Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Un-Human Subjects and the End of Anthropology
The AAA thanks Aaron Shapiro (UPenn) for kindly volunteering his time to record this session. Neil Whitehead (U. Wisconsin – Madison) and Michael Wesch (Kansas State U.) also deserve praise for organizing the panel and helping secure its place on the web.
The audio is a little low, so you may need to turn your volume up.
Zeynep Tufekci (U. Maryland, Baltimore County) “The Tenacious Body: Surveillance, Triangulation, and the Collapsing of Contexts in Online Social Networking Sites”
Radhika Gajjala (Bowling Green State U.), “From Virtual Audiences to Immaterial Labor: Immersive Ethnographies at the Online/Offline Interface”
René Lysloff (UC Riverside), “Music and the Post-Human: Technology, Performance, and the Scope of Anthropology”
Matthew Bernius (Cornell), “The Manufacture of ‘Human’ in the Age of Digital Reproduction: A.I., Call Centers, Digital Spirits of the Dead, and Philip K. Dick”
Jennifer Cool (U. Southern California), “Co-Location, Presence, and Networked Sociality: Reconfigurations of Place and Embodiment from Cyborganic to Facebook”
Stephanie Alemán (U. Wisconsin – Steven’s Point), “Technology, Representation and the ‘E-thropologist’: The Shape-Shifting Field among Indigenous Amazonians”
James Hoesterey (U. Wisconsin – Madison), “‘Living with the Mek’: Reality TV and the Fate of Fieldwork”
Kent Wisniewski (U. Wisconsin – Madison), “Mobile Caboclos and Vagabond Ethnographers: A Look at Modern Nomads in Brazil”
Michael Heckenberger (U. Florida), “Altered Minds, Marginal Bodies, and Sub-Humans: (Dis)-Articulations between Physical and Virtual Realities in Centro, São Paulo”
Michael Wesch (Kansas State), “Anonymous, Anonymity, and the End(s) of Identity and Groups Online: Lessons from ‘The First Internet-Based Superconsciousness'”
Discussants: Neil Whitehead (U. Wisconsin – Madison) and Anne Allison (Duke) were not recorded.
The theme of the AAA meetings The End/s of Anthropology may be seen as raising issues as to how the practice of virtual ethnography in cyber worlds undermines traditional anthropological conceptions of place based ethnography while simultaneously challenging the notion of the anthropological “subject”. We believe that this is an issue which also affects ethnography more traditionally conceived since there is a world-wide cultural investment in on-line life, even amongst the most remote and marginal populations.
Panelists therefore will directly address the study of the Internet and its usage by such various communities as indigenous Amazonian peoples, Indonesian musicians, American consumers, and Asian feminists. Panelists will also discuss the challenges of ethnography amongst marginalized city populations, where issues of constituting an ethnographic locus and representing the ‘humanity’ of marginal groups, such as prostitutes, criminals, and even “insurgents” present standard ethnographic approaches with similar theoretical and ethical challenges.
These discussions illustrate an emergent cultural context in which embodied, ‘rational’ individuals are but one of the forms of agency present in virtual and socially occluded worlds. This allows us to raise the question as to the emergence of a “post-human” anthropology, that is an anthropology in which the human subject, an historically contingent conception, is no longer the sole focus of attention; If so then this is an end to anthropology of a certain kind and signals the necessity for inventing new ends and new methodologies for anthropological research that will better interpret such changing and emergent cultural worlds.