Month: October 2013

A Retrospective: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow

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I’m going to start this glog by stating that I’m missing the American Anthropological Association’s 2013 conference #AAA2013  right meow

–especially missing everything the amazing folks with Savage Minds and DANG: The Digital Anthropology Group  as I was looking forward to discussing the future of digital research with everyone. If only there were some way to communicate over vast distances 🙂

WHERE ARE WE NOW(in terms of using Google Glass at the AAA’s)?

I can report that my inability to attend the AAAs this year was completely due to my being a poor grad student, mostly, and not the result of  AAA’s legal counsel’s original message in response to my attendance request..

Some background:

I received Google Glass in July of 2013, and like most eager digital anthros I wanted to share its capabilities with everyone and thought “hey, our professional conference is just the place to do this!” Unfortunately I had missed the abstract deadline and could only attend. I’d done my homework and realized that I was the first anthropologist and archaeologist chosen for the #GoogleExplorers program for Google Glass. Cool. I could either be the first of many or the guy who ruins it for everyone. Great. One of my primary tenants, however, with any and all technology concerns ethics, and ways of being “ethically proactive” in our approaches. I thought the best way to get the ball rolling was to start a dialogue with the AAA’s and answer any questions they may have had for the technology.

This lead me to ask the AAA if there were any rules in place for the use of this type of technology (pictures, recording, but mostly streaming video feeds). My primary contact with the AAAs was through Jason Watkins, the Director for Meetings & Conferences, who stated that currently “The AAA’s permissions didnt allow for this kind of activity {meaning using and demoing Google Glass} at the conference and legal counsel has advised against allowing it (Personal Communication 2013)” which as I later discovered was more due to a logistics oversight with permissions rather than reactionary banning of the tech.

Later, Jason Watkins reached back out to me and said that I could use it (so YAY!) insomuch that I (1) fully explain what and how it would be used (2) state my intentions before anything was turned on and allow for informed consent. He also stated that the technology presented a new learning curve for them, which was understandable, and  one of my original  goals: start a dialogue.

I honestly want to thank Jason and the rest of the folks at the AAAs for being open and allowing that ball to get rolling .:) I think the ability for me to still do a Google+Hangout during a roundtable exists…


Where did we come from, digitally speaking? The Web1.0 universe was one that existed as a “read-only” place–if I’m to steal an analogy most of us will get–yet provided the original framework for interacting with the digital. I remember creating a Geosites website in the period between Web1.0 and Web2.0 and recall how clunky it was; static and non-interactive, but it was a start…


Web2.0 (BUZZWORD!) sprang to life during the early years of the New Millennium (or the Aughts). It was and still exists in a sort of “read-write” type of environment and gave birth to social media and interactive websites we use today. While the great  browser and platform wars still wage, we honestly identified the first of many challenges facing digital research on, of, and through the web: formats and compatibility. Adobe Flash gave us the ability for dynamic content, but as with all battles between competing companies, we exist on an ocean of compatibility uncertainty. Flash is out, FLEX is in. FLEX is out HTML5 is in. Both are out, or in. It’s a very confusing time to be a content generator, much less a digital researcher. The conversations, however, are happening faster, more frequently, and focused on a component that is truly needed: cross-platform & browser content compatibility on an Internet (and Outernet…) that is net-neutral.


Where we go tomorrow depends on what we do today.  As we are in a time of transition (then again when aren’t we?) between Web2.0 and Web3.0, or what has been coined “The Semantic Web;The Web of Things”, we should start to realize that we exist alongside an invisible digital horizon that grows daily at an exponential rate. This digital horizon (or as I’ve coined archaeology’s little corner: The Digital Heritage Horizon) is spoken in the language of algorithms and code; languages not actually recognized by anthropological linguists as languages in the first place (but I digress) but languages that researchers within our field are hard pressed to understand, let alone comprehend. Unless you have a background in computer science (which I am fortunate to have) or know how to code in a third-generation computer language or higher, most anthropologists would probably be lost if asked how a computer works, or how the internet works.

This ultimately leads me to Sydney Yeager’s post about a Digital Research Hub. We desperately need one that is open yet moderated, neutral yet guided, and inclusive yet without the harboring the current and extremely pervasive academic paradigm dedicated to “idea/research stealing” and its bedfellow,  “publish or perish”.

Next time I’ll discuss my applications into the Outerweb/Hyperweb.

Notice that I’ve avoided talking about any actual anthropological theory whatsoever.