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Digital Anthropology December 3, 2007

Posted by James G. Milles in Uncategorized.
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From Inside Higher Ed:

Evoking associations with musty, forgotten archives and spiral notebooks in the field, anthropology doesn’t immediately come to mind as a discipline fully situated in the modern, wired world. On the contrary, anthropologists have been tackling the implications of technologies on ethnography with each new innovation, from handheld 16-millimeter film cameras and cassette tapes several decades ago to the Internet and digital video in more recent times.

The information age hasn’t rendered anthropology obsolete, but it has brought with it a host of issues and controversies — as well as injected longstanding debates into new forms of media. At a session Friday at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, scholars and graduate students in visual anthropology discussed projects that harness new media to enrich scholarship, focus the ethnographical microscope on media producers themselves, or both….

As an elder of the Dane-zaa told the team of scholars and students, she recounted, “I’m talking to this white man through this tape recorder, but what I’m really doing is talking to the world.”

That realization led the team to confront, belatedly, the implications of the Internet’s openness and availability. An object central to the exhibit is a “Dreamer’s drum,” a sacred object painted with symbolic images important to the culture’s self-representation. Over the course of several meetings with community elders, the team came to realize that, according to the Web site, “it is not appropriate to show Dane-zaa Dreamers’ drawings to a worldwide audience on the Internet. Even though the drum is central to this website, in order to ensure that the Dreamers drawings are treated properly and with respect, no images of Dreamers’ drawings or the drum that we describe here are shown.”

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