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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.

Digitale Anthropologie

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Dieser Text wurde 2017 für den Blog der Universität Wien geschrieben; für eine überarbeitete und erweiterte Version des Textes siehe
Budka, P. 2019. Von der Cyber Anthropologie zur Digitalen Anthropologie. Über die Rolle der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie im Verstehen soziotechnischer Lebenswelten. In: Luger, M., Graf, F. & Budka, P. (Hg.), Ritualisierung – Mediatisierung – Performance. Göttingen: V&R Unipress/Vienna University Press, 163-188.


Die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie ist längst nicht mehr nur die Wissenschaft von „einfachen“, außereuropäischen Gesellschaften und Kulturen. Seit Jahrzehnten forscht die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie kulturvergleichend zu komplexen Prozessen, Entwicklungen und Veränderungen in allen menschlichen Gesellschaften und Kulturen. Da war es nur eine Frage der Zeit bis die ersten Kultur- und SozialanthropologInnen begannen sich auch mit digitalen Informations- und Kommunikationstechnologien (IKT), wie dem Internet, Smartphones oder Sozialen Medien, auseinander zu setzen. Die Wiener Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie war dabei – zumindest im deutschen Sprachraum – unter den ersten, die sich mit den Verbindungen und Zusammenhängen zwischen digitalen Medientechnologien und soziokulturellen Phänomenbereichen aus spezifisch anthropologischer/ethnologischer Perspektive befassten.

In diesem Blogbeitrag gehe ich der Frage nach, welche Rolle die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie in der Untersuchung und in weiterer Folge im Verstehen digitaler Medientechnologien spielt. Andere Aspekte der Digitalisierung dieser Disziplin – wie z.B. computerunterstützte Forschungsprojekte und -methoden, neue Publikationsmöglichkeiten durch Open Access, neue Wege der Präsentation und Kommunikation von Forschung mittels Blogs oder Sozialer Medien sowie neue Methoden und Strategien für Lernen und Lehre – kann ich hier nicht näher diskutieren.

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E-Seminar: The digital turn: New directions in media anthropology

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Udupa, S., Costa, E., & Budka, P. (2018) The digital turn: New directions in media anthropology.
Discussion Paper for the Follow-Up E-Seminar on the EASA Media Anthropology Network Panel “The Digital Turn” at the 15th European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Biennial Conference, Stockholm, Sweden, 14-17 August 2018.

63rd EASA Media Anthropology Network E-Seminar: 16-30 October 2018, via the network’s Mailing List.

With the advent of digital media 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 the anthropological study of media. For media anthropology and related fields, such as digital and visual anthropology, it is of particular interest how people engage with digital media and technologies; how digital devices and tools are integrated and embedded in everyday life; and how they are entangled with different social practices and cultural processes. The digital turn in media anthropology signals the growing importance of digital media technologies in contemporary sociocultural, political and economic processes. This panel suggested that the digital turn could be seen a paradigm shift in the anthropological study of media, and foregrounded three important streams of exploration that might indicate new directions in the anthropology of media.

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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”

CfP: The Digital Turn: New Directions in Media Anthropology

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The EASA Media Anthropology Network is organising a network panel at the 15th EASA Biennial Conference “Staying, Moving, Settling” in Stockholm, 14-17 August, 2018.
Please find the Call for Papers below.
Deadline: 9 April 2018.

Convenors

Philipp Budka (University of Vienna)
Elisabetta Costa (University of Groningen)
Sahana Udupa (Ludwig Maximilian University)

Abstract

The digital turn in media anthropology signals the growing importance of digital media technologies in contemporary sociocultural, political and economic processes. This panel recognizes the digital turn as a paradigm shift in the anthropological study of media, and aims to foreground three important streams of exploration that constitute new directions in the anthropology of media.

The rise of online vitriol against vulnerable communities has punctured euphoric pronouncements about digital media as a radical enabler of grassroots democracy. A significant aspect of digital extreme speech is gender based violence in digital environments. Beyond the specific instances of online violence, gendering media anthropology remains a crucial and broader area of intervention. Similarly, different forms of digital visualities have accentuated the materialities that constitute everyday digital experiences and their varied cultural ramifications. Charting the three directions as gendering digital media, materialities of digital visualities and online extreme speech, this panel aims to push further the ethnographic knowledge into the role that digital media play in people’s everyday life and broader sociopolitical transformations.

We invite ethnographic and/or theoretical papers that focus either on
(1) the gendered dimension of digital practices and introduce innovative theoretical insights into the relationship between gender and the digital;
(2) extreme speech and online vitriol aimed at refugees, migrants, sexual minorities and other vulnerable communities, but online extreme speech as also a means for political contestation;
(3) material dimensions of digital visualities as constituting features of new ways of communication and interaction.

https://nomadit.co.uk/easa/easa2018/conferencesuite.php/panels/6386
https://www.easaonline.org/conferences/easa2018/cfp

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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Seminar: Indigenous Media 2017

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Seminar “Indigenous Media” for the MA Program in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin.

Course Description

“Indigenous media matters because indigenous people do.”
(Wortham 2013: 218)

Indigenous media can be broadly defined as media and forms of media expression conceptualized and produced by indigenous people. From an anthropological perspective, indigenous media can be understood as cultural product and process that are both closely connected to the construction, expression and transmission of identity. Reflecting thus indigenous people’s history as well as contemporary sociocultural and political situations. By (strategically) inserting their own narratives in the dominant media landscape – may this be accomplished through films, TV and radio programs, or websites – indigenous people also utilize media technologies as means for social change and political transformation. Indigenous media-making practices have thus become part of the “ongoing struggles for Indigenous recognition and self-determination” and can therefore be understood as a form of cultural activism (e.g., Ginsburg 2000: 30).

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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

Free video analysis tools

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Free video (& audio) analysis and transcription tools, partly collected via the VISCOM list serv.

CfP: Anthropologies of media and mobility

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Anthropologies of Media and Mobility: Theorizing movement and circulations across entangled fields

An International Workshop organized by the Anthropology and Mobility Network and the Media Anthropology Network (EASA) in collaboration with Locating Media (University Siegen) and a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School (University of Cologne)

University of Cologne, Germany
14-16 September 2017

This international workshop seeks to theorize the relationship between media and mobility. While mobility has been defined as movement ascribed with meaning, one might in similar fashion define media as meaning ascribed with movement. Interrogating the linkages between media and mobility can enable more thorough understandings of how various power structures produce, transform and reproduce social, material and discursive orders. People, devices, and data are increasingly on the move – movements that may transgress borders and boundaries, but which are also integral to the constitution and regulation of the barriers themselves. The movement of people triggers new imaginaries of territories and social spaces, which circulate through media, questioning and forging new ties between people, signs and things. More broadly, the mobilisation of tangible and intangible things demands a reconceptualization of what a ‘thing’ is, what constitutes the human, and what defines human collectivity. In such circumstances, reimagining circulations through the lens of media and mobility becomes an important step towards understanding current socio-cultural and political changes. While this lens has been applied broadly within anthropological research, its theoretical consequences merit further investigation and discussion. 

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Digital ethnography

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Digital ethnography – a selection of resources

e-Seminars of the EASA Media Anthropology Network:

Literature:

Ethnography in virtual worlds:

  • Boellstorff, et al. (2012). Ethnography and virtual worlds: A handbook of method. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Ethnography and digital and social media:

  • Hjorth, L., et al. (Eds.). (2017). The Routledge Companion to digital ethnography, New York: Routledge. Forthcoming.
  • Miller, D., et al. (2016). How the world changed social media. London: UCL Press. http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/1474805/1/How-the-World-Changed-Social-Media.pdf
  • Pink, S., et al. (2016). Digital ethnography: Principles and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  • Postill, J., & Pink, S. (2012). Social media ethnography: The digital researcher in a messy web. Media International Australia, 145(1), 123-134. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1329878X1214500114
  • Sanjek, R., & Tratner, S. W. (Eds.). (2016). eFieldnotes: The makings of anthropology in the digital world. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Blog posts:

Research centres: