Rewind and Fast-Forward, Parts 1 though 5 (242.3KB)
What "is" anthropology, looking back over decades of academic, applied and practitioner life. Original done for Savage Minds, savageminds.org
AWRA IMPACT article Who Owns Puebla Water? (280.5KB)
Rise of Asamblea Social del Agua, water anti-privatization movement in Puebla Mexico
Betwixt and Between: geological phase transition, adaptive co-management, and anthropology
Article for Anthropologies on Savage Minds
Op-Ed piece My Infrastructure Runneth Over
Santa Fe New Mexican on water in Eldorado
Review of Water Co-Management (83.0KB)
Forthcoming book review for Water Alternatives
Review of The Social Life of Water
Book review for Water Alternatives on an edited book of anthropological studies of water crises across numerous different kinds of sites
Ode (Owed?) to Baltimore
Blog about past research in Baltimore while thinking about recent killing and riots that followed, with thanks to Dick Powls for sponsoring it.
What Kind of Plant is Santolina?
New Mexico Mecury article about hearing to decide fate of a proposed suburban development near Albuquerque.
New Mexico Mercury article about lack of empathy and grounded understanding of human social issues in NM proposed legislation
Water Is For Talkin' Over
In the New Mexico Mercury: A report back from the 21st annual statewide New Mexico Water Dialogue meeting and thoughts on an inclusive governance strategy for our water's future.
Turbulence Real and Imagined: Water Governance in New Mexico
Abstract for a talk given at the Santa Fe Institute in January
Looking For Culture In All The Right Places (59.8KB)
Article on culture training through language for the journal Cultus, forthcoming
Why Human Social Science Needs to Be Used to Get "Stakeholders" and "Community" into Water Policy
NM Mercury article about a public meeting on changes in the use of the Gila River Basin
Forward to Torres book, a collection of his Growing Up Spanglish newspaper columns (102.9KB)
Introductory comments based in linguistic anthro to a collection of stories written in Northern New Mexican "Spanglish"
Lecture at School for American Research in Santa Fe 8/17
"A Game of Scientific Clue: It was the Human in the Anthropocene with Water." Talk on role of anthropology in water governance reform.
The Lively Science sample chapter (185.4KB)
A readable book about how an alternative social science that doesn't try to pretend it's a chemistry lab can do a better job. Available in print and e-versions on most internet bookstores
Review of The Lively Science (177.4KB)
Another Review of The Lively Science (129.4KB)
Putting water into aquifers instead of sucking it out
NM Mercury article story of a meeting where I live about water shortage and climate change and what to do about them.
Traditional irrigation in New Mexico
NM Mercury article on museum exhibit about traditional acequia irrigation in Nuevomexicano communities
Article on how the war on drugs corrupted public health epidemiology
Blog invited by Rachelle Annechino for the Ethnography Matters group
A version of translation as basis for ethnography with an AI influence (259.4KB)
Academic article, "Making sense of one for another: Ethnography as translation," for Language and Communication
Human Eddies and Flows, an article in Journal of Water History (1.3MB)
Academic article about a dynamic model that explains a case of water conflict in Albuquerque in the 1950s/60s
How water governance needs some "creative destruction."
NM Mercury article about a panel of experts talked about the need for water policy reform in the state.
Ethnography as essential part of the organizational development mix (180.8KB)
Academic article in Organizational Research Methods
An Outsider's Ethnographic Thoughts About Design (112.7KB)
Academic article in Arts and Humanities based on an interview about ethnography and design
Models for sharing water instead of going to court in times of drought
NM Mercury article about the "Water Dialogue" meeting, many different kinds of water users talking about how to get together and adapt to drought.
The state plans for a new water policy that looks like the one they planned for and never implemented
NM Mercury article about the kickoff meeting for a new water plan to base policy on.
Academic article on early days of ethnography in the drug field (97.0KB)
In press in a special issue of Advances in Criminological Theory on qualitative research in criminology.
The dream of drinking all that deep brackish water under the desert
NM Mercury article about a visit to the national research center on desalination in Alamogordo
Ethnography as a nonlinear dynamic system in process and outcome (104.5KB)
Academic article in Complexity
"Knowledge transfer" has to move in several directions in an organization, not just top down (175.7KB)
Article in Practicing Anthropology with several examples of how power squelches innovation
Chapter 1 of Culture: An Upgrade (575.2KB)
Preprint of article on Ethnographic/organizational research for Org Research Methods 13(2) 2010 (113.0KB)
E:CO article on complexity, narrative and the organization, wonders what ordinary language in a complex organization would look like from the perspective of linguistics (475.2KB)
Agents in Living Color article in JASSS, describes going from ethnography to an agent-based model that describes how narrative drives or brakes an illegal drug epidemic
My Kingdom for a Function article in JASSS, describes ways to convert ethnographic complexity to language a computer can understand
Tuneup Tax Day 2016
I had a strange and interesting week at the end of March. In San Francisco, which they used to call "Baghdad by the Bay," not a nickname you hear much anymore. When I was a young beatnik wannabe in the nearby town of Livermore, I headed for the city as soon as I got my driver’s license. A randomly selected offramp led to a random parking place in front of the bookstore called City Lights. It felt like more of a religious experience than St. Michaels ever had. So of course a couple of return visits to the book temple were in order.
But there was much more than that to the visit. On Tuesday I went to a robot factory. Maxim Makatchev and I had met on a project in Los Angeles a few years ago. At the time he was a graduate student in robotics at Carnegie Mellon University working on putting "culture" into a robot, an intriguing concept that somehow reminded me of being a graduate student in anthropology. I served as the nth wheel on his dissertation committee and we kept in touch after his move to San Francisco to work on a new family robot called Jibo. You can Google it and see a video if you want. Maxim invited me to give a lunchtime chat about culture to the people working on the robot’s language.
The interesting thing was, most all of the speech people were not native speakers of English. Since I once wrote a book about how language and culture were inseparable, I had an initial attack of acute irony. Would the robot gesture like the Italian boss? Speak in the Indian English accent of the Tamil engineer? Insist on putting the finest vodka on the shopping list thanks to an algorithm from Maxim? No, of course not. Jibo's language is pretty much aimed at being a helpful family member in the moment, as I understand it. It isn't supposed to help a graduate student in philosophy write a dissertation on Heidegger's concept of Dasein. Straightforward standard American English should do the job just fine, though it is fun to think about giving Jibo dialect differences. Should a Jibo sold in Texas say "y'all?"
Jibo is embodied in its own cute Hobbit like shell. My partner Ellen and I generally have a personal relationship with objects. With Jibo, it's easy because it is no problem to imagine that under its plastic skin beats a warm red-blooded heart. After an hour of conversation with a room full of engineers at their keyboards, though, we realized how many human hands it takes to get the computer code and the machinery just right. I kept thinking of that painting in the Sistine Chapel, where God’s and Adam's fingers touch to give Adam life. God had it easy. There is a book to be written here about the creation story of an artificially intelligent robot meant to live with humans.
My lunch chat was about teaching a robot how to sense that something was going wrong in its interaction with a human together with a repair strategy so it could learn to adapt to a particular family’s interaction style. Without the help of an engineer. I just made something up based on well-known ideas from the ethnographic study of conversations. Then we had fun talking about "culture," one of the most promiscuously used, ambiguous and important concepts in contemporary public discourse.
The main event for the week was the meeting of the Association of American Geographers. I've been working on water governance in New Mexico for a few years now. An email had floated across my screen about an all-day panel on water that was being organized for that meeting. Waterwork is about as transdisciplinary as it gets if it's any good and I figured I had a lot to learn from a geographic crowd, a crowd I'd never run with before. To my surprise they accepted my abstract and put me on the panel.
It was a long and interesting day, which beats a dark and stormy night. One thing that struck me was how, by comparison with the frequent cultural anthropology session, they were jargon free and oriented to the case details. It really was about Western water rather than ontology versus epistemology. The second surprise came from the interaction style – speaking of Jibo – among the participants in discussion. As an old person I have trouble judging age anymore. There are kids, younger people, getting there people, and old people. A lot of the participants and audience in the packed room were younger people who obviously knew each other. As a linguistic anthropologist, I wish I'd had a tape recorder. When a couple or few of them got into it, the pace accelerated dramatically. Rising intonations increased and verbal footnotes – clearly marked off and almost like sotto voce versions of Coltrane’s sheets of sound – were sprinkled across the commentary. It had an informal feel to it, like friends in a bar rather than academics at their national professional meeting, all in a style that was clearly a different generational register. I sometimes realized that I had just missed some important information because I drifted into paying attention to how it was packaged in language instead of what it was about.
Many stories to tell from the rest of the conference as well. I'll quit with this one. I spent a couple of hours wandering the book exhibit, a substantial one designed for a meeting of 10,000. I wondered when it was that geography had changed so dramatically. It used to be about maps, and sometimes it still is. It used to be low status in the academic pecking order. Now it's obviously an up-and-coming field given my impression of the age distribution as I wandered through the crowds.
The variety of topics on display was overwhelming, social sciences, natural sciences, humanities, software, technology, practical guides, commercial vendors, you name it. What in the world made all these different books and objects part of the same field? Finally, after entertaining numerous convoluted theories, the answer became obvious, an answer tied to the traditional definition of geography as a field. The books, whatever else they were about, were all about a place, or category of places. What had changed, I think, was a new geography guideline. Namely, anything – any method, any theory, any discipline – that could help describe or explain a place or category of places was now included in the field of geography. However abstract your altitude, whatever the source of your ideas, though, it all had to land in a place, and you had better know that place firsthand and in detail, because without that connection, it was all sophistry and illusion.
Well, if a geographer ever reads this, they'll probably wonder what I was smoking. But between Jibo and the geographers and a student art exhibit that Maxim took us to, it was an adventure in the land of the question, "what are these young people about?" The week made me think of an old French black and white new-wave film, the name of which I can't remember, where the protagonist said something about how taking action was a way of asking a question. The answer, for me after a week of action in The City, were some glimpses of positive historical currents that served as an antidote to my usual gloomy view of the planet. Plus, fond as I am of New Mexican green chilies, it was nice to eat some Ethiopian food again.
That’s it for now. Things got a little hectic between the holidays and today, so I’m behind on the writing schedule.
A review of Pahl-Wostl’s book, "Water governance in the face of global change,” came out in the recent issue of Water Alternatives
and I’m working on a couple of things, like a presentation for the geography meetings at the end of March, and a blog for EPIC on social services just came out,
and then there’s a manuscript on anthropology and computers that I did for Indiana, a trip I unfortunately had to cancel. Stay tuned.
Life is interesting.