Why do anthropologists ignore the internet?

I have a new essay up at Ethnography Matters called On Legitimacy, Place and the Anthropology of the Internet. This was adapted from a chapter of my dissertation which I had been encouraged to publish in an academic journal, but since I actually want people to read it, I published it online instead. (My decision to avoid paywalls should not surprise anyone at this point.)

In this article, I ask why anthropologists ignore the internet as a field site and what challenges they may face if they continue to do so:

Today anthropology is facing a crisis of place, representation, and legitimacy similar to what journalism experienced a decade ago. Like journalists at the turn of the millennium, anthropologists have dealt with the challenges posed by the internet by ignoring them, downplaying the importance of the medium, and discounting its impact on the lives of the people they study. Despite the importance of the internet to people all over the world, there are few ethnographic studies of internet use conducted by anthropologists, and the anthropologists who do conduct this kind of research are marginalized and dismissed.[…]

Anthropology of the internet forces the question of whether being seen as an anthropologist is more important than doing meaningful ethnography. It strips the discipline of its elite trappings, requiring no excessive funding or dramatic upending of one’s life. What it does require is for the researcher to rely on more than just a dateline. When you are not going anywhere, you have to make the journey matter.

Read the full essay here.

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4 Responses to Why do anthropologists ignore the internet?

  1. I’ll have to think about this; I did a bit of anthro studying in college, not an expert, but I’m not an internet expert either!

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