The 2023 Anthropology Blog Resurvey Project #2

The 2023 Anthropology Blog Resurvey Project #2

Well, by now most of you have heard the news that this blog is closing down. That whole conversation was happening in the last couple of months, but really something that we’d been talking about for the past few years. Back in 2021 we all agreed to try to revive this blog, but things just didn’t take off. There was just so much going on at the time. This site, like many others, was a casualty of the mass exodus to Twitter, the decline of blogging, people moving on to other things in their careers, others getting slammed with kids and careers (that was me), and the global pandemic…among other things. So, we’re closing things down.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’ve been back around here a bit more lately, right at the end. For the past year or so I’ve been thinking a lot about the kinds of spaces we once had, and what we have lost. Here’s what I wrote in December 2022:

About 10 years ago, the online anthropology community looked pretty different. I’m not saying it was some utopia—it wasn’t—but there were some aspects that I do miss. Back then there seemed to be a more connected and coherent online community. In some ways, it was great.

There were tons and tons of blogs, which included the former iteration of this site (SM), and others like Neuroanthropology (Daniel Lende and Greg Downey), Somatosphere, John Hawks’ Weblog, Powered by Osteons (Kristina Killgrove), Context and Variation (Kate Clancy), From the Annals of Anthroman (John L. Jackson), and of course Jason Antrosio’s Living Anthropologically, among many others. 

And this is how I closed out that post:

All this has me thinking, once again, about the need for not just making new spaces, but also holding and using the spaces we already have. That includes this site, which has been somewhat…underutilized for the last few years (IMO). As Sarah Kendzior said recently: “Do not cede territory in an information war.” I’ll leave it there for now.

I still agree with Kendzior on that point. My initial plan was to try to revive this site so we didn’t cede this particular ground. But I think the larger point here is less about one particular site than it is about how we write, where we write, and what kinds of platforms we put our time and energy into. It’s also about how we share and interact with one another, and finding ways to keep those networks and connections intact.

So…I’ve been thinking a lot about blogs as things that still work, that are still reliable, and still around. I’m not the only one who has been thinking along these lines. And when Twitter just kept taking repeated turns for the worse, lots of people were talking about all the loss, yes, but also other options and possibilities. I think many folks were wondering, too, why we had gone all in on a private platform that could be dismantled so easily. I was, at least. 

This past July, Colleen Morgan, my pal from the old anthro-blogging days, posted this on Twitter and Mastodon:

Band together. Help each other out. Salvage what is good. In the spirit of her words, I posted ‘Salvaging what is good’ here on Anthrodendum. Colleen followed up on her site, in a bit of old-school one-blog-linking-to-another kind of back and forth. While you might think that ‘Salvaging’ post was just a bunch of sentimental ‘things used to be good and now they suck’ kind of lamentation, my aim was more pragmatic. I asked people to leave some breadcrumbs, so to speak:

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. 

A few people commented, and that’s a lot more than we’ve seen around here in a while. So it’s a start. As you can see, I have been on this retrospective kick–in the interests of thinking about what’s next–for a while now. That brings us to the anthro blog survey project, which is a continuation of all these conversations. I had assumed that the so-called anthroblogosphere was dead, but it turns out that’s not entirely the case. Rumors of its demise have been, well, somewhat exaggerated.

I went through all 188 blogs that Jason Antrosio listed in his roundup of 2017 anthro blogs. I modified my methods slightly and decided to count blogs that had a post as of June 2023 as ‘active.’ Of all 188 sites, 111 (59%) are no longer around, and 77 (41%) are still active. Now, granted, 59% gone is a big loss. But there’s actually quite a lot more still active than I’d expected. See what happens when you actually do the work, and look around, instead of just assuming?

A few thoughts. First, people are still out there writing and sharing ideas. But I’m not seeing a ton of comments on sites. Some more than others. What seems to be missing are all the links between these sites/projects.

Sure, this is partially a problem of the decline of platforms and all the changes that have happened. So it’s a tech/infrastructure issue in part. But I think it’s also partially about how people have changed their use of the internet and social media in more recent years. It’s an increasing reliance on feeds and algorithms, in which we scroll and tend to take what we get served…rather than having to actively go out and look for certain sites, people, conversations.

Maybe I’m off base here. But this is something I like about Mastodon so far. You have to dive in and search for subjects, conversations, etc. They aren’t just handed to you. Search hashtags and all that. It takes time.

Back in the day with blogs, people tended to link to other blogs and then check in on various sites fairly regularly. We’re missing that these days. And a lot of what’s happening–what folks are writing and thinking about–get skipped over or just lost in the shuffle. But it’s still out there. 

We can change this, you know. Using some old things, and by making some new ones. Hint, hint.

In the interest of salvaging what is good from the old anthroblogosphere, in the next post I am going to link to all the (77) blogs that are still active. It will be an old-fashioned blogroll of sorts, all in the name of preservation and possibilities. In the meantime, leave some comments, breadcrumbs, and thoughts of your own below. And thanks for stopping by.

10 Replies to “The 2023 Anthropology Blog Resurvey Project #2”

  1. I’m sad to see this site go. The anthro-blog hayday were good times. 🥹 We’re not on the original list, but you should add Platypus, The CASTAC Blog to the new one. We’ve just celebrated our 10th birthday in 2023 and are growing every year even still through the dedication of amazing volunteers. 💜

    1. Thanks for your comment and for reading Angela. I will definitely add the CASTAC blog to the list of new blogs that are out there! Thanks for sharing with us!

  2. I am a UWA anthrop graduate, and our school was destroyed by the university elite. Defunded as so many good things are, the ultimate punishment of capitalism. And I live regionally on a farm. I try and live my beliefs – communal living, sustainable practices, respect for the lifestyle of others. But it ends up lonely, and I don’t want an ivory tower amongst the less educated locals. As much as I can learn from people, social theory and the inherent capacity to analyse local and global trends is absent from nay without tertiary education in the arts. And as a single woman in a rural area my thoughts and opinions might as well not exist. All we have is institutions, and when they stop paying the anthropologists disappear. I enjoyed this blog because it was less formal – thoughts could be developed and shared without meeting the referencing criteria for a journal. It was for love not money. I don’t suppose I will have time to join another platform and search hashtags. I also suppose no one around will want to hear my musings. So I’ll miss reading these posts, and I hope you all keep the discipline alive in your own way. One day i hope we can start something that share the knowledge of social thought with anyone who wants it without bowing to political pressure or worrying about profit.

    1. Thanks Kirsten. I think that’s an important point you make about anthropology (and other related perspectives) basically disappearing when programs get cut…and how that highlights the importance of the institutions we do have. I’m glad you enjoyed this blog–I was drawn to this site and blogging in general for many of the reasons you mention. I hear you about not having time to join other platforms and search hashtags and all that. It’s nice to have a space/site where things are brought together. This site may be closing down, but we should all keep in touch about new projects and ideas. I think a new site/project (or a few of them!) that gathers anthropology may indeed be in order. Thanks again for your comment.

  3. Ryan,
    In a world of mushrooming global communication it is disappointing and rather puzzling that an anthropology discussion forum like anthrodendum should shutter its electronic portal. And it is a world of staggering disparities: legions of Tik Tok influencers attract hundreds of millions of followers while a few thousand anthropologists (a small and endangered tribe) have effectively zero impact on the public. Anthrodendum may have been an attempt to loosen the bonds of academic publishing in order to free up discussion of important topics, but in my view it did not go far enough. Although you personally have been an eloquent advocate of open access, the forum did not provide that. Instead, an editorial group restricted posted articles to group members and a few others specifically invited to post. Comments were limited to a few hundred words and, if a thread developed – and few did – it was promptly buried under succeeding posts. The inspiration for the site – the goal of free, wild, unfettered thought captured in the evocative phrase, “savage minds,” – was actually denounced by its creators in the name change to the nonsense word, “anthrodendum.” The wildflowers and wolverine pictured on the book jacket of the first edition of La Penseé Sauvages were replaced by “content moderated” writing – the tragicomedy of our time. Where to go now? My suggestion: the site Millions of subscribers, millions of posts, many anthropologists. Completely open access: post a piece, open it to comments, invite ten or twelve writers who share your interest in the topic, and hope for a lively discussion. Even with that format, the results may well be disappointing. The unhappy truth is that most anthropologists today are unwilling to stick their necks out in a public forum – so easy to give offense that will be amplified by social media. At any rate, bonne chance.
    Lee Drummond

    1. Thanks for your comment Lee. Anthrodendum is closing, but I think now is a good time to create some new spaces and forums for anthropology online. Maybe we’ve learned a few lessons about going all-in on platforms like Twitter. Anthrodendum was meant to be the second act of Savage Minds, but it never really took off…for a number of reasons. There are certainly lessons to be learned from what worked–and what didn’t–with SM and then Anthrodendum. Group blogs have their place, but as you mention they can also be exclusive and limited. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s good to have various options–if I had it to do over again I would keep the anthropologies project as a separate site. Anyway, thanks for the mention of–I’ve seen some great discussions about papers there. Overall I think we may need a few more general anthro blogs/sites to help fill in the void that’s grown in the past few years.

  4. Oh that was bad news. Recent posts here looked like a rebirth. How have you come to the conclusion to shut down the site? But please keep it online as an archive, the content is too valuable to just disappear!

    Recently, I have also made some survey about the anthro blogging scene and I found that very few personal blogs are left. Most of them are group blogs (like Allegra which is maybe the most important one today) or professional / commercial blogs run by journals, institutes where the main point of blogging is selv promotion. That’s what blogging has become in the recent ten years, it has, unfortunately, turned into a tool for personal and corporate marketing.

    In my case, after more than ten years anthro-blogging, it was not Twitter that made my site less active (I am too introvert to feel at home at a place like Twitter) but things happening in my life (including financial contraints). But also general developments online: I was blogging about anthropology in the news: There is less and less content available nowadays as most news sites have disappeared behind paywalls. I also felt alone. There is no community any more as, as you said, most people moved to Twitter and other walled gardens. Recently some anthropologist moved to the the Fediverse (Mastodon, Friedica etc), new communties seem to develop there.

    In case you need more links to blogs. I have been collecting them as a feed here with the sources here (including some non-English ones that are often overlooked and forgotten)

    I am looking forward to more posts!

    1. Hi Lorenz! Thanks for your comment and for sharing your RSS feed. I added it to the next post in this series. Regarding the closing of this site, we talked as a group and decided it was time. We’re definitely going to archive the site, just like we did with Savage Minds. I know it seems kind of odd considering the recent posts I’ve been publishing, but I see the closing of Anthrodendum as part of a rebirth and refocus on other sites and projects. That’s my plan at least! I’m thinking we need a few more general anthro blogs again…so that’s the direction I’m heading personally. I’m planning on either reviving the ‘anthropologies’ project or just starting a new site.

      I think you’re right about what blogging has become in the past decade or so–much of it is more about promotion and marketing than sharing ideas/conversations. Maybe we can find a way to push back against that tide.

      You’re also so right about what paywalls and those other ‘walled gardens’ have done to the anthro community online. This has also impacted public outreach. Paywalls etc have made it harder to follow and connect one another, and also made it more and more difficult to share anthro news and research. There have been so many times when I’ve gone to share a link about some article or research and I just don’t do it because it’s behind a paywall. We need to find a way to get around that too. Much of this relates to broader conversations about open access and publishing. If you’d told me a decade ago that we’d see more enclosure today than back then there’s no way I would have believed it. But here we are.