Author Archives: Nick Seaver

I'm an anthropologist who studies how people use technology to interpret, reproduce, and circulate sound. My current book project is titled Computing Taste: The Making of Algorithmic Music Recommendation, based on a long-term ethnographic study of the developers of music recommender systems. In previous research, I've studied the history of the player piano and experimental music.

2017 Message from the Co-Chairs

2016 was a busy year for CASTAC members. The wealth of articles that we can now share through our online directory, books published or soon to be, blog posts made here and elsewhere, and the many great talks in Minneapolis suggest what we have been up to: that is, of course, applying critical anthropological attention to science, technology and computing, and interrogating social practices and systems of meaning and power. We have researched, written, edited, taught, mentored, reviewed, and managed. We have a lot to be proud of and a lot in the works. As an organization, CASTAC has been busy, too. We have continued to grow our presence online, at the AAA meetings, and beyond. In this post, we’ll recap what we’ve been up to this past year and talk about what’s in the works for the year to come. (more…)

Facebook as research field and research platform: an e-seminar

CASTAC is proud to be co-hosting, with the Media Anthropology Network and Digital Anthropology Interest Group, an e-seminar on the many uses of Facebook in anthropological research. The seminar begins today, June 22, 2016, and it is being kicked off with a set of statements [PDF] by researchers whose projects have engaged Facebook, as part of their fieldwork or as a platform for disseminating and discussing their research: Philipp Budka (University of Vienna), Jordan Kraemer (Wesleyan University), Martin Slama (Austrian Academy of Sciences), and Sydney Yeager (Southern Methodist University). All readers of the blog are invited to participate in the discussion. The e-seminar is taking place on the medianthro list, so if you're interested in joining the conversation, be sure to sign up there.

Hello from the CASTAC Co-Chairs!

Last year was a busy one for CASTAC. In addition to the incredible work that our web and Platypus blog team have put into integrating and expanding our existing web presence, we’ve also doubled down on our organizational programming, working to facilitate new collaborations between junior scholars, established faculty, and specialists working in various industries of science and technology. In that follows, we’d like to relate some developments from the past year before shifting focus to the months and years ahead. We’re pleased to report an increase in submissions for the Diana Forsythe Prize, which CASTAC facilitates in conjunction with the Society for the Anthropology of Work and with the support of the General Anthropology Division and Bern Shen. Through their respective books on hacker communities and the normalization of once-extraordinary medical treatment, this year’s award winner Biella Coleman and honorable mention Sharon Kaufman continue Diana Forsythe’s pioneering work at (more...) has a new look!

You may have noticed something's different: we've done some remodeling of the CASTAC website. We've got a brand new design and our blog has a new name: Platypus. The new design brings together our blog and homepage all under one roof and makes things a little easier to manage on the back-end. CASTAC continues to grow, taking on new members and new projects, and this new design should make it easier for all of you to follow along. Angela VandenBroek, our intrepid webmaster, took the reins on the redesign, using her considerable WordPress expertise. (She's also working on an ethnography of Swedish web developers, so stay tuned for that!) The new design is fully responsive, so it will work on any screen size, and it's touch-friendly, so you can browse away on your glass slab of choice. We've also added a few features to enhance readability: if you click on the option (more...)

CASTAC to Award Graduate Student Paper Prize

A message from CASTAC Co-chairs Nick Seaver and Jennifer Carlson: Starting this year, the AAA Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC) will award a graduate student paper prize, recognizing excellent work by rising scholars. The prize will be awarded annually for a paper that exemplifies innovative research at the intersection of anthropology and science and technology studies, demonstrating theoretical sophistication and an appreciation of the methodological challenges facing the anthropology of science and technology. The winner of the prize will be announced at the CASTAC business meeting during the 2015 AAA meetings in Denver and will receive a certificate and $100 cash award. (more…)

Auxiliary Motives and the Anthropology of Technology

If you are lost in the middle of the woods, you have a problem. Assuming that you’ve ended up in this predicament without any navigational aids or food, you’ll have to start walking. Any direction is better than none: if you stay put, you’ll starve. And, once you pick a direction, you better keep going: if you keep changing your mind, you’ll just go in circles, and you’ll also starve. Your problem, aside from the lack of food and abundance of predators, is in deciding which way to go: if all your options look the same, how are you supposed to decide? (more…)