The 2023 Anthropology Blog Resurvey Project

The 2023 Anthropology Blog Resurvey Project

As many of us already know, in the last decade or so we’ve seen some big changes with anthropology & archaeology online, particularly in relation to blogs. In short, there aren’t too many these days. This is due to what we can perhaps call the “Great Fragmentation,” when so many former bloggers left their home sites and migrated…mostly to Twitter. We all know what happened next.

So what does the anthro blog landscape look like these days? What’s left? Who is still around? Is it all totally gone?! Lately I have been assuming that it’s all gone, but that’s not really very scientific of me, is it? What’s the best way to find out? To get out there and look around, so to speak. It’s time for a little (digital) archaeology of our recent past.

Now, when it comes to doing survey work, it’s really nice if you have a baseline to work with. We do, thanks in part to Jason Antrosio’s list of anthro blogs from 2017 (which is also linked on the sidebar of our site). Let’s get to it.

I counted a total of 188 sites that Jason listed in his 2017 overview (although I need to double check that number). I went through the first 40 (about 21% of the total) to get things started seeing which sites are active and which are not. I set a pretty low bar for labeling a site ‘active’: All they needed was one post in 2023. Again, that’s a pretty low bar, but it gives us at least some insight into what sites are still around.

Of the 40 that I have looked at so far, 15 of them are still active, which is about 37%. So this means 63% are dormant, have moved, or are just plain dead. More to come as I finish looking through all the sites.

In the meantime, here’s a sampling of the anthropology sites that are still around, despite that great fragmentation:

Allegra Lab is still going strong. Here’s an excerpt from Lindsay Bell’s recent essay “Authorship in the Post Academic, Post-Human Age”:

As someone with a longstanding interest in publishing and conceptions of authorship, it strikes me that the question of how ideas travel and who, if anyone, owns them, usefully highlights areas of tension between academic, trade and media publishing that require further unpacking in the post-human era of authorship in which we suddenly find ourselves. In what follows, I want to raise a larger set of issues about the somewhat uneasy relationship between academic writing and journalism, based on the different kinds of credit economies in which they operate, and what this means in the context of their increasingly symbiotic relationship and the rise of AI-powered language-processing models such as ChatGPT.

Over on Anthropologia: una perspective multiple, Gabriela Vargas-Cetina writes about the things she learned while teaching her classes in 2023:

Cada año aprendo cosas nuevas durante mis clases, a veces porque usamos libros y artículos recientemente publicados, a veces porque las y los invitados a la clase nos cuentan nuevas cosas, a veces porque las y los estudiantes llegan con preocupaciones que no se me habían ocurrido al diseñar los temarios, y otras veces en realidad por casualidad [Translation: Every year I learn new things during my classes, sometimes because we use recently published books and articles, sometimes because the guests in the class tell us new things, sometimes because the students come with concerns that I had not thought of when designing the syllabi, and other times just by chance].

Finally, at All Tomorrow’s Cultures, Samuel Collins has a recent post about SETI:

In May, the SETI Institute Artist-in-Residence initiated a piece of collaborative performance–the decoding of an “alien” message, transmitted from the European Space Agency’s ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO). “A Sign in Space” is a simulation that enlists ordinary people in the work of “decoding” an alien message–one that you can download yourself. Along the way, SETI has hosted a series of workshops (including one from anthropologist Willi Lempert) designed to help participants through the decoding process–including hints on avoiding ethnocentric (and anthropocentric) assumptions about what this communication could be and what the intentions of extraterrestrial intelligence might entail.

I am a very enthusiastic SETI advocate, but I wonder if “decoding” is really the best we can do here. I’m not entirely alone–the very lively Discord discussion around this project has included many, philosophical tangents that have questioned what exactly “interpretation” might mean in this context. On the one hand, semiotics (in that broader, Peircean sense) is something that all of us living creatures do. As Kohn writes, “All living beings sign. We humans are therefore at home with the multitude of semiotic life” (Kohn 2013: 42). All life as we know it is in communication with its environment–many of us living creatures along multiple semiotic levels. So it is certainly reasonable to assume that other life will also be involved in sign-making.

As it turns out, there are definitely signs of life in the old anthro blogosphere–we just have to look. So there you have a sample of three of the fifteen active sites I’ve surveyed so far. It will be interesting to see the overall live/dormant ratio once I get through all 188. To be continued…

4 Replies to “The 2023 Anthropology Blog Resurvey Project”

  1. Yes – in an age of ephemeral media, blogs have an odd permanence that seems missing in, say, “X”, which could vanish at any moment. Over time, re-visiting older blog posts (I’ve had my blog for 15 years), is literally discovering a lieu de memoire. Thanks for re-visiting some of us in the blogosphere, Ryan!

  2. Thanks for checking in here Samuel. Ya, there’s a lot to revisit out there…and it does say something that so many of these sites are still around and working. There’s something good about forms of media infrastructure that have a bit more permanence to them.

  3. Thanks for this public service. By definition, public writing has unlimited reach, and blogs are one great means (of many) for finding that audience. It’s true that, with so many demands on our time, after creating a blog with an ambitious goal of producing weekly or even daily posts, many of us find ourselves scaling back, as our complicated lives claim us. Yet, even producing only a few posts a year (as I now do) offers a platform for sharing thoughts when our ideas feel especially compelling. Thank you for reminding us of the existence of this powerful platform.