Friday, January 22, 2010

Gucci, Coach, and Dooney & Bourke: The Experience of Being Socially Measured

I believe I was socially measured this morning, and I think I may have passed. During my morning commute, a woman sitting across from me caught my eye, gave me a sharp nod and said, "Nice bag." Momentarily shaken out of sleepiness (I hadn't had any coffee yet), I looked back at her blankly for a second. I flashed her a quick smile and nodded a thanks, and tried to return to my state of sleepiness for a few additional minutes. No such luck. My new friend leaned forward in her seat and scrutinized my bag. When she sat back, she gave a satisfied little nod and said, "I thought so. I was considering that one." All chance of reclaiming sleepiness gone, I found my eyes studying the shiny leather of her own bag—which she held on her lap like a shield—seeking the same information she had pursued moments before, wondering at her assessment and her sense of satisfaction. [Left: A Louis Vuitton hang bag in transit.]

Commercial brands have long been used by some to create, manage, and read social status. As an undergrad, I spent some time exploring reputation and respectability via Peter Wilson's work in the Caribbean (1969). Wilson proposed that reputation was a public phenomenon, based on showings of wealth and other physical items. Reputation was therefore something that could be determined at-a-glance. If you were poorly dressed, then you must also have a poor reputation. Reputation was based in part on your public presence. Respectability however was a much more qualitative assessment: it was based in part on accomplishments. As knowledge of accomplishments is limited to a much more local group, respectability was attributed to the private realm—the immediate network of your home and close community.  So for example, the type of car you drove would contribute to your public reputation, while earning a promotion might contribute to your respectability within your family and peer circles. For Trinidadians living under and with the legacy of colonial rule, reputation was harder to come by as economics often limited opportunities to purchase the items necessary to attain public standing and become socially mobile. Some individuals managed to bring the ideas of respectability into the public sphere to author themselves as reputable via the sport of cricket, thus changing the dynamics of reputation and respectability.

Now that you've had a healthy dose of anthropological theory to get your Friday morning started, let's go back to my fashion savvy friend on the subway. In an ideal world, opinions about others wouldn't be formed based on at-glance-observations concerning modes of dress and the designer labels we sport. However, the truth is we do it all the time because it helps us organize our world. This form of public reputation—a personal brand, if you will—allows us to believe that we know something about the other person (for better or worse). I was evaluated this morning and met her standards. My bag apparently allowed her to place me in a certain category, and allowed her to relate to me—I was someone who would understand her assessments. My degree of respectability didn't matter, and really how could it? She couldn't know me or anything that I might have accomplished. Her evaluation was based purely on the way I presented myself. [Right: Another Louis Vuitton—recognizable by its signature print.]

In a recession-minded society, will labels continue to have the same value to reputations? Or will more weight come to be placed on respectability? And since respectability in this model is not based on the ownership of luxury items, how will we gauge it? Would a person reading a book on the subway be more respectable that a person with an iPod? And would the title and subject of the book matter? Would a person with a Kindle be more respectable than a person with an old fashioned book? As you can tell, I have some questions—and I'm interested in your take on this. Talk back below.

Wilson, Peter J. "Reputation and Respectability: A Suggestion for Caribbean Ethnology." Man, New Series, Vol. 4, No. 1 (Mar., 1969), pp. 70-84.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

To Lock or Not to Lock? Questions of Personal Security

Apparently, as unforgiving as New York City is reputed to be, a growing number of people have revealed that they don't bother to lock their front door, or only lock up on specific occasions. I couldn't pass on the opportunity to write about this because it reminded me of an early conversation with someone who is now one of my dearest friends.

It began when her house guest learned she didn't lock her front door when she was in her apartment. She nonchalantly confirmed that he was right, if she was home, she didn't see a reason to lock her door. If I remember the moment correctly, I believe it was in this instant that I looked at her as though she had grown giant green tentacles from her head. Radiating incredulity, I remember asking her, in a somewhat scandalized tone, whether she had heard of home invasions. At this point, she looked at me as though I had sprouted green tentacles from my head, and shrugged, noting that this was Chapel Hill, not at all like the Den of Iniquity I hailed from. Still, after much haranguing by me, the paranoid New Yorker, she started locking her door—at least when I was there with her.

When did the idea of personal safety become so, well, personal? Some of the folks reported not locking up because they live in a building with a doorman, which they feel is sufficient to prevent unauthorized persons from entering their homes. By leaving their doors unlocked, they're recreating a sense of "small town security." And it is this sense of security that others who don't have the benefit of doormen cite—they trust their neighbors. Their attitude has been characterized with the following thinking:
I am a free and easy person who is more concerned that my house is open to any friend who wants to drop by than with possessions. I live in a fine building in which people know and respect one another and there is no need to lock my door. I live in a building in which we are all good friends, and if someone who has a few too many drinks walks in by mistake one night and falls asleep on the couch, it’s a good story that proves what a friendly place this is.
While a sense of trust in your community and neighbors is a good thing—and in some ways helps to create your sense of "home"—this seems like a very fragile arrangement. Some in the article mention a loss of faith in theft deterrent measures as a reason for not locking up. Does this response seem a bit preemptive? It appears to run counter to the protection offered by the herd. If we're all locking our doors, then we're acting in concert to reduce opportunities for burglaries. One instance of not locking up, even if it's in a "closed system," compromises safety. The security cited by "No Lock People" is flawed—the doorman could step away from his post, or someone could leave the main door unlocked, or you could find yourself having to stay away from your apartment longer than expected, etc. Anything can happen. Of course, you could double and triple bolt your door, and still be the victim of a burglary. But why make things easier for a would-be thief?

The comments have been interesting to review. They represent a varied view of personal safety—former city dwellers who never locked up are bolting their doors in the suburbs, and No Lock People who have always lived outside of urban areas talk about how they have never felt threatened, didn't feel threatened until they were robbed, or changed their minds after being verbally accosted about locking up. One commenter shared the following:
"I shared a house with a no-lock person in grad school. She would leave the back door unlocked all the time. I asked her politely to lock up and she said 'I prefer to trust people'. I could never make her understand that it was unreasonable for her to put my possessions at risk as well."
People have a right to determine their own measures of safety, but not at the expense of others. Personal safety is therefore a much more public issue than one may initially think. Yes, we want laws in place to protect us. But personal safety is also dependent on the things we do to support those laws. Personal safety is tied to public behaviors:
"The no lock people say that a determined burglar will get in whether the doors are locked or not, which is true, but I would say most burglars are not that determined! They're opportunists, rattling doorknobs, looking for the fool who hasn't locked up so they can make a quick and easy buck. We mistakenly left our car doors unlocked a couple of years ago when someone was going up and down the street breaking into cars. He/she wasn't breaking windows or using crowbars, they were just testing door handles. The $60 he took didn't matter as much as the sense of security that evaporated after the break-in. I can only imagine how I'd feel if it had been the house. Anyone who wants into my house needs to get past at least two locks now, and if I'm inside, that's only the start of his troubles."
It's an interesting way to think about the relationships we develop with our surroundings. Are you a Lock or No-Lock person? Me? I'm (mostly) a locker, even though I live in a fairly safe neighborhood, I think you just never know. When I briefly lived in North Carolina, I could never forget that I was a woman living alone, and was an aggressive locker. I don't think I ever allowed myself to relax there. I had a roommate and I don't think I ever trusted her with my safety. Much to my surprise, when I returned to New York, I found I was guilty of leaving the back door unlocked on occasion when I knew that I would be coming "right back." It surprised me. Recent events have caused me to double check when I leave the house to make sure I've locked up, even if I'm coming "right back." But I wonder if I might revert over time. I want to trust my neighborhood, as I'm sure many other people do, but does it make sense to do so when so much is dependent on the actions and desires of others?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Balancing Progress and History

I had some time at Penn Station yesterday before my train was announced, so I hung around on the concourse level for a change instead of descending immediately to the track. I really wanted to get a good look at a bas-relief that I walk past every day. You see, it features a bare breasted woman—and it's rather well detailed. Do I have your attention yet?

[Above: Bas-relief artwork at Penn Station.]

Penn Station in its original form was a grand testament to New York City's architectural enterprises. Completed in 1910, the original station was a spectacular example of the Beaux-Arts style of architecture. It featured a soaring 150-ft ceiling that allowed sunlight to illuminate the concourse from which you could watch the trains entering and leaving the station, as well as a 277-ft waiting room fashioned after the Roman Baths of Caracalla. It occupied eight acres of real estate, spanning 7th and 8th Avenues from 31st to 33rd Streets. Its completion marked a golden age in terms of development and architecture for the city, but it was not meant to be.

[This photo of Penn Station c. 1911 gives a sense of it's sprawling majesty.]

In the late 1950s, plans were quietly made to demolish this colossal building. It came down to money and development, as most things do in this city. The growth of the automobile industry and the building of highways greatly reduced the popularity of passenger rails, and Pennsylvania Railroad, the owner of Penn Station, was nearly broke. The land that Penn Station was sitting on was far too valuable to the growing city for Penn RR not to sell. So they entered into quiet talks with the owners of Madison Square Garden, which was then located on 26th Street near Madison Square. The owners of the Garden felt that given the popularity of the sporting complex, if they had the right opportunity to provide for larger crowds in a central location, they could not only boost their own commercial success, but that of the city as well. At this stage in NYC history, the midtown area was suffering. With the building of the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges earlier in the century, the outer boroughs were experiencing a residential boom, which drew construction and commercial enterprises out of the city. The Madison Square Garden Corporation felt that the Penn Station site was perfect for their plan: the railroad would be moved underneath the facility so that it would continue to bring people into and out of the city, with the new Madison Square Garden serving as an an epicenter for commercial development. They negotiated a deal that left the resident railroads with 25% ownership, and retained the remaining percentage for themselves, effectively seizing control of any future development of the site. [Left: Penn Station concourse, c. 1962.]

All of this happened without public knowledge until the NY Times got wind of the development plans and ran an article in 1961 revealing the plans for demolition and causing a public outcry. Architects, artists, writers, and private citizens quickly rallied to save the building, but it was to no avail. Beauty and history were no match for economics in this instance, and the case for demolition for the growing city was just too strong. So in 1963, the building came down and by 1966, the midtown landscape had changed considerably. A Time editorial stated:
"Any city gets what it admires, will pay for, and, ultimately, deserves. Even when we had Penn Station, we couldn’t afford to keep it clean. We want and deserve tin-can architecture in a tin horn culture. And we will probably be judged not by the monuments we build but by those we have destroyed."
-- "Farewell to Penn Station," New York Times editorial, October 30, 1963
What does our naked friend have to do with tale of destruction? In the 1990s, to address the complaints that Penn Station was nothing more than a glorified basement, the facility underwent renovations under the Penn Station Improvement Project, which included the installment of a collection of bas-relief artwork throughout the station titled the Ghost Series. Done by Andrew Leicester, the artwork was meant to invoke the grandeur of the Roman design of the original building. The woman and her clothed friend, as well as the other Roman images, remind those who pass through the station that the remnants of the past are still with us. [Right: All that remains today of the original Penn Station are a few artifacts, such as this overlooked stairwell which still contains the original brass hand rails from the building Photo Credit: NYT.]

New York City is a place where progress and development are primary concerns. Most buildings in this city have short life spans. From the very beginning, this city has defined itself by constantly (and sometimes ruthlessly) reconstructing itself. In discussing the story of Penn Station recently, I found myself involved in a severe disagreement with someone. When I told the story of how the building had been torn down to install the new Madison Square Garden, he expressed approval at demolition for the sake of progress, citing the real estate value of land in NYC where space is at a premium and the economic and commercial benefits of redevelopment. I countered somewhat hotly that perhaps he would like to raze Ellis Island and construct a row of skyscrapers. At this point, he reminded me that even my beloved Federal Hall would one day be gone—the site where George Washington was sworn in reduced to a plaque!—as even the facade would be beyond saving. He pointed out that New York City does not capitalize on its history—it is a city far more concerned with capital itself. He asked: "If all the historic sites, the cultural sites, were removed from the city, would tourists still visit?" And I was forced to admit reluctantly that I thought the answer was yes. People travel here to see Times Square, to see the Stock Exchange, and to take pictures in front of Tiffany's. There are very few people clustered around the site of the Stadt Huys or Bowling Green.

[Above: Will a plaque like this be all that remains of Federal Hall one day?]

In any case, we volleyed a few more well-placed shots at each other before reaching a truce of sorts. I had to ultimately agree to a certain point with his argument: things must change for us to move forward. (And truthfully, I'm glad we now have building codes!)  My debate partner does have a deep respect and appreciation for history, but is perhaps less emotionally vested in the past than I am. While I agree with redevelopment for revitalization, I believe we can't lose all of our history for the sake of progress. We need a sense of who were were. We simply cannot have progress for the sake of progress. I think the Ghost Series reminds us that we build on the efforts of others—buildings may physically disappear, but their spirit lingers in unusual ways if we care to look. As recent construction in Times Square has proven, in this city nothing is ever truly gone. We build on our past, incorporating it into our present even without realizing it.

The demolition of Penn Station has been credited with mobilizing preservation efforts in New York City. Fairly recently, I discussed efforts to save the building facade of 211 Pearl Street, which was slated to become the site of a condominium. This story had a fairly happy ending, but I have to acknowledge that despite genuine efforts at preservation in other places, sometimes the price of history will be too high. The key in these circumstances will be finding ways to remind our present that we have a past.

[Above: Information under statue of George Washington at Federal Hall.]

What are your thoughts on the price of history?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Toward a Common Humanity

"Being an anthropologist means that when a natural disaster occurs somewhere in the world, a friend may be there."
I could not have expressed this sentiment any better myself, so I am borrowing the words of a member of my former UNC cohort. The recent catastrophic earthquake in Haiti has turned my thoughts to our global levels of connectivity. Anthropologists develop unique relationships with the world at large, both through ethnographic subjects who come to be friends, and even extended family, and through their colleagues who create links to other neighborhoods, cities, and regions. When natural disaster strikes, many people are forced to wonder whether and how people they know may be affected, and some are surprised at the answers.

[Above: Earthquake destroys much of Haiti, Jan 2010. Photo from the BBC.]

With thousands feared dead and most of Haiti in physical ruin, international support has been widely pledged. President Obama has promised the "unwavering support" of the United States in a press release today, and while he has not committed to a specific monetary pledge, he has urged Americans to donate "despite the fact that we are all experiencing tough economic times here at home." Global financial challenges lurk ominously in the background, and I have to wonder how aid pledges will be affected by the economic crises that have swept the world. From what I've been able to dig up on the web, some of the offers of help are as follows:
  • Aid agencies in Haiti are opening up storehouses of food and water.
  • The World Food Program is flying in 100 tons of emergency food.
  • The UN hopes to provide $10 million in emergency funds.
  • The European Union has offered $4.4 million.
  • Doctors Without Borders is offering to set up service stations throughout Haiti (providing they can get into the country).
  • The International Red Cross can supply emergency funds for 3000 families.
The BBC also details additional international aid efforts in an article on their news site. Given the devastation that has wracked Haiti, will this be enough? President Obama has stressed that support to Haiti must be an international effort if it is to be an effective effort. If financial aid is not possible, then perhaps nations can offer services and much needed resources to assist. But still, will it be enough? For a country that has long been steeped in man-made woes, including poverty and poor political infrastructure, perhaps this is an opportunity to rebuild from the very core—but to do so will require more than a gift of of a few million dollars, pounds, or euros. It will require a conscious investment in the country, and more importantly, the people.

But perhaps these are thoughts for the long term when attention to immediate needs of those who are buried under rubble or sleeping in the space where their homes formerly stood is needed. President Obama has also invoked a sense of global community:
"(T)his is a time when we are reminded of the common humanity that we all share.  With just a few hundred miles of ocean between us and a long history that binds us together, Haitians are neighbors of the Americas and here at home.  So we have to be there for them in their hour of need." [From Press Release: Remarks by the President on Rescue Efforts in Haiti.]
Certainly, local Haitian communities both here in New York and elsewhere, have mobilized to send supplies and provide physical assistance in this time of need. For others interested in providing support, social media technologies have been helpful. For example, people have been text messaging donations. Social media has also played a larger role in disseminating information and keeping family members and friends connected and informed. CNN featured a page called What We Are Hearing Via Social Media, providing eye-witness information collected from Twitter. And as I poured over the various news sites, it seemed that many of the images shown were from non-news personnel. These technologies are becoming crucial to the survival of our ever-growing and geographically-expanding networks. Web 2.0 technologies have been activated to create impromptu support networks  and share what little information people may have heard. They are proving integral to the management of disasters. And perhaps creating a global community so that when natural disasters strike, anthropologists aren't the only ones wondering and worrying about the fate of friends.

[Above: Screenshot of CNN's Haiti Twitter feed.]

I'm interested in knowing if any of you donated money via text messaging, and if so how you learned about the opportunity. I'm also interested in learning about how you are following the news about Haiti—through social media, news websites, etc.

I hope that relief efforts are swift, so that Haitians can find some comfort before they begin the process of rebuilding.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Growing Up Digital

Technology propels us ever-forward, shaping us even as we strive to create new, faster, and more stylish gadgets and processes to assist with our daily life needs. Researchers are beginning to ask how these technologies will change our relationships to each other, and are finding that the continuous march of technological advancement is building a digital divide between generations. As the author of the linked article says of his toddler:
My daughter’s worldview and life will be shaped in very deliberate ways by technologies like the Kindle and the new magical high-tech gadgets coming out this year — Google's Nexus One phone and Apple’s impending tablet among them. She’ll know nothing other than a world with digital books, Skype video chats with faraway relatives, and toddler-friendly video games on the iPhone. She’ll see the world a lot differently from her parents.
I have spent some time on this blog belaboring the point that technology has an isolating effect—that our ability to make and manage one-to-one connections is limited by our need to always be connected to everyone. (Do you really know all 500 people who are your "friends" on Facebook? Do you really need to Tweet about your Starbucks order—and why are there a hundred strangers who care?) I've spent some time wondering how the dynamics of our networks will change as we begin to manage them digitally, and recently, I've wondered how social pressure and the social order are manifested digitally. I think these are important questions to ask because like it or not, technology is integrated with our lifestyles, and we're constantly making accommodations to encourage it to infiltrate even deeper.

The article marks a contrast between the Net Generation (born in the 1980s) and the iGeneration (born in the 1990s and the past decade), citing their preferred method of communication: the latter spends more time using text messaging and instant messaging programs to connect with one another instantly, while the former still demonstrate a preference for email, which does not necessarily guarantee instantaneous responses. The point here, according to Cal State professor Larry Rosen, is that the iGeneration will grow up expecting instant responses and constant connection to one another, and will lack the patience for anything less.

But this is also a generation that will group up more primed to process information than any other. They will know how to mine the web, how to glean relevant information from different sources, how to synthesize a story out of the assorted bytes of data they have collected. And they'll be able to do all of this while multitasking at levels not previously employed by even their older siblings. This is also a generation that will have a head start on networking. They're born connected—they probably have Facebook groups for their playgroups! Networking will be second nature to these kids who will retain friendships from elementary school and kindergarten with ease. What the Net Generation has merely tapped will be unleashed by the iGeneration and subsequent web users. While some may worry about the caliber of congition with this group, I think we'll find that the world is rapidly becoming a different place, one that accommodates their relationship with technology and information.

I'm no fan of the Kindle. I feel that books should be held and experienced as much as they are read. But an entire generation may grow up knowing only digital books. My heart breaks a little at this notion, but it's the way they will come to process information. It's progress—just another step in growing up digital.

What are your thoughts about the digital divide? What is your relationship to technology? How does that differ from that of your own parents? And new parents, what have you noticed about the ways your children interact with technology?

Friday, January 1, 2010

Just the Essentials

Happy New Year! Question: What do you need to get you through the day?

Take a second and look through your bag or pockets and take an inventory of the things you carry with you every day. A quick survey of my handbag revealed the following (in no particular order):
  • Cell phone
  • Cell phone charger
  • Check book
  • Small wallet with travel passes, ID, library card, and bank card
  • Eye glass repair kit
  • USB stick
  • Makeup case
  • Sunglasses
  • House keys
  • Car keys 
  • A bill
  • Some coupons
  • A comb
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Key card for my office

I also carry a small tote which holds my umbrella and a book for my commute, as well as my lunch, if I'm bringing it from home for the day. Looking at all of these things spread across my desk, I wondered if I really needed it all—the New Year presents the perfect opportunity for such reflection. I made two piles. The items in bold in the list above represent the things I believe I absolutely must have on me to see me through the day from the moment I leave the house to my return in the evening. It wasn't too bad, I thought—it seemed that I was carrying mostly essential items. The coupons I probably would never use, and the bill would be thrown away once I paid it. I don't really need my check book all the time since I rarely ever pay for anything with a check—in fact, I could probably get away with tucking an emergency check into my wallet and leaving the book at home. And since I don't drive everyday, I could theoretically leave my car key at home. [Image Right: The contents of my handbag, minus the cell phone which was used to take this picture.]

So what caused this imposed inspection? After reading about the Hadza in National Geographic's December issue, I began to think about what we consider necessary to daily life. Though it tends to wax poetic at points, the article is a fairly good piece of travel writing (delivering an entertaining account of a baboon hunt in the process), the following statement caught my attention:
There are things I envy about the Hadza—mostly, how free they appear to be. Free from possessions. Free of most social duties. Free from religious strictures. Free of many family responsibilities. Free from schedules, jobs, bosses, bills, traffic, taxes, laws, news, and money. Free from worry. Free to burp and fart without apology, to grab food and smoke and run shirtless through the thorns.
A life free of worry, responsibility, taxes, a commute, the need for money ...? Where do I sign up? It sounds appealing, but like the author, I also decided that perhaps the cost for these types of freedoms is a bit high for me:
Their entire life, it appears to me, is one insanely committed camping trip. It's incredibly risky. Medical help is far away. One bad fall from a tree, one bite from a black mamba snake, one lunge from a lion, and you're dead. Women give birth in the bush, squatting. About a fifth of all babies die within their first year, and nearly half of all children do not make it to age 15. They have to cope with extreme heat and frequent thirst and swarming tsetse flies and malaria-­laced mosquitoes.
Hm. Between the lions and the squatting in the bush, I don't know how long I'd survive. And I think the majority of my fellow commuters might agree. The Hadza are one of the world's last remaining hunter-gatherers. They live in the Great Rift Valley, one of the most inhospitable environments on earth. They grow no crops, own no livestock, and build no permanent shelters. They set up camps, and move as needed to be closer to herds and other resources. They eat everything—birds, wildebeest, zebras, buffalo, warthog, bush pig, hyrax, baboon, plus berries, baobab fruit, tubers, and honey. Their possessions are minimal: a cooking pot, a water container, an ax, and perhaps a pipe—which can be wrapped in a small bundle for easy transport. But if they can manage to subsist on so little, why can't we? Why do I feel lost without my cell phone to remind me of the date?

Of course, our lives are remarkably different. The Hadza are adapted for hunting baboons in the middle of the night. I am built to survive commuting. (Who has the tougher job there I wonder?) The need to be connected at all times is the reason I feel at a loss without my cell phone. It's essential because my world, which is not the hunter-gatherer experience, makes it so. Still it made me wonder what else people might consider as essential. In addition to my essentials, a quick office poll added iPod and headphones (because some phones allow you to listen to music), a pen, and a snack (hmm, good idea for those long subway rides). Others mentioned hand cream—for those moisturizing emergencies—and sanitizer. I am a big fan of the latter having had someone sneeze on me on the subway and then pretend nothing had happened. [Image Left: The popularity and presence of cell phones indicates their necessity.]

In transit, cells phones seem to be the most essential item, with 9-out-of-10 people carrying them in hand at all times. I also spotted a portable video game system. Riders also have mp3 players or reading materials—a small percentage of the population read while using mp3 players, and a smaller segment have replaced their reading material with a Kindle. I've spotted guitars, several ceremonial staffs (on different occasions, carried by different people), small dogs in shoulder bags, and who knows what wonders lurk in close duffels, backpacks, and totes. I am not these people—I don't know if they truly consider the items and animals I noted as essential. Nonetheless, the variety gives you pause. [Image Right: A portable game system is a necessity for this traveler.]

If anything, the disparity between our view on necessities and the Hadza's view, encourages you to think about the ways in which our lives and the meaning in our lives are manufactured—we determine what is important, creating a context-specific experience, which arguably gives us culture. It's interesting to note the ways in which these ideas spread and become a part of the mainstream. For example, in the early nineties, cell phones were not a necessity. I wonder to what degree network proliferation helped make them so. I think we're currently witnessing the spread of the next wave of necessities: elements to establish our digital presence. From Facebook to Twitter to LinkedIn to online portfolios, it's growing important to represent yourself in the digital world. Those who live "off the grid" are diminishing in numbers rapidly. I currently know of only one holdout, and he isn't holding out on any particular principle, but because he doesn't want to take the time to set up the accounts.

Okay, it's time to put those cards on the table. What essentials do you lug everywhere with you—and will you be carrying them with you this year? Share your list below.

Also, see the faces of the Hadza here in some remarkable photos by Martin Schoeller.