Monday, October 31, 2005

Computer-Mediated Anthropology

After doing some snooping (beware the snooping internetter!) around the LJ environs of one of our commenters, I found the Computer-Mediated Anthropology (CMA) website. It's got links to anthropologists doing cyberculture studies, various and sundry resources, bibliographies, a blog, and a list of CMA-friendly (or unfriendly, as the case may be) Anthro departments, which I'm presently going to go scouring...check it! It is run by Noah Porter at the University of South Florida.

Part of what's interesting here is to see, just from a quick glance, that there's some differing terminology from what the CMC lit uses, which is likely a product of the disciplinary framework (or is it?) - e.g., "Advanced Information Technologies" instead of "Information and Communication Technologies." I'd like to get a better handle on this kind of differing terminology and how it indicates that we're conceptualizing things/operationalizing concepts.

I love the music on that site, don't you? Really inspired you to study CMC. :)

(Also, I feel I should stress that I don't always have red and black hair, nor do I wear corsets and poofy skirts. Just in case your snooping included clicking some recent LJ cuts.)
i like the jungle beat meets x-files flavor to it, for sure.

so here's a predicament - following rae, i submitted proposals to the pop culture conference. i sent one to the area on language ideologies and pop linguistics, and one to the area on internet culture. the site gave the impression that this was kosher, as long as you accepted to present at one or the other.

so five hours (!) after submission, i'm accepted into language ideologies and pop culture. should i also get into internet culture, i'm left with a moral dilemma. it would be nice to network with internet researchers and talk linguistics, just as it would be nice to network with linguistic researchers and talk internet. we're all somewhat interdisciplinary here - i'm sure this applies to the anthropologists and the communication theorists and the educuation specialists just as much.

we can't always do both - any thoughts on, you know, picking sides?
of course, internet culture could just spit on my abstract, in which case we'll treat this as totally hypothetical.

and never speak of it again.
congrats josh! i don't think you can go wrong either way.
I say do the linguistics one, if you MUST choose. I was thinking about this very thing today, you know: Do I want to contribute internet to linguistics, or linguistics to internet? I think at this stage, linguistics could really benefit from hearing from internet people more than vice versa, because internet people tend to be more fundamentally all-encompassing. In my personal experience, internet people love hearing about people doing linguisticky stuff on internet - but not so emphatically the other way around.

Then again, if it's "pop linguistics," they might already be well-exposed.

I leaned toward internet culture, only because I've already presented to linguists and anthropologists this year and I haven't hit the internet people yet, but I'd say you should lean toward linguistics because they're the one who need to hear what we have to say.

so there are real good points here, and it looks like i'll be getting my pop linguistics on in hotlanta then. if rae's livejournal presentation is happening while i'm there, i'll definitely show up and talk shit about that.

i had my abstract on 'conversational closings as dispreferreds in CMC' sitting out in the open in our department lounge today, and was kind of surprised at how many of the other students got excited over the thought of internet linguistics and actually had stuff to say about it. mostly personal anecdotes and the like, but some scholarly comparisons. it was, well, refreshing to actually talk about some of these things in real life.
there are lots of peopple interested in internet sociolinguistics around here, but no one is seriously giving it much consideration. since so many academics are chained to the interent , everyone has some experiences that they're happy to share. i also think it's intuitive that sociolinguistic phenomena apply to the interenet, and generally, grad students are excited to see a new approach to old theory. with that said, faculty don't seem to be as excited, but then again, i think this is to be expected. faculty tend to get pigeon-holed into their research and tend only to find any interest in work that they can use in their understanding of their own work :(
good point, josh. It's very difficult to find faculty that are willing to work on Internet, unless they have had a vest interest in the net to begin with. which leaves us as grad students doing our own little tap dance of 'please pay attention and validate my efforts!' at our respective schools. But give it a few years and studying the Internet is going to be a common place as studying anything else.
i think that this varies by department - i've talked to four faculty members in linguistics about doing long-term work, course work, and independent research on internet discourse and received heaping encouragement from all but one of them. two of them actively send me anything cmc-related that they happen to find in any new journal articles or the like. they aren't likely to pull a paradigm shift and co-author papers with me, but i don't think i'll have to work harder than anyone else for validation.

i think rae's right that these studies won't take long to become more mainstream - it seems like much more active research is being done at the student or recent-grad level than by published scholars. i'm placing bets on it sorting itself out noticably in the next decade.
exactly. change comes from grad students. i had a professor tell me a few days ago that as faculty, it's not important to validate your research to other faculty, but to the GRAD STUDENTS because they are the ones that carry on the research traditions. if the grad styudents don't buy your new theory, then it's doomed to fail. i think there's some truth to this, and i think that once our generation of grad students (and some before us) will have enough support from each other validate what we do. we have to keep in mind that the internet is still just a social infant. while it's been around for a couple decades, the kinds of online language and communities we're interested in are pretty recent phenomena.
Speaking of tap dancing, I think I won't be able to make your poster session at AAA, Rae, on account of I have a tap class to teach (OMG DID I JUST SAY THAT OUT LOUD)Thurs. night which means I have to either go only before then or only after then...and prob. the weekend will be better. But I think your poster will be around, yes? And so will you?

Josh, you are really good at providing reasoned perspective on all of these things. I agree it depends totally on institution and, from what y'all say and what I've heard from others at some places, there is support out there - it's just a matter of finding it. As for whet studying the internet will become commonplace for linguistics, I'm not sure - supported and acceptable, probably moreso, but I think there'll still be big resistance to it. Internet is already a decently big deal in sociology, for instance, but linguistics as a field seems special simply because of the restricted focus it's seen in so much of the past decades (and theoretical infighting). I mean, the main thing of course is that's CMC is not SPOKEN speech and never will be (not the stuff most of us are interested in, anyway) which is why for the same reason, we find it terribly interesting and others don't.
i don't think that studying the internet will ever become commonplace in linguistics, or even supported and accepted to any real degree. but it can be done. so this is a long shot, but i think you can potentially do hard linguistics (morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics) with internet-specific language varieties, as long as you use an interactional linguistics framework. see also here.

i think that sociolinguists and linguistic anthropologists will be able to get away with it, and to have their work recognized as scholarship, but we are working in the minority here. by calling it a move towards the mainstream, i'm referencing more a setting where people will accept the work for what it is, not one where everyone's doing a dissertation on l33t.

Lauren, my poster will be around Friday afternoon at one of the other session. Speaking of, I really need to get on the ball and put it together completely!
Interesting know, although my background is in mass communication, I was seriously planning to go back to do my PhD in linguistics for years, so I could study the language of the Internet. Only one day I realized that there didn't really seem to be any faculty (not at Texas anyway) really doing that, and so I ended back up in communication (and also I realized that while many aspects of socioling are interesting to me, I didn't really want to do hard-core linguistics, but really interaction). But ironically, although many, many people in comm study the Internet, few of them do it from a language perspective, so even there it's kind of new. But it's definitely supported.
wow...I think I just set a record for the use of "really" in a blog comment
For me, I want the linguistic background because I think it validates the perspective that i'm trying to come at internet language from. all of the syntax, phonology, semantics, and historical classes i've taken have given me the traditional language centered background that is missing from internet research. when it comes down to it, i could have gone comm, or anthro, or sociology and been able to publish on the same things and in the same journals, but the perspective would be different. my analysis would be different, and the connections between language and society (as opposed to society and language) would be different. sitting in an e-society anthro class, i see just how different the approaches to lnaguage and the internet the different disciplines are. both linguistics and anthro are interested in describing language, but it's how the language is described. i think the best approach is to marry the quantitative analysis from socio with the qualitative analysis from anthro.
Well put.

ps Kris I say 'really' all the time, too. And 'actually.'
robin lakoff would have a field day here.

i agree completely with josh - our department actually calls that perspective 'sociocultural linguistics', where you combine the theoretical and methodological aspects of sociolinguistics, linguistic anthropology, and various forms of socially-oriented discourse analysis into one framework.

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