Archive | Digital World

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

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

Screen Shot 2017-01-12 at 12.02.09

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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Information and Communication Technology and Wellbeing in the Merchant Marines

Annamaria Dall’Anese, PhD student, UCL Anthropology

If the informal use of the internet through personal devices on board merchant vessels encounters barriers due to patchy infrastructure and weather issues, then the formal provision of ICT-empowered telemedicine has brought to an end the era when the sea made the ship an entirely isolated environment. The ship in the age of ICT appears as Foucault described it: as a “heterotopia”; a place that is both isolated and penetrable. My interest in merchant marines was sparked by joining a cargo ship sailing from Australia to Singapore as a passenger/English teacher in 2009. The passage, though short, gave me the opportunity to discover the social life of these communities, and I became intrigued by the issue of connectivity at sea.…

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#LondonVegans: Deliberating, sensing and practicing vegans in a non-vegan city

Zachary Hecht, UCL Digital Anthropology Msc Student

Why would somebody forgo juicy steaks, delicate smoked salmon, velvety goat cheese, and the many seemingly delicious foods people eat? Why would somebody choose to submit themselves to the inconvenience of not being able to eat outside of their home without some advanced planning? Why would they refuse to wear products widely seen as fashionable and insist on knowing what their hygiene products are made of?

Why would anybody be vegan?

The individuals I conducted fieldwork with—members of what I term the London Vegan Community—are regularly asked this very question by family, friends, and even strangers. In popular media, veganism is often framed as being trendy and undertaken for supposed health benefits. While many—certainly not all—of my participants discuss health as being a vital component of their veganism, and many first learned about veganism due to its increasing popularity, each of my participants assert that veganism is an “ethical choice”; for London Vegans, veganism is a “social justice movement.”

As I write, we find ourselves living in a time widely referred to as the Anthropocene.…

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Digital Materialities: Design and Anthropology, Edited by S. Pink, E. Ardevol, and D. Lanzeni

Zachary Hecht, UCL Digital Anthropology

 

I must admit, this review has been a long time coming. I was given Digital Materialities and asked to review it many months ago. I proceeded to read it immediately, but writing the review, well not so immediately. At the time, I had been in the process of exams and dissertation fieldwork. Several of the book’s chapters were very useful while I was working through concepts for my own work. Since reading this book, I have moved to another country and read several other books and articles. Yet, importantly, I had been given a hard copy of the book and it managed to make it across the ocean with me—sitting in my suitcase, underneath my belongings, until I finally got around to unpacking.…

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Digital Ontologies

Hannah Knox, Department of Anthropology, UCL

Last year, someone made the observation at a workshop I was attending, that no single person knows how a contemporary computer works. The rapid development of computing over the past 70 years, the interconnectivity of the internet, and the layers of programming needed to make digital devices function, mean that digital technologies have gained a kind of distributed autonomy, divorced from the understanding or expertise of any individual person or group of experts. One response to this complexity has been to argue that if we want to understand digital technologies as material culture, we should not really concern ourselves with how these technologies come into being, but should simply look at how they, like other forms of material culture, are understood and deployed in everyday life.…

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Big Bang Data

Jo Cunningham, UCL Digital Anthropology

Recently, a cohort of students from the Masters in Digital Anthropology course visited the ‘Big Bang Data’ exhibition at Somerset House.  Exploring the rise of Big Data, the exhibition featured a mix of pieces commissioned from media artists alongside exhibits explaining the history and scope of the ‘data explosion’.  Here are a few of the students’ reactions to exhibition pieces that inspired them:

 


Big Data and Twig Data by Jo Cunningham

BBD

The Big Bang Data exhibition identified 2002 as a landmark year for data when digital took over from analogue. During 2009, more data was produced than all the preceding years put together.  This explosion in data production is linked with the capacity to store data and one of the exhibits showed the evolution of storage devices, from punchcards that could hold just 0.08 kilobytes, to floppy disks, CDs, and finishing with DNA, 1 gram of which can store 455 exabytes.  

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New Open Access Series: Anthropology and Photography and open access initiatives from the Global Social Media Impact Study

Haidy Geismar, UCL

The movement towards open access has continued to gain momentum in the social sciences, and in anthropology, with important new journals such as Hau; and new movements to develop alternative publishing collectives afoot. I have just stepped down as editor of the Journal of Material Culture where we are moving a little slower. We have committed to ensuring that there is at least one open access article per issue, and Sage has a very generous Green archiving policy which allows the accepted version of an article to be made available immediately. However, Sage owns both the title and the back issues of the journal which makes a transition to fully open access more of a decision to form a completely new title.…

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