Recent Articles

Post-publication Peer Review

Moving academic publication into the digital era

The real sticking points preventing scientific communication from taking full advantage of digital distribution are the following: 1) top ranked journals have cornered the reputation economy in terms of impact on tenure (they are a virtual whuffieopoly: for the term “whuffie” see Hunt and Doctorow). 2) the very same journals remain locked into the 20th century (with resemblances to prior centuries) print-based publishing model, built on blind peer review and informed by the scarcity of space available in any printed journal. The task then, is to release them from their print-based constraints, while rewarding and supporting them to continue to be a high-end filter for quality science; and then transitioning their whuffie-abilities to a form more suited to the rapid digital dissemination of scientific outcomes. The academy needs great filters to help guide readers to the best science among hundreds of thousands of new papers every year. Universities need fair and broad feedback from the academic community to decide which faculty deserve promotion. The research community needs to accelerate publication speed and minimize editorial overhead. And the public needs markers that help them determine good science from the rest. Open-access content is the first step. The next step might need some badges.

Capitalism and its Alternatives

Anthropology after Marxism

As a corrective to Steward’s multilinear evolution, I would suggest that these two types of processes, the adaptive/progressive and the universal/conservative, operate mainly as boundary constraints on human action. The former constraints are tied to local environmental livability thresholds, and the later to bio-structural requirements; both represent limits beyond which societies or individuals are vulnerable to failure. Evolution, in any of the forms described by Steward, represent at most the threshold perimeters to a stochastic arena of human action. The processes that provide organization within this arena are themselves oblique to any sort of evolutionary telos. While the adaptive/universal boundary is somewhat “thick,” it does not operate as the primary constraint on human action. Quite the contrary, cultures, so described, operate within this “zone” of universal/adaptive functionality, and interact with these boundary as their tacit limits. The resulting description of cultures demands an account of action within this zone. Here is where histories of discursive and practical fields are written and embodied

Serious Games and the Study of Place

Mapping the places created by the technologies of experience in everyday life

In the course of modernity one might note a shift away from maps that acquire meaningfulness during an activity, that inform and are com­pleted through the activity, to a type of map that can be created and then in­terpreted without the experience or memory of such engrossment. The dis­tinction between maps the interpretation of which requires a link to en­grossment in activities and those that do not is, of course, determined by this feature of the realms/places the maps describe. As modernity is bound up in the devaluation of knowledge/meaning tied to bodily activities (in favor of disembedded meanings, rational discourses, experimental reasoning, etc.) there is a corresponding devaluation in the production and interpretation of maps of such realms (in favor of maps of spaces, satellite images, topo­graphical representations, etc.). The field of hyper-locality emerges in the vacuity of de-activated places. Once the activities that sustained these places disappear, there is no place left to “save,” no “there” there to take away. The task facing the ethnographer is thus two-fold; to acquire knowledge of a place (as thickly described, to use Geertz’s term) and also to develop the theoretical and practical means to map (represent) this place.

Celebrations in Cities— Space and time

Control over space and time is integral to city governmentalities

Space and time have mutually enfolding consequences for cultural practices. Together, they determine a dynamic that is usually lost when social scientists attempt a description that ignores either one of them. But this dynamic is also lost when social sciences mistake the notions of space they bring to/with their studies for those spaces where people […]

Homo Hermeneuticus

Clifford Geertz and the Idea of Culture as Object 1966-1990

Clifford Geertz’s thick description, while it pins the efforts of anthropologists to the study of performances and contexts, also offers anthropology a key rôle in the reformulated human sciences, where everyone from historians to literary critics claim to be studying culture (or doing “cultural studies”). Anthropologists should welcome the work being done in critical social theory and linguistics—anywhere that symbolic systems are being explored. And they can also posit that even as semantics will provide new tools for the anthropological study of culture, anthropology will provide semantics with highly codified systems of meaning and action.

The Semantics of Antics

The places of meaning and the meanings of places in anthropology

Dorinne Kondo’s (1990) ethnography, Crafting Selves, displays certain problematics for interpretive anthropology. The “problem of meaning” and the “problem of place” are discussed, with some comments on the overlap of these problems. Certain methodological approaches to these problems, including the work of George Lakoff, Erving Goffman, Anthony Giddens, and Pierre Bourdieu are presented, not so much with the anticipation of resolving these problematics but in further articulating their import for interpretive anthropology.