Miller and Horst 2013
This introduction to an edited volume on digital anthropology provides a good disciplinary contextualization for understanding social network analysis and social media. For those who have not had an anthropology course before, this chapter explains how anthropologists approach culture (especially digital vs. material culture). It also overviews how different anthropologists look at cyberspace – though none of the cases in this volume use social network analysis (as method, instead of metaphor).
One of the issues that we need to understand is “how real is the virtual”? This is why Miller and Horst bring up the discussion of money – before we had the digital, we had money as another social abstraction that provided a global media (where media is used in the biological sense, a substrate on which things can grow, an ecology) for representing the complexity of cultural ideas and mediated social relations.
Another issue is authenticity – in the sense of what is real, genuine (and this is tied into the anthropological use of culture).
Cyborg subjectivity is made possible by the crossing of borders: human-animal, organism-machine, physical-non-physical.
The cyborg is a condensed image of both imagination and material reality, the two joined centers structuring any possibility of historical transformation. In the traditions of “Western” science and politics—the tradition of racist, male-dominant capitalism; the tradition of progress; the tradition of the appropriation of nature as resource for the productions of culture; the tradition of reproduction of the self from the reflections of the other—the relation between organism and machine has been a border war. (Haraway 2006:118)
Communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies. These tools embody and enforce new social relations for women world-wide. Technologies and scientific discourses can be partially understood as formalizations, i.e., as frozen moments, of the fluid social interactions constituting them, but they should also be viewed as instruments
for enforcing meanings (Haraway 2006:130).
MUDs: Multi-User Dungeons
Displacement of authorship, decentering of self: “There is an unparalleled opportunity to play with one’s identity and to ‘try out’ new ones (Turkle 1994:159).
PC as evocative object: “it provoked self -reflection and stimulated thought. It led to reevaluations and reconsiderations of things taken for granted, for example, about the nature of intelligence, free will, and our notions of what is alive” (Turkle 1994:164).
From the perspective of cyborgs, freed of the need to ground politics in “our” privileged position of the oppression that incorporates all other dominations, the innocence of the merely violated, the ground of those closer to nature, we can see powerful possibilities (Haraway 2006:142).