special guest

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).

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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.

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.

History, Power, and a Mapuche Bible: A Shaman’s Story with Ana Mariella Bacigalupo

Join TAL’s Aneil Tripathy and Ryan Collins as they interview Ana Mariella Bacigalupo of SUNY Buffalo. Ana’s discussion of her research on Mapuche shamans takes us on an exciting journey, full of emotion, struggle, hope, and passion that keeps you wanting more. For the Mapuche, shamanism is as much a part of daily life as farming and state politics in Chile. Like cultures the world over, the Mapuche understand that there is power in words, in history, in how the past is given life. Yet, Mapuche understandings of history and literacy are unique and Ana shares with us why this detail is so important.

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Human Endurance w/ Ben Gebo

Join us for our 50th episode! Return guest host Ben Gebo joins Adam, Aneil, and Ryan as we uncover the human quest to endure, and to push ourselves to the limit. From marathons to surviving evolution, we tackle time and space to bring you an incredible story of the human will to find, and surpass, our own limits. Episode 50

The World According to Quinoa w/ Adam Gamwell

Quinoa-plant

Photo: The Vegan Woman

Today we dive into the world of food! Come hungry as we introduce the world of food studies and explore the changing roles and meaning food has had over the millennia, and how we can explore ways to fight local hunger and global food insecurity, all through the research lens of TaL co-host and creator Adam Gamwell. We will look at domestication, evolution, nutrition, food and memory, food science, gender, the rise of super foods (one of Adam’s favorite research topics), and more!

Special Episode: Police Militarization, Race, Trust, Violence and Ferguson, MO

TAL-Logo-3.3Join Amy, Ryan, Aneil and Adam and special guest Delande Justinvil for an important episode of This Anthropological Life as we take head-on the complex issues of race in the United States, security, law enforcement and police brutality.

Episode 40 Police Militarization, Violence, Race, Trust and Ferguson, MO w/ Delande Justinvil. Recorded 9/3/14

The Burning Man Experience w/ Ben Gebo Part 2!

Ben Gebo Photography

Ben Gebo Photography

Join us for our first ever extended conversation, part of our new “This Anthropological Life After Hours” extended episode series. On occasion we will keep the conversation going well after our regular show time to bring you even more in depth content, conversation, and context. Ben was kind enough to be our first guinea pig, and we had a great conversation going deeper into the world of Burning Man, architecture, preparation for the experience, sensory deprivation, and more! You don’t want to miss this!

Episode 41.2, Season 3, Recorded 9/8/14

Check out Part 1 of the Burning Man Experience Here

The Burning Man Experience w/ Ben Gebo

Ben Gebo PhotographyEpisode 41, Season 4

Join Adam, Aneil, and Ryan with returning guest expert and commentator Ben Gebo as we dive into the rabbit hole of Burning Man. Ben recently returned from the Burn, and we recount his experiences with you and explore notions of how we as humans make culture, counter-cultures, alternative socialites, and more!

Aired 9/8/14

 

 

 

 

Check out some of Ben’s photos from Burning Man Below!

Ben Gebo Photography Ben Gebo Photography Ben Gebo Photography Ben Gebo Photography Ben Gebo Photography Ben Gebo Photography

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos copyright Ben Gebo Photography