The Oxford Diaries: (9) 4 Digital Anthropology Books

OxfordDiariesI’m continuing from past posts and featuring books I’ve read or would like to recommend whilst in grad school. Today I’m focusing on Digital Anthropology, the new (well it’s not totally new) hot and sexy topic in anthropology. It’s something I’m very interested in and the material culture of digital anthropology (cell phones, laptops, how we interact with technology and so on) is fascinating to me. I’m thinking of submitting a PhD proposal within a digital field. What do you think? To be honest… I was thinking of doing it on book blogging… eeeeep…

4 Material Culture Books I Love:

Digital Anthropology by Heather Horst and Daniel Miller

This is a good reader or introduction into the field of digital anthropology. It’s got a range of articles as most readers do and they feature a variety of topics, from social media to cyborgs and so on. I enjoyed this and used it for my research methods course on Instagram (yes, I did a research methods paper on identity politics in Instagram! Yay for academia!). I’d recommend this as a good starting point.

Summary: Through a range of case studies from Facebook to Second Life to Google Earth, Digital Anthropology explores how human and digital can be defined in relation to one another, from avatars and disability; cultural differences in how we use social networking sites or practise religion; the practical consequences of the digital for politics, museums, design, space and development to new online world and gaming communities. The book also explores the moral universe of the digital, from new anxieties to open-source ideals. Digital Anthropology reveals how only the intense scrutiny of ethnography can overturn assumptions about the impact of digital culture and reveal its profound consequences for everyday life.

Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media edited by Mizuko Ito, Sonja Baumer, Matteo Bittanti, Danah Boyd et all.

I’m surprised the blurb is so small for this because it’s a great read. It’s not necessarily an anthropological text, but it’s great for delving into ‘subculture’ digital use and features a whole host of articles. It even has a great article on Harry Potter podcasting and the creating of an online community! It’s great for those interested in technology, youth and anthropology.

Summary:Β An examination of young people’s every day new media practices–including video-game playing, text-messaging, digital media production, and social media use.

Divining a Digital Future: Mess and Mythology in Ubiquitous Computing by Paul Dourish, Genevieve Bell

Man this was difficult to read… so why am I recommending it? Because I’m in academic love with Genevieve Bell and want to work for her someday! She’s a genius, seriouslybut she’s one of the big names in digital anthropology. She’s been great at taking apart the notion of the computer and how people work with it (desktop vs. laptop vs. personal vs. work vs. tablet, etc). So in a sense it’s got a great deal of material culture in it too.

Summary: In Divining a Digital Future, computer scientist Paul Dourish and cultural anthropologist Genevieve Bell explore the vision that has driven the ubiquitous computing research program and the contemporary practices that have emerged–both the motivating mythology and the everyday messiness of lived experience. Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the authors’ collaboration, the book takes seriously the need to understand ubicomp not only technically but also culturally, socially, politically, and economically. Dourish and Bell map the terrain of contemporary ubiquitous computing, in the research community and in daily life; explore dominant narratives in ubicomp around such topics as infrastructure, mobility, privacy, and domesticity; and suggest directions for future investigation, particularly with respect to methodology and conceptual foundations.

Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human by Tom Boellstorff

So I was recommended this because it is considered a classic in digital anthropology ethnographies (studies). This anthropologist did research in Second Life and decided to interview people from that mainframe. This means that he had to make his own life there, cultivate friends, etc, much as real anthropologists would do in a new or foreign place that they’re examining. It’s gotten some flack because of the digital aspect (how can you tell if people are telling the truth?! but to those nay-sayers, how can you tell if they’re telling the truth in real life though?) but I still think it’s worth a read.

Summary: Coming of Age in Second Life shows how virtual worlds can change ideas about identity and society. Bringing anthropology into territory never before studied, this book demonstrates that in some ways humans have always been virtual, and that virtual worlds in all their rich complexity build upon a human capacity for culture that is as old as humanity itself.

Other books I’ve recommended in this series:
4 Material Culture books



About Claire (BWB)

It's Claire (aka Quirky) from Bitches With Books, an online book blog that serves up a healthy dose of book reviews, lists + literary madness.
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4 Responses to The Oxford Diaries: (9) 4 Digital Anthropology Books

  1. SarahJL says:

    I loved Coming of Age in Second Life when I read it (during undergrad). Will have to check out the others.

  2. DoingDewey says:

    I’m completely geeking out about this post. These books all sound so cool! I’ll have to see if we have any of them at my school library πŸ™‚

  3. Pingback: Weekly Recap| Jun 22-28, 2014 | Oh, the Books!

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