Archive | Digital World

This section of the site is dedicated to the research and interests clustered together within the UCL Centre for Digital Anthropology.

Understanding the Digital Infrastructure of Photo-sharing in China: Notes on Tuchong as an Example

Yunchang Yang, PhD Candidate, UCL Anthropology

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A photo of my working space, showing my laptop, notebook, IC card for working with images 

On 3rd July 2019, I caught up with UCL Anthropology’s ASSA (Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Aging) team at a local pub behind Euston Station. Most of the researchers had just returned from fieldwork and started data-sorting and writing. They shared some great stories from the field on how smartphones are playing different socio-cultural roles across various cultures and societies. When I introduced my work of amateur photography on the Chinese Internet to them and mentioned that many of my informants also practice photography on IOS and Android smartphones, they immediately thought of people taking photos with smartphones and sharing them on social media platforms.…

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Digitized global mobilities’ The role of new media and digitization in the security approaches of the refugee crisis

3- 4 June, 2019, Utrecht University 

Digitization and the use of social media has dramatically changed most aspects of our everyday practices, perceptions and cause severe changes in Human Mobility (Innes, 2016, Gray, 2018). While the importance and effects of technological innovations in social science research has been increasingly recognized, the role of new technologies and how these shapes the security of people on the move is still limited in scope.

This international event of UGlobe seeks to address questions on the digital features of forced mobility, how technology shapes the approaches of migrant’ security, particularly the unintended effects of digitization and social media use.

This event aims to bring together multiple stakeholders: NGO representatives, social workers, media representatives (e.g. Dutch Refugee Council, Dutch Association for Migration Research, European institutions, IOM, UNHCR) and academics.…

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Digital Anthropology in Practice

Jennifer Fu and Gemma Tortella-Procter, MSc. Digital Anthropology at UCL

“What exactly constitutes ‘digital anthropology’?” While the practical projects we worked on may not provide a comprehensive answer to this question (perhaps a ‘comprehensive’ answer doesn’t exist), it provides an idea of the things we care about as digital anthropologists and the direction we hope to push a traditionally text-based discipline in.

As a part of the MSc Digital Anthropology core course, all of the students are given the task and opportunity to “produce a publicly accessible website which will present the results of a mini research project about an instance of digital technology use.” The challenge for the 2017-2018 class was to find a London marketplace and investigate it in the context of its digital mediation.…

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Living On Screen: Sondra Perry and Ian Cheng at the Serpentine Galleries

Wade Wallerstein

Like many other London institutions seeking to shore up against an ever-rising digital tide, the Serpentine Galleries have announced a new annual “Digital Seasons” initiative that will recognize the works of artists working across digital media. Inaugurating this are acclaimed American artists Sondra Perry, whose work occupies the intersection between racial identity and techno-political power structures, and Ian Cheng, who creates experiments in live simulation.

Wade Wallerstein

Sondra Perry, Installation view, Typhoon coming on, Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London (6 March – 20 May 2018) © 2018 Mike Din.

Entitled “Typhoon Coming On,” Sondra Perry’s extensive installation spans the breadth of the Sackler Gallery. Walking into the space, the viewer is immediately confronted by a massive blue wall. In many of her video installations 1, Perry wryly employs this hue to evoke the “blue screen of death”— that ever-dreaded Windows error screen that tells the user that their computer is basically f$%#!&—in order to conflate catastrophic system failure with systematic violence against Black bodies.

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The Picket Line in the Digital Age

Joseph Cook -MPhil/PhD UCL Anthropology    @josephmcook

The following is the transcript from a talk given on Monday 26th February as part of a range of student-led teach-ins and debates at UCL Anthropology. The teach-ins were held in support of the ongoing industrial action by the University and College Union in protest against changes to the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), seen by many as an attack on pensions.  The UCU predicted that these changes would leave the typical lecturer almost £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up. Picket lines were drawn across many departments at UCL, and a number of universities across the UK.

Picket Line image

The Picket Line in the Digital Age

In the digital age, work is no longer a place that you go, but a thing that you do.…

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Lecturer in Digital Anthropology

The UCL Department of Anthropology has a new position, a lectureship in Digital Anthropology. Open to anyone with a strong ethnographic foundation to their research into the digital. Research areas can include robotics, artificial intelligence, the anthropology of data, social media, consumption, or other emerging topics within the field. For further details please click here or email Haidy Geismar for further details.

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In Memory of Gill Conquest

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Gill Conquest on May 5, 2017.

Gill was an exceptional student and an exceptional person. Her interests were broad-ranging, extending well beyond the academic through performances of traditional stories and pantomimes, to writing plays and science fiction, sailing and playing games, and to music and dancing, all alongside her passionate commitment to developing the interfaces of technology and citizenship to support cultural and ecological diversity. She brought a sense of wonder and fun to all of her activities, embracing new experiences and opportunities at every chance with good humour and enthusiasm.

Gill joined the anthropology department as a Masters student in Anthropology, Environment and Development in 2011. Her masters’ dissertation examined the potential of new technologies to support environmental justice movements lead by indigenous peoples.

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Experience Rich Anthropology Revisited

Hannah Knox, UCL Anthropology 

When I was an undergraduate at the University of Manchester in the late 1990s I recall being introduced by John Gledhill to something called ‘Experience Rich Anthropology’. Established by the anthropology department at the University of Ken, the ERA project was an early attempt to use the possibilities of new media technologies to open up anthropology to new audiences, and to present anthropological knowledge in new ways. The site is still available to view here

It is remarkable then, that in the ensuing 20 years, anthropologists have been rather slow to embrace the possibilities of digital media. Particularly now, when as a matter of course most anthropologists carry around powerful digital research tools in their pockets (smart phones which contain a camera, sound recorder, GPS locator, mapping tools, access to mappable social networks), we still seem remarkably wedded to the form of the research monograph or written journal paper that perhaps includes a few well chosen photographs from our field sites.…

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Our Lives with Electric Things: Call for Contributions

Jamie Cross, University of Edinburgh

Call for Contributions (max 300 words)
In: Cultural Anthropology / Theorizing the Contemporary

Our lives with electric things are positively charged with meaning. Our bodies are electric, our hearts and minds pulsing with electrical activity. Electric things have hope and anxiety, possibility and danger. Our electric attachments are sacred and profane, personal and political. Electrically powered things mediate human sociality across time and space just as they mediate our ecological and inter-species relationships. At the beginning of the 21st century, in an epoch (the electrocene, perhaps) defined simultaneously by the global abundance and unevenness of electricity supply, our electric things simultaneously shock us into action and insulate us from change. Just as electrically powered goods, devices and appliances have transformed our possibilities for reproducing, nurturing and sustaining life (coming to define ideas of the good life) so too have they created new possibilities for controlling, managing, exploiting and ending life.

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Data Waves – finding meaning through music

Miranda Marcus, UCL Digital Anthropology

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How do we display data in a way that is meaningful? This is the question that has been posed by Dr Robin Carhart-Harris from the Division of Brain Sciences at Imperial College London, the lead researcher on the recent clinical trials into the effects of psilocybin/psychedelics on the brain. Between 2012 and 2016, Dr Carhart-Harris’ team have conducted different studies using psilocybin (the hallucinogenic compound found in magic mushrooms) and LSD aimed at understanding the impact of potent hallucinogenic drugs on the human brain. The results have provided first evidence of the underlying changes in brain function that are associated with the well-documented drug effects and have laid the foundation for future studies to evaluate potential medical treatments for conditions such as depression, end-of-life anxiety and addiction.…

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