Blogging, meet Anthropology. Anthro, this is a blog

27Mar07

“Knowledge should be free.”

What a naive statement, eh? Well you say potato, I say idealistic. The Open Access movement is about changing a 300-year legacy of academic journal publication. As bloggers we’d like to add to this movement. One effect of keeping the latest academic discoveries hidden from the general public in expensive journals is the reinforcement of the status quo—perpetuation of unequal power structures. Knowledge is power, and power is knowledge. Thus, making knowledge free goes hand-in-hand with the expressed spirit of the Internet. What we have before us is a lot bigger than we can take on. But these things tend to snowball—look at any revolution.

For myself and others the most important aspect of blogs in general is authorship (for our definition of blog, check our our glossary). Blogs (and the free hosting sites that have sprung up since July 1999’s Blogger) give those lucky enough to have a computer and an Internet connection a public soapbox. What they choose to do with it is another matter.
The relationship between academia and blogging is fairly new because blogs are new. Mortensen and Walker have helped to pave the way for my post here. I’m going to try to filter some of what they have written in their article Blogging Thoughts: Personal Publication as a Research Tool. Specifically the article is about conducting online research (which is what Annie and I are doing on this blog). But it offers plenty of insight into the relationship between academia (where anthropology has lived for years with great results) and the public sphere (where we want anthropology to go, at least in part). They write:

The modern researcher is not quite the old man in a dusty, smoky study behind a labyrinth of books, unable to relate to the rest of the world. Research is supposed to be related to contemporary topics, and preferably lead to results that can give new insights to more than a narrow group of specialists. But the formula of academic writing is not designed to reach audiences different from ourselves; on the contrary, these ritualised forms limit readership to those who are rigorously trained to read a certain style of writing. With the increasing flow of and access to information, academic communication is changing. Through being aware of new communication technologies we academics can be part of the new writing and take part in the development of these emerging genres, instead of marginalizing ourselves” (261).

So we’re trying to jump on the bandwagon. There’s a growing number of open access scholars who feel that cultural anthropology is shifting away from the closed, academic world to the public, transparent world. We’re trying to help this movement out with this project. Beyond this, however, we are claiming our space in the public sphere by saying that our voices are important. Rebecca Blood has inspired us:

Shortly after I began producing Rebecca’s Pocket I noticed two side effects I had not expected. First, I discovered my own interests. I thought I knew what I was interested in, but after linking stories for a few months I could see that I was much more interested in science, archaeology, and issues of injustice than I had realized. More importantly, I began to value more highly my own point of view. In composing my link text every day I carefully considered my own opinions and ideas, and I began to feel that my perspective was unique and important” (weblogs: a history and perspective).

In an increasingly corporate world, we’re thinking that blogs could be looked at as a public response to corporate dominance over media and information in general. People are sick of having their news be reported solely for profit. In the United States, we have a situation where five media companies own a staggering majority of the media, including newspapers and radio and TV stations. This happened through mergers and acquisitions, which in turn were enabled by a gradual relaxation of FCC laws about media ownership. The implications are frightening. Democracy depends on an informed public, and what kind of accuracy in reporting can we expect when corporate interests are at stake?
I’m not positive, but I’m hoping that bloggers are indeed part of the next generation of independent media, and our vision of independent academia ties in quite nicely with this. Knowledge should be free.

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4 Responses to “Blogging, meet Anthropology. Anthro, this is a blog”

  1. Considering your opinion on the media, you may want to see this video, it’s entitled, “It’s What They Call The News”

    http://www.jibjab.com/

  2. 2 dude ranch

    cynicism is a disease.

  3. 3 sasc

    Hear, hear. To achieve peace we must first overcome our own doubts. It’s been hard for me, though. Any ideas?

  4. Yes cynicism may be labelled a disease. And different views of the news are labelled…?


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