Open Letter to the Anthropological Community

My undergrad degree is in anthropology, and I’m married to a woman with a doctorate in anthropology (emphasis in historical archaeology), and so I find myself drawn to news about the field. When I heard that the American Anthropological Association revised it’s mission statement (Now: “The purposes of the Association shall be to advance public understanding of humankind in all its aspects.”), I rejoiced because my biggest beef with the field was how cloistered and disconnected it was from common discourse. I think anthropology can be an unparalleled tool to help people understand themselves, and, given all the various global crises occurring, it strikes me that this understanding is needed now more than ever.

It turns out that many in the discipline are upset about the change, and, from what I can tell, the foofaraw is centered on the removal of the word “science” from the mission statement, and that this must mean the AAA is forsaking the scientific underpinnings of the discipline. As a relative outsider, I didn’t pick up on that at all, and I also don’t see how the new mission statement can be construed in any way as excluding science. Science is a necessary tool for understanding humankind.

Anyway, as a friendly layperson, I just wanted to encourage the anthropological community to embrace this shift, and take heart the potential positive impact it could have.

An anthropological introduction to YouTube

Michael Wesch is one of my personal heroes. Beginning with “The Machine Is Us/Ing Us,” he’s brought a fresh, thoughtful perspective to the social media that are (re)shaping our lives. His “A Vision of Students Today” is the strongest critique of the educational system you’ll ever see in under 5 minutes.

I had the fortune of meeting Michael when he spoke at IDEA 2007. He’s a warm, smart, passionate guy, and was readily able to contribute to the discussions of information architecture and new disciplines.

Michael recently spoke at the Library of Congress, and gave an hour-long talk titled An anthropological introduction to YouTube. In doing so, he’s shaming the professional anthropology establishment, as he’s doing more to spread anthropological thought and discourse to a wide audience than entire university departments. He also shows that rigor can be fun.