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Is there a future for Standplaats Wereld?

The editors – This year it is exactly fifteen years ago that Standplaats Wereld came into being and the first blog was posted. Setting up a departmental blog was the initiative of (PhD) students and staff members of the department who thought a weblog would be an excellent way to show the relevance of anthropology to the outside world. In the past fifteen years, almost a thousand blogs have been posted about a wide variety of topics. There were, among many other things, stories from the field, analytical reflections, book and film reviews, reports of events, and opinion pieces about current topics. Standplaats Wereld can proudly say that it was the first anthropological blog in the Netherlands and that it is one of the most consistent ones, publishing blogs very regularly. But do blogs still have a future? In the past few years it has become increasingly difficult to get people to write blogs and we as editors often wonder whether people are still interested in reading them. Moreover, we have different opinions about the future of our weblog. In the text below we share some of our viewpoints and we look forward to hearing yours. 

Peter is quite sure that blogs such as SpW will not survive. According to him, there is no monomaniac, creative ego behind the dashboard, eager to send out lengthy and wordy pieces about social reality at least once a week. It therefore depends upon the energy and time of volunteers who will post and look for blogs out of responsibility not out of a felt urgency. This is the energy that sometimes takes off but which can easily and quickly diminish. This doesn’t mean that there is no interest in anthropological stories anymore. Quite the opposite, there is a remaining and maybe even growing interest in ethnography and anthropological themes. However, the media form itself, the blog, has become the weakest link. This is, of course, the fate of any form of communication: it remains fresh and accessible when it is tied to the media we recognize as relevant. Therefore, he sees a great future for anthropological stories albeit in shorter formats, using little text and many images. He knows this is all very relative and context-dependent – some people may still nostalgically long for stencil-copied weekly newsletters – but generally speaking, we should (critically) follow current social media and make our mark there. 

Eva thinks anthropologists can look into the decrease in engagement as an interesting societal development. Because who reads blogs anyway, in this time of endless feeds and algorithmic fragmentation? When the ‘for you page’ on TikTok offers fast-paced and perfectly curated entertainment, and Spotify podcasts quench your thirst for deep, long-form conversations, a blog may seem archaic. At the same time, Standplaats Wereld has an edge over the aforementioned algorithmically-led platforms: a real-life sense of community. Where big tech social media platforms recommend content to you based on your previous searches and personal data, Standplaats Wereld is generated by your professors, fellow students, and VU alumni. We consciously choose to represent different, sometimes opposing viewpoints, and tell you about our work and experiences. Consequently, we construct a shared, pluralistic, frame of reference, which takes our affiliation to the Anthropology Department as its point of departure. 

As an editor and an anthropology student at the VU, Robert feels there still is a significant value to the content that Standplaats Wereld publishes. Eva argues, that our newsroom is not driven by an agenda but rather provides a platform for whoever would like to express their thoughts and opinions. For example, he thoroughly enjoys reading the untold stories behind our authors’ academic publications and can imagine the platform as a welcome spot for them to publish some of their less polished work. However, is what in the early 2000’s was called the blogosphere still relevant? Or have the channels that used to inhabit this space moved on to different media? LinkedIn and Substack seem to have taken over as the main platforms on which newsletters are published, yet both these platforms and newsletters themselves are geared towards distinctly different business models and audiences than Standplaats Wereld. We can pride ourselves in the fact that our visitor- and view counts have remained consistent over the last few years, yet shouldn’t we just ditch our statistics dashboard? Maybe we should look at Standplaats Wereld more as a platform on which a group of befriended writers can publish their ramblings, regardless of view counts, likes, or engagement, rather than being a marketing tool for our department. 

Ramblings, thoughts, opinions, and the stories that remain untold within the boundaries of academic writing. The things we experience in the field or everyday life, the thoughts that cross our minds, but that just do not cut our well-considered writings. Standplaats Wereld could, in Tess’ opinion, be seen as a communal diary of the anthropologist. A place where we dare to share, a place where we empty the bucket that is our creative brains, and share the stories behind academia, or, as she prefers to call it: beyond academia. If you would ask her what the use of blogs these days is, and what’s the good in them, she would emphasize their raw and honest character. Especially in an era of social media, addictive algorithms, and endless options of snippets and reels about any conceivable topic, we all seem to be led into the trap of a world of make-belief, where the distinction between what’s real and what’s idealized can only be discovered by a critical eye. Blogs, in Tess’ opinion, are a medium for the anthropologist to write their heart out, about any topic that is close to their heart. The writing and reading of blogs might not give us the instant, easy shot of dopamine that a TikTok video can provide, but it does have the ability to inspire us, to share what we see, learn, read, and experience, and to feel connected to a larger community of writers. She would therefore suggest not to question the future of blogs, but to collectively award the blog a future. 

And what do you as readers (and sometimes writers) of our blog think? We would very much like to hear your opinion. Please use the comments function below to share your thoughts with us.

This blog was a collective endeavor of the current editorial team Standplaats Wereld (Jordi de Bok, Robert Cornelis, Sam Heeremans, Eva Koemar, Marina de Regt, Peter Versteeg, and Tess Zondervan).


  1. Thijl Sunier Thijl Sunier

    First, to pose the question ‘what future has…?’ always sound ominous. The beginning of the total demise. But I understand the concerns and indeed when the filling of the blog on a regular basis (the absolute minimum condition of any written or online platform) is dependent on the work of a few busy volunteers, the future looks a bit grim I must admit. What I miss in the contributions so far is a discussion about audiences. With the rapid diversification of online platforms of all sorts and shapes, the question what the targeted audience is and with what purpose are blogs put online become ever more urgent and compelling. If SpW is intended to make anthropology known to the world, I think it will not work, not because of the characteristics of the platform, but because the targeted audience is too general, too vague. A snappy text with a lot of images about how fascinating anthropology and anthropologists are on TikTok or any other current social media platform for young people is bound to fail because the average user of these social media is not at all interested, or rather, they do not look for such messages there. If there is no clear decline of the number of visitors of SpW than I think there is no reason to stop. The interaction between authors and audiences at SpW occurs in an already existing discursive setting. Authors and audiences sometimes meet fortuitously but, in most cases, authors and readers are part of an already existing and constantly evolving discursive community. A blog text must appeal to and capture an existing interest, or concern, and must propose new explanations and new angles. Ambitions beyond this rather modest aim lead to frustration and senses of failure.

  2. Gijs Koopman Gijs Koopman

    Online media content is consumed through attraction. We learned that algorithms remember our indivual attractions and line these up in order to make us stick to our screens for as long as possible. This forms the foundation of what attains internet relevancy. Provocative texts, niche stories, different opinions or critical viewpoints are not immediatly attractive to get into when there’s so many other options on the digital table. If internet relevancy is what this website seeks to achieve then all it needs to do is make itself attractive. Undo with moral normativities and adopt sensational ragebaiting, anthropology must farm the clicks and become an effective product!


    I’ve been following SpW for roughly three years now. I have read numerous stories which were always great fun to read and helped explore new questions. However, the stories and experiences shared here are 1. mostly (social) anthropological and 2. posted on an unknown website. This puts SpW in a kind of double fold niche. 9 out of 10 people that I meet and tell about anthropology are unaware of the discipline. While TikToks may aid in farming views I doubt the blog format of this website is really at fault for the current perceived lack of interest. Rather, the undeliberate ignorance concerning anthropological topics may play a large role in SpW’s proposed short comings. What does SpW do to make itself known because how do you get an audience to care when this audience is not even aware of your existence?

  3. Ton Salman Ton Salman

    Dear members of the SpW-editorial team,
    I understand the doubts that emerged. SpW is less vibrant, less a platform for critical comments and questions. And there are less contributions. I myself am guilty: I always liked the formula and contributed, in total, I think over 30 times. But lately I have felt less inspiration and incentive to write. I still read all the new contributions and I still like them. But somehow I feel less inclined…. Also, I must say that I still like the formula but that might also be because I know less about podcasts, tiktok and other platforms. So, i must leave the decision to the edotors: it is still worthwhile? To me it is. But as a vehicle that does something good for the Department and/or anthropology, I don’t know. Even if it is to wither, I still hope the contributions can be saved and maintained accessible. And thank you for all the work!
    Wisdom and greetings, Ton Salman

  4. Joost Joost

    Is a blog still worthy of People’s attention? Why not? Why care about the impact or view count? Is the information and argumentation in the blog valuable? Asking the question, is providing its answer. Thank you for that quote Freek (de vraag stellen is hem beantwoorden).

    To make a long story short… I experience academic fatigue. Competitiveness and gate keeping make social sciencefiction (a funny autocorrect that I will share.. science*) increasingly tiresome. Therefore a blog that is accessible for authors and readers, remains welcome.

  5. Edien Bartels Edien Bartels

    A vibrant and sparkling life for Standplaats Wereld!
    Has ‘the blog’ had the ‘longest time, as Peter thinks. I do not think so. The question is: how creating stimulating and relevant content on various (anthropological) topics in a speedy, more or less predictable way. LinkedIn and Substack appear to have taken over the functions of the weblog as a platform. May be, but this does provide indications for renewing Standplaats. As Tess points: “not to question the future of blogs, but to collectively award the blog a future.” See here some suggestions:
    – Try to generate more input and acquire broader sales.
    – Create sections. For example, you could create a separate section for discussion.
    – Create a recurring discussion forum about important issues within anthropology.
    – Integrate Standplaats in education. In other word: give the blog a role in education. Ask students to write a blog about a paper they wrote or ask bachelor’s and master’s students to write about their thesis.
    – Ask all researchers in the department to write a blog about their fieldwork. For example, I come across members of the department in the newspaper or in opinion magazines, but only limited at Standplaats.
    – Ask PhD students and quest-researchers to contribute about their work.
    – Make it self evident to write a blog for Standplaats Wereld; create an ambiance of obligation to contribute.
    There are more suggestions to be made, but it may be useful to discuss the above first.

    Good luck and a vibrant and sparkling life for Standplaats!

    Edien Bartels

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