Coleman’s article for today is a literature review of digital anthropology – what anthropologists are finding based on their field research on the internet and other things digital. Based on the proposals that I’ve read, this article is now less relevant for most of you, given your focus on research, but perhaps this article may still give you ideas and concepts through which you can analyze your research topic.
As a reminder, Coleman wants us to remember that while the digital isn’t everything, it is quite pervasive – but we need to be careful, as Ginsburg reminds us, that “sweeping visions of the digital age betray a constitutive mypopia built on very particular exclusions” (Coleman 2010, 490). To make her review of the field of digital anthropology more clear, she divides it into three areas.
Cultural politics of digital media. This is largely what we read last week – looking at how the digital has reshaped diasporic communities, marginalized communities, and how the cultural politics of real life plays out in the digital. In this arena, not in particular the range of what constitutes the digital, from social media to the internet to telephones.
Vernacular cultures of digital media. This arena focuses more on what’s happening in cyberspace – looking at particular social practices as they develop and play out in the digital. Particular types of interactions take place in the digital, giving rise to cultural practices that often play out IRL. Even the use of “IRL,” as in LMAO, FOMO, etc., are linguistic terms that originated in the digital but have been transported into real life, meatspace interactions. Coleman herself has looked into this, in her well-known study of Anonymous (as well as internet trolls, etc.).
Prosaics of digital media. This arena emphasizes “uncovering the lived experiences of digital media” (Coleman 2010, 495), including the material and ideological functions of digital technologies. This is a wider arena, everything from ‘mail order brides’ to internet piracy, financial transactions to journalism. The digital has changed everything, from our health practices to our work.