In our recent discussion of hackers and cheaters, Huon Wardle writes,

If I were reinventing anthropology... I would have to invent an anthropology that could deal with culture on a wired planet.

I rather snippily replied that this project is already underway. I think instantly of work by Biella ColemanTom Boelstorff and Alex Golub ("Rex" on Savage Minds), who have studied hackers, virtual worlds, and online gaming. A particular favorite, however, is Christopher Kelty's Two Bits.

In Two Bits Kelty introduces the concept of the "recursive public," a public he defines as follows: 

A recursive public is a public that is constituted by a shared concern for maintaining the means of association through which they come together as a public.  

The prototype of the concept are geeks.

Geeks find affinity with one another because they share an abiding moral imagination of the technical infrastructure, the Internet, that has allowed them to develop and maintain this affinity in the first place. 

The key point about geeks is that they, both individually and collectively, are able to directly modify the infrastructure on which their world depends. Since arbitrary change would lead to chaos, geeks have developed mechanisms for determining what is or is not an acceptable change. There are channels through which changes are presented — not simply as proposals but as code — to others who can evaluate and critique them and, once their acceptability is demonstrated, legitimize their inclusion in the the technology that encompasses and sustains the geeks' moral universe.

When I stop to think about the original definition, however, I find myself thinking of other publics than those involved in creating, hacking and modifying software. What of Asian peasants who for thousands of years have been constructing  and maintaining the irrigation systems on which wet rice agriculture and, thus, their ways of life depend? What of the visionaries and engineers responsible for railroads, highways, and other transportation systems? A closer look will, I am sure, reveal both strong similarities and differences between these publics and the geeks that Kelty writes about. 

Please add new cases and share your thoughts.

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John, thanks.

Indeed, anthropologists cannot use some public illusions on quantum mechanics as a foundation for " New Anthropology".

Trnka's "Collective wave functions"; " collective consciousness as quantum entanglement" and " consciousness is emerging in the collapse of our wave functions" (2016) probably are very doubtful for any quantum professional.. There are quantum biology, quantum chemistry and quantum computer sciences which try to find some scientifically proved quantum - Like socio - macro effects today. However, if I know - only few successful arguments from quantum optics, quantum photonics of cancer and birds navigation had found last years. New quantum computers, quantum cryptography and quantum - like games could be useful resources for new quantum methodologies in anthropology. I think in the context of our OAC discussion 2015 I can make some generalization with OAC members comments ( entitled say " Taking Quantum Anthropology seriously"..?)The scale of quantum achievements 2015-2016 could be described in various ways, however, with ethnographic sensitivity to mathematically - speaking community of physicists.

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