Digital Anthropology and what makes us human these days // reading reflection

In recent years, critics of Anthropology have claimed it is a dying practice, such is the lightning speed trajectory of cultural change afforded by an expanded array of digital cultural artefacts for humans to perform and represent identity. However, Horst and Miller contend the faster cultural change happens, “the more relevant anthropological perspectives become because there is absolutely no sign that changes in technology are outstripping the human capacity to regard things as normative” (108). They suggest that unlike other disciplines, anthropology is “well equipped to immerse itself in the process by which digital culture becomes normative culture, and to understand what it tells us about being human” (108). Far from being a threat to the well established, research methodology that is Antropology, “the lesson of the digital is that, far from making us obsolete, the story that is anthropology has barely begun”(“Normativity and the Principle of Materiality” 108).

Horst and Miller later edited Digital Anthropology, a ground breaking manifesto taking anthropological practices into the digital age. The text shows an apparent wish to legitimise Anthropology as modern method of research which isn’t going away too soon, with the chops to be responsive to speedy trajectories of social change. Far from being a threat to authentic social relations, the digital is seen as a powerful way of   “reflecting upon what it means to be human, the ultimate task of the anthropology discipline” (Digital Anthropology 3).

Horst and Miller conclude:

Being human is a cultural and normative concept. We may employ technologies to shape our conceptualisation of what it means to be human, but it is our definition of being human that mediates what the technology is, not the other way around. (“Normativity and the Principle of Materiality” 108)

In light of these thoughts, I guess this precursor investigates the way young women use digital artefacts such as Instagram and Tumblr to represent the human experience. The artefacts are new, but the process behind their use is very much the same as the way human’s have behaved and interacted for centuries. This is why something I wrote in 2003 can be repackaged in a new way, yet still retain the emotion behind its original writing.

Works cited

Horst, Heather, and Daniel Miller. “Normativity and the Principle of Materiality: A View from Digital Anthropology.” Media International Australia 145 (2012): 103-11. Print.

Horst, Heather, and Daniel Miller. “The Digital and The Human.” Digital Anthropology. Ed. Heather Horst and Daniel Miller. English ed. London: Berg, 2012. 3-13. Print.

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