All posts by devinproctor

I am an Anthropologist interested in the convergence of media, technology, and culture. Dealing primarily with the Otherkin community, I explore Internet technologies as agents of animism. I know, right?

Gould – The Mismeasure of Man

The Mismeasure of Man: American Polygeny and Craniometry Before Darwin (Chapter 2)

by Stephen Jay Gould

[Gould, Stephen Jay. 1996. “Chapter 2” of The Mismeasure of Man. W.W. Norton & Company. New York. pp 62-104]

Points & Quotes:

“Racial prejudice may be as old as recorded human history t but its biological justification imposed the additional burden of intrinsic inferiority upon despised groups, and precluded redemption by conversion or assimilation. The ‘scientific’ argument has formed a primary line of attack for more than a century .” (62)

A Shared Context of Culture

“In assessing the impact of science upon eighteenth- and nineteenth-century views of race, we must first recognize the cultural milieu of a society whose leaders and intellectuals did not doubt the propriety of racial ranking—with Indians below whites, and blacks below everybody else. Under this universal umbrella, arguments did not contrast equality with inequality.” (63)

“There is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality. And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”

Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Douglas debates (pg 66)

“I do not cite these statements in order to release skeletons from ancient closets. Rather, I quote the men who have justly earned our highest respect in order to show that white leaders of Western nations did not question the propriety of racial ranking during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.” (66)

“Charles Darwin , the kindly liberal and passionate abolitionist,* wrote about a future time when the gap between human and ape will increase by the anticipated extinction of such intermediates as chimpanzees and Hottentots” (69):

The break will then be rendered wider, for it will intervene between man in a more civilized state, as we may hope, than the Causasian, and some ape as low as a babon, instead of as at preent between the negro or Australian and the gorilla”

Charles Darwin, in Descent of Man, 1871, p. 201.

“Preevolutionary justifications for racial ranking proceeded in two modes. The “softer” argument—again using inappropriate definitions from modern perspectives—upheld the scriptural unity of all peoples in the single creation of Adam and Eve. This view was called monogenism—or origin from a single source. Human races are a product of degeneration from Eden’s perfection. Races have declined to different degrees, whites least and blacks most. […]
The “harder” argument abandoned scripture as allegorical and held that human races were separate biological species, the descendants of different Adams. As another form of life, blacks need not participate in the “equality of man.” Proponents of this argument were called ‘polygenists.” (71)

Etienne Serres (famous Fench medical anatomist, 1860) “settled on the theory of recapitulation—the idea that higher creatures repeat the adult stages of lower animals during their own growth. Adult blacks, he argued, should be like white children, adult Mongolians like white adolescents. He searched diligently but devised nothing much better than the distance between navel and penis—’that ineffaceable sign of embryonic life in man.’ This distance is small relative to body height in babies of all races. The navel migrates upward during growth, but attains greater heights in whites than in yellows, and never gets very far at all in blacks . Blacks remain perpetually like white children and announce their inferiority thereby.”

Charles White, an English surgeon, wrote the strongest defense of polygeny in 1799—Account of the Regular Gradation in Man […]
White’s criteria of ranking tended toward the aesthetic, and his argument included the following gem, often quoted. Where else but among Caucasians, he argued, can we find:

. . . that nobly arched head, containing such a quantity of brain . . . Where that variety of features, and fulness of expression; those long, flowing, graceful ring-lets; that majestic beard, those rosy cheeks and coral lips? Where that . . . noble gait? In what other quarter of the globe shall we find the blush that overspreads the soft features of the beautiful women of Europe, that emblem of modesty, of delicate feelings . . . where, except on the bosom of the European woman, two such plump and snowy white hemispheres, tipt with vermillion.

Charles White, 1799

Louis Agassiz—America’s Theorist of Polygeny

“In the early to mid-nineteenth century, the budding profession of American science … a collection of eclectic amateurs, bowing before the prestige of European theorists, became a group of professionals with indigenous ideas and an internal dynamic that did not require constant fueling from Europe. The doctrine of polygeny acted as an important agent in this transformation; for it was one of the first theories of largely American origin that won the attention and respect of European scientists—so much so that Europeans referred to polygeny as the ‘American school’ of anthropology.” (74)

Louis Agassiz’s (1807-1873) immigration to the US in the 1840s immediately elevated the status of American natural history. He also became the leading spokesman for polygeny in America.

Agassiz published his major statement on human races in the Christian Examiner for 1850. […] his argument : The theory of polygeny does not constitute an attack upon the scriptural doctrine of human unity. Men are bound by a common structure and sympathy, even though races were created as separate species. The Bible does not speak about parts of the world unknown to the ancients; the tale of Adam refers only to .the origin of Caucasians. Negroes and Caucasians are as distinct in the mummified remains of Egypt as they are today. […] approaching the end of his article, Agassiz abruptly shifts his ground and announces a moral imperative:

There are upon earth different races of men, inhabiting different parts of its surface, which have different physical characters; and this fact . .. presses upon us the obligation to settle the relative rank among these races, the relative value of the characters peculiar to each, in a scientific point of view.. . . As philosophers it is our duty to look it in the face (p . 142).

Louis Agassiz

“Agassiz’s world collapsed during the last decade of his life. His students rebelled; his supporters defected. He remained a hero to the public , but scientists began to regard him as a rigid and aging dogmatist, standing firm in his antiquated beliefs before the Darwinian tide. But his social preferences for racial segregation prevailed—all the more because his fanciful hope for voluntary geographic separation did not.” (82)

The American School and Slavery

“…the polygenist argument did not occupy a primary place in the ideology of slavery in mid-nineteenth-century America—and for a good reason. For most Southerners, this excellent argument entailed too high a price . The polygenists had railed against ideologues as barriers to their pure search for truth, but their targets were parsons more often than abolitionists. Their the- ory, in asserting a plurality of human creations , contradicted the doctrine of a single Adam and contravened the literal truth of scripture.” (101-102)

“The polygenists forced defenders of slavery into a quandary: Should they accept a strong argument from science at the cost of limiting religion’s sphere? In resolving this dilemma, the Bible usually won. After all, scriptural arguments for supporting slavery were not wanting. Degeneration of blacks under the curse of Ham was an old and eminently functional standby. Moreover, polygeny was not the only quasi-scientific defense available.” (102)

“The defenders of slavery did not need polygeny. Religion still stood above science as a primary source for the rationalization ·of social order. But the American debate on polygeny may represent the last time that arguments in the scientific mode did not form a first line of defense for the status quo and the unalterable quality of human differences. The Civil War lay just around the corner, but so did 1859 and Darwin’s Origin of Species. Subsequent arguments for slavery, colonialism, racial differences, class structures, and sex roles would go forth primarily under the banner of science.” (103-104)


monogenism—the belief that all human peoples share the same genetic origin

polygenism—the belief that different human races come from different genetic sources, and are thus different species

Continue reading Gould – The Mismeasure of Man

Hurston – Mules and Men

Mules and Men

by Zora Neale Hurston

[ Hurston, Zora Neale. 1928. “Intro & Chapter One” Mules and Men, Pg. 1-17]

Points & Quotes: Intro & Chapter 1

  • Includes some folktales
    • John and the Frog
    • John and Noah
  • Also (and maybe more importantly) includes the “toe party” scene of Hurston partying and ending up passed-out drunk and waking up to waffles
  • ALSO ( and also important) written in thick vernacular dialect.

Cool example of fieldwork/ participant observation being a messy mixture of interviews, socializing, and being flexible enough to be dragged into things you did not expect (but fully embrace).

“I was glad when somebody told me, ‘You may go and collect Negro folklore.’
In a way it would not be a new experience for me. When I pitched headforemost into the world I landed in the crib of negroism. From the earliest rocking of my cradle, I had known about the capers Brer Rabbit is apt to cut and what the Squinch Owl says from the house top. But it was fitting me like a tight chemise. I couldn’t see it for wearing it. It was only when I was off in college, away from my native surroundings, that I could see myself like somebody else and stand off and look at my garment. Then I had to have the spy-glass of Anthropology to look through at that.” (1)

“Folklore is not as easy to collect as it sounds. The best source is where there are the least outside influences and these people, being usually under-privileged, are the shyest. They are most reluctant at times to reveal that which the soul lives by. And the Negro, in spite of his open-faced laughter, his seeming acquiescence, is particularly evasive. You see we are a polite people and we do not say to our questioner, ‘Get out of here!’ We smile and tell him or her something that satisfies the white person because, knowing so little about us, he doesn’t know what he is missing. The Indian resists curiosity by a stony silence. The Negro offers a feather-bed resistance. That is, we let the probe enter, but it never comes out. It gets smothered under a lot of laughter and pleasantries.
“The theory behind our tactics: ‘The white man is always trying to know into somebody else’s business. All right, I’ll set something outside the door of my mind for him to play with and handle. He can read my writing but he sho’ can’t read my mind. I’ll put this play toy in his hand, and he will seize it and go away. Then I’ll say my say and sing my song.'” (2-3)

Interchange between Hurston and possible interlocutors:

“Ah come to collect some old stories and tales and Ah know y’all know a plenty of ’em and that’s why Ah headed straight for home.”

“What you mean, Zora, them big old lies we tell when we’re jus’ sittin’ around here on the store porch doin’ nothin’?” asked B. Moseley.

“Yeah, those same ones about Ole Massa, and colored folks in heaven, and—oh, y’all know the kind I mean.”

“Aw shucks,” exclaimed George Thomas doubtfully. “Zora, don’t you come here and tell de biggest lie first thing. Who you reckon want to read all them old-time tales about Brer Rabbit and Brer Bear?”

“Plenty of people, George. They are a lot more valuable than you might think. We want to set them down before it’s too late.”

“Too late for what?”

“Before everybody forgets all of ’em.”

“No danger of that. That’s all some people is good for—set ’round and lie and murder groceries.”

Continue reading Hurston – Mules and Men

Rydell – The Coronation of Civilization

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Saint Louis, 1904: ”The Coronation of Civilization

by Robert W. Rydell

[ Rydell, Robert W. 1984. “The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, Saint Louis, 1904: ”The Coronation of Civilization.” Chapter 6 of All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Expositions, 1876-1916. University of Chicago Press. Pg. 154-183]

Points & Quotes:

The White City

” For the better part of 1904, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, an ivory ­tinted city of vast proportions, served as the cultural touchstone for the nation as over nineteen million “open-eyed” and “open-souled” visitors, many armed with notebooks, thronged through its gates.” (155)

“The directors of the Saint Louis fair turned this portrait of the world into an anthropologically validated racial landscape that made the acquisition of the Philippine Islands and continued overseas economic expansion seem as much a part of the manifest destiny of the nation as the Louisiana Purchase itself.” (157)

“The person who classified the exhibits for the fair, F. J. V. Skiff, explained the meaning of this cumulative edu cation on opening day: ‘The scene which stretches before us to-day is fairer than upon which Christian gazed from Delectable Mountain.’ Continuing, he explained: ‘over and above all [the fair] is the record of the social conditions of mankind, registering not only the culture of the world at this time , but indicating the particular plans along with which different races and different peoples may safely proceed, or in fact have begun to advance towards a still higher development.'” (159)

The Louisiana Purchase Exposition featured the most extensive Anthropology Department of any world’s fair. The directors expressed their intent to establish ‘a comprehensive anthropological exhibition, constituting a Congress of Races, and exhibiting particularly the barbarous and semi-barbarous peoples of the world, as nearly as possible in their ordinary and native environments.'” (160)

In charge: “W J McGee, who had become one of the nation ‘s preeminent anthropologists during his tenure at the Bureau of American Ethnology …
“In ‘The Trend of Human Progress,’ McGee developed a broad overview of human history, observing the existence of a ‘trend of vital development from low toward the high, from dullness toward brightness, from idleness groveling toward intellectual uprightness.’ The driving forces behind this upward movement, he explained, were ‘cephalization‘—the gradual increase in the cranial capacity of different races—and ‘cheirization‘—the regular increase of manual dexterity along racial lines. The proof, he believed, was self-evident: ‘It is a matter of common observation that the white man can do more and better than the yellow, the yellow man more and better than the red or black.’ As a consequence of cheirization and cephalization, the ‘advance of culture’ proceeded along lines of racial achievement:

“‘Classed in terms of blood, the peoples of the world may be grouped in several races; classed in terms of what they do rather than what they merely are, they are conveniently grouped in the four culture grades of savagery, barbarism, civilization, and enlightenment.'”

W J McGee

“‘ It is the duty of the strong man to subjugate lower nature, to extirpate the bad and cultivate the good among living things, to delve in earth below and cleave the air above in search of fresh resources , to transform the seas into paths for ships and pastures for food-fishes, to yoke fire and lightning in chariots of subtly-wrought adamant, to halter thin vapors and harness turbulent waters into servile subjection, and in all ways to enslave the world for the support of humanity and the increase of human intelligence.

W J McGee

“The lectures offered a vision of racial progress that made cultural advance synonymous with increased industrial expansion.” (160-161, incl. quotes)

“‘The aim of the Department of Anthropology at the World’s Fair,’ McGee stated, ‘will be to represent human progress from the dark prime to the highest enlightenment, from savagery to civic organization, from egoism to altruism.’ ‘The method,’ he added, ‘will be to use living peoples in their accustomed avocations as our great object lesson.'” (162)

The “Philippine Reservation”

“To make the juncture between past, present, and future airtight, the Department of Exploitation, in charge of publicity for the Philippine Island exhibit, widely advertised the display from the islands as the ‘Philippine Reservation.'” (167)

“According to the World’s Fair Bulletin, Taft believed that the proposed exhibit would have a ‘moral effect’ on the people of the islands and that ‘Filipino participation would be a very great influence in completing pacification and in bringing Filipinos to improve their condition.'” (168)

“Radiating from the central plaza were a series of ethnological villages, often placed adjacent to exhibit buildings depicting the wealth of natural resources on the islands. The villages portrayed a variety of Filipino ‘types,’ including Visayans, ‘the high and more intelligent class of natives,’ Moros, ‘fierce followers of Mohammed,’ Bagobo ‘savages,’ ‘monkey-like’ Negritos, and ‘picturesque’ lgorots.

Directed by Albert Jenks, this institution, ‘with cloisters like a convent,’ contained exhibits devoted to ‘an interpretation of the habits and life of the Philippine tribes.’ Jenks concentrated on the lgorots, Moros, Bagobos, and Negritos and declared that they were ‘true savages.'” (171-172)

“Nothing propelled the Igorots and Negritos into prominence more rapidly than the controversy that erupted in June, shortly after the opening of the exhibit, over what one visitor termed ‘their dusky birthday robes.’

“the Roosevelt administration became concerned that local press reports emphasizing the absence of clothing on these Filipinos would undermine the government’s efforts at the fair to show the possibilities for progress on the islands. … To avoid ‘any possible impression that the Philippine Government is seeking to make prominent the savageness and barbarism of the wild tribes either for show purposes or to depreciate the popular estimate of the general civilization of the islands.’ … Taft suggested ‘that short trunks would be enough for the men, but that for the Negrito women there ought to be shirts or chemises of some sort.

“The government’s efforts at overnight civilization provoked much mirth, brought an outcry from anthropologists, and … in the need for maintaining the apparent genuineness of the exhibits, the Roosevelt administration abandoned its plans to compel the lgorots and Negritos lo wear bright-colored silk trousers.

“Authenticating these villagers as ‘savages ,’ · however, left the administration with the original problem. If fairgoers perceived the villagers as utterly backward and incapable of progress, the display would actually buttress the racist arguments used by anti-imperialists to oppose annexation of the islands. But the Philippine Exposition Board had already circumvented this dilemma by driving an ethnological wedge between the lgorots and Negritos. The Negritos, according to various official descriptions of their village, were ‘extremely low in intellect,’ and ‘it is believed that they will eventually become extinct.’ To reinforce this idea, one of the Negritos was named Missing Link. The lgorots, on the other hand, were judged capable of progressing.” (172-175)

The Pike

“‘To See the Pike Is to See the Entire World,’ the St. Louis World headlined an article about the L-shaped street with its ethnological villages, wild animal shows, mechanical amusements, and sham battles.”

  • “one newspaper ‘estimated that about 2,000 natives of the various races will be seen in the parade and that several hundred animals will add to the barbaric picture.’
  • “followed by ‘a hodge-podge of all nationalities’ drawn from Cairo Street, Mysterious Asia, Empire of India, Fair Japan, the Chinese Village, the Tyrolean Alps, the Moorish Palace, the Irish Village, the Old Plantation, and the Boer War Exhibit.” (179)

“Commercial motives buttressed by claims of ethnological authenticity animated the bazaars along the Pike that represented the Near and Middle East. In the Mysterious Asia concession, street scenes depicting Calcutta, Rangoon, and Tehran, populated with lndians, Burmese, and Persians, created the impression that these portions of the world were simply vast market-places peopled with ‘exotic types.’ The same effect was achieved by the separate concessions devoted to Jerusalem, Constantinople, and Cairo. Together these exhibits left few visitors in doubt about the Near and Middle East as a marketplace in which Americans could play at will.

The precise relation between the White City and the various ethnological features along the Pike, in the Anthropology Department, and in the Philippine Reservation hinged on the contrast between ‘savagery’ and ‘civilization.’ Contrasted with the grades of culture illustrated in the ethnological shows, the vision of America’s racial and material progress embodied in the White City burned bright.

Continue reading Rydell – The Coronation of Civilization

Miner – Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

by Horace Miner

[ Miner, Horace. 1956. “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” in American Anthropologist, Vol. 58, No. 3. Pg. 503-507]

Points & Quotes:

The point, very simply put:

  • When described using exotic and evocative language, even the most mundane of activities can be made to appear magical or strange
  • Further, the fact that anthropology has described other cultures in this way has very likely caused us to view them as overly exotic and strange, focusing on their Otherness rather than finding similarities (e.g. we all do these kinds of odd things)
  • Because many of the activities we (in the West) find mundane are, indeed, strange to others
  • In Malinowskian terms, we are unable to fully see the “imponderabilia” of our own daily lives

“The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different peoples behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs. In fact, if all of the logically possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he is apt to suspect that they must be present in some yet undescribed tribe.”

“The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease. Incarcerated in such a body, man’s only hope is to avert these characteristics through the use of the powerful influences of ritual and ceremony. “

“The daily body ritual performed by everyone includes a mouth-rite. De­spite the fact that these people are so punctilious about care of the mouth, this rite involves a practice which strikes the uninitiated stranger as revolting. It was reported to me that the ritual consists of inserting a small bundle of hoghairs into the mouth, along with certain magical powders, and then moving the bundle in a highly formalized series of gestures. “

“In addition to the private mouth-rite, the people seek out a holy-mouth­ man once or twice a year. …
“The extremely sacred and traditional character of the rite is evident in the fact that the natives return to the holy-mouth-men year after year, despite the fact that their teeth continue to decay.”

“Professor Linton referred [to] a distinctive part of the daily body rit­ual which is performed only by men. This part of the rite involves scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument.”

“The medicine men have an imposing temple, or latipso, in every community of any size. …
“Small children whose indoctrination is still incomplete have been known to resist attempts to take them to the temple because “that is where you go to die.” Despite this fact, sick adults are not only willing but eager to undergo the protracted ritual purification, if they can afford to do so. …
“The supplicant entering the temple is first stripped of all his or her clothes. In every-day life the Nacirema avoids exposure of his body and its natural functions. Ba thing and excretory acts are performed only in the secrecy of the household shrine, where they are ritualized as part of the body-rites. Psycho­logical shock results from the fact that body secrecy is suddenly lost upon entry into the latipso. …
“From time to time the medicine men come to their clients and jab magically treated needles into their flesh. The fact that these temple ceremonies may not cure, and may even kill the neophyte. in no way decreases the people’s faith in the medicine men

“There remains one other kind of practitioner, known as a “listener.” This witch-doctor has the power to exorcise the devils that lodge in the heads of people who have been bewitched. The Nacirema believe that parents bewitch their own children. “

“In conclusion, mention must be made of certain practices which have their base in native esthetics but which depend upon the pervasive aversion to the natural body and its functions. There are ritual fasts to make fat people thin and ceremonial feasts to make thin people fat.”

“Our review of the ritual life of the Nacirema has certainly shown them to be a magic-ridden people. It is hard to understand how they have managed to exist so long under the burdens which they have imposed upon themselves. But even such exotic customs as these take on real meaning when they are viewed with the insight provided by Malinowski when he wrote:

“Looking from far and above, from our high places of safety in the developed civiliza­ tion, it is easy to see all the crudity and irrelevance of magic. But without its power and guidance early man could not have mastered his practical difficulties as he has done, nor could man have advanced to the higher stages of civilization.”

Bronislaw Malinowski. Magic, Science, and Religion. 1948. pg. 70


Nacirema—Strange and exotic tribal group in North America

Notgnihsaw—cultural hero and founder of the Nacirema, known for the “chopping down of a cherry tree in which the Spirit of Truth resided”

latsipo—Main temples of the Nacirema medicine men

Continue reading Miner – Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

Carr – Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Is Google Making Us Stupid?
What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains

by Nicholas Carr

[Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” in The Atlantic Monthly; Jul/Aug 2008; 302, 1; pg. 56-63]

Points & Quotes:

  • “For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and ears and into my mind.” (57)
  • “As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive chan­nels of information. They supply the stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought . And what the Net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation.” (57)
  • “The Internet, an immeasurably powerful computing system, is subsuming most of our other intellectual technologies. It’s becoming our map and our clock, our printing press and our typewriter, our calculator and our telephone, and our radio and TV. (59)
  • “Never has a communications system played so many roles in our lives—or exerted such broad influence over our thoughts—as the Internet does today. Yet, for all that ‘s been written about the Net, there ‘s been little consider­ation of how, exactly, it’s reprogramming us. The Net’s intellectual ethic remains obscure.” (59)
  • “Google … has declared that its mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” It seeks to develop “the perfect search engine,” which it defines as something that “under­ stands exactly what you mean and gives you back exactly what you want.” In Google’s view, information is a kind of commodity, a utilitarian resource that can be mined and processed with industrial efficiency.” (60)
  • “The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It’s in their eco­nomic interest to drive us to distraction.” (61)
Continue reading Carr – Is Google Making Us Stupid?

Monaghan & Just – Bee Larvae and Onion Soup: Culture

Bee Larvae and Onion Soup: Culture

by John Monaghan & Peter Just

[Monaghan, John and Just, Peter. 2000. “Bee Larvae and Onion Soup: Culture.” in Social and Cultural Anthropology: A Very Short Introduction. Pp. 34-52.]

Points & Quotes:

Universalized “culture”

“one learns a great deal that one is never explicitly taught.” (36)

“Boas described a human a kulturbrille, a set of ‘cultural glasses’ that each of us wears, lenses that provide us with a means of perceiving the world around us, for interpreting the meaning of our social lives, and framing action in them.” (38)

“At least three points of debate have continued to recur in the way anthropologists talk about the concept of culture.

    1. One has to do with the extent to which a ‘culture’ should be regarded as an integrated whole;
    2. the second has to do with the extent to which ‘culture’ can be seen as an autonomous, ‘superorganic’ entity;
    3. and the third has to do with how we can best go about drawing boundaries around ‘cultures’.” (43-44, formatting added)

To Durkheim and Mauss: “Society was not simply a model which classificatory thought followed; it was its own divisions which served as divisions for the system of classification.” (40-41)

“Claude Levi-Strauss, the founder of ‘structuralist’ anthropology, would claim that human classification is indeed universal,but that it is universal because a human predisposition to making distinctions produced classifications that mutatis mutandis were but surface representations of a more fundamental ‘deep structure’ shaped by the binary nature of the human mind.”

  • “[l]f we look at all the intellectual undertakings of mankind … the common denominator is always to introduce some kind of order. If this represents a basic need for order in the human mind and since, after all, the human mind is onlypart of the universe, the need probably exists because there is some order in the universe and the universe is not chaos.” (41)

“French philosopher Michel Foucault has popularized a new direction among some anthropologists, who have come to see the categories of meaning imposed by culture as a basis of inequality and oppression. In other words, they see the ability to control the content of cultural classifications as a primary source of power in society. This in turn makes the contestation of categories of social classification, such as ‘male’ and ‘female’, with all of the social, political, and economic associations that attend them, a primary mode of resistance to authority. ” (42)

“The idea that culture is an integrated and integrating whole is in part based upon the great modernist insight that underlying apparently discrete bits of belief or behaviour rests a more fundamental reality. For Karl Marx that determining reality was the mode of production; for Emile Durkheim it was society; for Sigmund Freud it was the unconscious; and for many in anthropology, following the lead of Boas, it has been culture itself.” (43-44)

“Ruth Benedict, one of Boas’ first students, conceived of a culture as a Gestalt, a total pattern … Although Benedict’s approach is now regarded as too simplistic and reductionist, because of its tendency to view cultures in terms of one or two key themes, it has continued to prove a powerful means for organizing and integrating the minutiae of ethnographic observation.” (44)

Clifford Geertz “used cockfighting – a popular form of entertainment in Bali – as an image that also serves to characterize beliefs and practices … In this way, Geertz is able to show how disparate elements of Balinese culture create a ‘fabric of meaning and belief’ that is consistent and mutually reinforcing. For Geertz, cultures can be read as texts, much as one might read a novel or a poem. The trick, according to Geertz, is to seek out cultural ‘texts’ that the people of the society themselves find compelling – as the Balinese are fascinated by cockfighting – and to not only understand them as they see them, but to see the ways the themes of these ‘texts’ illuminate other aspects of the society.” (44-45)

Some “refer to cultures as if they were autonomous things with lives of their own. Alfred Kroeber once compared culture to a coral reef, which is built up by the secretions of millions of tiny animals, but which existed before any of its living members, and will outlast them all, providing a structure within which future generations will be constrained.” (46)

“Anthony Wallace argued that the contents of the individual mind are in fact highly divergent, and that what culture does is not so much impose a uniformity, but provide a set of shared communicative symbols that organizes this diversity.” (47)

“The essentialism attributed to culture found itself expressed in ethnographies that routinely assumed ‘one people, one culture, one society’. But, as Arjun Appadurai recently asked, doesn’t this premise fly in the face of ‘unequal knowledge and the differential prestige of lifestyles, and discourage attention to the world views and agency of those who are marginalized or dominated’? ” (47)

Big Point!

“Perhaps it would be best to join with most anthropologists today, who tend to view culture not as a thing in itself, but as a learning device for uncovering meaning in social life.” (47-48)

“the anthropological concept of culture has been our discipline’s most significant contribution to modern thought. In uncovering the fundamentally arbitrary and learned basis for the differences among and between human communities, the culture concept has been a powerful weapon in combating racism, national chauvinism, and the ‘scientific’ racism’ that characterized much of anthropology in the nineteenth century” (48)

Cultural Relativism (really good breakdown)

  • We start from the premise that our beliefs, morals, behaviours – even our very perceptions of the world around us – are the products of culture, learned as members of the communities in which we are reared.
  • If, as we believe, the content of culture is the product of the arbitrary, historical experience of a people, then what we are as social beings is also an arbitrary, historical product.
  • Because culture so deeply and broadly determines our worldview, it stands to reason that we can have no objective basis for asserting that one such worldview is superior to another, or that one worldview can be used as a yardstick to measure another.
  • In this sense, cultures can only be judged relative to one another, and the meaning of a given belief or behaviour must first and foremost be understood relative to its own cultural context.
  • That, in a nutshell, is the basis of what has come to be called cultural relativism. (49, formatting added)

“In addition to these aspects of cultural relativism we must also entertain the moral dimensions of cultural relativism … Behaviour that might be nonsensical, illegal, or immoral in one society might be perfectly rational and socially accepted in another … do we deal with the stranger in our midst when that stranger’s culture is morally different from our own? At what point are segments of a given community entitled to a claim of cultural distinctiveness that demands autonomy and respect? Are soccer hooligans or terrorists entitled to claim the protection of cultural relativism?” (50-51)

“One wonders, ultimately, if it is logically possible to simultaneously subscribe to both the notion of universal human rights and a belief in the relativity of cultures.” (52)

“we note with Clifford Geertz that the crimes committed in the name of cultural relativism pale in comparison to those committed in the name of cultural and national chauvinism or, for that matter, almost any other ‘ism’. His stance is one of ‘anti-anti­ relativism.” (52)

bricolage—kind of collage in which the odds and ends of culture are turned to uses for which they may never have been intended but which fit into an underlying pattern
embodiment—when we act, we act not simply as minds but also as physical bodies
Some anthropologists on “Culture”:
Continue reading Monaghan & Just – Bee Larvae and Onion Soup: Culture

Bohannon – Shakespeare in the Bush

Shakespeare in the Bush
An American anthropologist set out to study the Tiv of West Africa and was taught the true meaning of Hamlet

by Laura Bohannon

[Bohannan, Laura. 1966. “Shakespeare in the Bush.” in Natural History.. August.]

Points & Quotes:

  • Bohannon—an anthjropologist of the West African Tiv people—was chatting with an English friend:
“You Americans, often have difficulty with Shakespeare. He was, after all, a very English poet, and one can easily misinterpret the universal by misunderstanding the particular.”
I protested that human nature is pretty much the same the whole world over; at least the general plot and motivation of the greater tragedies would always be clear—everywhere—although some details of custom might have to be explained and difficulties of translation might produce other slight changes. To end an argument we could not conclude, my friend gave me a copy of Hamlet to study in the African bush: it would, he hoped, lift my mind above its primitive surroundings, and possibly I might, by prolonged meditation, achieve the grace of correct interpretation.”

  • Bohannon, finding that during the rainy season everyone among the Tiv sits around and drinks, decides to tell the elders the story of Hamlet, proving her point that the basics of narrative are rather universal…
  • Highlights of the Retelling:

[Bohannon] “One night three men were keeping watch outside the homestead of the great chief, when suddenly they saw the former chief approach them.”

“Why was he no longer their chief?”

“He was dead,” I explained. “That is why they were troubled and afraid when they saw him.”

“Impossible,” began one of the elders, handing his pipe on to his neighbor, who interrupted, “Of course it wasn’t the dead chief. It was an omen sent by a witch. Go on.”…[Bohannon] “The dead chief’s younger brother had become the great chief. He had also married his elder brother’s widow only about a month after the funeral.”“He did well,” the old man beamed and announced to the others, “I told you that if we knew more about Europeans, we would find they really were very like us. In our country also,” he added to me, “the younger brother marries the elder brother’s widow and becomes the father of his children.”…[Young Tiv Man] “For a man to raise his hand against his father’s brother and the one who has become his father— that is a terrible thing. The elders ought to let such a man be bewitched.”“No,” pronounced the old man, speaking less to me than to the young men sitting behind the elders. “If your father’s brother has killed your father, you must appeal to your father’s age mates: they may avenge him. No man may use violence against his senior relatives.” Another thought struck him.“But if his father’s brother had indeed been wicked enough to bewitch Hamlet and make him mad that would be a good story indeed, for it would be his fault that Hamlet, being mad, no longer had any sense and thus was ready to kill his father’s brother.”There was a murmur of applause. Hamlet was again a good story to them, but it no longer seemed quite the same story to me….

The old man made soothing noises and himself poured me some more beer. “You tell the story well, and we are listening. But it is clear that the elders of your country have never told you what the story really means. No, don’t interrupt! We believe you when you say your marriage customs are different, or your clothes and weapons. But people are the same everywhere; therefore, there are always witches and it is we, the elders, who know how witches work. We told you it was the great chief who wished to kill Hamlet, and now your own words have proved us right.”…“Listen,” said the elder, “and I will tell you how it was and how your story will go, then you may tell me if I am right. Polonius knew his son would get into trouble, and so he did. He had many fines to pay for fighting, and debts from gambling. But he had only two ways of getting money quickly. One was to marry off his sister at once, but it is difficult to find a man who will marry a woman desired by the son of a chief. For if the chief’s heir commits adultery with your wife, what can you do? Only a fool calls a case against a man who will someday be his judge. Therefore Laertes had to take the second way: he killed his sister by witchcraft, drowning her so he could secretly sell her body to the witches.”

I raised an objection, “They found her body and buried it. Indeed Laertes jumped into the grave to see his sister once more—so, you see, the body was truly there. Hamlet, who had just come back, jumped in after him.”

“What did I tell you?” The elder appealed to the others. “Laertes was up to no good with his sister’s body. Hamlet prevented him, because the chief’s heir, like a chief, does not wish any other man to grow rich and powerful.”…

“That was a very good story,” added the old man, “and you told it with very few mistakes. There was just one more error, at the very end. The poison Hamlet’s mother drank was obviously meant for the survivor of the fight, whichever it was. If Laertes had won, the great chief would have poisoned him, for no one would know that he arranged Hamlet’s death. Then, too, he need not fear Laertes’ witchcraft; it takes a strong heart to kill one’s only sister by witchcraft.”

“Sometime,” concluded the old man, gathering his ragged toga about him, “you must tell us some more stories of your country. We, who are elders, will instruct you in their true meaning, so that when you return to your own land your elders will see that you have not been sitting in the bush, but among those who know things and who have taught you wisdom.”

Continue reading Bohannon – Shakespeare in the Bush

Boas – What is Anthropology?

What is Anthropology?

by Franz Boaz

[Boas, Franz. 1928. “What is Anthropology?” in Anthropology and Modern Life, 11-18. New York, N.Y.: W. W. Norton & Company.]

Points & Quotes:

  • Anthropology is often considered a collection of curious facts telling about the peculiar appearance of exotic people and describing their strange customs and beliefs. It is looked upon as an entertaining diversion, apparently without any bearing upon the conduct of life of civilized communities. This opinion is mistaken. (11)
  • “In short, when discussing the reactions of the individual to his fellows we are compelled to concentrate our attention upon the society in which he lives. We cannot treat the individual as an isolated unit” (15)
  • “He must be studied in his social setting, and the question is relevant whether generalizations are possible by which a functional relation between generalized social data and the form and expression of individual can be discovered; life in other words, whether any generally valid laws exist that govern the life of society.” (15)
  • “The only valuation of discoveries that can be admitted by pure science is their significance in the solution of general abstract problems. While this standpoint of pure science is applicable also to social phenomena, it is easily recognized that these concern our own selves much more immediately, for almost every anthropological problem touches our most intimate life.” (16)
Continue reading Boas – What is Anthropology?

Horst & Miller – The Digital and the Human

The Digital and the Human: A Prospectus for Digital Anthropology

by Heather Horst & Daniel Miller

[Horst, Heather A., and Daniel Miller. 2012. “The Digital and the Human: A Prospectus for Digital Anthropology.” In Digital Anthropology, 3–35. London ; New York: Bloomsbury Academic.]


Six main principles

  1. The first principle is that the digital itself intensifies the dialectical nature of culture
  2. Our second principle suggests that humanity is not one iota more mediated by the rise of the digital
  3. The commitment to holism, the foundation of anthropological perspectives on humanity, represents a third principle
  4. The fourth principle reasserts the importance of cultural relativism and the global nature of our encounter with the digital
  5. The fifth principle is concerned with the essential ambiguity of digital culture with regard to its increasing openness and closure
  6. Our final principle acknowledges the materiality of digital worlds, which are neither more nor less material than the worlds that preceded them

“The primary point of this introduction, and the emergence of digital anthropology as a subfield more generally, is in resolute opposition to all approaches that imply that becoming digital has either rendered us less human, less authentic or more mediated. Not only are we just as human within the digital world, the digital also provides many new opportunities for anthropology to help us understand what it means to be human” (13).

“In effect, the digital is producing too much culture, which, because we cannot manage and engage with it, renders us thereby superficial or shallow or alienated” (15).

“At the level of abstraction, there are grounds for thinking we have reached rock bottom; there can be nothing more basic and abstract than binary bits, the difference between 0 and 1. At the other end of the scale, it is already clear that the digital far outstrips mere commoditization in its ability to proliferate difference” (16).

“Digital anthropology fails to the degree it makes the nondigital world appear in retrospect as unmediated and unframed. One of the reasons digital studies have often taken quite the opposite course has been the continued use of the term virtual, with its implied contrast with the real” (22).

“Rather than seeing predigital worlds as less mediated, we need to study how the rise of digital technologies has created the illusion that they were” (23).

“Social science had demonstrated how the real world was virtual long before we came to realize how the virtual world is real” (24).

“the term real must be regarded as colloquial and not epistemological. it should be clear that we are not more mediated. We are equally human in each of the different and diverse arenas of framed behaviour within which we live” (24).

“Materiality is thus bedrock for digital anthropology, and this is true in several distinct ways, of which three are of prime importance. First, there is the materiality of digital infrastructure and technology. Second, there is the materiality of digital content, and, third, there is the materiality of digital context” (34).

“We would therefore suggest that the key to digital anthropology, and perhaps to the future of anthropology itself, is, in part, the study of how things become rapidly mundane. What we experience is not a technology per se but an immediately cultural inflected genre of usage” (38).

Being human is a cultural and normative concept. As our second principle showed, it is our definition of being human that mediates what the technology is, not the other way around” (38).

“The faster the trajectory of cultural change, the more relevant the anthropologist, because there is absolutely no sign that the changes in technology are outstripping the human capacity to regard things as normative” (39).

Continue reading Horst & Miller – The Digital and the Human

Gillespie – The Politics of Platforms


Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The politics of ‘platforms’ new media & society 12(3) 347–364 Tarleton Gillespie Cornell University, USA Abstract Online content providers such as YouTube are carefully positioning themselves to users, clients, advertisers and policymakers, making strategic claims for what they do and do not do, and how their place in the information landscape should be understood. One term in particular, ‘platform’, reveals the contours of this discursive work. The term has been deployed in both their populist appeals and their marketing pitches, sometimes as technical ‘platforms’, sometimes as ‘platforms’ from which to speak, sometimes as ‘platforms’ of opportunity. Whatever tensions exist in serving all of these constituencies are carefully elided. The term also fits their efforts to shape information policy, where they seek protection for facilitating user expression, yet also seek limited liability for what those users say. As these providers become the curators of public discourse, we must examine the roles they aim to play, and the terms by which they hope to be judged.”

Page 1, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In October 2006, Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion, cementing their domi-nance in the world of online video. ”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A few months later, YouTube made a slight change to the paragraph it uses to describe its service in press releases. This ‘website’, ‘company’, service’, ‘forum’ and ‘commu-nity’ was now also a ‘distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small’ (YouTube, 2007c). ”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “YouTube’s dominance in the world of online video makes them one of just a handful of video ‘platforms’, search engines, blogging tools and interactive online spaces that are now the primary keepers of the cultural discussion as it moves to the internet.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As such, again like the television networks and trade publishers before them, they are increasingly facing questions about their responsibilities:”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In the context of these financial, cultural and regulatory demands, these firms are working not just politically but also discursively to frame their services and technologies (Gillespie, 2007; Sterne, 2003).”

Page 2, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Gillespie, 2007; Sterne, 2003).”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “They do so strategically, to position themselves both to pursue current and future profits, to strike a regulatory sweet spot between legislative protections that benefit them and obligations that do not, and to lay out a cultural imagi- nary within which their service makes sense (Wyatt, 2004).”

Page 2, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Wyatt, 2004).”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In this article I will highlight the discursive work that prominent digital intermediaries, especially YouTube, are under- taking, by focusing on one particular term: ‘platform’. The term ‘platform’ has emerged recently as an increasingly familiar term in the description of the online services of con- tent intermediaries, both in their self-characterizations and in the broader public dis- course of users, the press and commentators.”

Page 2, Underline (Blue):
Content: “In this article I will highlight the discursive work that prominent digital intermediaries, especially YouTube, are under-taking, by focusing on one particular term: ‘platform’. The term ‘platform’ has emerged recently as an increasingly familiar term in the description of the online services of con-tent intermediaries, both in their self-characterizations and in the broader public dis-course of users, the press and commentators. The point is not so much the word itself; ‘platform’ merely helps reveal the positionthat these intermediaries are trying to establish and the difficulty of doing so.”

Page 2, Highlight (Yellow):
Content: “‘platform’”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The point is not so much the word itself; ‘platform’ merely helps reveal the positionthat these intermediaries are trying to establish and the difficulty of doing so.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As a term like ‘platform’ becomes a ‘discursive resting point’ (Bazerman, 1999), further innovations may be oriented towards that idea of what that”

Page 2, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Bazerman, 1999),”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “technology is, and regulations will demand it act accordingly (Benkler, 2003). Moreover, such such terms ‘institute’ a way of being: as Bourdieu (1991: 119) put it, they ‘sanction and sanctify a particular state of things, an established order, in exactly the same way that a constitution does in the legal and political sense of the term’. And using the word ‘plat-form’ makes a claim that arguably misrepresents the way YouTube and other intermedi-aries really shape public discourse online. ”

Page 3, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Benkler, 2003).”

Page 3, Underline (Red):
Content: “Bourdieu (1991: 119)”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “‘Platform’”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “This discursive positioning depends on terms and ideas that are specific enough to mean something, and vague enough to work across multiple venues for multiple audiences.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Like other structural metaphors (think ‘network’, ‘broadcast’ or ‘channel’) the term depends on a semantic richness that, though it may go unnoticed by the casual listener or even the speaker, gives the term discursive resonance.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The OED notes 15 different uses, in what I see as four broad catego- ries; the emergence of ‘platform’ as a descriptive term for digital media intermediaries represents none of these, but depends on all four.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Computational Architectural”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Figurative Political”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “All point to a common set of connotations: a ‘raisedlevel surface’ designed to facilitate some activity that will subsequently take place.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “place. It isanticipatory, but not causal. It implies a neutrality with regards to the activity, though less so as the term gets specifically matched to specific functions (like a subway platform), and even less so in the political variation. ”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Drawing these meanings together, ‘platform’ emerges not simply as indicating a func- tional shape: it suggests a progressive and egalitarian arrangement, promising to support those who stand upon it.”

Page 4, Underline (Blue):
Content: “‘platform’ emerges not simply as indicating a func- tional shape: it suggests a progressive and egalitarian arrangement, promising to support those who stand upon”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In the discourse of the digital industries, the term ‘platform’ has already been loos-ened from its strict computational meaning. Through the boom and bust of investment (of both capital and enthusiasm), ‘platform’ could suggest a lot while saying very little.”

Page 5, Underline (Blue):
Content: “In the discourse of the digital industries, the term ‘platform’ has already been loos- ened from its strict computational meaning. It should come as no surprise then that the term would again gain traction around user- generated content, streaming media, blogging and social computing.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “It should come as no surprise then that the term would again gain traction around user-generated content, streaming media, blogging and social computing. ”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “There has been a proliferation of ‘platforms’ just in online video: These join the blogging platforms, photo-sharing platforms and social network platforms now jostling for attention on the web.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Users, advertisers, clients”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “It is the broad connotations outlined earlier – open, neutral, egalitarian and progressive sup- port for activity – that make this term so compelling for intermediaries like YouTube as a way to appeal to users, especially in contrast to traditional mass media.”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “YouTube and its competitors claim to empower the individual to speak – lifting us all up, evenly. YouTube can proclaim that it is ‘committed to offering the best user experience and the best platform for people to share their videos around the world’ (YouTube, 2006c) and offer its You Choose ’08 project as a ‘platform for people to engage in dialogue with candidates and each other’ (YouTube, 2007a). architectural, in that YouTube is designed as an open-armed, egalitarian facilitation of expression, not an elitist gatekeeper with normative and technical restrictions. This more conceptual use of ‘platform’ leans on all of the term’s connotations:”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “This fits neatly with the long-standing rhetoric about the democratizing poten- tial of the internet, and with the more recent enthusiasm for user-generated content (UGC),”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “But YouTube has been particularly effective at positioning itself as the upstart champion of UGC. This fits neatly with the long-standing rhetoric about the democratizing poten- tial of the internet, and with the more recent enthusiasm for user-generated content (UGC),”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “amateur expertise, popular creativity, peer-level social networking and robust online com-mentary (Benkler, 2006; Bruns, 2008; Burgess, 2007; Jenkins, 2006). Of course these activ-ities, as well as the services that host them, predate YouTube. But YouTube has been particularly effective at positioning itself as the upstart champion of UGC.”

Page 6, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Benkler, 2006; Bruns, 2008; Burgess, 2007; Jenkins, 2006).”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The promise of sites like YouTube, one that of course exceeds but nevertheless has found purchase in a term like ‘platform’, is primarily focused on ordinary users. The ‘You’ is the most obvious signal of this,”

Page 6, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “The promise of sites like YouTube, one that of course exceeds but nevertheless has found purchase in a term like ‘platform’, is primarily focused on ordinary users. The ‘You’ is the most obvious signal of this, and has itself found broader cultural purchase, but the direct appeal to the amateur user is visible elsewhere. YouTube offers to let you ‘Broadcast Yourself’, or as they put it in their ‘Company History’ page, ‘as more people”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “YouTube offers to let you ‘Broadcast Yourself’, or as they put it in their ‘Company History’ page, ‘as more people”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “capture special moments on video, YouTube is empowering them to become the broad- casters of tomorrow’ (YouTube, 2009a).”

Page 7, Underline (Magenta):
Content: “capture special moments on video, YouTube is empowering them to become the broad- casters of tomorrow’ (YouTube, 2009a).”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “This offer of access to everyone comes fitted with an often implicit, occasionally explicit, counterpoint: that such services are therefore unlike the mainstream broadcast- ers, film studios and publishers.”

Page 7, Underline (Blue):
Content: “This offer of access to everyone comes fitted with an often implicit, occasionally explicit, counterpoint: that such services are therefore unlike the mainstream broadcast- ers, film studios and publishers.”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “The business of being a cultural intermediary is a complex and fragile one, oriented as it is to at least three constituencies: end users, advertisers and professional contentproducers. This is where the discursive work is most vital. ”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Curiously, tropes like ‘platform’ seem to work across these discourses; in fact, the real value of this term may be that it brings these discourses into alignment without themunsettling each other. ”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Intermediaries must speak in different registers to their relevant constituencies, posi-tioning themselves so as to best suit their interests in each moment (Gieryn, 1999). However, ‘platform’ unproblematically moves across all three registers, linking them”

Page 8, Underline (Blue):
Content: “Intermediaries must speak in different registers to their relevant constituencies, posi- tioning themselves so as to best suit their interests in each moment (Gieryn, 1999). However, ‘platform’”

Page 8, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Gieryn, 1999).”

Page 8, Underline (Blue):
Content: “‘platform’ unproblematically moves across all three registers, linking them”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “into a single agenda.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “For advertisers, YouTube can promise to be a terrain upon which they can build brand awareness, a public campaign, a product launch; for major media producers, it offers a venue in which their content can be raised up and made visible and,even better, pushed to audiences. At the same time, the evocative rhetoric of ‘you’ and UGC fits neatly, implying a sense of egalitarianism and support, and in some ways even in the political sense, i.e. giving people a public voice (Couldry, 2008).”

Page 9, Underline (Blue):
Content: “into a single agenda. For advertisers,”

Page 9, Underline (Blue):
Content: “the evocative rhetoric of ‘you’ and UGC fits neatly, implying a sense of egalitarianism and support, and in some ways even in the political sense, i.e. giving people a public voice (Couldry, 2008).”

Page 9, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Couldry, 2008).”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Policy”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” That the term ‘platform’, for describing services like YouTube, has moved beyond its own hyper-bolic efforts and into common parlance, does suggest that the idea strikes some people ascompelling. But the way in which an information distribution arrangement is character-ized can matter much more, beyond it merely fitting the necessary sales pitch or taking hold as part of the public vernacular. These terms and claims get further established, rei-fied and enforced as they are taken up and given legitimacy inside authoritative dis-courses such as law, policy and jurisprudence. ”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “As society looks to regulate an emerging form of information distribution, be it the telegraph or radio or the internet, it is in many ways making decisions about what that technology is, what it is for, what sociotechnical arrangements are best suited to help it ”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “achieve that and what it must not be allowed to become (Benkler, 2003; Lyman, 2004). This is a semantic debate as much as anything else: what we call such things, what prec-edents we see as most analogous and how we characterize its technical workings drive how we set conditions for it (Streeter, 1996). ”

Page 10, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Benkler, 2003; Lyman, 2004). (Streeter, 1996).”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: ” As Galperin (2004: 161) argues, ‘Ideological paradigms … do not emerge ex nihilo, nor do they diffuse automatically. There must be vehicles for the creation and transmis-sion of ideas. Several organizations perform this function, among them universities, think tanks, trade groups, companies, government agencies, advocacy groups, and so on. For any policy issue at stake there is no lack of competing paradigms to choose from.’ ”

Page 10, Underline (Red):
Content: “Galperin (2004: 161)”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “YouTube’s parent company Google, in its newly adopted role of aggressive lobbyist (Phillips, 2006; Puzzanghera, 2006), has become increasingly vocal on a number of policy issues, including net neutrality, spectrum allocation, freedom of speech and political trans- parency.”

Page 10, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Phillips, 2006; Puzzanghera, 2006),”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Sometimes its aim is to highlight the role of some Google service as crucial to the unfettered circulation of information: whether to justify further regulation, or none at all, depends on the issue.”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Historically, policy debates about emerging technologies and information intermedi-aries have been marked by key structural and spatial metaphors around which regulation has been organized (Horwitz, 1989). For instance, before their deregulation the tele-phone companies were bound by two obligations: first, they must act as a common car-rier, agreeing to provide service to the entire public without discrimination. Second, they can avoid liability for the information activities of their users, to the extent that they serve as a conduit rather than as producers of content themselves. Both metaphors, com-mon carrier and conduit, make a similar (but not identical) semantic claim as does ‘plat-form’. ”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Unlike ‘platform’, there is the implied direction in these terms: bringing information from some- one to somewhere. In the age of the ‘network’, another spatial metaphor that does a great deal of discursive work in contemporary information policy debates, an emphasis on total connectivity has supplanted direction as the key spatial emphasis.”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Edges”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Whether these interventions are strategic or incidental, harmful or benign, they are deliberate choices that end up shaping the contours of public discourse online. Take, for instance, YouTube’s recent announcement (in a blog entry titled ‘A YouTube for All of Us’) that it would strengthen its restrictions on sexually suggestive content and profanity,by three means: first, the removal of videos deemed inappropriate according to a new standard; second, the assignment of certain videos to the adult category, which limits what under-age registered users can see and requires all users to click an assent to watch-ing objectionable content; third, and most troubling, the institution of technical demo-tions: ‘Videos that are considered sexually suggestive, or that contain profanity, will be algorithmically demoted on our “Most Viewed”, “Top Favorited”, and other browse pages’ (YouTube, 2008a). ”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “site indexes that purport to represent user judgments will in fact do so only within parameters unknown to users.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “In December 2008 and January 2009, Warner Music Group (WMG) sent thousands of takedown notices to YouTube users, in what critics called a ‘fair use massacre’ (Jansen, 2009; von Lohmann, 2009). The videos targeted were not only copies of WMG-owned works, but also amateur videos using their music in the background, or musicians paying tribute to a band by playing live along with the commercial recording as a backing track (Driscoll, 2009; Sandoval, 2009). ”

Page 13, Underline (Red):
Content: “(Driscoll, 2009; Sandoval, 2009). 2009; von Lohmann, 2009). (Jansen,”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “(Driscoll, 2009; Sandoval, 2009). WMG could issue so many takedown notices so quickly only by using ContentID. This kind of content fingerprinting, being both easy and oblivious to nuance, encourages these kinds of shotgun tactics.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “But it is YouTube’s complex economic allegiances that compel it to both play host to amateur video culture and provide content owners the tools to criminalize it.”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “it is YouTube’s complex economic allegiances that compel it to both play host to amateur video culture and provide content owners the tools to criminalize it.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “Conclusion”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “A term like ‘platform’ does not drop from the sky, or emerge in some organic, unfettered way from the public discussion. It is drawn from the available cultural vocabulary bystakeholders with specific aims, and carefully massaged so as to have particular reso-nance for particular audiences inside particular discourses. However, these terms matter as much for what they hide as for what they reveal. Despite the promises made, ‘platforms’ are more like traditional media than they careto admit. As they seek sustainable business models, as they run up against traditional regulations and spark discussions of new ones, and as they become large and visible enough to draw the attention not just of their users but of the public at large, the pres-sures mount to strike a different balance between safe and controversial, betweensocially and financially valuable, between niche and wide appeal. ”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “A term like ‘platform’ is drawn from the available cultural vocabulary by stakeholders with specific aims, and carefully massaged so as to have particular reso- nance for particular audiences inside particular discourses.”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: ” these terms matter as much for what they hide as for what they reveal. Despite the promises made, ‘platforms’ are more like traditional media than they care”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “to admit”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “They raise both traditional dilemmas about free speech and public expression, and some substantially new ones, for which there are few precedents or explanations.”

Page 13, Underline (Blue):
Content: “They raise both traditional dilemmas about free speech and public expression, and some substantially new ones, for which there are few precedents or explanations.”

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan):
Content: “We do not have a sufficiently precise language for attending to these kinds of interven- tions and their consequences. And the discourse of the ‘platform’ works against us developing such precision, offering as it does a comforting sense of technical neutrality and progressive openness.”

Page 14, Underline (Blue):
Content: “We do not have a sufficiently precise language for attending to these kinds of interven- tions and their consequences. And the discourse of the ‘platform’ works against us developing such precision, offering as it does a comforting sense of technical neutrality and progressive openness.”

Page 14, Underline (Red):
Content: “Berland, J. (2000) ‘Cultural Technologies and the “Evolution” of Technological Cultures’, in A. Herman and T. Swiss (eds) The World Wide Web and Contemporary Cultural Theory, pp. 235–58. New York: Routledge.”

Page 15, Underline (Red):
Content: “Bourdieu, P. (1991) Language and Social Power. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bruns, A. (2008) Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Burgess, J. (2007) ‘Vernacular Creativity and New Media’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, URL (consulted April 2009):”

Page 15, Underline (Red):
Content: “Gieryn, T. (1999) Cultural Boundaries of Science: Credibility on the Line. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.”

Page 16, Underline (Red):
Content: “Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York: New York University Press.”

Page 17, Underline (Red):
Content: “Sterne, J. (2003) ‘Bourdieu, Technique, and Technology’, Cultural Studies 17(3/4): 367–89.”

Page 17, Underline (Red):
Content: “Terranova, T. (2004) Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age. London: Pluto Press.”