UNESCO inscribed Turkey’s Göbeklitepe on world heritage list
Two robots traverse the desert floor. Explosions from a decades-old conflict have left a pockmarked and unstable territory, though many more improvised bombs lie concealed in its vast reaches. Sunlight splays off the beaten edges of Optimus, the smaller robot. Its motors whir as its claw grasps an unusual orb lying by its side. If Optimus were programmed to hope, it would hope the object was just a rock and not another bomb. It couldn’t afford to take many more hits, and its algorithms have grown wary of the risk.
In recent article, Drone Capitalism, author Michael Richardson makes a number of expected and acceptable oversights in recent scholarship on UAVs. I tend to be rough with it but I do indeed like a lot of it. Here are my thoughts—unsolicited and polemical. I’ve just finished 6 months of working with drone activists around the world and am on my arrogant high-horse. Its all meant in the spirit of support and collaboration.
Seeing the drone through a critique of capitalism, enclosure, and biopolitics, Richardson shows a lack of interest in the UAV as something more than a tool for the expansion of processes that extract wealth from and dominate human bodies and places. Drones in fact have a number of different applications and work in the service of a richly diverse set of applications that a reading of affective capitalism fails to consider.
Drones sense from afar and see from a distance. They go where people can go but won’t because of cost to life or capital. Piloting precariously above coral reefs, palm oil plantations, and primary forests is not safe with a helicopter nor cost-effective. So we use drones; risk is transferred from human bodies to technology and capital costs. In these efforts, we are able to witness-from afar, with capital but little bodily risk—earth and human entanglements. In many instances this witnessing is of death, harm, and destruction of ecologies, species, human communities, and biomes. The notion of witnessing bears a significant resonance in the mediation of death, dying, and danger.
By Alexander Taylor
Our ethnographic data is in the cloud, but our heads are not
More and more anthropologists are conducting, storing and circulating their research in the cloud. Cloud storage – typically in the form of Apple iCloud, Google Drive and Microsoft OneDrive – is now the default storage option on the smartphones, netbooks, tablets and other digital devices that have become commonplace tools of fieldwork. Messages are sent to interlocutors through cloud platforms like WhatsApp. Interviews are carried out through Skype and Facetime. Apps for ethnographic research are proliferating. Evernote is replacing the field notebook. Articles are written collaboratively in browser-based cloud environments like Google Docs or Microsoft Office Online. Field reports and article drafts are circulated via Dropbox, WeTransfer, Box and Mozy.
This article was originally published at The Conversation and has been republished under Creative Commons.
What makes us human? A lot of people would argue it is the ability of our species to engage in complex behavior such as using language, creating art, and being moral. But when and how did we first become “human” in this sense? While skeletal remains can reveal when our ancestors first became “anatomically modern,” it is much harder for scientists to decipher when the human lineage became “behaviorally modern.”
Anthropological twitter exploded today after David Graeber issued an apology for his endorsement of HAU journal in its conception. There are some hard accusations that you can follow here, here and here, but the main thing is that HAU was a horrid work environment. I was involved with the project as a volunteer of the social media team, and even though I never saw the worst part of these accusations taking place (I live and work in Brazil, so I’m always far removed geographically), I can testify to micromanagement, power centrism and some sort of bullying with staff. I don’t doubt that I only saw the light stuff and that the thing was much worse than appeared in the surface.
Archaeologist Kurt Rademaker feared his field season was over before it had even begun. It was July 2017, and he was scanning Quebrada Jaguay, a desert site on the southern Peruvian coast. The site lay along a streambed between the Ocoña and Camaná rivers surrounded by sand and within sight of the craggy, arid foothills of the Andes Mountains. Despite its barren appearance, the location was home to some of the earliest inhabitants of South America millennia ago.
A few years ago, I wrote a piece on making archaeology popular in which I recounted the ways in which archaeology became part of public discourse through television media, and its impact on peoples lives. In that post I also write about how through archaeology game shows, Sir Mortimer Wheeler’s personality becomes associated with a certain kind of archaeological knowledge, and how he is voted TV personality of the year in 1954. His face, his demeanor, his person becoming a household name and one that allowed for a separation of his more ‘public’ persona vis-à-vis his academic or personal one. I will not recount the many ways in which I find that troubling and the ways in which I (and other scholars) have linked him to a particularly problematic colonial legacy of archaeology in the South Asian subcontinent. I’ll just say: I do find it troubling that someone like Wheeler would be a beloved TV persona.
- Remembering Seena Kohl, Anthropologist and Women’s Studies Pioneer Webster University Newsroom (press release) (blog)