Thursday, October 27, 2011


I spent the day at the "1st Berlin Symposium on Internet and Society" While the topics were in general very narrowly focused on policy and regulation, the session I attended this afternoon was on "CyberAnthropology -- Being Human on the Internet". While I am not in a strict sense an anthropologist, I have explicitly used methods from cultural anthropology for close to 40 years and thus found the topic interesting.

The session began with a critique of the presenters' paper in which the speaker noted that the presenters had done no original data collection of their own. In my own part of the academic world that criticism would probably be grounds for rejection from any serious scholarly symposium or conference.

It further became clear that the presenters had almost no background in contemporary scholarly anthropology. Their approach was to throw out the whole empirical basis of contemporary anthropology as too narrow and to replace it with a cloud of philosophers starting with Plato and Aristotle and ending with Paul Ricoeur and Derrida. (Note: I was at the University of Chicago during the years when Ricoeur was there -- his concepts are not entirely new to me.) The presenters believe that "philosophical anthropology" and their understanding of hermeneutics eliminates the need for standards for evidence and rules for persuasion. At least that is what I heard them say over and over again. Nonetheless it is interesting that they welcome data from others. I wonder why?

True to their law faculty roots, the presenters have already acquired the rights to Others have already captured the name, so the brand is not exclusive.

My objection to this symposium paper is partly that I regard it as an embarrassment to my own Philosophical Faculty 1, which houses the university's departments of philosophy and European Ethnography (cultural anthropology). It does not reflect our standards.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

AnthroLib moves

Nancy Foster wrote yesterday that AnthroLib has moved to a new address at the University of Rochester Library. A feature that I had not noticed before is the link to a bibliography in a Zotero Group. The bibliography is quite new (started apparently in September) and doesn't have much in it yet, but I suspect it will grow fast. Some links are to Proquest and seem to assume that everyone has the same level of Proquest access. From Berlin at least the links do not work.Nonetheless the list of articles is interesting.

The map is a typical Google map with the odd quirk that it can start moving and be difficult to stop without reloading the location. The flaw may lie in how I touch the map screen with my cursor. It is mildly annoying. The map shows that most of the AnthroLib projects are US-based and generally east-coast, but perhaps we can get some started in Berlin.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

O'Reilly Media Ebook report

I am thankful to Jim Campbell (University of Virginia) for sending me a link to the O'Reilly Media report on "The Global eBook Market: Current Conditions & Future Projections" by RĂ¼diger Wischenbart with additional research by Sabine Kaldonek. The strong growth of eBooks and eBook popularity in the US and UK is not yet reflected in Germany, though an acceptance for reading on the screen has grown since 2009. As the report says: "ebooks at this point have a difficult stand against a cultural tradition that places (printed) books and reading high on the scale for defining a person’s cultural identity.

While I read a great deal on the screen and insist that I only read student papers in electronic form, I admit that I take pleasure in Berlin's excellent book stores with their intelligent selections and recommendations. As physical places, they are a delight. I wish they offered eBooks in house the way Barnes & Noble does, though. Then they would be perfect.