podcast

Marching for Science w/Valorie Aquino

On this episode of This Anthro Life, hosts Ryan Collins and Adam Gamwell are joined by TAL correspondent and guest host Astrid Countee and by a very special guest, Valorie Aquino. They joined us to talk about the 2017 March for Science. Valorie is one of the key organizing 30’s something scientists who helped make the 2017 march a reality. As she conveys in this episode, doing so was no easy task. This required countless late nights, missed social occasions, hours of frustration, and unfortunately, the all to occasional naysayers. Yet, Valorie’s story is one complete perseverance, rooted in a deep passion for science that began at an early age (you can check out her TEDx talk where she explains more of her origin story and passion for science here).

Check out This Anthro Life on our new partner player Radio Public Just by listening on Radio Public, you are supporting TAL because the team behind the player believes in helping small podcasts become sustainable. You listen, they pay us a little bit per episode. The player is free and awesome, and all your favorite podcasts are available on there too! Check it out and let us know what you think! Here’s the Link again.

The March for Science

For those of you who may not know, the March for Science is an “organization [which] empowers a global community of science supporters for nonpartisan advocacy in service of equitable and effective science and science policy.” Like other marches in recent years, the March for Science was first held in 2017 and the main event was in Washington DC. However, several other science marches were held in major cities across the US in a nationwide march of social solidarity. Likewise, the March for Science is becoming an annual phenomenon with the 2018 event just days away from the release of this episode (see details below for information on how you can participate).

A take away from our discussion with Valorie in this episode is the need for scientists to be vocal. Many scientists, academic and industry based, end up in fairly insular positions. This is unsurprising. After all, having a PhD means years of strict dedication to a specific field of study and few are lucky enough to have the guidance to step beyond the scope of their fields and engage with different interested audiences. Furthermore, if you have or are on track to reach a tenured position, then you likely understand the stringent requirements necessary to achieve that goal. When every word counts in a publication, its easy to direct your conversation away from public interest.

#scicom

All too often scientists end up speaking with themselves. Movements like the March for Science show exactly how broad science is. Many disciplines share the scientific method and use in for different forms of testing. Science tends to be envisioned as relating to medicine, biology, technological development, and human evolution. But, it also impacts social policies, food security, energy efficiency, climate change, space exploration and much more. If you’re looking for outspoken scientists be sure to check out #scicom (science communication) as well as any public facing science programs like Star Talk. For good daily science news and discoveries check out a public facing blogs like IFL Science or get more raw material from site’s like Science Daily.

Support the March

If you want to participate in the March for Science, its never too late. The March for Science is happening in several cities across the country. To RSVP in a city near you, just type in March for Science + your city to get more details. If your local to Boston (TAL’s home town) RSVP over this link here. If you’re looking to get involved with the main DC event, looking to donate, or interested in getting involved in some other way then follow this link here.

Contact Us

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us @thisanthrolife on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

You can download and listen to all our content on Apple Podcasts or on thisanthrolife.com  and be sure to leave us a review.

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them each out for more insightful and thought provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. And we need your support. Patreon helps us keep going to pay for things like our website. We’ve brought you over 100 episodes so far to over 40,000 subscribers. Read more about TAL + Patreon here. We’re trying a first push to get 10% of our subscriber base to give a dollar or more a month to TAL. If you get something out of TAL, will you help put something back in? Think of TAL as your new favorite publicly funded media source.

 

Carving a Niche between Software and Social Science: Anthropology in Industry w/ Natalie Hanson

Design and anthropology have been seen together with increasing frequency over the last few years, but how do design and anthropology fit together in relation to industry? And, how does this pairing create insight? Adam and Matt (a guest host at This Anthro Life) are joined by Dr. Natalie Hanson to explore these questions and more.

Dr. Hanson has been working at the intersection of business strategy, technology, social sciences, and design for nearly 20 years. This gives her a relatively unique perspective on the worlds of anthropology and design. Hanson is also the founder of Anthrodesign, which started as a list serve and now has its own Slack channel (you could join too by following the instructions here).

At TAL we often ask our guests to reflect on their origin stories – what drew them in, what ideas shape their own, and how their development brought them to their current positions. With Hanson, reflecting on her professional and critical development couldn’t have been more insightful to the discussion of anthropology, design, and industry. In reflecting on her origin story, Hanson addresses a concern that so many friends and family have when one declares that they are going to study the social sciences and culture: why? Her parents, like so many others, met her choice to study religion and biblical literature at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts with skepticism and perhaps some despair. Hanson saw something in the social sciences though, that they can help you critically understand the way cultural systems drive relationships. This early exploration on Hanson’s part would become a foundation leading her to explore design and systems theory from a macro perspective in Antioch University at Seattle.

But, the macro perspective only covers one side of the story and often doesn’t leave room for thinking on the role of human agency. This intersection between large scale social phenomena and individual action is where anthropology tends to reside. It was working with academic computing at Mills College in Oakland, California where Hanson had her first introduction to anthropology. This prompted her to think on culture and social complexity. But, it was in visual anthropology where she recognized that cultures tend to tell stories in particularly charged ways. Art, being a very charged means of showing narrative and expression, is the product of culture. It’s easy to recognize this fact when walking through a museum and seeing art overtly grouped not only by culture but by time periods. Like art, all cultural products can be thought of as complex forms of insider communication. For Hanson, it was then obvious that software too is a product of the culture which developed it.

Typically, anthropologists tend to view culture on large scales within relatively bounded frameworks as a starting point. From there, the boundaries can blur as smaller scales come into focus. Work spaces, as such, form cultures through the interactions between colleagues and the actions taken to create and maintain bonds. How workspace cultures operate will undoubtedly shape the final product a group seeks to create. Today, anthropologists working in diverse industries apply this thinking to distinct groups within corporations as well as to consumers and the various walks of life they may be coming from.

Reflecting on the insights above, Hanson eventually received a PhD at Temple University for anthropology with a focus on visual communication. Her focus in going to Temple was to maintain a commitment to creativity and expression which she brought to SAP when she started a UX (user experience) team. This experience also helped Hanson understand the use value of learning to speak at different levels within a corporation, to find common ground on ideas and turn them into actions. Believe it or not, anthropology can be of help here.

A philosophy that Hanson was clear to articulate from an industry perspective is, ‘If you’re going to build good software you need to get out of the office and talk with people, walk the shop floor, talk with friends, and family.’ After all, to do ethnography is to ‘hang out’ and get to know people. It may come as a surprise, but for different industries to take on ethnographic thinking is a relatively recent trend.

For anthropologists, the general idea of learning about people’s’ wants and desires through ethnographic methods (i.e. hanging out) is nothing new. But acting on these insights – to help make and tailor a product, optimize a business team, or shape the user experience of software – is. The trade off though, as Matt points out, is that ethnography takes time. Getting the most ideal rich forms of data can come at the cost of valuable production constraints. Likewise, without much time to invest, the ethnographic information collected will run the risk of being thin and less impactful. For an anthropologist, this means their data will be limited in true depth or understanding of a social group, which can lead to lackluster insights. For a designer, the consequence of creating a time saving product could be widely missing the mark on its use value. In this way, there is a sense of a goldilocks zone of thick description and timely production being hinted at in the conversation that can be difficult to find.

With ethnographic research there is always a question of access that can be thought of in some ways as community trust and rapport with the researcher. To build trust, one needs to start small with the basics. This is certainly not the most exciting enterprise. While Hanson recognizes that webpage design and satisfaction surveys are not ethnographies in full, this work lays the foundation for trust in time. Insight comes from long term studies, recognizing trends, patterns, and experiences. This helps translate into shorter term studies with people where the distance between being an insider and an outsider (or an innie and outie) is minimized.

The final insights from the conversation with Hanson have to do with language and the needs of stakeholders. In other words, how to translate information from one group to the next. For Hanson, moving to midwest from the east coast presented yet another lesson in the value of learning to speak with others. Yet, in her professional work, the issue of translation comes in building dialogues between teams of engineers, product managers, UX’ers, designers, and those working through quality assurance. The complexity entailed by mediating language between distinct specialist groups is compounded by the fact that there is no handbook for doing so. Likewise, some words don’t always translate well between groups. Software means one thing for a developer and another for a consultant. This reflects well on jargon terms for anthropologists like ritual, which could mean brushing your teeth, observing a religion at a certain time and place, a complex web of actions, or, as it is so often used by archaeologists, a colorful way of saying, “I have no clue what this is.”

Speaking to the complex dynamics of translation, Hanson reflected on the relatively slow way in in user experience is impacting healthcare. When UX is directly impacting not only health but all the entangled issues surrounding health policies and practices, progress can be very slow. App developers might want to create a blanket product, a one size fits all solution. Yet, the trouble in creating any app in a vacuum, especially a health related one, is that behavioral and cultural distinctions need to be kept in mind. Such issues can easily be compounded by diseases like diabetes, where individual behavior, cultural ways of using apps as well as receiving healthcare, and genetics have important roles in a perspectives app’s success and applicability. It is incredibly complex to navigate these environments and doing so requires a human element.

This reflects on the value of anthropology in recognizing human issues in broad arenas. A researcher may not always have the perfect conditions, questions, or responses. Data is often imperfect as is the research. As Adam points out, recognizing this helps ground the reality of anthropological work in general.

To find out more on the benefits of bringing anthropology and design together to solve the toughest problems in business, check these links out here and here. You can find more information on some of the discussions in this episode here as well:

 

Contact Adam and Ryan at thisanthrolife -at – gmail.com or individually at adam -at- thisanthrolife.com or ryan -at- thisanthrolife.com

Find us @thisanthrolife on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram

You can download and listen to all our content on Apple Podcasts or on from the TAL episode archives

This Anthro Life is an official collaborator with the American Anthropological Association, The Society for Applied Anthropology, SAPIENS, and EPIC. Be sure to check them each out for more insightful and thought provoking anthropology content.

Patreon is a crowdfunding platform where you can directly support This Anthro Life. Patreon helps us keep going. We’ve brought you over 95 episodes so far and over 35,000 of you have joined up. Read more about TAL + Patreon here. We’re trying a first push to get 10% of our subscriber base to give a dollar or more a month to TAL. If you get something out of TAL, will you help put something back in? Think of TAL as your new favorite publicly funded media source.

FreeThink #1: TaL Back in the Studio! What’s Next??

IMG_8528Adam, Aneil, and Ryan are all back in the TaL studio for the first time in 18 months! And it feels good. Today we talk shop about where we’ve been and where we’re going with TaL. Check out the conversation on evolving the show content with new episode lengths and direction (same great content, shorter, more-digestible bites) and new minisodes based on Adam’s growing obsession with design and applied anthropology offering you practical ways to apply anthropological thinking and action to your daily life, and professionalizing our craft with new partnerships with the American Anthropological Association among others!

We’re super excited to be back for you and can’t wait to build this new season along with you!

Talking Anthropology: Podcasting and Its Potential for the Discipline (Part Two)

IMG_0369We’re back with another post from our friends at Teaching Culture blog! This time we explore podcasting and its potential for Anthropology. Here’s an excerpt, and be sure to head over to Teaching Culture blog for the full post!

“This second entry has been much more difficult for us to write than the first. We came in with an idea that this would give us an opportunity to concisely tell a story about the promises podcasting brings anthropology. Too soon we came to realize our narrative was as broad as it was vague. Rather than working entirely from an unpolished framework (this was only somewhat true, really), we came to realize that anthropology is difficult to define because it doesn’t have clear boundaries. By definition, anthropology is the study of all things, people, and social relations everywhere and everywhen. On the one hand, anthropology is the field that begins and ends with people at its very core. Yet, on the other hand, the boundaries between anthropology and, for example, astrophysics become blurred because it’s nothing more than one version of our own cosmology. As much as it is challenging, this openness is useful for anthropologists and the stories they can tell through podcasting.

IMG_0368For its part, podcasting is a flexible medium encompassing audio and video recording, and production can range from barely edited open-format conversations to fully produced episodes with edited interviews, sound effects, and sponsors. What links the diverse formats of this medium are the characteristics of a serial format, subscription-based service, and democratized production.

Employing audio recording in anthropology isn’t new. Many anthropologists use audio and video to record interviews with informants, their own thoughts or reflections, and occasionally the soundscapes of field sites. On many occasions audio and video are used in formalized settings to record lectures and talks. However, podcasting takes this one step further, moving into relatively uncharted territory to not only collect data, but deliver that data in a flexible narrative format to a discipline uncomfortable with fixed, rigid structures.

Drawing from these broad strokes we’ve found it most fruitful to put podcasting in conversation with anthropology and fieldwork to tease out how they might work together….”

Check out the full post here

Thanks again to Teaching Culture blog for hosting us! They are a great resource for educators interested in the social sciences, and especially anthropology.

Talking Anthropology: Podcasting for the Public (Part 1) authored by TAL

This Anthropological Life has joined the blogosphere! This article is a glimpse into where we see anthro podcasting today and in the future. Stay tuned for part 2 soon!

Talking Anthropology: Podcasting for the Public (Part 1)” on Teaching Culture blog from the University of Toronto Press just out!

Here’s an excerpt from the blog, check out the rest in the link above!

This Anthropological Life (TAL) is a professional experiment. Our aim is to promote anthropological thinking to the public through enjoyable and entertaining conversations. We’ve been making podcast episodes at TAL for over two and a half years, and have produced over 60 episodes, each around 45 minutes. The format is an unscripted, roundtable conversation supported by weekly research.

One main goal of TAL is to demonstrate and practice anthropological thinking in a publicly accessible way (with no homework, no jargon, no extra reading). Podcasting provides a natural medium through which to do this because open conversations don’t easily allow for footnotes, extensive quoting, or even hard-to-say sentences. It sounds simple, but as any academic anthropologist knows, trying to explain Bourdieu’s habitus or Marx’s labor theory of value in conversation without confusing your students is a learned skill. However, TAL isn’t intended to explain anthropological theory, nor is it to highlight anthropologists and their work. Rather, we use podcasting to break down anthropological research into an easily digestible format promoting holistic thinking.

We see TAL as somewhere between academia, design anthropology, public anthropology, and entertainment. Since podcasting is not (yet) an accepted academic format like a thesis or peer-reviewed journal it hovers on the fringes of academia. Its roots as a form of alternative, democratic radio production put it for many in the entertainment/news/informally-learn-something-new camp. Couched between these two forms we saw an opportunity to raise public consciousness about anthropology. In 2013 podcasts were a relatively new medium and applied anthropological communities like the National Association of Practicing Anthropology (NAPA) and Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference (EPIC) hadn’t gained huge traction in anthropological worlds (I’m glad to see this changing). Podcasting is a great medium for sharing knowledge that follows on the heels of classic radio, the move towards more audiobook consumption by the general public, and the need to stop privileging the visual for information consumption. As someone who struggles with reading, this last point is particularly important to me.

Check out the rest: Talking Anthropology: Podcasting for the Public (Part 1)

Guest Podcast: Food Futures: Playing our Way to Conservation? Experimental Economics in the Andean Countryside

Food Futures LogoSpecial guest podcast from our friends at the Food Futures Podcast on Beaconreader.com:

Corinna Howland interviews Adam Gamwell about experimental games, or field experiments, which NGOs and economists use to measure when, why, and how people make different kinds of choices. This data, in turn, is used to inform public policy and generate development projects. As part of Adam’s work in Peru, he ran a series of experimental games with Andean farmers for the NGO Bioversity International, to understand what kinds of incentives farmers would need to conserve threatened varieties of quinoa.

Check out the selected transcript of the interview as well as other stories from Adam and Corinna on Medium. Their work is entirely crowdfunded so please consider subscribing and supporting independent anthropologically inspired journalism.

Stewardship and Heritage: Bringing Archaeology to the Public with Emily Jane Murry

Join TAL’s Ryan Collins and Aneil Tripathy as they interview Emily Jane Murry about her work as a publicly engaged archaeologist in Northern Florida with the Florida Public Archaeology Network. Most of us don’t even consider that the world around us is an archaeological treasure trove, with worlds of diverse cultural experiences overlapping in the layers right beneath our feet. As a champion of this cause, bringing archaeology to the public’s attention, Emily works to foster a sense of stewardship to the past precisely because it is so very connected to the social present. Tune in to hear more!emjay maple leaf

Faded Paint and Yellowed Photos: On, Image, Inspiration, and Memory with Javier Urcid

JavierHow does a camera and a deep sense of curiosity lead to a lifetime of archaeological research on ancient peoples, their symbols, art, and writing? Ryan and Aneil are joined by Brandeis University Professor Javier Urcid who shares stories on the serendipity that characterized the beginning of his lifelong passion in anthropology. From Zapotec script to funerary practices, Javier’s interests are focused on the stories that influenced the daily lives of ancient people and reconstructing the few images that remain today. Javier’s story is one of reflection, but on the mysteries that compel so many to dig ever deeper into. Who were past peoples? What were they like? What stories inspired them and can we find traces of them today? Tune in for a very special episode that connects the past to the present on several levels, one of personal growth and discovery.

A Business for the Future? Redefining Value, Quinoa and the Quest of Pachakuti Foods w/ Alexander Wankel

We’re back in Peru! Join Adam and special guest Alexander Wankel of Pachakuti Foods for a conversation about the future of food production, agrobiodiversity, sustainability, and keeping traditional culture alive. All from the view point of quinoa.

Pachakuti Foods is a brand-new startup focusing on creating a market for sustainable, pro-farmer and agrobiodiverse quinoa. It’s better for small-scale farmers, the environment, and for fighting climate change. Check out the project, and if you like it, support them on Kickstarter here!

Pachakuti Foods Website

Overlook Quinoa Aynok'a Photo: Colin Peacock

Overlooking a Quinoa Aynok’a Photo: Colin Peacock

 

Photo: Colin Peacock

Alex and Adam Prepping for the Podcast. Photo: Colin Peacock