Salvaging what is good

Salvaging what is good

Photomicrograph of various seeds. By Alexander Klepnev: Own work, CC BY 4.0.*

This post is more practical than nostalgic. Yes, sometimes I like to look back and think about how ‘things were better’ with our various online anthro communities, but that’s not the goal here. It’s clear that the online communities our discipline had are not what they once were, whether on Facebook, Twitter, etc. And those communities did–and still do–matter. Twitter just keeps coming apart at the seams and people seem to be leaving in droves. As they should. For a long time now that site has been like posting into a black hole, and it’s only getting worse (more ads, etc). My old pal Colleen Morgan posted this today:

Sowing seeds in ruins indeed. In the spirit of Colleen’s post, I have retreated to one of the few spaces that we do still have: this old website. It’s not what it once was, but it’s still here and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. So it’s a good place to leave some trail markers, so to speak. Again, my goal here is practical: Let’s use this space to share what we’re all thinking and were we’re going for some rest, repair, and reconciliation. I think many of us have already lost a lot of those little connections we once had on these platforms. Let’s see what we can save and maybe leave some breadcrumbs for where we’re all going. What are you thinking and where are you going next? Mastodon? Bluesky? Post? Staying offline and just going surfing, hiking, or walking more? Something else? Let me know in the comments below.

*Image link here.

11 Replies to “Salvaging what is good”

  1. Timely post, Ryan, and relevant for thinking through where broad, cross-generational disciplinary conversations can happen these days. Where would #HAUtalk have played out if not on Twitter?

    I’m one of the folks trying to rebuild over on Mastodon: follows welcome at Yes, the network is smaller (and the hilarious, irreverent shitposts fewer), but I appreciate the culture of care around things like image accessibility and am trying to manage my own expectations about recreating my social graph per se. There is something freeing about a chance to start again.

    1. Thanks Marcel. Ya, I’ve been thinking a lot about where all these conversations can happen. We’ve seen several things come and go, but right now feels like a low point. I have 3600 some followers on Twitter, and that used to mean a good number of interactions and conversations. Now it’s mostly a dead network. I just joined Bluesky, and now I’m going to look into Mastodon too. We need more spaces that we have some ownership and control of. I’m hopeful about possibilities for building new things and networks out of the current ashes. Thanks again for checking in here.

  2. Spot-on post indeed. This website has been important to me, especially in my student years when the internet was still a different space. Me too I am hopeful about what Mastodon could grow into (find me here And actually it is by reading up on alternative internet ideals (that I encountered by way of the Mastodon community) that I am becoming more enthousiastic again about the potential of sites like anthrodendum, newsletters, rss and webmentions. And yes, maybe also just slowing down in our online communication. Curious to see where we are headed.

    1. Thanks Emelien. I need to get onto Mastodon. It may be good to get back to using various platforms and not counting on any single one. I also want to put in more time looking into the ownership and management policies of these platforms. Clearly, relying on monetized spaces like twitter is not the greatest idea. I like your point about slowing things down. I was just thinking about this in relation to how blogs work. Comments take time. It’s not just an instant feed. Like here at anthrodendum, our comments are moderated so it takes some time. This is not a bad thing. I’m hoping a lot of folks start looking back into the potential of newsletters, rss, and blogs again. With the online anthro community, we had some solid networks about a decade ago. Maybe now it’s time to rediscover and rebuild. Thanks again for your comment!

  3. I recently posted this on FB:

    As Twitter continues to implode, my advice is to try Mastodon again, if you tried it before and gave up. This time, follow these three simple rules:

    1. Start with a good server. Zirk-dot-us is my server and I haven’t had any issues with it. (I’m @kerim)
    2. Use a good third party client app. I love Ivory for iOS. Tusky and Fedilab are popular for Android.

    3. Use hashtags. A lot. There is no algorithmic feed for Mastodon, so you need to follow hashtags to discover stuff, and use them yourself so you can be discovered.

    Finally, a word about Bluesky. Bluesky might eventually be a good alternative to Mastodon, and it has gotten a lot better lately, but it still isn’t there. Mastodon has a solid track record now and a lot of great people are already using it regularly.

    1. Thanks Kerim for the advice about Mastodon and for the link to your new project. I love it. In some ways it feels like we’re back in 1997 and starting over. Maybe this time around we’ll avoid the trap that leads to another Elon Musk/Twitter situation where we’re shown, very clearly, what monetized, privatized platforms are really all about.

    1. Thanks Colleen. I feel the same. Looking back, we had some great networks, ideas, and conversations going. We need to get back to that–and be more vigilant about protecting the spaces we build. Always good to be in touch.

  4. What we badly need is actual professional venues where meaningful exchanges of views happen. When the field was smaller, those happened at conferences and newsletters. We have expanded the field, and recognize that expansion requires us to have better solutions for interaction than expensive destinations. Social media provides some potential for exchange but actually has been very negative, impeding exchanges because of the dynamic of pile-ons and viral dunks. The AAA “Communities” shows just how awful centrally organized forums can be.

    To me, the topic of the failure of peer review is the same problem — we just are not using the tools we have to enable exchanges and building of synthesis across different people and teams.

  5. I share John Hawk’s sense of things, but can no longer myself give as much as I once did to trying to build infrastructure and community. I share the general sentiment that Ryan evokes–it is definitely (for me at least) a time of salvaging. This involves triage, choices and orchestrating soft landings. The wind down of Museum Anthropology Review can be understood as an example of these three practices.