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Building Cyberinfrastructure Capacity for the Social Sciences

Today’s guest blog post is by Dr. Emilio Moran. Dr. Moran is Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Indiana University and Visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University.

emilio-moran_profileThe United States and the world are changing rapidly.  These new conditions challenge the ability of the social, behavioral and economic sciences to understand what is happening at a national scale and in people’s daily local lives.   Forces such as globalization, the shifting composition of the economy, and the revolution in information brought about by the internet and social media are just a few of the forces that are changing Americans’ lives.  Not only has the world changed since data collection methods currently used were developed, but the ways now available to link information and new data sources have radically changed. Expert panels have called for increasing the cyber-infrastructure capability of the social, behavioral, and economic (SBE) sciences so that our tools and research infrastructure keep pace with these changing social and informational landscapes.  A series of workshops for the past three years has met to address these challenges and they now invite you to provide them with feedback on the proposal below and you are invited to attend a Special Event at this year’s AAA meeting in Chicago, Saturday, November 23, 2013 from 1215 to 1:30 pm at the Chicago Hilton Boulevard C room.

Needed is a new national framework, or platform, for social, behavioral and economic research that is both scalable and flexible; that permits new questions to be addressed; that allows for rapid response and adaptation to local shocks (such as extreme weather events or natural resource windfalls); and that facilitates understanding local manifestations of national phenomena such as economic downturns.  To advance a national data collection and analysis infrastructure, the approach we propose —  building a network of social observatories — is a way to have a sensitive instrument to measure how local communities respond to a range of natural and social conditions over time.  This new scientific infrastructure will enable the SBE sciences to contribute to societal needs at multiple levels and will facilitate collaboration with other sciences in addressing questions of critical importance.

Our vision is that of a network of observatories designed from the ground up, each observatory representing an area of the United States.  From a small number of pilot projects the network would develop (through a national sampling frame and protocol) into a representative sample of the places where people live and the people who live there. Each observatory would be an entity, whether physical or virtual, that is charged with collecting, curating, and disseminating data from people, places, and institutions in the United States.  These observatories must provide a basis for inference from what happens in local places to a national context and ensure a robust theoretical foundation for social analysis.  This is the rationale for recommending that this network of observatories be built on a population-based sample capable of addressing the needs of the nation’s diverse people but located in the specific places and communities where they live and work.  Unlike most other existing research platforms, this population and place-based capability will ensure that we understand not only the high-density urban and suburban places where the majority of the population lives, but also the medium- and low-density exurban and rural places that represent a vast majority of the land area in the nation.

To accomplish these objectives, we propose to embed in these regionally-based observatories a nationally representative population-based sample that would enable the observatory data to be aggregated in such a way as to produce a national picture of the United States on an ongoing basis.  The tentative plan would be to select approximately 400 census tracts to represent the U.S. population while also fully capturing the diversity that characterizes local places. The individuals, institutions and communities in which these census tracts are embedded will be systematically studied over time and space by observatories spread across the country. During the formative stages the number of census tracts and the number of observatories that might be needed, given the scope of the charge that is currently envisioned, will be determined.

These observatories will study the social, behavioral and economic experiences of the population in their physical and environmental context at fine detail. The observatories are intended to stimulate the development of new directions and modes of inquiry.  They will do so through the use of diverse complementary methods and data sources including ethnography, experiments, administrative data, social media, biomarkers, and financial and public health record. These observatories will work closely with local and state governments to gain access to administrative records that provide extensive data on the population in those tracts (i.e. 2 million people) thereby providing a depth of understanding and integration of knowledge that is less invasive and less subject to declining response rates than survey-derived data.

To attain the vision proposed here we need the commitment and enthusiasm of the community to meet these challenges and the resolve to make this proposed network of observatories useful to the social sciences and society. For more details on our objectives and reports from previous meetings, visit http://socialobservatories.org/
Please contribute your ideas at the site so that the proposal can benefit from your input and come to Chicago for the Special Event on Saturday, November 23, 2013. We are particularly interesting in hearing how this platform could help you in your future research. This is an opportunity for anthropological strengths in ethnography and local research to contribute its insights in a way that will make a difference for local people and for the nation.

Emilio F. Moran, co-Chair of the SOCN
Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Indiana University and
Visiting Hannah Distinguished Professor, Michigan State University

Lisa Gonzalez, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Lisa Gonzalez (Wayne State U). Gonzalez is a doctoral student in the Business and Organizational Anthropology Department. She has volunteered to lead a program in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative. Her program will take place at The Field Museum. This new initiative seeks volunteers to lead and assist programs at various host sites throughout Chicago on Wednesday, November 20 from 9am to12pm. Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Lisa GonzalezI became interested in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative due to my passion of introducing young people to anthropology early on in their academic studies. I have followed the success of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s A-level Anthropology Program and had hoped to some day participate in a similar U.S. based program, whenever one is developed. I am pleased that AAA is taking the lead with this concept and look forward to many more opportunities to increase the awareness of Anthropology as a career to young people in the U.S.

During the Anthropologists Back to School initiative, I will lead a program on Peoples and Cultures of the Pacific at The Field Museum. I plan to discuss my interests in the culture and daily lives of Native Hawaiian people living in the Pacific today. Students will have the opportunity to participate in a cross-cultural exchange activity with Hawaiian youth while at the same time learning “what” anthropologists do and “how” they go about collecting research data.

Introducing young people in primary and secondary schools to Anthropology will increase their thinking about other cultures. Through their engagement with this program, they will develop a deeper understanding of themselves and how they fit into the world.

Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Cynthia Fowler, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Cynthia (Cissy) Fowler. Dr. Fowler is an Associate Professor at Wofford College, Secretary of the Society of Ethnobiology, and co-Editor of Ethnobiology Letters.  She conducts transdisciplinary research on society and nature. In her fieldwork in Eastern Indonesia’s dry monsoonal tropics, she studies the materialization of fire — fire as a creative expression of social relations and ecological perceptions.

Dr. Fowler has volunteered to lead a program in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative. Her program will take place at The Field Museum. This new initiative seeks volunteers to lead and assist programs at various host sites throughout Chicago on Wednesday, November 20 from 9am to12pm. Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Cissy FowlerThe Anthropologists Back to School initiative caught my attention because it is an outlet for connecting with and contributing to the community beyond the meeting rooms and conference hotel during the AAA Annual Meeting. I selected the Field Museum host site with colleagues Isabella Abuchaibe and Natalie Bump. The Anthropologists Back to School initiative provides an unusual opportunity to experience the Field Museum in potentially meaningful ways, where we can be both observers and interpreters of the exhibits. It also provides an opportunity to support the teaching mission of Wofford College, where I work. Other Wofford faculty inspire me with their publications, grants, and continuing education related to teaching excellence and service through education.

I hope to share my fascination with the diverse, colorful, sometimes inspiring and sometimes troubling character of human-environment interactions. In my life-long pursuit of inspiration, I have witnessed many beautiful places and encountered many amazing creatures.  Along the way, I have met inspiring people who have sustainable (and other) lifeways and compelling (and humdrum) beliefs.  Anthropology provides the most amazing tools for understanding those people relative to Earth’s ecosystems.

During the program, we will guide school children through interactive experiences as they move through the “Restoring Earth” exhibit hall.  “Restoring Earth” already operates as an interactive exhibit, thus it will be easy for us to play off of that set up.  We will spotlight the Field Museum’s ongoing conservation-related projects with indigenous peoples in Amazonia, Peru, the Philippines, and other places/communities where their scholars work.  As an anthropologist, I’d like to infuse the exhibit with lessons about how anthropologists determine the role people have had through time in maintaining, creating, destroying, and/or conserving biodiversity.  We will discuss biocultural diversity during which we will emphasize the association between megabiodiverse regions and cultural/linguistic diversity. We will also point to the importance of considering the presence or absence of people in conservation areas and the implications of those alternatives for diversity.

Writing and delivering our presentation will be a collaborative effort between Isabella, Natalie, and myself.  Isabella’s special interest is in American food industries.  Natalie will share her special interest on the restoration of nature in the Chicago area drawing from her research on the Forest Preserve District of Cook County. And my special interest is in social justice and global change. The umbrella theme for our three segments will be the value of anthropology for understanding Earth’s processes and resolving the problems the Earth and its people face in ways that are socially just and ecological sound.

The children’s greatest take home message will be a recognition that culture has a major influence on people’s perceptions of environments and the ways people manage landscapes.  The children will take away with them the knowledge that anthropology is a science that asks especially fascinating questions about biological and cultural diversity and has powerful techniques for answering those questions as well as brilliant insights on achieving conservation. so that the school children will gain an appreciation for the value of anthropology.  The 6th-12th graders who attend the AAA Back to School initiative at the “Restoring Earth” exhibit will learn the message that the world consists of diverse cultures living in diverse environments, and will learn to not only value biocultural diversity but also to think critically about it.

Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

International Collaborative Virtual Seminar

Join the collaborative virtual seminar pilot project this month with our colleagues from the Associação Brasileria de Anthropologia (ABA), Canadian Anthropology Society/Société canadienne d’anthropologie (CASCA), and the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) to bring you a virtual seminar on language and anthropological knowledge.

There are four papers which are the core of this debate. Monolinguism is a disease by Bruna Franchetto (ABA); Thinking through difference. The language of anthropological collaboration by Penelope Harvey (EASA); Political economies of language: power, epistemology and the representation of research by Alexandra Jaffe (AAA); and Transformations and linguistic alienations by Christine Jourdan (CASCA). Papers are now available on the website as PDFs. Add your comments and questions now, they will be posted on October 13. Join the presenters and four commentators for their online discussion on October 15 at 7am Pacific time, 10am Eastern time, 11am S. America Eastern Standard Time, 3pm London time, and 4pm Paris time. Participants will be able to see and hear the discussions, live.

While there is not a charge to participate in the webinar, please register in advance.

Julie Lesnik, An Anthropologist Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by Julie Lesnik (U Illinois at Chicago). Dr. Lesnik has volunteered to lead a program in the Anthropologists Back to School initiative. Her program will take place at The Field Museum. This new initiative seeks volunteers to lead and assist programs at various host sites throughout Chicago on Wednesday, November 20 from 9am to12pm. Share your passion of anthropology while giving back to this year’s host city – Chicago. Learn more about how you can participate in Anthropologists Back to School and register today!

Julie LesnikI moved to Chicago from Ann Arbor, MI in 2011.  I was very active in community outreach in Ann Arbor, especially regarding science education for young girls.  I have not had a chance to get involved with a program yet here in Chicago, so the Anthropologists Back to School initiative is especially appealing to me.

I have spent the last two summers working on an archaeological project and field school in highland Peru. Working in Peru is a new endeavor for me, and I found the prehistoric cultures of the region absolutely fascinating.  I am excited to co-chair the Ancient Americas program at the Field Museum this November and bring what I have learned about the dynamic history of this region to students of the Chicago Public Schools.

My research focus is on bioarchaeology; the analysis of human skeletal remains in archaeological contexts.  One activity that students will be able to take part in includes taking measurements on replicas of skeletal materials and estimating the height of individuals.  I will use this exercise to describe how growing up at high altitude affects the human body, not only through shorter statures, but also through adaptations to breathing effectively in low atmospheric pressures.  I hope that students will walk away from this experience with a better understanding of human variation and adaptation.

Anthropologists Back to School

Today’s guest blog post is by the 2013 Executive Program Co-Chair, Alaka Wali.

We are looking forward to an exciting four days in Chicago and want to share with you a brand new initiative that will take place on the first morning of the meetings, Wednesday, November 20.

In keeping with the meeting theme of public engagement, the “Anthropologists Back to School” initiative offers meeting participants to directly engage with Chicago middle and high school students and teachers at local museums and university campus sites. The initiative is the brain-child of Johnnetta Cole, who challenged us to create an event that permitted the AAA to “give back” to the host city in a substantive way. The objective is to spark student and teacher awareness of our discipline and its diverse subject matters and perspectives.

We have worked in collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Social Science Department and the Education Department at The Field Museum to recruit teachers from the fifth grade to high school throughout Chicago. The teachers will register for the “field trips” to the host sites based on their interest in the subject matter. The CPS social science curriculum has a broad thematic approach, but currently does not include anthropology specifically. However, the CPS is making a major push to integrate “culture” into the current curriculum. Teachers will be interested in program that focus on such themes as: connections between past and present, the human-environment interface, human evolution, immigrant experiences, cultural diversity, language and culture, among others.

Here is how it will work:

  • Meeting participants will select and register for one of the host sites. We encourage you to work in teams, integrating across sub-disciplines if possible.
  • Participants can develop a program that is appropriate for their selected site and designed for students from fifth grade and up. At most sites, the program should be interactive rather than pedantic.
  • There will be logistical support at each site, but participants will be responsible for any instructional materials they wish to use and for their own travel to the host site. All the sites are within fairly close proximity to the meeting hotel.
  • The time frame for the program is about two-to-three hours (9 am–12 pm), but at most sites, about a half-hour program can be repeated as multiple student groups rotate through.
  • At the end of your program, we would like to have you report back on the experience.

The host sites are:

  • The Field Museum. There are seven anthropology exhibit halls where meeting participants can set up stations. Students will stop at the station and have the opportunity to interact with the anthropologists.
  • The Oriental Institute at The University of Chicago. There are four permanent halls and a temporary exhibition titled “Ancient Occupations, Modern Jobs.” Potentially there can be one-to-two stations in each of these halls. The permanent halls feature exhibits on Egypt, Assyria, Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia.
  • The Chinese-American Museum of Chicago in Chinatown. This museum has a large meeting room and internet/projector capacity. Additionally, the exhibit halls feature stories of the Chinese immigrant experience in Chicago.
  • The National Hellenic Museum in Greek town. The museum has a large meeting room and projector capacity. Its exhibits feature both the Greek Immigrant experience and aspects of ancient and modern cultures of Greece.
  • Casa Michoacan in Pilsen. This cultural center for Chicagoans from the State of Michoaacan, Mexico, has a small gallery.
  • The South Side Community Art Center, on South Michigan Avenue. The oldest African-American art center in the United States has a main exhibit gallery. Its permanent collection includes works by many well-known Chicago artists.
  • The Latino Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The center has a large auditorium space with a vibrant mural depicting the Latino experience in the United States.
  • The Anthropology Department at Loyola University. Professor Anne Grauer is designing a program focused on physical anthropology.
  • The Anthropology Museum at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb. This site is about two hours from downtown Chicago, but has several interesting options.

Registration to participate in the Anthropologists Back to School program is limited. Register here.

Additionally, on Saturday, November 23, the Council on Anthropology and Education will hold multiple sessions and their annual award ceremony at The Field Museum. Local educators will be invited and will have the opportunity to interact with Council members.  We’d also like to note that the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges will establish a dialogue with Chicago Public Schools to develop pathways for high school students interested in pursuing anthropology in community colleges.

Dana-Ain Davis and Alaka Wali are the chairs of the 2013 AAA Annual Meeting. They may be contacted at 2013aaaprogramchairs@gmail.com

Mark Your Calendar! Seminario Virtual: an international collaborative pilot project

The American Anthropological Association (AAA) teams up with anthropological associations around the world to host an international pilot project – Seminario Virtual.

AAA, in collaboration with the European Association of Social Anthropologists/Association européenne des anthropologues sociaux (EASA), Associação Brasileira de Antropologia (ABA) and Canadian Anthropology Society/Société canadienne d’anthropologie (CASCA), creates a virtual seminar aimed to explore the centrality of language in production of anthropological knowledge and its political aspects. For theme and format details, visit the Seminario Virtual tab in the header of the AAA blog. Stay tuned for participation information.

 

The Future of AAA

WAPAListen to the March 5, 2013 monthly Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists (WAPA) meeting, as new AAA Executive Director Ed Liebow sought feedback about his plans for the Association, emphasizing his commitment to keeping AAA on solid financial footing while:

  • Supporting global scholarly exchange through innovative forms of publication and meetings
  • Increasing AAA membership’s size and diversity
  • Making AAA a welcoming organizational home for practicing and applied anthropologists based beyond the academy
  • Increasing anthropology’s visibility, especially in the Washington DC area in serving AAA’s long-term strategic objectives


Founded in 1976, WAPA serves as a resource, and a social and career development center for anthropologists seeking to apply their knowledge and skills to practical problems for the betterment of society.

A special thanks to Pamela for recording the presentation and sharing the file with AAA.

AAA Reception Welcomes New Executive Director Dr. Liebow

Last evening, federal agency representatives, congressional staff and association affiliates welcomed AAA Executive Director Dr. Edward Liebow to his new position and to the Washington D.C. area.

Liebow Welcome Reception - 3.27.13 015

Ed speaks with Fath Ruffins of the Smithsonian Institution.

This gathering provided an opportunity for the AAA to continue to build a strong network amongst key players in the area.

Ed enjoys a laugh with Stephen Hill of the National Humanities Alliance and Alyson Reed of the Linguistic Society of America

Ed enjoys a laugh with Stephen Hill of the National Humanities Alliance and Alyson Reed of the Linguistic Society of America

The event was hosted at the Sonoma Wine Bar on Capitol Hill.

AAA President Leith Mullings welcomes Ed to DC.

AAA President Leith Mullings welcomes Ed to DC.

National Humanities Alliance Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day 2013

Mark your calendars!

National Humanities Alliance Annual Meeting and Humanities Advocacy Day
March 17-19, 2013

Washington, D.C.

Connect with a growing network of humanities leaders
Communicate the value of the humanities to Members of Congress
Become a year-round advocate for the humanities

Sessions and events will be held at the One Washington Circle Hotel, George Washington University, and Capitol Hill.

Registration
Please contact Damon Dozier if you are interested in registering. AAA does provide free registration to a limited number of interested members. Damon can be reached via e-mail at ddozier@aaanet.org or via telephone: 703/528-1902.

Hotel Accommodations
A block of rooms has been reserved at the One Washington Circle Hotel at discounted rates: $159/night on Saturday, March 16, and $239/night for March 17 – 19. To make a reservation, call (202) 872-1680 and ask for the “National Humanities Alliance” block rate no later than February 13, 2013.  Availability limited.

Travel
Please note when making your travel arrangements that the meeting will begin with an introductory reception and session on Sunday, March 17, at 6 p.m., at the One Washington Circle Hotel.

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