Thursday, July 28, 2011

Reminder: Anthropology in Practice Has Moved

Why are you still hanging around here? Come join me at the new Scientific American blog network!

(Note: If you were subscribed through the old RSS feed, you should not be affected.)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Details About the Move to Scientific American (and More)

If you're wondering why things here at Anthropology in Practice have been uncharacteristically quiet this past week, it's because AiP has a new home on the just launched Scientific American blog network! For details about the launch (and if you have the time), you can read community manager Bora Zivkovic's thorough introduction to the new network and its fantastic line-up of writers.

So what does this mean for I'll be re-posting my SciAm material (with a 48-hour delay) mainly for archival purposes but also to hold onto this space. However, there are a slew of new links that you may want to take note of:
Note: Existing subscribers, particularly those who get AiP updates via email, should not experience an interruption in feed delivery. However, existing subscribers who do not rely on email updates, are encouraged to update to the new feed.

In case you missed it, AiP's first post went up on Thursday at high-noon (cue the O.K. Corral music) titled, "Shifting Stigmas: The Act of Crying in Public":
The City That Never Sleeps is also a City That Cries On-the-Go When Necessary: on the subway or the commuter rail, in a park, or while walking down the street, do these private moments become a part of the public experience in part because there aren’t enough private spaces? If this is the case, then why does public crying still feel, well, private?
You can read the rest here.

It was an exceptionally busy week, and Bora has a nice round up on network activities. As Bora notes, the new bloggers are on a posting schedule for the first two-weeks. You can expect AiP to resume business-as-usual after July 15th.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

AiP in the Press

The launch of the Scientific American blog network has attracted a lot of attention—understandably as Bora Zivkovic has done an amazing job assembling a very diverse group of writers. Thanks very much to the following outlets for their recognition of AiP during this move:
This is definitely an exciting time, and I look forward to seeing AiP grow in this new venue.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Anthropology in Practice Joins Scientific American

The time has finally come for me to share a secret with you that I've been keeping for months: AiP is moving! To the new Scientific American blog network!The community manager Bora Zivkovic has written an extensive introduction to the new network that also discusses who the new members are—it's worth the read.

The move is a bittersweet one. I am excited to be able share the goals of this blog with a wider audience, but this corner of the Internet has been my home for almost two years. I have selected every element contained in this venue, and crafted the experience for my readers with patience and a fair amount of my heart as well—because this enterprise has always meant a great deal to me. My writing has always been an extension of myself and good friends can likely find traces of their influence in the posts on AiP. Questions they've posed, discussions we've had over coffee and beer—anything and everything can be fodder for writing (which S knows so well). Moments of joy, frustration, love, and even heartbreak are littered throughout this blog, and they serve as a reminder that writing is an intimate exercise. And anthropology in particular, which invites a fair amount of introspection, only enhances this sort of intimacy.

So as I take a final look around here, surveying the packed boxes, I am quite honestly overwhelmed as to how far we have come together, Readers—for make no mistake, this is your journey as well. I may have done the heavy lifting, but you came, time and time again. You read, digested, and shared my thoughts. You shared your own. And I have gotten to know a few of you quite well. Thank you for your support. In particular, thank you to those of you who know me personally, and supported me in the early days of writing. While you may not comment publicly, your support has never wavered, and I hope you know how much it has meant to me to see AiP on your iGoogle pages, on the home page of your phones, and to see your Facebook shares.

I hope you will join me at my new digs, which have also been carefully crafted by the SciAm editors. If you subscribed via the RSS, please be sure to update your feed. I would hate to lose any of you in the process of this move.

I am delighted to announce that many friends will also call the SciAm network home, including Eric Michael Johnson, Kevin Zelnio, Hannah Waters, Janet Stemwedel, Jason Goldman, Kathryn Clancy, and SciCurious. But the entire network is a robust and diverse one, and I encourage you to visit and poke around—you may find new material for your RSS feeds. Over the next two weeks, we'll be "unpacking," so please bear with us.

See you on the other side. If you want to bring over a box or two, I'd be much obliged. Here's to whatever adventures await us.

And as always, thanks for reading.

- Krystal

Thursday, June 30, 2011

On My Shelf: Coffee—Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate (A Review)

Coffee—Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate | Scott F Parker and Michael Austin, eds. | Wiley Blackwell | 264 pages | $19.95 (Softcover)

About a year ago, I was a three-coffee-a-day person: Two cups in the morning, and one around midday or after lunch. My esophageal lining took a hit—and coffee drinking also took a toll on my wallet since I had long ditched the office sludge for more enjoyable brew. Anyway, I was ordered to lay off of the caffeine for two weeks, and while I resumed coffee consumption in moderation once the mandated fasting period had passed, I thought it might be a good idea to give it up entirely. Much like Napoleon’s Waterloo, I was less than successful. About two weeks into that endeavor, my general misery prompted coworkers to buy coffee for me. I took it as a hint that I needed to resume my affair with caffeine and I’ve never looked back.

Following a legacy of colonialism and linked to power dynamics and capitalism, the coffee bean is curiously intertwined in our history. I’ve documented some of this here on AiP previously, so when Coffee—Philosophy for Everyone: Grounds for Debate arrived in the mail for review, I admit I picked it up with some relish. And I was not disappointed: a quick perusal of the chapters gave me pause on almost every page. The volume is divided into four sections and a diverse assembly of lively authors deliberates the meaning and experience of coffee culture, from why we choose to drink it the way we do to its role in our daily lives to fair trade factors.

Editor's Selections: Professional Potheads, An Affinity for Math, and Give-and-Take

This week in the social sciences on
  • The Neurocritic has unearthed a JAMA study from 1965 on drug culture in the United States. He shares a taxonomy of drug users that is quite revealing about perceptions—some of which haven't really changed all that much. (Fair warning: There's a trippy mushroom on the page.)
  • At Inkfish, Elizabeth Preston reports that Euclid, Archimedes, and Pythagoras don't have the corner on geometry. Amazonian children have a basic grasp of these concepts because they're integral to the ways in which we see the world: shapes and distances are elementary means of viewing, understanding, and negotiating our environments.
  • At Psysociety, Melanie Tannenbaum offers some thoughts as to why same-sex marriage faces such an uphill battle in gaining acceptance. She discusses how intolerance toward ambiguity can motivate strict preservation of normative social codes, which then limits the ability to view alternatives. Melanie shows how reciprocal concessions may be a possible mediator in these sorts of situations.
I'll be back next week with more great reads from

    Wednesday, June 29, 2011

    A Sense of Accomplishment? There's No App for That—Yet.

    © Muppet Wiki
    Admittedly, I'm woefully behind the curve when it comes to Sesame Street. Unfortunately, it doesn't make it into my regular viewing rotation as often as it used to. My 19-month-old niece, however, is a huge current fan, and we recently got to watch an episode together that had some very important lessons for the upcoming generation of multitaskers.

    Telly was struggling to learn how to perform a new pogo trick—the Boingaroonie. And though he practiced, he just couldn't get it right. So he gets an iPogo. That's right. It's exactly what you think it is: an iPogo. And what does the iPogo do? Well, just about anything:

    [Disclaimer: This is a muppet song—and it's catchy. I claim no responsibility if you start humming it on your own.]

    This clip actually dates to November 2010, and when it was released, a lot of attention was given to the fact that Sesame Street was spoofing the popular Apple advertising campaign, which reinforced the power of the handheld device. (Seriously, what can't your iPhone do? Meet a boy named Matt? Don't worry! Apple is working on that.)

    However, commentary seemed to overlook the outcome of all those apps: Telly ultimately returns the iPogo, despite being tempted by subsequent generations that can do even more things. He does so because even though the iPogo will pogo for him—at just the right speed if he asks it nicely—and perform the Boingaroonie, he gets no joy from the activity. He feels no sense of accomplishment when he performs the Boingaroonie because he's not actually doing the trick. He's dependent on the technology he possesses. For Telly, that sense of mastery was important. Have we compromised that with our instant mobile search? Want to know how many career strikeouts Billy Wagner had? Or want to learn how to tie a bowline? Well, if you have an iPhone—or an Internet-enabled device—you don't have to wait or seek out a specialized source of knowledge. Does having the answer trump any feelings of inadequacy? Or perhaps that is why we are joined at the hip to our devices: they offer a sense of independence from others and hide the deficits of our understanding.

    The episode also raises the question as to why Telly wanted the iPogo in the first place: He gets sold on the idea—seduced by the power and capabilities it offers. And the scene offers a subtle commentary on the social pressures mobile technology imposes: as an easy way to impress Baby Bear, how does these devices reinforce certain standards for acceptance?

    Telly endorses a sense of accomplishment to a generation that intuitively interacts with touch-screens and regularly Skypes with Grandma. For them, Dino Dan and Dora are available on-demand. In a world with Zippo apps, apps that help you find constellations, and mobile enabled GPS, it's a good reminder that sometimes it's okay to do things for yourself—and it's okay to go against the grain. Sometimes. 

    But the mochachino app really did get my attention.

    Monday, June 27, 2011

    “It’s Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry”: Rituals of Reconciliation

    Photo credit here.
    Readers may find that the title for this post triggers a certain refrain by Chicago (or BoysIIMen, depending on how old you are). Apologies in advance to those of you who may find yourself humming the chorus on your drive home or while walking through the halls of your workplace or campus. Or while grocery shopping. Or brushing your teeth. (The power of suggestion is a curious thing.) Of course, you may question how sorry I really am considering that I made a conscious decision to use this particular title for the post. And depending on how annoyed you become at the persistence of this suggestion, or how annoying you find Chicago, you may not easily forgive this seemingly small transgression.

    But I imagine you come here, Reader, because we are friends in a strange, disembodied way. And I would hope you would be able to overlook any resulting disturbance to our relationship—eventually. Reconciliation—“the settlement of conflicts or inconsistencies and the restoration of peaceful or amicable relations”—as a means of managing social predicaments in a widespread practice (1). Reconciliation has been crafted into finely tuned rituals that help shape and maintain relationships. It has been institutionalized and sanctioned as a form of mediation. But saying “I’m sorry” seems to be an easier process for some, requiring the use of other non-verbal signs dependent on the right circumstances for others. Are all apologies the same? How do we judge the authenticity of reconciliatory actions? And why do we even need to bother?

    Thursday, June 23, 2011

    Editor's Selections: Lice, Cultural Preservation, Short Farmers, and Chipped-Stone Tools

    This week in the social sciences on
    • At Contagions, Michelle Ziegler explores evidence that Napoleon's armies may have also had to battle a minute enemy: lice, which can carry a host of diseases.
    • Razib Khan documents the benefits of the selective preservation of cultural elements with regard to human evolutionary history at Gene Expression.
    • At Inkfishblog, Elizabeth Preston debunks the notion of robust farmhands, made tough by the labors they performed and working outdoors. They were likely shorter, more prone to disease, and malnourished, believe it or not.
    • And finally, the author of Gambler's House reveals what chipped-stone tools can tell us about our early ancestors.
    I'll be back next Thursday with more selections in anthropology, philosphy, social sciences, and research from

    Four Stone Hearth 120 is Live

    Sam Wise of Sorting Out Science is hosting the 120th edition of the anthropology blog carnival. Why not take your morning coffee/tea/whiskey over there for a quick perusal?

    Thanks for hosting, Sam!

    We're in need of future hosts, so drop me a line if you're interested.

    Wednesday, June 22, 2011

    Internet Week Highlights: Digital Archaeology

    Digital Archaeology, sponsored by Google, during IWNY2011.

    The World Wide Web is only twenty years old. Hard to believe, isn't it? Considering how seemlessly it integrated into our lives on a daily basis. This is the history that the Google-sponsored Digital Archaeology exhibit hoped to revisit. Things we may take for granted today—GPS, texting, intuitive interfaces, sheer portability and speed—owe their existence to the experiments that preceded them.

    The exhibit highlights 28 influential websites calling attention to the need to archive these sorts of records. Creator Jim Boulton points out that as influential as the web has been, there is no trace of the first web page to be found—"not even a screen shot."

    But the exhibit is as much a nostalgic review of hardware as well. Part of the exhibit are the items of the day: An early Powerbook, a Gameboy, a modem—the archaic equivalents of today's tablets and smartphones. These are artifacts that entire generations will only know of by hearsay because they have passed from public memory. What's more, these artifacts trace the ways in which our society has changed by following the technological timeine: the rise of portability, the changing design aesthetics, our literary inclinations.(A Wired accompanied each station, and it grew progressively thinner as the years passed. Wired was once a tome-like production.)

    We don't often think too much about the lifespan of digital elements. Perhaps we take their impermanence for granted, accepting that they can disappear overnight. This acceptance manifests as indifference, but perhaps it's time to reconsider what constitutes our history. The few cuneiform tablets that have survived are integral to the documentation of our social development. The web—and these artifacts—have much to add.

    To see some of the artifacts on display, please visit the album. If you'd prefer a more animated review, thedroidguy has a nice walkthrough here:

    Geek Girls in a Geeky World: 21st Century Subcultures

    Ed Note: This post is part of a tandem series with the amazing SciCurious of Neurotic Physiology. Be sure to head on over an read her part of this story. In fact, why don't you do that now?  

    Limor Fried makes the cover of Wired. © Wired

    Geek /gēk/ (noun):
    • A person regarded as foolish, inept, or clumsy.
    • A person with an eccentric devotion to a particular interest that places him or her outside of traditional social boundaries.
    • A carnival performer whose show consists of bizarre acts.

    1915- 20; probably variant of geck (mainly Scots), meaning fool from Dutch or Low German gek.

    I’m a geek girl, though I may not meet the stereotypical criteria associated with this status—i.e., I’m not a socially inept, basement dwelling, sports and pop culture averse, Plain Jane with immense knowledge about obscure/irrelevant topics that no one but a fellow geek would be interested in. At least I don't perceive myself that way, though it's possible that others might. Before we go any further, I want to stress that this is not my perception of what geeks are like. There are plenty of geeks, both male and female, who break this mold. But this is the way geeks are portrayed in popular media and it is the view that is often held by members of the mainstream. It is also a view that many who identify as geeks have come to embrace as their own.

    Sure, I’m a history buff—utterly fascinated by the Dutch heritage in New York City and the ways those early traditions helped shape New York City into the metropolis it is today—and I won’t hesitate to tell you all about grid layouts or old marketplaces if the opportunity arises. My downtime includes video games ranging from SimCity to Assassin’s Creed. (Best.Game.Evah.) Also, I’m a bit of a DC-character fangirl, and I'd be glad to dissect Moriarty with you. And, of course, my head gets turned by technology and science and culture fairly easily. I’m driven to know how and why things work. I like to tinker, and push buttons—literally.But I’m not a fan of being sequestered in the basement. There's no reason to hide my geekiness, but I don’t feel that I need to exaggerate it for recognition or respect. I can be a geek. I can be me.

    As geeks, Daria and her friend Jane (right) stood in sharp
    contrast to Daria's mainstream family. (© MTV)
    However, the badges of subculture identity are important, and polarized symbols have long been held as requirements for group membership and categorization. SciCurious of Neurotic Physiology has an interesting post up on the meeting between geek culture and the mainstream. She discusses the derision expressed by a marketing professional for Game of Thrones fans who elected to appear in “garb” at a publicity event, noting that even as geeks are becoming more visible, they’re still largely on the outskirts of acceptance. (Sci was not in garb.) She asks, “how loud is geekdom speaking?” because “if the geeks are going to inherit the earth, then why is everyone still laughing?”

    Monday, June 20, 2011

    Four Stone Hearth Has a New Home!

    Hosting for the current site for the Four Stone Hearth is set to expire on 06/28/11. It seemed like the right time to move the carnival to a blog, where Afarensis and I could implement some of the suggestions made by readers. Afarensis has set us up at a new address. Please adjust your bookmarks, subscribe to the RSS, and pass the word!

    The new site is live, but still a work in progress. Please feel free to visit and poke around, and share any suggestions you may have.

    Friday, June 17, 2011

    Upcoming Four Stone Hearth

    I'm back to the business of attending the hearth. Many thanks to Kristina Killgrove of Powered by Osteons for hosting the anthropology blog carnival on June 8th—if you haven't, you should head on over and check out the collection.

    The next edition will be hosted by Sam Wise at Sorting Out Science on June 22nd. Please send him your submissions!

    Also, now that I have a few hours to spare, I'll be returning to the suggestions so many of you made to better the hearth—they weren't for nothing! Here's hoping we can pull this together.

    Thursday, June 16, 2011

    Editor's Selections: A Pile of Human Excrement, Echolocation, and Radiated Testes

    New and notable from the social sciences this past week on
    • Do you remember that scene in Jurassic Park where Dr. Sattler digs through a pile of dinosaur droppings to try and determine if there's a dietary reason causing one of the triceratops to be sick? Poop can be very informative. At Powered by Osteons, Kristina Killgrove tells readers how trove of human excrement may reveal a fair amount about Roman culture.
    • Though commonly associated with dolphins and bats, blind humans also use a form of echolocation to enhance perception. At Neuroanthropology, Greg Downey delves into the brain's extraordinary ability to pull information from a variety of sources.
    • At From the Lab Bench, Paige Brown discusses the implications of ionizing radiation on reproductive health—the implications are not just biological, but cultural as well, as limited understanding of nuclear energy can generate a culture of fear that has far reaching effects.
    I'll be back next week with more from the social sciences.