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Digital visual anthropology

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This is a selection of digital visual anthropology resources which were collected via the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Visual Anthropology Network’s (VANEASA) mailing list.

Online resources & projects:

Literature:

  • Aston, J., Gaudenzi, S., & Rose, M. (Eds.). (2017). I-Docs: The evolving practices of interactive documentary. New York: Wallflower Press. Forthcoming.
  • Menzies, C. R. (2015). In our grandmothers’ garden: An indigenous approach to collaborative film. In A. Gubrium, A., K. Harper, & M. Ortanzez (Eds.), Participatory visual and digital research in action. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.
  • Pink, S. (2011). Digital visual anthropology: Potentials and challenges. In M. Banks & J. Ruby (Eds.), Made to be seen: Perspectives on the history of visual anthropology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Walter, F. & Grasseni, C. (Eds.). (2014). Anthrovision. Special issue “Digital visual engagements”, available at https://anthrovision.revues.org/1077

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:

Lecture: Visuelle Anthropologie in Zeiten zunehmender Digitalisierung

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Vorlesung “Visuelle Anthropologie in Zeiten zunehmender Digitalisierung“,
Wintersemester 2016/17, am Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie der Universität Wien
Philipp Budka

Ziele

Die Lehrveranstaltung gibt einen Überblick zur Visuellen Anthropologie und diskutiert die Bedeutung sowie die Entwicklung dieser kultur- und sozialanthropologischen Subdisziplin in Zeiten zunehmender Digitalisierung. Studierende erhalten so einen Einblick in die historische, gegenwärtige und zukünftige Relevanz der Visuellen Anthropologie.

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Concept Map: Ethnographie des Cyberspace (nach Ackermann, 2000)

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Diese Concept Map visualisiert die wesentlichsten Punkte einer “Ethnographie des Cyberspace” nach Ackermann (2000).

“Für die Ethnologie sind die sozialen Phänomene des Cyberspace insofern von Interesse, als sie auf der theoretischen Ebene zu einer Auseinandersetzung mit traditionellen Konzepten von Sozialität … herausfordern und auf der empirischen Ebene die Flexibilität und Variabilität der Methode … einfordern” (S. 289).

A. Ackermann. 2000. Das virtuelle Universum der Identität. Überlegungen zu einer Ethnographie des Cyberspace. In S. M. Schomburg-Scherff & B. Heintze (Hg.) Die offenen Grenzen der Ethnologie. Schlaglichter auf ein sich wandelndes Fach. Frankfurt/Main: Lembeck. S. 276-290.

ethographie_cyberspace

Seminar: Indigenous Media 2016

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Again, I have the pleasure to teach the Seminar “Indigenous Media” for the MA Program in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin. Find below a brief description of the course.

In the seminar “Indigenous Media” students get an introduction to indigenous media technologies. In ten seminar units selected questions, issues, and problems are discussed: How do indigenous people produce, distribute, and utilize audiovisual media? How has ethnographic and anthropological film making changed? What role do politics, power, globalization, and (post-)colonialism play in the production and use 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? And how do indigenous people appropriate and (co-)develop digital technologies in times of increasing globalization?

We start with the contextualization of indigenous media within the framework of 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 culture. 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 media projects. The fourth unit deals with the phenomena of (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 – “indigeneity” – are the topics of the next unit. The following three sessions are closely connected and discuss 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 importance of digital technologies and infrastructures for indigenous people, their activist projects, and networking initiatives.

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 US to the Caribbean, Guatemala, Mexico, and Brazil, to Nigeria, Myanmar, Australia and Finland. The seminar’s assignments include the reading of selected articles, the watching of films and videos, and the discussion of these in small essays. The online conference tool Adobe Connect is used to present and discuss aspects of texts, films, and essays.

Visual/Media/Digital Anthropology at 14th EASA Conference

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Here is a list of panels at the 14th European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Biennial Conference entitled “Anthropological legacies and human futures” (Milan, 20-23 July 2016, #EASA2016) which deal with visual and digital media technologies and related issues. If you are interested to participate to one of those panels, please keep in mind that the deadline for paper abstract submissions is 15 February and that you have to be member of EASA.

Panels are listed in order of appearance on the conference website. If I missed relevant panels, please let me know.

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Seminar: Media & visual technologies as material culture – students’ projects

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The following joint student projects are conducted in the seminar “Media and visual technologies as material culture” at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna:

  • Team A: Non-Use of Smartphones
    -> Which impact does the non-use of smartphones have for the private and working life? Why do people decide against using smartphones?
  • Team B: Meaning of Cellphones for Refugees
    -> What is the meaning of cellphones for refugees in Austria?
  • Team C: Crowd-sourcing & Labor
    -> How are subjective meanings of “team work” shaped by the inter-dependencies between freelancers and the website Capacitor?
  • Team D: Sharing of Visual Media, Art & Cultural Identity
    -> In what aspects have the Japanese art forms of dance and painting changed through the sharing of visual media/material?
  • Team E: Access to Internet & Power Relations within the Family Home
    -> What are the effects of internet usage on children and young adults in respect to power relations in the family home?
  • Team F: Conversion/Discussion about Digital Content
    -> What is the difference between usage of commentary sections of Serbian and German online newspapers?
  • Team G: Self-Identification through Visual Communication & Social Media
    -> How do people identify/define themselves through visual communication via social media (websites (blogs), video blogs and Instagram)?
  • Team H: Ayahuasceros – Making of Ritual Community on Facebook
    -> What is the relevance of Facebook in the community building process of Austrian Ayahuasca ceremonies?
  • Team I: Bicycle Movement & Digital Media in Vienna
    -> How are digital media technologies utilized in relation to the social network BikeKitchen?

Seminar: Media & visual technologies as material culture – students’ research ideas

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Clustering of individual ideas to create joint research projects in the seminar “Media and Visual Technologies as Material Culture” at the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology of the University of Vienna.

clustering_ideas

Seminar: Media & visual technologies as material culture – course description

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Seminar “Media and visual technologies as material culture” by Philipp Budka
MA Program CREOLE & MA Program Social & Cultural Anthropology
University of Vienna

Seminar Description

This course gives an overview about material culture as conceptual approach to understand media and visual technologies. It focuses on digital media technologies, their visual aspects and how they are integrated and practiced in everyday life.

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Article: From marginalization to self-determined participation

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Budka, P. 2015. From marginalization to self-determined participation: Indigenous digital infrastructures and technology appropriation in Northwestern Ontario’s remote communities. Journal des Anthropologues – Special Issue “Margins and Digital Technologies”. No. 142-143: 127-153.

Abstract

This article discusses, from an anthropological perspective, the utilization of digital infrastructures and technologies in the geographical and sociocultural contexts of indigenous Northwestern Ontario, Canada. By introducing the case of the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Kuh-ke-nah Network (KO-KNET) it analyses first how digital infrastructures not only connect First Nations people and communities but also enable relationships between local communities and non-indigenous institutions. Second, and by drawing on KO-KNET’s homepage service MyKnet.org, it exemplifies how people appropriate digital technologies for their specific needs in a remote and isolated area. KO-KNET and its services facilitate First Nations’ self-determined participation to regional, national, and even global ICT connectivity processes, contributing thus to the “digital demarginalization” of Northwestern Ontario’s remote communities.

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Vortrag: Indigene Modernität durch digitale Medientechnologien?

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Budka, P. 2015. Indigene Modernität durch digitale Medientechnologien? Infrastrukturentwicklung, Technologieaneignung und soziokulturelle Praktiken im Nordwestlichen Ontario, Kanada. Vortrag im Colloquium Americanum des Instituts für Ethnologie der Goethe-Universität Frankfurt, 25. Juni 2015. (PDF)

Inhalt:
Einleitung
„Modernität“ & Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie/Ethnologie
„Indigenisierte Modernität“
Indigene & Digitale Medientechnologien
Internetinfrastruktur im Nordwestlichen Ontario, Kanada
Soziale (sozial-digitale) Praktiken
„Indigene Modernität“ durch digitale Medientechnologien?

Review: Cyberidentities at war: The Moluccan conflict on the Internet

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Budka, P. 2015. Review of Bräuchler, B. Cyberidentities at war: The Moluccan conflict on the Internet. New York & Oxford: Berghahn, 2013. American Anthropologist, 117/1: 179-180.

Birgit Bräuchler’s book Cyberidentities at War was originally published in German in 2005. It is the result of her dissertation research on the Moluccan conflict and how it took place in cyberspace—the social space constituted by Internet-related practices. The English edition of this volume not only brings one of the few long-term ethnographic accounts of an online conflict to an international audience but also includes a new epilogue that briefly discusses what happened to the actors analyzed in the book and current developments in anthropological Internet research, particularly in respect to social movements and religions. In the early 2000s, a detailed anthropological inquiry into conflicts in relation to Internet technologies was still missing. By providing such an anthropological account and by conducting online ethnographic research, Bräuchler broke new ground and contributed to the then-emerging field of cyberanthropology.

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Paper: Indigenous futures and digital infrastructures

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Budka, P. 2014. Indigenous futures and digital infrastructures: How First Nation communities connect themselves in Northwestern Ontario. Paper at “13th Biennial Conference of the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA)”, Tallinn, Estonia: Tallinn University, 31 July – 3 August.

Introduction

“Now […] if the Aboriginal People could […], retain their tradition, take the technology and go that way in the future. That would be good.”
(Community Development Coordinator and Educational Director, Bearskin Lake First Nation, 2007)

For my first field trip to Northwestern Ontario in 2006, I decided to take the train from Toronto to Sioux Lookout instead of flying. This ride with “the Canadian”, which connects Toronto and Vancouver, took me about 26 hours and demonstrated very vividly the vastness of Ontario. At some point, I could not believe that I have been spending more than an entire day on a train without even leaving the province. But finally I arrived at Sioux Lookout, Northwestern Ontario’s transportation hub, where I would be working with the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Kuhkenah Network (KO-KNET), one of the world’s leading indigenous internet organization.

After my first day at the office, KO-KNET’s coordinator told me that he wants to show me something. So 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 concrete idea how this really works. So while the satellite dish was physically visible to me, the underlying infrastructure was not. During my stay, I learned more about the technical aspects of internet networks and connectivity, about hubs, switches and cables, and about towers and loops. And I learned that internet via satellite might look impressive, but is actually the last resort and the most expensive way to establish internet connectivity. I also began to realize how important organizational partnerships and collaborative projects are and what important role social relationships across institutional boundaries play. In short: I learned about the infrastructure which is actually necessary to finance, provide and maintain internet access and use. Infrastructure, KO-KNET’s coordinator told me “really defines what you can do and what you can’t do” (KO-KNET coordinator 2007). And this has fundamental consequences for the futures of the region’s indigenous people.

Within this paper I am going to discuss digital infrastructures and technologies in the geographical and sociocultural contexts of indigenous Northwestern Ontario. By introducing the case of KO-KNET I analyse (1) how internet infrastructures act as facilitators of social relationships and (2) how First Nations people actively make their (digital) futures by taking control over the creation, distribution and uses of information and communication technologies (ICT), such as broadband internet. This study is part of a digital media anthropology project that was conducted for five years, including ethnographic fieldwork in Northwestern Ontario and in online environments.

In media and visual anthropology, anthropologists are, among other things of course, interested in how indigenous, disfranchised and marginalized people have started to talk back to structures of power that neglect their political, cultural and economic needs and interests by producing and distributing their own media technologies (e.g., Ginsburg 1991, 2002b, Michaels 1994, Prins 2002, Turner 1992, 2002). To “underscore the sense of both political agency and cultural intervention that people bring to these efforts”, Faye Ginsburg (2002a: 8, 1997) refers to these media practices as “cultural activism”. “Indigenized” media technologies are providing indigenous people with possibilities to make their voices heard, to network and connect, to distribute information, to revitalize culture and language, and to become politically engaged and active (Ginsburg 2002a, 2002b). Particularly digital media technologies offer a lot of these possibilities to marginalized people (e.g., Landzelius 2006a).

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Paper: Von „Cyber Anthropologie“ zu „Digitaler Anthropologie“: kultur- und sozialanthropologische Beiträge zur Erforschung digitaler Medientechnologien.

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Budka. P. 2014. Von „Cyber Anthropologie“ zu „Digitaler Anthropologie“: kultur- und sozialanthropologische Beiträge zur Erforschung digitaler Medientechnologien. Vortrag im Rahmen der Ringvorlesung: „Rituale, Medien, Bewusstsein – in Memoriam Manfred Kremser“, 9. Januar 2014.

Einleitung

Dieser Vortrag wirft einen Blick auf die kultur- und sozialanthropologische Erforschung digitaler Medientechnologien wie Internet, Soziale Online-Netzwerke und mobile Kommunikationstechnologien. Dabei werden die Grundzüge des Forschungsfeldes der „Cyber Anthropologie“ – besonders im Bezug zum Wiener Institut für Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie – ebenso vorgestellt wie die rezente Entwicklung einer „Digitalen Anthropologie“. Die gemeinsame, übergeordnete Frage dieser kultur- und sozialanthropologischen Projekte lautet: „Was bedeutet Menschsein in einer (zunehmend) digitalen Welt?“. Fallbeispiele aus der ethnographischen Forschungspraxis behandeln konkrete Aspekte des „digitalen Menschseins“ und runden die theoretische Diskussion ab.

Medienanthropologie und die technische Mediatisierung von Kommunikation

In der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie lässt sich die Forschung zu Medientechnologien grundsätzlich als Forschung zu menschlicher Kommunikation, die von Technologien mediatisiert wird, verstehen. Diese Mediatisierung von Kommunikation ist für die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie besonders hinsichtlich ihrer Einbettung in soziokulturelle und historische Prozesse und Kontexte interessant: „The key questions for the anthropologist are how these technologies operate to mediate human communication, and how such mediation is embedded in broader social and historical processes“ (Peterson 2003: 5).

In der Medienanthropologie geht es um die Mediatisierung von Kommunikation in unterschiedlichen soziokulturellen Kontexten und unter spezifischen historischen, politischen und ökonomischen Bedingungen.

In der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie werden Medien nicht auf ihre Inhalte oder Botschaften reduziert. Im Versuch ein möglichst ganzheitliches Bild von Medienphänomenen zu erlangen, werden Kontexte und Bedingungen unter denen Medien produziert, verteilt und genutzt werden ebenso analysiert wie die technischen Aspekte von Medien. Medien beinhalten immer auch Technologien, die die Mediatisierung von Kommunikation erst ermöglichen. Es macht also Sinn nicht nur von Medien sondern von Medientechnologien zu sprechen.

Über Medientechnologien entwickeln Menschen neue Beziehungen zu Zeit und Raum sowie zu Körper und Wahrnehmung. Und diese Verhältnisse verändern sich aufgrund medientechnologischer Entwicklungen permanent. Die „greifbare“ Materialität von Medientechnologien und die damit verbundenen phänomenologischen Erfahrungen sind also wesentlicher Gegenstand medienethnographischer und medienanthropologischer Forschung (vgl. Ginsburg et al. 2002: 21).

Wichtigste methodische Herangehensweise, um Medienphänomene zu erfassen, ist für die Medienanthropologie, wie für die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie im Allgemeinen, die ethnographische Feldforschung. Diese methodische Strategie zur empirischen Datenerhebung passt sich dabei sowohl dem Feld als auch den soziokulturellen Handlungsräumen der Menschen an (vgl. z.B. Kremser 1998, Marcus 1998) und kann sich also nicht allein auf Inhalte und deren Rezeption beschränken. Sie muss auch die physischen und sensorischen Dimensionen von Medientechnologien miteinbeziehen, weil über diese soziale Beziehungen hergestellt werden können.

Technologie im soziokulturellen Kontext

Seit den 1950er Jahren untersuchen Kultur- und SozialanthropologInnen neue und „moderne“ Technologien und wie diese vor allem in „nicht-westlichen“ Gemeinschaften verwendet und angeeignet werden (vgl. z.B. Beck 2001, Godelier 1971, Pfaffenberger 1992, Sharp 1952). Doch wie unter anderem Arturo Escobar (1994) meint, ist es schwierig diese Forschungsansätze und -befunde auf hochkomplexe technische Umgebungen in „modernen“ Gesellschaften zu übertragen. Aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive bedeutet diese Transferschwierigkeit weder eine Hierarchisierung von soziotechnischen Systemen und damit verbunden von Gesellschaften, noch bedeutet dies eine Abwertung „nicht-moderner“ oder „traditioneller“ soziotechnischer Systeme. All diese Systeme – vom Töpfern in Indien bis zum Programmieren von Software in Kalifornien – sind hochkomplex und heterogen.

Es besteht allerdings dringender Bedarf an theoretischen Zugängen und weiteren empirischen Befunden, die zum Verständnis soziotechnischer Systeme in „modernen“ Gesellschaften beitragen. So befasst sich auch die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie zunehmend mit soziotechnischen Systemen in zeitgenössischen Gesellschaften (vgl. z.B. Rabinow 2008, Rabinow & Marcus 2008) – vor allem auch, weil immer wieder Fragen auftauchen, die scheinbar nur von der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie beantwortet werden können, etwa nach der soziokulturellen und soziokulturell unterschiedlichen Bedeutung von Technologien (vgl. Pfaffenberger 1988, 1992).

Die Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie versucht zu verstehen, wie Technologie – beispielsweise in Form materieller Kultur oder als soziotechnisches System – (kulturell) konstruiert und (sozial) verwendet, genutzt und angeeignet wird. Ähnliche Ziele verfolgen auch Wissenschaftsforschung, Science and Technology Studies und sozialwissenschaftliche Technikforschung (vgl. z.B. Eglash 2006). Die Entwicklung und der Aufschwung digitaler (Medien)Technologien führen zu einer weiteren Differenzierung dieses Forschungsbereichs und zur Etablierung neuer Schwerpunkte.

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Article: Digitale Medientechnologien aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive

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Budka, P. 2013. Digitale Medientechnologien aus kultur- und sozialanthropologischer Perspektive: Überlegungen zu Technologie als materielle Kultur und Fetisch (Digital media technologies from an anthropological perspective: Reflections on technology as material culture and fetish). Medien und Zeit, 28, 1/2013: 22-34.

Abstract

Dieser Aufsatz blickt auf digitale Medientechnologien aus Perspektive der Kultur- und Sozialanthropologie. In einem wissenschaftstheoretischen und historischen Abriss werden einerseits Eckpunkte in der Entwicklung relevanter Forschungsfelder, wie die Anthropologie und Ethnographie der Medientechnologien, die Digitale Anthropologie sowie die Anthropologie der Cyberkultur behandelt. Andererseits werden zwei Fallbeispiele aus der ethnographischen Forschungspraxis vorgestellt, die digitale Technologien als materielle Kultur verstehen. Technologie als materielle Kultur erlaubt es die Materialität und die Normativität von Technologien ebenso zu fassen wie deren alltägliche Aneignung in wandelnden soziokulturellen, politischen und ökonomischen Kontexten. Der Aufsatz schließt mit einer Diskussion der Fetischisierung von Technologien, deren Bedeutung und Zusammenhänge.

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