Thursday, April 29, 2010

Dealing With "Digital Distractions" in the Classroom

Apparently, an increasing number of colleges and professors are banning laptops in their classrooms, citing poor grades and general distraction. These are definitely issues worth consideration, but the article raises a good point counterpoint:
For years, educators have been clamoring to put technology in the hands of young students through partnerships with big tech companies, best symbolized by the One Laptop Per Child initiative. But by the time those kids grow up, they might well find university authorities waging a war on laptops in the classroom.
Is a blanket ban on laptops really a realistic means of dealing with perceived digital distractions in the classroom—or does it it actually create a deficit in terms of learning?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sexy Archaeology Hosts 91st Edition of FSH

For the latest in anthro-blogging around the web, visit Sexy Archaeology for posts on Neanderthal DNA, climate and dendrochonology labs, and disappearing languages.

Posts were a bit sparse for this edition, so please consider sharing posts of interest you stumble upon as you browse the web. For info on hosts and hosting, please click here.

Doormen—Keepers of More Than Just the Door?

Doormen have long been associated with swanky addresses in New York City, so it's not surprising that news of a strike last week opened the door (no pun intended—okay, maybe just a small one) for ridicule of doorman-affiliated lifestyles. The New York Times asked:
Who will safeguard my apartment as I sleep? Greet my children when they come home from school? Accept deliveries? Clean the hallways? Sort the mail? Operate the elevator? And who, for goodness sake, will let the cleaning lady in?
The Times went further to create instructions for residents on how to open doors for themselves, drawing criticism and defensive remarks from doorman and non-doorman building residents alike. Fortunately, the strike was averted, and residents escaped having to assume the responsibilities of doormanship themselves. But if you aren't from New York City or another doorman friendly city, you may be wondering what the fuss is about: Why are they so integral to life in New York City? [Right: A doorman at his post on Wall Street.]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blog News - Where's the In the News Feature? Delurk Yourselves, and More

If you're a regular Reader wondering where the In the News feature is the answer is that I tabled it this week. I'd like to make it more useful to you than simply a list of articles that I found intriguing. It should be back in the coming weeks, once I've figured out how I want to deal with it.

I'm also thrilled to note that my subscription rate has really grown! Thanks for stopping by, sharing the information here, and coming back! Take a moment and let me know who you are - what about anthropology interests you, what topics would you like to see discussed, how did you get involved in anthropology? Let me know you aren't a bot.

And in case you missed it, the latest round of neighborhood explorations went live last week with  my ventures into the Five Points.

So what's in store for Anthropology in Practice? I'll be participating in a round-blog (as opposed to round-table) discussion about anthropology outside of academia. I've posted some preliminary thoughts for Monday, and will hopefully have more to say as colleagues chime in. Feel free to share your thoughts on the subject as well.

I'll also finally be getting back to my work on Time, so I look forward to sharing that with you as we move forward.

Anthropology Outside Academia

The research mantle can have an isolating effect. Anthropologists, like most other scientists, are trained to process information in very specific ways and they learn to talk about this information in very specific ways that are often inaccessible to the general public. Research is its own fan—researchers write and speak to each other, drawing on theory and jargon that means little to a non-scientific audience.  The result is a disconnect between science and the public—and industry.

Anthropologist Rachel Black recently discussed her experience doing ethnography for for industry with a few bloggers. She found that her [industry] colleagues had no interest in reading lengthy articles, and that they had little or no formal training in anthropology and references to fundamental theories were entirely lost on them. She has called for a round-blog discussion of applied anthropology and what it means to bridge this divide. I've chosen to participate in the conversation because it gets to the heart of Anthropology in Practice—that is, looking at ways to share information with the general public. This is hopefully the first post in this installment, and links to updates will be posted at the bottom as they become available.

Why does it matter? Public support for scientific endeavors begins with understanding. Findings may have the potential to change a community, an organization, even the world, but if they're unintelligible to the population, then there is no progress in science—there's no feedback, no real data, just theories and labs. As organizations look to applied anthropology for solutions to work "smarter"—maximize productivity, boost morale, improve collaboration, etc.—and the scientific community tries to be heard about larger issues, can science be an active participant in these dialogues?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Is Your Facebook Profile Ready to Delete You? Lessons from South Park

South Park's "You Have 0 Friends" episode drives home the ways the social media giant Facebook has slowly but surely taken over our lives. Originally aired on April 8th, Comedy Central ran it again last night, and a second viewing revealed additional insights into the ways our lives have changed as a result of digital and social media—and was a hilarious good time at that. So, what would you do if you had no Facebook friends? Is your Facebook profile larger than life? [Stan in the digital world. © South Park.]

The Five Points Then and Now: Ghosts of Tenements Past [FP4]

 For such a small area, the Five Points really has a great deal of history connected to it. Walking through present day Chinatown, I was really struck by how various elements of the Five Points have persisted through time, and have managed to impart some of the old character into the neighborhood. The streets bustle with throngs of Asian residents, reminiscent of the earlier immigrant settlers who called the Five Points home. The streets themselves, crowded with buildings, narrow and winding, hearken back to a time when you might have gone out of your way to avoid Mulberry Bend, Mosco, or Pell Streets for fear of harassment, robbery, or worse. Many of the buildings that line these streets are tenements that date back 100 years or more, and are still very much in use by immigrants seeking affordable housing, as is the case with the building at 65 Mott Street. Residents of these buildings often shared commodes and other facilities—and while some of these buildings may have been updated, the structure and layout remain. So has life really changed in the former Sixth Ward? Let's take a look at living conditions in the Five Points through the ages and find out.

[Above: 65 Mott Street, the first building in New York City constructed specifically for tenement purposes. April 2010.]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Five Points and the Collect Pond: Ripples Through Time [FP3]

The story of the Collect Pond is integral to the story of the Five Points itself, and it is a prime example of the how the relationship we have with our landscapes can impact our social order.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Five Points Then and Now: Landmarks [FP2]

The landmarks of the Five Points were not artistic and architectural triumphs, but rather tenements, prisons, and churches. Using maps found here, I plotted the locations of sites that loomed largest in the history of the Five Points. Stick close—the streets are dark and possibly a little dangerous.

[Above: Map showing points of interest.]

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Return to the Five Points [FP1]

Recent mob outbreaks in Times Square have people concerned about rising levels of violence in the city. For some it evokes the city's reputation from the 1970s. But New York City has always held a bit of a reputation:
In small clusters, the world began coming to North America via this island nestled in its inviting harbor. And while the West India Company had a firm Calvinist stamp to it, which it tried to impress on its colony, the makeup of the settlement—itself a result of the mix of peoples welcomed to its parent city of Amsterdam—helped to ensure a raggedness, a social looseness ... Days got livelier; with nightfall, the soft slap of waves along the shore was drowned out by drinking songs and angry curses (Shorto 2005: 61).
My suspicion is that the concerns about New York City today echo sentiments about New York City in the 1970s, which echo the sentiments expressed about New York City in the 1830s—when New York City was home to one of the most notorious slums in the world, the Five Points.

In other words, the time of present memory is almost always the most dire circumstance. I invite you to journey back in time with me to walk the streets of the Five Points, and draw your own conclusions about the intersection of the city's past and present. But before you secure your valuables and venture into the alleys and tenements of the area, let's look a bit at the history.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

90th Edition of the Blog Carnival Is Live

Just a note to let you know, Reader, that the 90th edition of the anthropology blog carnival went live at A Hot Cup of Joe on Wednesday. A low turnout this time around prompted host Carl to rally anthro writers/readers of the web. So think about hosting or submitting to the next carnival—even if it's just something you read by another anthro blogger and want to share. The carnival needs you!

In the News: Weekly Roundup (4/11 - 4/17)

Here's a sampling at what I've read this past week—mostly volcano news as Eyjafjallajokul continues to wreak havoc. By the way, the volcano is on Twitter—@Eyjafjallajokul—and seems to be demanding sacrifices.


Volcano News

Friday, April 16, 2010

Digital Authenticity—Does Anyone Care?

Mark Schaefer, executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, reposted a blog entry asking, "Can you outsource authenticity?" He writes:
To be successful on the social web, you need meaningful content … and LOTS of it! Some debate whether you need quality or quantity, but fact is, you need both. Five excellent blog posts in a month is better than one excellent blog post … and 10 is even better than five! And every company and non-profit is jumping on board. So where is all this quality content going to come from? [Emphasis mine.]
In other words, as long as the source is accurate, does it matter who produces it?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Updated Info on the East River Waterfront Project

In February I posted news that the East River waterfront would be changed as they city developed the space. Work in ongoing, and a fair amount of progress has been made.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Future of Thought

I had the immense pleasure of hearing Sherry Turkle speak on a panel concerning the emergence of a digital class and what it means for our social order. One of the questions raised during the discussion concerned the future of thought: As we become immersed in virtual worlds and digital media, what will happen to the structure of thought?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Extra! Extra! (Some) Print Media Is Not Dead!

There is a newsstand that I walk past every morning that seems to have every newspaper in the world—okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, but the myriad languages prominently displayed definitely earns a second glance from me. The majority of papers seem to be in Spanish, but I'm sure I've seen Russian, French, and possibly Polish. Strangely, the Asian languages are absent. While I often see folks picking up the trademark pink Financial Times (which seems to be a natural choice given that we are in the Financial District), I often wonder who purchases the other papers. The news that the international editions contains are definitely not current in the sense of our own daily newspapers. Often they are weekly digests, so the events they cover are at least a week old. Surely, it might be simpler to get this information online—which is where most folks seem to get their news anyway, much to the growing dismay of print news outlets. So who buys these papers? And why read them? [Right: A newsstand sells international papers.]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Outsourcing Organs: Organ Dealing and Transplant Tourism

According to a survey by Donate Life America, 43% of people are undecided, reluctant or do not wish to have their organs and tissue donated after their deaths. As a result of the shortage of organs, a black market has grown and thrived—particularly in impoverished corners of the world.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Online Interactions and Your Life Offline

Science Daily reported on a new study appearing in American Behavioral Scientist this April that suggests that online interactions have a positive effect in real life in that they serve in part to reaffirm connections to local communities. Authors Caroline Haythornthwaite and Lori Kendall, professors in the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Illinois, indicate that the extensive reach of online technologies utilized for communicating and networking, creating and distributing content, and for storing, sharing, and retrieving files are creating ties that bind for offline communities:
"Research on who people communicate with online [technologies] shows a lot of local activity," Haythornthwaite said. "So online communication always reinforces local relationships and local identities that build networks of interacting individuals who are mutually aware of each other. Together, this demonstrates a continuous change in how we maintain local community, while also emphasizing the importance and significance of our attachments to local places and spaces."
Are we defining community too narrowly?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Blog News - Pages, Think Social, Open Lab 2010

You may have noticed some changes around Anthropology in Practice. Namely, I've added pages to help organize and highlight things, and help people find my contact information easily. I'm hoping to eventually share my research this way, too.

I'll also be sharing some of my digital writing with at The Paley Center for Media. If you have any interest in digital and social media, I strongly suggest you check them out. You can view my articles for them here.

Finally, Open Lab 2010 is accepting nominations for the "best writing on science blogs," which I am pleased to say includes anthropology. If you see something on Anthropology in Practice this year that you think is worthy of such a title, please submit a nomination—there's a handy button on the home page to help you find your way. Nominations will be accepted until Dec. 1, 2010, at which time 52 posts will be selected and published.

As always, thanks for visiting. And thanks for reading.

Commuter, Restored

I'll let this photo speak for itself.

[Above: My commuting buddy reclaims his space. See stories below for more information.]

For more on this story, see Becoming a Creature of Habit and Commuter, Interrupted.

RSVP—A Cultural Construct? [Updated]

ResearchBlogging.orgI saw this Op-Ed piece earlier this month about the decline of the RSVP, and it resonated strongly. It reminded me of my own experience last year when I organized my sister-in-law's (husband's sister) bridal shower. Apparently, I came very close to alienating the guest list, which contained mostly family members, because of the way my invitation was delivered.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Encounters With the Mentally Impaired

On the subway this evening, a tourist family boarded. They were traveling with a mentally impaired woman in her thirties, who was anxious about being on the subway and began to cry and shout. A man stood up so that the woman and her caregiver could sit— they were two seats away from me and it was clear from the way the woman sitting next to me kept cringing and shying away from the screams and garbled words, that she was uncomfortable.

Yet, as I have posted previously, New Yorkers have the ability to stand over and next to a homeless individual whose unwashed body demands attention without truly seeing him. Travelers remain immersed in their books; they nod along to the music on their iPods; they fiddle with their smartphones and portable game devices. They do everything but see. And yet, not a single person would look away as this troubled woman shouted, "Don't be scared" over and over with tears pouring down her cheeks.

They saw her.


Friday, April 2, 2010

Death 2.0: Digital Mourning

ResearchBlogging.orgAs today is Good Friday, perhaps it's a good time to talk about death in the digital world. While millions of Catholics engage in rituals of remembering today, I'd like to talk about how Web 2.0 technologies are changing the experience of death for those charged with remembering.