SfAA CFP: Anthropologists Online

This coming March, the annual Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) conference will be held in Denver, CO.  I’m planning to attend, and would like to organize a session on the work that many anthropologists do online, and the importance of recognizing and rewarding that work within our institutions.  It was during the SfAA conference last year that a major discussion was going on online and in the American Anthropological Association (AAA) about this very topic.  I realized that the SfAA would also benefit from having such a discussion, and so I decided then to form a panel if one wasn’t already in the works.  Here’s an abstract for the session:

Over the last year, there has been a lot of attention paid to the work that anthropologists do to promote the discipline, collaborate, and share information online (e.g. blogging, social media, open access journals, etc.).  Unfortunately, much of this work goes unrecognized and unrewarded by traditional institutional structures, both academic and applied.  The papers on this panel will explore the roles of anthropologists in online communities, the ways that anthropologists have used online media to further their own interests, and the different mechanisms for calling attention to online work within our institutions.

Please contact me at jmtrombley (at) gmail if you’re interested in participating in this session or if you have any questions or suggestions.  Hopefully we’ll get a good panel together, and have a nice lively discussion.

Ecology of Worms

Last Thursday, I gave a presentation at the SfAA conference in a panel organized around environmental anthropology of the Chesapeake Bay. My talk was on the research I’ve been doing on the bloodworm industry, and the threat of invasive species being introduced to the Mid-Atlantic from their packing materials. The prezi is below if you want to look – having read from notes, the text wouldn’t do much good.

Basically I described what I’m calling the “invasive ecology” of the worm industry, and discussed my theoretical approach. I view this as an assemblage constructed over the past one hundred years by a heterogeneous set of actors (worms, seaweed, snails, people, fish, tools, machines, etc.). Essentially, we’ve extended the ecology of these organisms by constructing life support systems for them and shipping them all over the world, and now we’re considering the implications of this practice (which may or may not be serious). In order to address the issue, we’re considering adding new actors to the field – washing methods, alternative packaging, informational campaigns, etc.

But that’s not all, I see us – the anthropologists and scientists – not objectively viewing the system from nowhere, but situated within the ecology. We are part of the system, and we are engaged in relationships with all of the various actors involved. Furthermore, we can help to foster relationships between different people and groups within the ecology – relationships that didn’t exist before: between the angling community and the worm harvesters, between the scientists and the dealers, and so on. There’s no reason to expect that these relationships will, in themselves, help to construct a new ecology that will not introduce invasives to the Mid-Atlantic, but fostering these relationships creates the possibility for novel, democratic, and diplomatic solutions as opposed to the “top down” approach of “behavior change” favored by many scientists these days.

I’ll be writing more about this topic and the theory that underlies it in the paper I submit to O-Zone, and in the presentation I will give to the Society for Cultural Anthropology meeting in May. Any suggestions or comments would be helpful.