Another reason why Malinowski’s postulation that the fieldworker should stay at least one year in the field should be transposed to the online-fields, too. The festivities, you shouldn’t miss the festivities and their consequences. In order to celebrate Halloween Google changed its logo for one day. I already was struck by this adapting of logos, banners, or the whole design to events dictated by the calendar, while following the Max-Payne websites through the years. During Christmas time icicles, snow, and Santa-Claus paraphernalia suddenly pop up at websites. But it is evident that only sites which understand themselves to be institutions—e.g. institutions of the Max-Payne community—follow that practice.
On 4 October 1957 ↑Stephen King was at the cinema. Together with the other ten-year-olds clustered around him he watched the morning performance of ↑Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. Just as the flying saucers started their attack on Washington D.C. the movie was interrupted and the houselights went on. Pale and nervous the manager entered the auditorium. “‘I want to tell you’, he said in that trembly voice, ‘that the Russians have put a space satellite into orbit around the earth. They call it … Spootnik.'” (↵King 1993:21) For the assembled post-war kids a world crashed. The world of US-American supremacy and absolute security. (↵Chace & Carr 1988) There was complete silence in the cinema. Within this silence everybody realized that far above their heads there was an electronic tin-ball cruising through space, beeping triumphantly. And this tin-ball had been invented, constructed, and built beyond the Iron Curtain. In the race for space the Russians had beaten the American pioneer-spirit.
In 1957 the abbreviation ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missile) already had found its way into public discussion. The American understanding of those four letters went like this: If the Soviets would undertake something audacious, rockets would instantaneously carry the nuclear death to Moscow. This recourse flew in pieces on 4 October 1957, too: “After all, ICBMs were only big rockets, and the Commies hadn’t lofted ↑Sputnik I into orbit with a potato masher.” (↵King 1993)
In order to regain military-technological supremacy, to regain security, the US-ministry of defence founded the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) in 1958. The idea behind ARPA was to mobilize and fuse research-ressources—especially those of the universities. One mistake should by no means be repeated: To lose ground because of the own hybris and torpidness. So it was carefully avoided to lay aside or miss any chance—may it appear ever so small on first glance. In consequence many small projects flourished at ARPA which would have quickly died away everywhere else due to negligence. But at ARPA it was not only possible to securely work on projects of that ilk, but there was the chance to gain access to substantial ressources.
A key to the rapid growth of the Internet has been the free and open access to the basic documents, especially the specifications of the protocols. The beginnings of the ARPANET and the Internet in the university research community promoted the academic tradition of open publication of ideas and results. (↵Leiner et al. 2003, compare ↵Kelty 2001)
The Internet is as much a collection of communities as a collection of technologies, and its success is largely attributable to both satisfying basic community needs as well as utilizing the community in an effective way to push the infrastructure forward. (↵Leiner et al. 2003)
The secret of the stairs at Aragon
So far I agree—but I’d like to amend that ‘a piece of’ hypermedia can contain a linear path, at least there is the possibility to propose one [or more?] linear path[s] to the recipient. Like Astrid Blumstengel did it in her hypertext ↑Entwicklung hypermedialer Lernsysteme [in German].
Now some kind of disagreement starts as “by their own directives and particular interests” makes me feel uncomfortable. Of course a strategy like that helps to deconstruct the ethnographer’s sublimely unquestioned authority, but at the same time it may well make it impossible to convey a message. And conveying messages is an integral part of representing anthropological knowledge. Granted, on the author’s side there still is the choice of which material to include and of how to build the structure of hyperreferences [vulgo: links]. But with no hint at a linear path the danger for the recipient to get lost in hypertext/media grows exponentially. Finally ‘we’ are accustomed to, and socialized into the conventions of linear representations.
Those are the reasons why I am so excited about Matthias Eberl’s invention, a technology called ↑Reader Triggered Multimedia (RTM) [in German]. RTM allows to embed sounds, animated and still pictures into written text while the latter remains the carrier medium. The presentation of sounds and animated elements are dependend on the position of the scroll bar—in other words: correllated with the whereabouts of the readers attention inside the written text. The reader gets ambience sound, background music, snippets from interviews etc. matching the passage she is reading. Evocation at its best is possible here. In all that I sense tremendous potential for ethnographic representation. Have a look at Matthias’ paper on RTM (↵Eberl 2004) and into his journalistic example ↑Das Geheimnis der Treppe von Aragon [The secret of the stairs at Aragon] demonstrating RTM.
In a way that may sound a little conservative—written text as the leading medium—and I admit that beside this choice there is the possibility of something entirely new, but I have yet to see a working manifestation of the utopia of completely non-linear hypertext/media. In this respect ‘working’ means representing and succesfully mediating knowledge.
Exactly that is possible via RTM—without confusing the recipient, without throwing him into a mess of file-formats, popping-up windows, and requests for installing this-and-that hitherto unknown plug-in. And in a format which still resembles current conventions regarding academic representation.
Completely embraced by yours truly. In my opinion a hypertext-website, offering one or more linear-paths for choice, consisting of smaller linear parts, the latter augmented by RTM has the potential to fullfil the tasks Anderson hints to. Add a weblog and the transparency already starts during the fieldwork itself—I am far from that goal, I know. Alas, by all that the down-to-earth everyday problems of the ethnographer aren’t solved, but indeed start at this point. For example ethical considerations concerning the publication of fieldnotes, and many more.
↑ANDERSON, KEVIN TAYLOR. 1999. ↑Ethnographic hypermedia: Transcending thick descriptions. ↑SIGHTS: Visual Anthropology Forum. Working paper from the visual anthropology workshop and course Transcultural Images and Visual Anthropology organized by ↑The Centre for Cross-Cultural Research, 3 to 28 August, 1998. Canberra: Australian National University of Canberra. Electronic Document. Available online:
↑BURKE, TIMOTHY AND KEVIN BURKE. 1999. Saturday morning fever: Growing up with cartoon culture. New York: St. Martin’s.
GOLDSTEIN, JEFFREY. 2001. ↑Does playing violent video games cause aggressive behavior?. Chicago: University of Chicago. Electronic Document. Available online:
During the recent weeks and months quite some discussion about ↑Wikipedia in general and its academical usage in particular has aroused—especially interesting to the anthropologist are the according entries and replies over at ↑Savage Minds. Among those teaching at my institute the use of Wikipedia by students is an issue, too. In fact just the day before yesterday I gave my students the ‘order’ not to cite Wikipedia-articles in their papers. I did that for two reasons: 1) I have doubts in undergraduates’ abilities to judge the quality of an anthropology-related Wikipedia-article. 2) I take undergraduate-papers to belong to the genre of academic texts. The school I am stemming from has a rule: [special cases excepted] knowledge taken from encyclopaedias [in Germany there is the distinction between Konversationslexikon and Enzyklopädie—the latter being by definition more academic than the former] is taken for being commonly granted and the source has not to be documented in academic papers. An exception would be if a central argument was taken from a Konversationslexikon or the Wikipedia. But then an error has occurred beforehand: Konversationslexika are no appropriate sources for academic texts—primary data and other academic texts are. So take central arguments from the latter ones, and use the Wikipedia et al. for gaining an overview—not for more. And even for that academic works of reference are to be preferred. In case of sociocultural anthropology I fullheartedly recommend ↵Barnard & Spencer 1996—without having any reservations.
Now, my ‘order’ described above may be worthy of discussion, for sure—and even more after having had a glance or two into my very own project-website and blog, as those contain a lot of links to Wikipedia-entries. For example the appendices ↵lingo and ↵listofgames. Why is that? Because: 1) I consider Wikipedia to be a part of my field—at least a part of the realm into which ‘my tribe’s’ realm is embedded. Therefore Wikipedia-entries touching topics like computergames, -mods, and all things g33k constitute primary data in the from of the cyberians’ emic knowledge and/or perspective. 2) I sense Wikipedia-entries on said topics to be of high reliability. Take for example the entries on ↑l33t-5p3ak or the ↑hot coffee mod. Cyberians, those who culturally appropriate ICTs—I am not speaking of passive ‘consumers’ or ‘users’—have a strong sense of history, of background-information, and feel an impulse to not only document but to share all of that. Gamemodding, open source, open content, creative commons, and collaborative efforts like Wikipedia are kin to each other—and they are all aspects of that part of cyberculture which manifests itself online. Norms, values, and ideas of the members of the ‘cyberian tribes’ become visible by means of the named examples.
A slightly different, but related case is my continuous preying on ↑boingboing-entries. A lot of boingboing’s content fills the picture of what online-cyberculture is all about. The subject of my focus—the culture of gamemodders—is embedded therein. But it is also true that I should post less about wonderful things found at boingboing, and more about original things found inside ‘my community’, like e.g. ↵dreamscream. The ↵wandering astray has to be dammed up.
↑Garry’s mod [Gmod], of which ↑version 9.0 was released just today, is a ↵HL2-mod[ification] which allows you to ↑do uncanny things in HL2. ↑Wikipedia says: “Garry’s Mod (Gmod), a successor to the throne of the original JBMod, is a simple modification created by Garry Newman. While it does not have any actual gameplay value, it functions as a huge sandbox, where the player is free to manipulate most of the objects and features of the Source engine. This has allowed an extensive community to build up and creating mini-games with Gmod, therefore creating a “Game in a Game” of sorts.” For a comprehensive, collaborative, and ever-growing documentation—including ↑the mod’s history—see the official ↑wiki accompanying Gmod. Gmod, which is ↑moddable itself allows artists’ creativity to run wild in the realm of HL2. The entries at the ↑official forums are ample proof of that. The range of artefacts is incredible—everything from 8bit pixelart—e.g. a ↑rendition of Nintendo’s Samus accomplished by stacking colored crates [see above]—to ↑war scences [see below] reminiscent of ↑Apocalypse Now, and beyond. ↵Machinima, ↵gamics, everything. Do at no cost miss the matrix-effect-style rotating views of frozen-in-time scenes in the ↑Bowling in gm_construct thread. But be warned: Those forums are addictive and you can easily spend hours there, wondering at original artefacts.
initially via entry at boingboing
As I am an advocate for learning from ‘Writing Culture’ [and everything in its wake] and from visual anthropology, when using ICTs as a tool for sociocultural anthropology, it is my duty to hint you to the website of the ↑AG Visuelle Anthropologie [in German] which went online just recently.
↑All your base are belong to us (AYBABTU)—although many times declared dead for good—still is one of the most widespread Internet topoi. As an ↵easter egg AYBYBTU made its way into countless artefacts. Already in the tutorial level [containing even another ↑secret] of ↵Max Payne it can be read on a coffee-shop sign [see above]. Now there is one more wonderfully creative example of artistical expression of gamer culture—↑Zero Wing Rhapsody [↑mirror] is “an anime-style musical remake of the infamous ‘All Your Base’/Zero Wing intro, with the words set to a well-known piece of music by Queen… with a few extra references thrown in for good measure, and completely redrawn graphics.”
Some time ago I already brought up the issue of ↵benchmarks for anthropological knowledge. Succesful social interaction is not the only possible one—being able to cognitively and emotionally embrace artefacts is another one. Knowing about “All your base” is the prerequisite for understanding Zero Wing Rhapsody. However, being able to decipher references is not enough. But if the rhapsody’s 16bit sound triggers memories and associations, if the whole animation paints a smile on your face, evokes an ambience, a feeling of being in sync with the creators and other recipients who embrace the rhapsody—then you have tapped yourself into a part of cyberculture.
all of my base
are belong to you