wtf is cyberanthropology?

yet another attempt
 

Sometimes it is quite interesting what paths thoughts take, and how this is influenced by not anticipated events. Some weeks ago Kurt Beck payed a visit to my office and I told him about my recent ponderings, especially in respect to bombenkrater fusion and bombenkrater discussion. In consequence he asked me if I wouldn’t like to talk about cyberculture for an hour or so at Bayreuth’s Institute for Sociocultural Anthropology. Of course I agreed and we fixed a date—14 November 2006, 19:30-21:00h. Some days later a letter arrived by snail-mail, containing the official invitation and all. Furthermore his secretary asked me in the letter to furnish a short description of my presentation called “What is cyberanthropology?” so that they could start to make the posters. “D’oh,” I thought, “I wanted to speak about cyberculture, not cyberanthropology.” As I did not know wether they already had advertised my speech under that title, and because I didn’t want to pick up the phone for minor reasons and hassle the people, I started to think about how I could bend the topic to finally arrive at what I want to speak about. After some time I had generated an abstract, reread it, and found that it was so cryptical that I hardly understood it myself. Having taken 20 minutes of a stroll outside I started from scratch again and was able to write something that satisfied me. In fact there now are twists in it I would not have thought about, if they had not suddenly told me another title for my presentation. Here is the abstract:
 

What is cyberanthropology?
 

To call cyberanthropology the anthropological perspective on cyberculture is not very gainful at first. You only have thrown the still hip prefix “cyber-” into the arena once more. Everything augmented by this prefix is associated with ICTs by knee-jerk reaction. Accordingly cyberanthropology at first was defined as the social sciences study of online mediated interaction. Escobar broadened the view by drawing in biotechnology and formulated a first anthropological macro-concept of cyberculture. But in this respect cybernetics as a tacit but paradigmatical cultural topos deserves some attention as well. Pulling all that together, cyberanthropology now in the widest sense means the branch of sociocultural anthropology which aims to understand the culturally informed interrelationships between human beings and those technological artefacts which can be imagined and described as cybernetic systems. This interrelationships decidedly include the attempts to fuse technological artefacts with human and other biological organisms, with human society, and with the socioecologically shaped environment. Now cyberculture has to be conceptually augmented once more, because recent findings from fieldwork render it necessary to include the genre of cyberpunk as well. The genre initially emerged from a 1980s literary movement but since a long time manifests itself within a plethora of artefacts, e.g. movies and computergames, which are diffusing globally. Subjects, ideas, visions, concepts, and principles of cyberpunk influence the creation of the technologies in question, the perspectives upon them, and the ways they are used. In turn, the thus informed social and cultural practices are seized, reflected, and interpreted by the genre itself. Only by means of the described augmentations a model of cyberculture can be created which can be put to use on the micro-level of anthropological fieldwork. Via the detour of firstly conceptualizing the subject the reasonable shape of an up-to-date cyberanthropology can be sketched.

And the German version of it:
 

Was ist Cyberanthropology?
 

“Cyberanthropology” als die ethnologische Betrachtung von “Cyberculture” zu bezeichnen ist zunächst kaum gewinnbringend. Man hat lediglich das nach wie vor modische Präfix “cyber-” ein weiteres Mal in den Ring geworfen. Alles mit diesem Präfix Versehene wird reflexartig mit Computertechnologie und Internetinfrastruktur assoziiert. So wurde auch Cyberanthropology zunächst als die sozialwissenschaftliche Untersuchung online vermittelter Interaktion definiert. Escobar erweiterte das Blickfeld um Biotechnologien und formulierte ein erstes ethnologisches Makrokonzept von Cyberculture. Dahingehend verdient aber auch die Kybernetik als ein nicht verbalisierter, unterschwelliger kultureller Topos Beachtung. Zusammengenommen bedeutet Cyberanthropology dann das ethnologische Unterfangen, die kulturell informierten Beziehungen zwischen dem Menschen und denjenigen technologischen Artefakten, die modellhaft als kybernetische Systeme beschrieben und vorgestellt werden können und/oder werden, zu verstehen. Der Vortrag zielt darauf ab, Cyberculture konzeptuell nochmals zu erweitern, denn aus der Feldforschung stammende Erkenntnisse lassen es notwendig erscheinen, auch das Genre “Cyberpunk” miteinzubeziehen. Dieses, ursprünglich aus einer literarischen Bewegung der 1980er Jahre entstandene Genre manifestiert sich längst in unzähligen Artefakten wie Filmen und Computerspielen, die weltweite Verbreitung erfahren. Sujets, Ideen, Vorstellungen, Konzepte und Prinzipien des Cyberpunk beeinflussen von Anfang an die Schaffung der im Fokus stehenden Technologien, sowie die Sichtweisen auf, und die Arten des Umgangs mit diesen. Umgekehrt werden die so informierten sozialen und kulturellen Praktiken wieder durch das Genre aufgegriffen, reflektiert und interpretiert. Erst durch die beschriebenen Erweiterungen entsteht ein Modell von Cyberculture, das auch für die Mikroebene konkreter ethnologischer Feldforschung nutzbar gemacht werden kann. Über diesen Umweg, zunächst den Gegenstand zu konzeptualisieren, wird abschließend die Gestalt einer zeitgemäßen Cyberanthropology umrissen.

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