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Cyberanthropology

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In the widest sense cyberanthropology means the branch of sociocultural anthropology which aims to understand the culturally-informed interrelationships between human beings, and those technological artefacts which can be imagined and described as cybernetic systems. These interrelationships include attempts to fuse technological artefacts with human and other biological organisms, human society, and with the socio-ecologically shaped environment. In these attempts all the mentioned elements are envisioned as cybernetic systems by the actors involved. This outlines the contours of cyberanthropology's broadest scope.

But in the wake of recent discourses growing around metaphors like globalization and Information Age/information society, and especially about Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs), moves into cyberanthropology's focus. The complex 'human beings and ICTs' unfolds its relevance for sociocultural anthropology inside the following three main sectors:

1. ICTs as tools for sociocultural anthropologists both in teaching and research. The spectrum goes from using a personal computer as a typewriter, generating online-databases and -catalogues, communicating with colleagues and peers via Internet-services; to keeping in touch with users online, and the theory-based generation of new forms of representation for anthropological knowledge. The latter should especially profit by the 'writing culture' debate and visual anthropology.

2. ICTs in the field. This is the sociocultural anthropological observation, analysis and interpretation of the consequences of the introduction of ICTs into specific societies and/or groups. (It has to be emphasized that this comprises the whole world, and not "just those" in the traditional field of the discipline, but does not exclude "them" as well.) Concepts like 'cultural appropriation of technology' and 'ethnography of work' seem to be indispensable for this task.

3. 'Cyberspace' as field. The sociocultural anthropological observation, analysis and interpretation of the sociocultural phenomena springing up and taking place in the interactive 'space' ('cyberspace') generated by computer-mediated communication (CMC), the Internet-infrastructure and ICTs at large. This comprises national and transnational online-groups, but also movements like e.g. 'Open Source' and the related societal, economical, and juridical issues and problems.

To which degree the three sectors become mutually influential or even inseparable, depends on the specific research-projects, the involved methods and the specific desiderata of understanding.

Sociocultural anthropology's unique potentials for contributing to the above-mentioned understanding gradually get unveiled. These potentials already have been recognized by related disciplines. One symptom of this process is the adoption, or even appropriation of 'ethnography', a generic method of sociocultural anthropology, by sociology, media studies, and other academic endeavours. The engagement by sociocultural anthropology in the last decade was somewhat weaker, but the trend is pointing stoutly upwards.

The work of Cesidio Tallini

The recent cyberanthropological work of Cesidio Tallini deserves mention here, especially with regard to 'cyberspace' as field, and it relates to micronationalism and many other academic disciplines as well.

This field has grown so quickly, and has become so promising, that in effect the work of Tallini can be classified as a branch of cyberanthropology called Fifth World studies. This is how the field of Fifth World studies is related to other sciences:

  • Science
    • Social sciences
      • Anthropology
        • Cultural anthropology (or social- or socio-cultural anthropology)

However, Fifth World studies, being very broadly also a branch of the Humanities field called Area studies or Cultural studies, is also interdisciplinary in nature.

The field of Fifth World studies is related to other social sciences such as Communications (Telecommunications), Economics (Human development theory), Geography (Cultural geography), Linguistics (Linguistic anthropology), Political Science, Psychology (Evolutionary psychology, Cognitive science and Neuropsychology), Sociology (Environmental sociology, Economic sociology, Science and technology studies, and Social theory), and Cultural studies. Fifth World studies, however, is also related to the fields outside of the social sciences such as Mathematics, Computer science (Information technology and Network science), Biology (Evolutionary biology and Sociobiology), Philosophy (Ethics, Metaphysics, and the Philosophy of religion), Religious studies (Catholic studies, Christian theology, Jewish Studies, Theology), Education (Educational technology), Law (Canon law, Comparative law, Constitutional law, Civil law, International law, and the Philosophy of law.

Reference

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