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Tag: technology

Communication at a distance: technology old and new

View of Pentecost. © Hannah Sibona

By Hannah Sibona          In 2020, a face-to-face meeting, more often than not, means screen-to-screen. The global pandemic, social restrictions, and the ‘new normal’ has, for many of us, radically altered our communicative social practices. Only weeks before Europe shut down, I was conducting research on mobile phones among young women working in the garment factories of Dhaka, Bangladesh. The participants stressed the importance of making video calls on their smartphones. This technology allowed them not only to maintain frequent contact with their homes and family in rural villages, but enabled a feeling of closeness because they felt that “they are in front of me, they are nearby me, I am with them”. At the time, I remember being surprised that video calling could have such power. It was only once I got back to Europe that ‘Zoom call’ and ‘online drinks’ suddenly became common phrases, and represented a vital form of connection.

Bridging distances between people is an essential function of technology, and this year communication at a distance matters more than ever before. But changing circumstances have radically altered my modes of communication before. In 2012, I willingly entered a form of social isolation when I spent the year as a volunteer teacher on the remote island of Pentecost, Vanuatu. Although I was in good company among a handful of other volunteers and a local community that looked after us, in other ways I was very much cut off from the rest of the world. There was no internet, very expensive mobile phone calls were reserved for letting family know I was still alive, and the postal service was chronically unreliable. To seasoned anthropologists, significant periods with minimal contact with home, sporadic postal communication, and extortionate international phone calls, might seem like par for the course. For my millennial friends fresh out of university, I was entering a brave new world in which they could also participate by sending a letter, and maybe receiving one in return.

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Reciprocity in Silicon Valley: The prominent role of gift giving among tech entrepreneurs in the Bay Area

BY VIVIENNE SCHRÖDER During my three months of fieldwork in the Bay Area on the work/private life situation of early-stage tech startup founders, I learned the real importance of Marcel Mauss’ essay The Gift (1966).…

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Tech Startup Culture: ‘I am machine’

By Vivienne Schröder For my master Anthropology at the VU Amsterdam, I am doing three months of fieldwork in San Francisco, where I am researching Tech Startup Culture. Through observations, informal talks and interviews like this one, I try to discover the daily practices and motivations of the humans behind the startups. My focus is mostly on the work-private life situation and the entanglement between humans and their business.

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Thin Description? Notes on the Amsterdam Anthropology Lecture Series (AALS)

Dr Paolo Favero giving his AALS lecture at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam

By Matthias Teeuwen    Last AALS lecture was an inspiring and thought-provoking presentation by Dr. Paolo Favero on the myriad possibilities that emerging technologies provide to conducting ethnographic research. He talked about the implications of the use of i-docs (interactive documentaries such as Highrise), wearable camera’s (used exclusively in Leviathan), user GPS (Dr Favero gave an example of its use in Rider Spoke), and much more in ethnographic research. Here are some impressions.


Apple as Religion?

twee mensen aanbidden een zwevende appel?By Jethro Alons An article in De Pers last week examined the success of Apple in the light of the impending introduction of the new iPad. In this article Apple was compared to a religion. Apparently, research showed that when people see the brand Apple the same areas in the brain become active as in people who are religious. Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, himself said that his products are a mix of art, science and religion.

Although my inner anthropologist is always excited at the prospects of a new form of religion, I have to say I was quite skeptical about this. Apple as religion? Really?