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Welcome to the UNT course Anthropology of Virtual Communication.  “Virtual communication” refers to interactions that are mediated by applications such as Facebook or Skype, using devices such as mobile phones or laptops. The use of such applications and devices enables people to communicate across geographic distance. Since technology-mediated communication is becoming ever more common in today’s world, examining it can provide insight into many social and cultural processes.

We will start by examining four key orientations that distinguish an anthropological approach to virtual communication:

  1. Avoidance of technological determinism
    • Technologies have no agency; people have agency and they use technologies as tools to accomplish their goals and activities
    • Therefore research questions focus on human activities, not technologies per se
  2. Holism, as seen in the use of concepts such as “media ecologies”
  3. A cross-cultural perspective that enables us to distinguish between what is universal and what is variable in the uses and meanings of technology
  4. Ethnographic methods

We will then read ethnographic studies of virtual communication practices as they have emerged in various cultural contexts. The activities we will read about include:

  • Community-building: nation
  • Community-building: indigenous groups
  • Political activism
  • Hacking
  • Reproducing and contesting inequalities
  • Community-building: local groups
  • Youth culture activities
  • Gaming
  • Managing personal relationships

Each student will also conduct a semester-long research project on a group that regularly engages in virtual communication.

Syllabus: AVC 2016 Syllabus

Project Instructions: AVC 2016 Project Instructions

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