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In the thirty-second number of Antropologicheskij forum / Forum for Anthropology and Culture, published by the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography of the Russian Academy of Sciences (Kunstkamera), the European University, St Petersburg, and the European Humanities Research Centre, University of Oxford, our ‘Forum’ (written round-table) will address the questions raised by the dividing line between public and private on the Internet and the impact of this upon research into human culture. We would like to invite you to respond to the questionnaire below.

You may, as you wish, directly address the questions presented here, or send in a text responding to one or some of them (or taking up some other issue that seems to you relevant). Whichever way, we would be grateful if you could keep your answers to a maximum of 10 pp. (1.5 spaced, 12-point type). Please use the author-date in-text citation system for any references in the format [Smith 2002: 12], appending a list of ‘References’ at the end with full publication details: Author (e.g. Smith M. A.), Article title (e.g. ‘Visual Anthropology’), Journal title (e.g. Ethnology), 2002, no. 3, pp. 14–19; or alternatively, Author (e.g. Smith M. A.), Book title (e.g. Visual Anthropology). Place: Publisher, date, pages (e.g. London: Anvil Press, 2002, 356 pp.). Please send replies by 1 December 2016 to forum.for.anthropology()gmail.com, with a copy to catriona.kelly()new.ox.ac.uk; your email address should be included in any attached file. We hope that the discussion will appear in the spring of 2017.

 

Academic Studies of Culture and the Internet as a New Public Sphere

As technology develops, digital communication becomes more and more important in the academic world, and the impact of digital media is felt more and more widely there. Increasingly, social media have become the place for professional discussion and the creation of networks, while draft articles are often posted for discussion before they are published. Books, articles, and even working documents such as field diaries may be posted online, with the expectation that colleagues and members of the public should express their views. According to the most radical predictions, the entire research cycle may in due course simply more over into the digital sphere, from collecting materials to presenting and assessing results. In her book on scholarship in the digital age, Christine Borgman shows how, on the one hand, digital communication has encouraged the free flow of ideas and enhanced discussion of these, fostering the ideals of open and transparent intellectual activity. But on the other hand, these processes have also disrupted the long-established balance between researchers, publishers, and librarians. Articles sometimes appear on the Internet before (or without) undergoing peer review, and any online text may exist in several versions, which raises issues relating to the authority of the findings and the legitimacy of the text in its given form. [Borgman 2007]. For researchers working with human subjects, the fact that the Internet fosters the dissolution of boundaries between public and private, 'the field' and 'the study'. Thanks to social websites the researcher and his or her personal and professional networks are now on full view to the general public, which includes present and potential informants. The specific nature of sociability on the Internet — a topic of interest to sociologists and specialists in media and cultural studies as well as anthropologists — and the issues of research ethics in this radically new public space, have been the subject of discussions in a range of monographs and articles [see e.g.: Kendall 2002; Miller 2011; Eynon, Fry, Schroeder 2008].

Forum for Anthropology and Culture invites you to reflect on the role of digital communication in academic life and to participate in our discussion. The following questions are provided to stimulate reflection:

1. Do you use social and academic networks (blogs, sites such as Facebook, Academia.edu etc.) for your academic work? If so, how and in what ways do they influence your research activities? Do you draw a strict line between social and academic networks and sites?

2. How significant for you is the discussion of your research results, and academic work generally, in social media, as compared with peer review in journals or when submitting a book for publication? Are you concerned (or conversely, enthusiastic) about the fact that your own lectures, talks, comments etc. may end up on social websites without your being asked?

3. Some journals do not consider for publication items that have appeared on the Internet, which they consider to violate rules that material must not have been pre-published. What is your own view of this: is, say, a text posted for preliminary discussion ‘pre-published’ or not? In what circumstances do or do not online texts count as ‘publications’?

4. In your view, should participation in online scholarly discussion (for instance, commentaries, the organisation of specialist forums, listservs etc.) be recognised in the formal procedures whereby research activity is assessed in universities, specialist institutes, national academies, and so on?

5. In what ways do the new public realities of the Internet impact upon your own sense of academic individuality? Do you attempt to patrol the boundaries of the spheres in which you are academically active? For instance, do you attempt to maintain a firm divide between academic work and online socialisation, and/or to limit access by the general public (and/or informants) to what you publish in special academic forums etc.? Have you come across cases where the exchange of ideas has generated problems and conflicts over issues of intellectual property? Is it permissible, in your view, to publish field diaries online when carrying out an ethnographical study?

6. Do you use material taken from the Internet in your own work? How permissible do you consider it to use materials from online sources such as posts and online journals set to public, various types of confessional material (such as the recent Facebook flashmob <#I'm Not Afraid> [#Ya ne boyus skazati/‎#Ya ne boyus skazat], where women openly discussed their experience of rape and sexual assault, in your academic work? How, if at all, should academic and personal contact be kept separate in such cases? Should researchers alert authors of posts to the fact that they are proposed to use their writings for research purposes?

Thank you!


References

Borgman C. L., Scholarship in the Digital Age: Information, Infrastructure, and the Internet. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007, 336 pp.

Eynon R., Fry J., Schroeder R., ‘The Ethics of Internet Research’, The SAGE Handbook of Online Research Methods. New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2008, pp. 23–41.

Kendall L., Hanging out in the Virtual Pub: Masculinities and Relationships Online. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: University of California Press, 2002, 309 pp.

Miller D., Tales from Facebook. Cambridge: Polity, 2011, 220 pp.

 


Editorial Office of the journal 'Forum for Anthropology and Culture':

Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences

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E-mail: forum.for.anthropology()gmail.com


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