Category: Anthropology

Bitcoin Is More Than Money (As Is Any Money)

Bitcoin Is More Than Money (As Is Any Money)

Our use of money is infused with profound cultural and political meaning, and the interplay of rival currencies can offer insights into cultural tensions. This was as true of post-Soviet Russia as it is of Bitcoin today. The anarchic virtual currency is part of a wider cultural movement that embraces technology, and replaces institutions with…

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The Viral Ideals of Free Software

The Viral Ideals of Free Software

The free and open source software (F/OSS) movement has influenced wider understanding of intellectual property rights by propagating three core sets of norms and practices: 1. The privileging of authorship over ownership, and the embrace of collective authorship. 2. The transformation of property law from an absolute imposition into a set of hackable rules which…

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Structure and Agency in Bourdieu's Distinction

Structure and Agency in Bourdieu's Distinction

In this essay I argue that Bourdieu’s thesis in Distinction* generally favours the role of structure over agency in determining taste.  However, within that framework opportunities for agency do exist.  Such agency is particularly available to those rich in cultural capital, enabled by their distance from necessity.  Outside the dominant classes opportunities for agency still…

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Technology in the Home

Technology in the Home

This is an extract from a mini-ethnography I did of an East London household of three young people, focusing on their use of technology. One of the recurring practices observed in the household was the retention of gadgets with overlapping functionality, sometimes to the point of redundancy.  Older, disused, and broken hardware is held in storage…

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Coding Freedom — Gabriella Coleman

Coding Freedom — Gabriella Coleman

In the spirit of the movement it describes, I am “open sourcing” my reading notes on Gabriella Coleman’s excellent book Coding Freedom, an anthropological study of the Debian community and the wider software ecosystem in which it operates.  I’ll also leave the Google Docs version open for anyone in case anyone might find it useful.…

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Baudrillard’s Hyperreal — A Case Study of Second Life

Baudrillard’s Hyperreal — A Case Study of Second Life

Interpreting Baudrillard has always been tricky. He himself was critical of artists who incorporated his theories into their work. The nature of these theories, particularly simulation and simulacra, is such that to reproduce them seems to betray the spirit of the text. This is not a defect, but rather a distinctive irony that occurs in…

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Not Waving, But Filming

Not Waving, But Filming

The athletes in the Olympics opening ceremony seemed more interested in mindlessly recording the parade than actually experiencing it. What they plan to do with a thousand near-identical trackside recordings is anybody’s guess, but their behaviour was matched by a ceremony which celebrated our hypersocial, gadget-obsessed era, an era which will have matured beyond recognition…

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Pierre Bourdieu — Distinction (Part I)

Pierre Bourdieu — Distinction (Part I)

A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste In this book Bourdieu argues that cultural choice, or taste, is closely related to social position. The thesis is built on a series of surveys and interviews conducted in France in 1963 and 1967-68, but as I read it, everything still feels relevant to the 2012 Anglosphere.…

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