapuche en Chile.

Text (PDF) (German)

Report: CRASSH Workshop “Subversion, Conversion, Development”

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Budka, P. 2008. Report on CRASSH Workshop “Subversion, Conversion, Development: Public Interests in Technologies”, Cambridge, 24-26 April.

From the workshop’s abstract:
As part of the “New forms of knowledge for the 21st Century” research agenda at Cambridge University, the workshop will explore why designers and developers of new technologies should be interested in producing objects that users can modify, redeploy or redevelop. This exploration demands an examination of presuppositions that underpin the knowledge practices associated with the various productions of information communication technologies (ICT). A central question is that of diversity: diversity of use, of purpose, and of value(s). Does diversity matter, in the production and use of ICT, and if so, why?

Text (PDF)

Links:
http://www.crassh.cam.ac.uk/events/71/
http://vectors.usc.edu/thoughtmesh/publish/12.php

Section/Workshop: Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Society

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The section “Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Society” of the KCTOS conference will take place at the 7th of December at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna.

More detailed information can be found in the workshop’s program:
fiser_budka_program.pdf

Workshop: Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Society

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KCTOS Conference: Knowledge, Creativity, and Transformation of Societies
Vienna, Austria, 6 to 9 December 2007

Conference Section/Workshop: Indigenous Peoples Knowledge Society: Transformations and Challenges / Indigene in der Wissensgesellschaft: Transformationen und Herausforderungen
http://www.inst.at/kctos/sektionen_a-f/fiser_budka.htm

Of the more than 300 Million Indigenous Peoples recognized by the United Nations, a growing minority is actively shaping indigenous visions of a knowledge-based society. These visions are not simply indigenous responses to global mainstream debates over post-industrial development or techno-scientific culture, etc. More importantly, they articulate the actual deployment of new media and information communications technologies (ICTs) by indigenous communities to forward their own policies and practices. They frame how indigenous communities are mobilizing over the internet and on the Web to communicate their lived experiences and extend their local networks to global audiences, including and especially, a global indigenous audience.

For academics in the field, online indigenous communities are opening up spaces of inquiry beyond the digital divide by actively co-creating virtual communities and transforming their cultural experience through ICTs (i.e., real life in cyberspace). Questions about resources, knowledge/power and access continue to be important, but they have become more complicated by issues of networking and social life, virtual reproduction, and information policy. These new social, political, and cultural forms of indigeneity will be discussed within this section.

Papers within this section address one or more themes reflected in the following research questions:

• How can/should social sciences describe and explain local indigenous knowledge production in a potentially global knowledge system? What are the socio-cultural and political inter-linkages between local and global?
• How do indigenous communities integrate new media practices and ICTs into processes of local media production and networking to participate in socio-cultural life, political movements, economic development, healthcare, education, and so forth?
• How might indigenous communities’ uses of new media and ICTs reflect challenges for diversity, conflict, global ethics, pluralism, gender, youth and heritage?
• What best practices have indigenous organizations developed around the inter-linkages of knowledge production, new media, ICTs, and local/global community networks (that could inform practitioners and scholars)?