Digital Anthropology

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Digital Anthropology

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study


  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    Knowledge and understanding - The student has acquired knowledge and understanding of:
    (1) how contemporary lives (including their own lives) are being shaped and changed due to the advance of digital technologies.
    (2) the rapidly growing body of anthropological research assembled under the nomer 'digital anthropology', and learn what is specific to an anthropological approach to digitalization (as compared to other disciplines who address issues of digitalization).

    Making judgements - The student is able to
    (3) critically reflect on their own digital habits and environments, by seeing these in a larger social and political context.

    Communication - The student has acquired the skills to:
    (4) experiment with digital modes of story-telling, by producing webblog assignments and a multi-media hybrid report.

    The scope and depth of the digitalization of modern lives can hardly be overestimated. From 3D printing to alternative online identities; from smartphone communications to new forms of digital story-telling; from Facebook to gaming; from web-based confession boots to internet porn; from digital artforms to Netflix; from digital passports to new medical technologies: digital technologies are everywhere, transforming human consciousness, entering human bodies, changing social lives to the core. Digital Anthropology explores how this development is picked up, fought off, sought to be controlled and explored in different cultural settings around the world. It registers the anxieties around the digitalization of our lives as well as the utopic visions the digital engenders. And it does so in the classical anthropological sense of looking at grass-root level what new practices have emerged due to digital technologies, how these practices change the existing social fabric and produce new notions of self and community. Aware that anthropology itself is fully encapsulated in these developments, digital anthropologists also ask how digitalization changes current research practices.

    The course is an introduction to this emergent field of study. In the first part of the course it will seek to sketch the enormous scope of this field by visiting a rich variety of domains where the digital is making its presence felt. The main question is: how does the digital enter contemporary modes of worldmaking, and to what effect? In the second part of the course, we will narrow the focus by looking into the way digital technologies impact on (1) social relations and (2) notions of self. In tandem with the readings and discussions, the course will constantly highlight how much research itself -- in the social sciences, and more particularly in anthropology -- is being digitalized, and will assess both the pitfalls and promises of that development. To deepen their understanding, students will experiment with digital forms of storytelling.

    Lectures and tutorials

    Webblog reporting and multi-media essay

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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