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Call for Contributing Editors, 2016

The CASTAC Blog, a weekly, collaborative publication of the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing at the American Anthropological Association (AAA), seeks two to three new Contributing Editors to join our team in January 2016. Deadline to apply: Dec. 11, 2015 Description Contributing Editors are responsible for 4-5 posts yearly, and both contribute original pieces and solicit posts from scholars and researchers in the field. This is a great opportunity to get involved with CASTAC and the Blog, and with the anthropology of science and technology more generally. Topics of interest could include environmental anthro, energy, medical anthropology, disability, animal studies, user experience, social and mobile media, infrastructure, etc. We are open a wide range of topical interests at the intersection of anthropology and STS, especially those that complement our existing ones. CEs must commit to 4-5 post slots at the beginning of the year, and are (more...)

CASTAC Panels at AAA 2015 in Denver

We at the CASTAC Blog are very excited about many panels and events at this week's Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, Nov. 18-22 in Denver, CO. We've collected talks and panels of particular interest to CASTAC Blog readers attending the meetings. Hope to see you there, and don't forget to attend our business meeting! There will be food! Jordan Kraemer, Editor Jenny Carlson and Nick Seaver, CASTAC Co-chairs Wednesday, Nov. 18 Wednesday, 12:00 PM-1:45 PM 2-0175 TESTING AS WORLD-MAKING Richard W Rottenburg, Uli Beisel, Sandra Calkins and Stacey A Langwick Wednesday, 2:00 PM-3:45 PM 2-0290 , 2-0460 ANTICIPATING FAMILIAR/STRANGE ENVIRONMENTS: THE SOCIAL LIVES OF SCIENTIFIC PREDICTIONS - PART I | PART II Sophie Laura Haines, Sophie Laura Haines, Renzo Taddei and Susan Crate Wednesday, November 18, 2015: 4:00 PM-5:45 PM 2-0505 ANTHROPOLOGIES OF DATA Nick Seaver, Elizabeth A Rodwell, Orit Halpern (discussant), Shreeharsh Kelkar, Anna Jabloner, Alison Cool (more...)

Forsythe Prize Author Sharon Kaufman on Ordinary Medicine

I am delighted to be the recipient of the honorable mention, Diane Forsythe Prize for Ordinary Medicine: Extraordinary Treatments, Longer Lives and Where to Draw the Line (Duke University Press 2015). The book is an ethnography of the invisible social, economic, and bureaucratic forces that have made once extraordinary therapies seem ordinary and necessary. Medicine’s ability to prolong wanted life through both low-tech and high-tech interventions is a positive development in many respects. Yet the socio-medical imperative to employ death-defying techniques now exists in an ever-aging society in which private industry churns out greater numbers of interventions than ever before; in which no age or cost limits exist for insurance reimbursement of those procedures; in which many older persons, their families and their health providers must consider whether additional treatment will bring with it pain and suffering; and in which saying ‘no’ to new technologies seems somehow suspect or ethically (more...)

CASTAC.org 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...)

Who are the Influencers?

It’s not a new idea, but the term “influencer” likely has not crossed the desks of those outside the world of marketing and advertising. On the surface, it’s a relatively straightforward concept: some individuals have more of an audience online than others. Among these, some have a knack for recommending products or services that are then purchased by others. For anthropologists and media researchers, the concept of an influencer recalls Bourdieu’s theory of social capital, and is a contemporary example of the kinds of influence addressed in social and actor/network theory (see here and also here). Attempting to understand the social uses of technology without considering monetization and the role of commerce is to ignore one of the strongest forces driving interpersonal dynamics online. Therefore, my intention here is to argue for both the relevance of “influencers” as an emerging concept, but also to highlight the ways in which it extends (more...)

On the Relevance of a $5.9B Videogame Industry Deal

I spend an inordinate amount of time watching the news, blogs, and social media that swirls around what can at best be vaguely called "the videogame industry." There are multiple industries, markets, cultures, interests and to pretend that it is a kind of unified monolithic industry doesn't really seem to fit much an more (if it ever did). Yet, many CASTAC readers and authors are interested in structure. Why do particular socio-cultural-political-economic formations persist remains an important question that seems to cut across the interests of CASTAC readers. For context, Activision, one of the already largest videogame publishers, announced on Tuesday their acquisition of King, a developer and publisher of popular web-based and mobile-based "free to play" (F2P) games. To put this in context: The giant company’s acquisition of King is the biggest merger in gaming since the combination of Activision and Blizzard in a nearly $19 billion deal in (more...)

Biella Coleman, 2015 Forsythe Prize Winner, on IRC, Anonymous, and Wild Publics

It is truly an honor to join the cast of previous Diana Forsythe Prize winners and honorable mentions. In this blog post I decided to consider briefly a topic left unexplored in Hacker Hoaxer Whistleblower Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous that may be of interest to scholars working at the intersection of anthropology, media studies, and science and technology studies: the type of public Anonymous enacts with a lens directed at the communication infrastructure—Internet Relay Chat (IRC)—that helps sustain it. In many regards, IRC is one of the core communication technologies that helps support what Chris Kelty has elegantly defined as a recursive public: “a public that is vitally concerned with the material and practical maintenance and modification of the technical, legal, practical, and conceptual means of its own existence as a public” (2008:3). His work addresses various features of this public but one of the most important concerns (more...)

Announcing the Winners of the 2015 Forsythe Prize!

Today we have a special post from the 2015 Forsythe Prize Committee announcing two scholars recognized in this year's competition. The Diana Forsythe Prize was created in 1998 to celebrate the best book or series of published articles in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science, or technology, including biomedicine. The prize is awarded annually at the AAA meeting by a committee consisting of one representative from the Society for the Anthropology of Work (SAW) and two from the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology and Computing (CASTAC). It is supported by the General Anthropology Division (GAD) and Bern Shen. Winner, 2015 Diana Forsythe Prize Gabriella Coleman’s Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous (Verso, 2014) is a powerful ethnography of the making and remaking of networked computational infrastructures and their animating publics and politics. Taking a multi-method anthropological approach to understanding the unruly online collective (more...)

From Cave to Rave: What Digital Technologies and Social Media Could Mean for Paleoanthropology

A month ago, global science news was abuzz with the addition of a new ancestor to our human family. The revelation of the discovery and recovery by paleoanthropologists of more than 1,500 hominid bones belonging to the new genus Homo naledi from a South African cave was momentous. And while the discovery may be of interest to CASTAC Blog readers simply as anthropological news, what I think makes it particularly germane to our ongoing colloquy is how the research was planned and conducted and how news of the discovery was disseminated by digital means. From FaceBook to Twitter, from digital imaging to scientific visualization, and from National Geographic to eLife, the pervasive use of digital technologies and social media in the project made possible the acceleration of an extraordinary scientific discovery that is already challenging established paleoanthropology dogma. The tale of how Homo naledi went from cave to rave is intriguing, (more...)

Teaching the Anthropology of Outer Space

I think I’ve been most surprised by how effectively exploring anthropology in the context of [outer] space has educated me on anthropology in general. Having never taken a prior anthropology class, I think learning about it (and consequently, us) through a specific topic, such as space anthropology, has been a great way to learn. This is the kind of student endorsement that makes a professor’s heart sing. A few weeks ago, I asked students in my “Anthropology of Outer Space” class to provide me with some feedback on what “surprised” them most about this class. I did this to confirm a hunch that as much as the students were excited about outer space, they were becoming equally excited about anthropology. Sure enough, a third of the anthropology of outer space class said that what surprised them most was their interest in and the relevance of anthropology both for understanding human (more...)