Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: General Anthropology Division
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Technology
Secondary Theme: Social movements
The contemporary iconography of (big) data commonly advances notions of both a unifiable self and of a singular humanity that can be rendered as a comprehensive database, as a community of data points. The logic of personal and social unity is both familiar to digital discourse and a novel departure from the language of “networks” and “networking” that has until recently, Tom Boellstorff notes, more commonly described the way information systems bring people and things together (Boelstorff 2017).
Contemporary interest in "community" in digital discourse can also be read against the longstanding critique in anthropology of “culture” as a reified unit of analysis. Since the height of cultural relativism social theorists have argued that difference cannot be easily brought together or made commensurate. Not only is there rhetorical power in allowing differences of opinion to surface, but the power dynamics underwriting images of cultural cohesion and translation undercut any easy assembly of difference into equitable, continuous, or seamless wholes.
We welcome submissions that critically engage with and complicate the notion of “community” in contemporary digital discourse, paying particular attention to the way "community" interoperates with the broader discourse on digital data.
Potential questions may include but are not limited to:
• In what ways does the notion of “community” in digital discourse articulate with familiar anthropological writing on culture?
• Does digital “community” revitalize cultural relativism?
• Do contemporary calls for “community” in digital life echo earlier agitations for an inclusive multiculturalism that touted national and even global diversity as a “salad bowl” of difference?
• Why has fostering community increasingly become a centerpiece of digital work?
Tom Boellstorff, “Zuckerberg and the Anthropologist: Facebook, Culture, Digital Futures, Culture Digitally, February 27, 2017. http://culturedigitally.org/2017/02/zuckerberg-and-the-anthropologist-facebook-culture-digital-futures/