New forms of online social media hold the potential to answer the clarion call for a new form of heteroglossic anthropology, yet anthropologists have been slow to embrace technologies that challenge traditional notions of authorship and knowledge production. Blogs, wikis, social networks, folksonomies, memediggers, and other online social media have become key features of an evolving knowledge landscape, fostering new forms of collaboration between anthropologists, informants, students, and the general public. These technologies do not offer a single model for mediating (or annihilating) the relationship between author and the consumer of anthropological knowledge, but rather create a fertile ground for experimenting with new forms of sharing, organizing, discussing, critiquing, creating, and remixing information. With new options come new challenges. The benefits of opening up scholarship to a wide range of voices must be balanced against moral obligations to protect our informants. The rapidity of online publishing must be squared with the painstaking demands of peer-review. The hopeful possibilities of an open democracy of online fora must be tempered by a recognition of technical, linguistic, and social barriers to participation. This session brings together anthropologists who are experimenting with these new forms to discuss ways in which the new media may be used to enhance inclusion, collaboration, and engagement, while recognizing that these positive potentials also regenerate and remix classic anthropological challenges of representation and knowledge production in new ways.

Kerim Friedman sets the stage for the session using case studies of Wikipedia, Flickr, and the international blogosphere to assess the risks and benefits of online collaborative authorship for anthropology, paying specific attention to the ways in which scholars “extend existing institutional, commercial and legal regimes to these new online fora.” Todd Harple follows with examples from his interdisciplinary team-based work with the Intel Digital Home Group, suggesting that new forms of collaboration will ultimately require us to rethink traditional notions of anthropological authority. Kimberly Christen models this, finding “the potential for a new way of thinking about collaboration, information, and access” through her work with the Warumungu community in Australia encoding indigenous protocols into a digital archive. While many anthropologists are reluctant to embrace these technologies, Eric Kansa points out that many communities now “discuss, experience, and understand ‘culture’ via online social mechanisms.” Kansa looks at how these mechanisms allow people to participate in the co-creation of narratives and histories about places. Our last two panelists suggest that there are also unexplored collaborative modes of ethnographic presentation. Casey O’Donnell explores the possibilities of a video-game ethnography, while Michael Wesch considers the poetics of data mashups that aggregate the masses of live data people continuously produce as they live their everyday lives.

A blog maintained by the panelists at will document the development of these papers in the months ahead and allow for discussion to continue online after the conference is over. The blog will also serve as a repository of digital media (documents, videos, games, etc.) related to the panel.


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