This spelling, “aethnographer”, stayed with me. And well it should: the whole idea of the Sci-Fi Economics Lab is that we need a better economics to be able to imagine, and build, a better economy. Our own modest efforts to turn ethnography around into a collaborative research method is informed by this need for tooling up (we => @amelia, @markomanka, myself and others).
So, I propose to write a Witnesspedia article on aethnography, a form of knowing specific to post-Sundering Witness. It traces its lineage to the “danger zone” between anthropology and economics (Mauss, the Geertz-Hirschman collaboration, Scott…) and to the interdisciplinary and mathematical agility of the Santa Fe Institute. It is also militant, action-research: theoretical aethnographers are epistemologists and model builders, applied ones are field analyists, but praxis aethnographers are actors of change, or of prevention thereof. They are to theoretical and applied aethnographers what business managers are to economists. This makes space for unorthodox practices in the day-by-day business in Witness. What would the world look like, if it were run according to a different economic thinking?
What it does in the grand scheme of things:
- It creates a natural narrative point of view. A story told through the eyes of a scholar (perhaps a field analyst) gives the author an excuse to go explicitly into Yudha’s bottom of the iceberg: social structures, foreign trade, organization of production etc.
- It might promote identification in econ/anthro types, turning the WBA into a sort of role playing game. “Join the ranks of the Aethnographers! Help the Graeber Institute figure out how to fight the free rider problem in a commons-based economy!”. Stuff like that.