Archive | Topics for Discussion

The No-Person

Over the past few weeks I have been working closely with London’s homeless community for my PhD fieldwork. As part of my role at the day centre where I conduct much of my research I have helped a number of people fill out the ubiquitous Job Seeker’s Allowance form – herein referred to as the JSA. The JSA is a standardised government form that applies not just to the homeless, but to anybody who is seeking financial support in the interim between jobs. At first glance then, there is nothing special about the JSA as a bureaucratic document. Filling out the JSA takes about twenty minutes and is generally done online. For the vast majority of people, filling out such a form would be, at the worst, extremely boring.…

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Cyclone Pam – Support Vanuatu

Haidy Geismar, UCL

As I’m sure you are all aware, last week Vanuatu was devastated by Cyclone Pam, battering the country with winds of over 270 mph. The storm knocked out the country’s telecommunications and transport infrastructure and now, just a few days later, it is estimated that more then 70% of the population are left homeless, without adequate drinking water, and without food. The long term prospects for food security are also bad as most of the garden crops that people live off have been destroyed. President Baldwin Lonsdale has announced that the storm had “wiped out” recent development and that “everything” would have to be rebuilt.

Vanuatu is the place that I have worked as an anthropologist since 2000. The places I have worked – Port Vila, Malakula, Ambrym – via the networks set in place by the Vanuatu Cultural Centre have all been either badly damaged or destroyed.…

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Exploring Digital-Visual Anthropological Research Methods: www.photoblogsiran.com

[This is an invited post from a PhD student working at Oxford University, accompanied by a series of comments about visual methods from PhD students working at UCL]

Shireen Walton, PhD candidate in Anthropology, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford

shireen.walton@sant.ox.ac.uk

Oxford Digital Ethnography Group (OxDEG)/www.facebook.com/groups/OXDEG/

 

In June 2013, after nine months of ethnographic fieldwork researching Iranian popular photographic practices in Iran, the UK and online, my principal participants (Iranian photobloggers, based inside and outside of Iran) and I discussed the idea of co-curating a digital photography exhibition of their work. The idea of developing an innovative, site-specific methodology emerged during the research process, but seemed appropriate given that a) it reflected what photobloggers do – they create digital exhibition spaces in the form of photoblogs to share their photographs with viewers across the world – and b) it would establish a relevant digital environment in which to participate and observe their practices.…

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Made in Palestine

Christopher Pinney, UCL

[Please note: this  post was written before the intensification of the current Israeli offensive on Gaza]

I decided to transgress the BDS (Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions) injunction and attend a conference on ‘The Photographic Imagination’ in Tel Aviv in June 2014 for several reasons.  The two central ones concerned, firstly, the Apartheid analogy. Having taught a short course at the University of Cape Town in 2000 it was quite apparent that there were many courageous dissident academic intellectuals that had been a key element of the resistance during the 1980s and earlier. Collaboration with them would have been quite different from buying South African produce. The second reason has an element of illogicality, which is repeatedly pointed out to me: Syria.…

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An update on our perspective on Open Access

Haidy Geismar, UCL

In October last year (2013) I posted a draft of an editorial for the Journal of Material Culture which rehearsed some of the options we (the editorial board led by myself and Susanne Kuchler, with guidance from Danny Miller) have been working through regarding taking the journal towards Open Access. The take home message for that piece was that we felt strongly that the current recommendations for open access “compliance” in the United Kingdom were inadequate and inappropriate in terms of their effect upon ideas not just of scholarship, but on scholarly community. The prevailing models in the UK for Open Access, known as Green and Gold, both depend on individuals to decide whether or not their individual articles should be made open access.…

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Chipping into the debate on Open Access

Haidy Geismar, UCL Anthropology

As the incoming co-editor of the Journal of Material Culture, as well as one of the editors here at Material World Blog, I have been involved in many conversations regarding the politics, economics, and materiality of Open Access.

It is clear that there is great concern about open access in many arena from policy (see for instance, the UK’s Finch Report  “Accessibility, sustainability, excellence: how to expand access to research publications”), within academia (see the discussion on Open Access in the new online only journal, Hau and this interview with Tim Ingold) and in the world of cyber-(h)activism (a good summary of the Aaron Schwartz case is actually presented on JSTOR’s website).

It’s hard to find a place in which all the issues in fact coalesce: some people are concerned about democratizing accessibility to research (particularly across national borders, and to people without the support of privileged universities).…

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Discarded ontologies

Blanca Callén Lancaster University,

Email: bcallenm@gmail.com

Behind the images and narratives of progress, effectiveness and innovation of electronics that make us believe in dematerialized technology without consequences (Gabrys, 2011:57), there is something dirty and ‘forgettable’ (Hird, forthcoming). That is electronic waste (e-waste).

Over the past November and December, I followed a group of informal waste pickers in Barcelona to study how they re-materialize and re-purpose discarded computers. What I found is that e-waste is not merely about dirtiness and forgettable materials. It is also about innovative everyday practices that compete to establish and negotiate different ontologies of value and functionality as waste moves across different legal regimes.

A common European Directive, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE), currently regulates the Spanish system of e-waste management.  As a legal tool, the WEEE defines a new scenario where agents are more interconnected with their (contaminating) activities and responsibilities.…

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e-waste

The computer that you have in front of you right now will die sooner or later. And when it does you will get rid of it, perhaps, if you are well-behaved citizen, in one of the designated recycling drop-offs points your city council has created for technological equipment. That, however, won’t mark the end of your computer’s life. It will only mark the end of the first phase of its life as a valuable cultural and technological object.

After you dumpt it, you computer will start a second, and more complex, life as e-waste, most likely somewhere in India, China or Africa. You can see some pictures of what will likely be your computer limbo here and here, or here. And, if you are interested, you should also check this timeline to map out the evolving set of relationships, conflicts and strategies developing between the market, consumers, institutions configuring the particular political ecology of e-waste.…

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Invoking the Apocalypse: A Promenade with Pentti Linkola

 

Interview by Francisco Martínez (EHI, Tallinn Univ) & Larissa Vanamo (Dept of History, Univ. of Helsinki).

A democracy where there is freedom of consumption is the worst thing possible”
 The worth of an individual is smaller when there are a lot of humans”
Force and oppression are needed because life as such is a value”

A promenade with Pentti Linkola

Pentti Linkola is a Finnish fisherman and ornithologist. He was born in Helsinki in 1932 and lives in a 30 square meter wooden cabin in Sääksmäki (Ritvala).

We visited him together in March 2011. Despite our awareness of some general gossip about his temperament, he kindly attended to us for several hours. During this time we talked and took a walk.…

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Together Again: the link between transnational ties and photo archiving among Ghanaian families

Elad Ben Elul, Department of Anthropology, UCL

 

Photos from Ghanaian family reunions are distributed through Facebook. The elders are often recorded telling family tales.

Recent debates around the motivations for taking digital photos ask whether people document for memory or as tools for communication (Dijck 2008:58). However, this debate tends to dichotomise memory and communication while romanticising digitisation as a revolutionary force brought from beyond the cultural landscape. Moreover, digital archiving destabilizes traditional divides between storing and sharing and creates new forms of memory through ‘distributed storage’.

During my research with diasporic Ghanaian families living in London and their digital archives, it was essential to put photos and videos in their wider context of transnational communication and new media.…

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