Invitation: Why the World Needs Anthropologists, Prague 10-12 September 2021

EASA Applied Anthropology Network (AAN) is organising its 9th annual event in a hybrid edition (online and on site) in Prague from 10 to 12 September this year, under the tile of “Mobilizing the planet”. Here is the homepage.

We have been invited to participate in the event by one of the organisers in one of the following ways:

  • Submissions for workshops / presentations of our work, organisation of a collaborative session on teaching one of our “mobilization strategies”. DEADLINE 1 August!. Info here.
  • Individual participation (individual tickets).
  • Partnership (upon agreement / option for hotspots to present the organisation / workshops / presentations & talks/)
  • Sponsorship (sponsorship packages with various benefits to be sent on request).

The time for submitting the proposal is short, let me know your thoughts.

ping @alberto, @amelia, @nadia, @marina, @hugi


I really like this idea.

@ivan, how would you like to participate in representation of Edgeryders? You could present Witness, in its “ethnography of utopia” declination (in either the “Future movements” or the “Perspective” sections. It also doubles up as you flexing your presentation muscle and your networking muscle. If that’s a yes, I think it makes sense for you to go physically (if you are OK with it).

Any other thoughts?

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For me it’s a yes - I really like it too.

It is an event that might appeal to some of our ethnographers too.

In the meantime, I will prepare the submission. I am open for all the sections but “Future movements” might be easier from the content point of view because the time is a bit too short to go with a “visually compelling form”.

Ok then go!

Ivan, by the way: a sexy hook here would be mentioning Aethnography.

In order to make it credible that people would organize in economic systems other than late-stage capitalism, we had to introduce in Witness a fictional social science, which is the in-world functional equivalent of economics but has a very different ethics.

A nice illustration would be a “lineage” of Aethnography. I have a lineage in the Witnesspedia entry, but @amelia rightly objected others would be both possible and attractive.

In fact, you could even build the whole thing on this idea: the world needs anthropologists because system-level change cannot happen without epistemic change.

However, @akmunk says that “anthropologists were so traumatized by having been part of the colonization project that they resolved never again to do anything that the state could use”. Discuss. :slight_smile:

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Not ethics, sorry. The main point is epistemic stance!

Let me know if you need help.

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It is still raw but am working on it here.

the structure more or less like this:
Project Witness

The etnographers’ playground or the ethnography of Utopia

  • project by SciFi Economics Lab - Edgeryders
    • born from undp project - eit ckic etc etc
    • core team, friends and partners (2 min presentation)
  • purpose/objective - reduce pitch for O.S. to 20% - 4 min
  • link to anthropology (studies, SSNA) - 2 min
  • introduce aethnography as the narrative part 4 min
  • conclusions - 2 min

Jump in anytime, would love some thoughts.
Btw, great episode on … aethnography today with Giuseppe and Amelia (took notes for my prez :slightly_smiling_face:)

A collective effort and… sent

Prague update:

Our short abstract was accepted, so I’ll be going to Prague next week to present the ethnographers’s playground aspects of Witness and the worldbuilding exercise.

The organisators are quite interested in our work and have asked us to participate in the hotspots presenting the ER work and methodology.

Among the participants - LiiV and UNESCO (among the sponsors of the event) with their recent partnership for modernizing the digital anthropology, together with, anthropologists, representatives of different social movements, activism etc.

Looking forward and will keep you posted.

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A due Prague update and conclusions:

We participated in the works of the conference presenting the declination of Witness in its “ethnography of Utopia” - yours truely had the honour of a petcha kutcha (20 slides of 20 seconds) presentation in the halls of Charles University and networking with the participants.

The conference was organised around the “Mobilizing the planet” parole and saw the participation of scholars and activists from all over the world, engaged on several fronts of human rights,
This is the complete program. 18235136_1.pdf (731.4 KB)

The book with the conclusion of the main line of the conference can be found here.

What do we take home? A participation in a well organised initiative which saw its first edition 8 years ago, some new and interesting people met on the place, a possibility to join again next year in Germany.

There is an ongoing call for the Ambassadors, organisers of satellite Applied Anthropology network events - if it may be of some interest, we can think of applying.

Update #2 - 21/09/21

Following the Prague talks I had with people from Liiv Center, we have been invited to participate to the Launch event of the Digital Anthropology Project by UNESCO and LiiV Center on the 24th - I will be attending, if someone wants to join, let me know and I will send you the link - the registration is needed. (@alberto, @nadia, others?)

The working title of the event is:
Unleashing deeper insights into modern humanity / Pour mieux comprendre l’humanité moderne
This is the program: UNESCO - LiiV Launch event_24 Sept_LAST.pdf (1009.6 KB)

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I very much like the idea. Since the call is ongoing, we could use it as a diss/comm move in our extant projects, no? For example, how about one in POPREBEL or NGI, @nadia?
I can’t promise to make it (very short notice), but I guess I would like to register anyway and see if I can.

Good work!

I participated in the UNESCO - LiiV Center Partnership Launch event last Friday - 90 participants according to the organisers.
Statistics on their side - 50% Western Europe & North America, 17% Central & Eastern Europe, the rest spread around.

Context - UNESCO and LiiV Center created a partnership to promote the innovation in the digital anthropology.
The first period is “a four-year collaboration to unleash a global movement, unifying an academic discipline, and raising awareness of its power to create a more ethical, cohesive, empathetic society” […] and they are “looking for motivated experts and changemakers in social science, humanities, data science, public policy and private sector leadership around the world to build this movement.”
Not clear if and how the funding of projects will work.

Among the speakers:

Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO
Gillian Tett - a Financial Times journalist and author of Anthro-Vision, a New Way to See in Life and Business, 2021.
James Ingram, CEO LiiV Center
Sydney Yeager - professor at University of Central Arkansas and Hendrix College and a founding member of DANG - US digital anthropology association group.
Anthony Kelly - L’Atelier BNP Paribas

Used a conversational tool called Remesh - basically a real time survey which creates top lists of answers - with the participants asked to express their opinion on some of the other people’s answers too.

Extracts from the interventions:


Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO has a goal of “upgrading analytical models to understand better the world and the digital world”:

  • how many digital communities are created, how many ways are open here
  • we see the outcomes, need to understand the drivers
  • serves for a safer and more reliable digital world
  • Governments are relying on AI to get to better decisions. In the past, always relied on statistics – now a great tool of AI
  • It is a promise
  • It comes with human bias, cultures, experience, context – created by humans, therefore the need to understand data & contextualise
  • Data in public services – health, public systems etc
  • Behaviours can be caused by belonging to certain communities/tribes with obvious downsides
  • Digital anthropology gives governments a deeper level of empathy
  • Training DA in UNESCO nations and working with the govts
  • The instruments are needed to make sense of the world, understand complexities, make member states take better decisions

Member states of UNESCO have issued their recommendations for the ethics of the artificial intelligence, which will be submitted for approval to the general assembly this November.

Keynote: Gillian Tett - a Financial Times journalist and author of Fool’s Gold: How Unrestrained Greed Corrupted a Dream, Shattered Global Markets and Unleashed a Catastrophe in 2009 & Anthro-Vision, a New Way to See in Life and Business, published in June 2021, a peek through anthropological lens on the behaviour of organisations, individuals, and markets.


  • There is no difference in “real” between virtual and physical worlds.
    • Example: teenagers’ usage of the cell phones examined by Dana Boyd (US anthropologist) - for the teenagers in USA who live a very constrained life, cyberspace offers freedom of movement - therefore the necessity to look at the real space and the cyberspace to comprehend the behaviour.
  • Tech is changing our own cultural dynamics:
    • In the online life - not only the tribal characteristics, we tend to customise them (Playlist as opposed to the cassettes or radio) - the customisation with the tech accent creates a tendency towards a pick and leave attitude
  • Much of silicon valley is barter economy, swapping data for services
    • Need to change the terms for barter trade for the consumers – portability, open source
  • No AI platform can invent a good joke – the jokes are about social allegiances and tribes, work on the conflicting layers of our cultural consumptions
    • In a world with jokes, culture matters – even and especially for techies
  • The pandemic has shown us you can’t solve it by only medical science – you need behavioural science to get to effective solutions. Including issues like climate change, policies and goals.

Anthropology needs to be a lot savvier, clearer in the methods of communication – although anthropologists see life in the shades of grey, their teasers should present also b/w images

James Ingram: How to establish the connection between digital anthropology, innovation and policies?

  • Same challenge faced everywhere: the tools do help better decisions – need them bigger, faster, stronger to get them at scale, with the awareness of the call of science

Sydney Yeager

  • As a prof – interdisciplinary classes with the students aiming to become policymakers in the long run. Among the founding members of DANG - US digital anthropology association group
  • Works on digital identities, social media presence
  • Old anthropology school which did not initially accept the digital and the virtual as real life arrived to understanding with the 2016 election (Trump) – completely blindsided by their own circle
  • AI ethics is influenced by who is designing it – the way in which the programs, biases etc are built in the AI
    • Example – job applications – AI relieved of the bias? No, it is built by people – values are different. Influences potential careers and livelihoods.
    • Education, racism, sexism, etc – languages under bias, gap times in a resume – baaad (but can be family responsibility)

Anthony Kelly

  • An economy and society built on a massive amount of data is a reality

  • Why do policy makers fail to understand policies? How can DA help?

  • Sometimes, systems work exactly as they are planned. Internal and external pressure on them (sometimes things cannot be said, sometimes they cannot be heard around the productions of policies)

  • Now – a strong discourse around of failed public polling – misapplication

  • Highlights – DA are anthropologists interested in networks, systems, holistic analysis, etc.

  • What does it mean to work on social data, what does it tell us?

  • The digital side of things – pretty slow for people to accept that what is virtual is also real and it needs to be understood

  • COVID – a perfect example: all kinds of info people are interacting online with – a lots of questions exploded creating a super hybrid media space

  • The distinction between online and offline is very problematic – different kinds of people, different kinds of ways of interacting with both etc. The concept of context needs a little bit of addressing.

LiiV came back to my proposal to have a call and see if there are possibilities of collaboration and are suggesting this week. @nadia, @alberto, @hugi, @amelia

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Why all this talk about AI? I may be “too Italian”, but the best way to upgrade your analytical models is to curate your data and make them public. Governments are not doing well here. They had better focus on this, rather than training models on bad data.

This is a lot more like it.

This could be ammo… where is this discourse? Any reference?

And finally, @nadia, you never answered this:

What do you think?

yes ok works. I am however stretched too thin to produce any additional presentations etc.

I guess that would mean for @amelia and me to produce a satellite event of the EASA Applied Anthropology Network (online!) for each of our projects (or maybe just one). We could and should involve our research partners, especially consortium leaders. That goes into our comm/diss work.

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@alberto and I had a conversation with LiiV Center head anthropologist Katie Hillier today about a possible collaboration and funding possibilities. (notes with our presentation here)

She appreciated a lot the SSNA, both concept and tools and illustrated the journey they have in front:

  • LiiV Center and UNESCO have signed a formal 4 year partnership aiming to upgrade and enhance digital anthropology tools making it a must-use science of the 21st century.
  • They are still in the inception phase - officially the partnership starts in January
  • Now they are “raising awareness and connecting to the various stakeholders”
  • In the first 6 months they work on creating an innovation committee with UNESCO to draft a 4 year program
  • Possible next step is to present the work in Davos in January?

From the innovation perspective, they want to:

  • Understand how advanced the open source innovation is and how can it help
  • Learn what is missing
  • Round up potentially interesting solutions

In their eyes, ER could “get the stage – draw more attention to the field as a company that all the govts need to work with.”

Next steps: they will examine the material we sent them, share some of their material and their timeline.

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