What Social Web Services do Anthropologists need? Part 3: Digg for Anthro Journals

One of the things I think the AAA does very poorly is to promote interesting academic work in our discipline. Blogs are out there, but to be honest, it is a lot of work writing up a blog post about academic research and so even on a site like Savage Minds, we don't do as much of that as we would like to. I notice that the other anthro blogs don't fare much better. So what I'd like to see in the way of social network tools for anthropologists is something like Digg for academic research articles; A way to highlight interesting peer-reviewed journal articles in our discipline by allowing people to "digg" them up. There are a number of social tools which let one self-host a Digg clone, but running such a site would require a certain amount of investment in time and energy - as well as a sufficiently large user base so that it can really harness the wisdom of the anthropological crowd. Still, it would be nice to know what people are reading.

I see this as a kind of democratization of the knowledge which already circulates within the top anthropological departments. People at Chicago or Berkeley probably already have a pretty good social network system alerting them to the latest "hot" thing. Digg style voting has its flaws, to be sure, but I think if it was well run the benefits could be quite large - perhaps creating more of a global dialog about current research of interest...

What do you think?

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Comment by Derick Fay on June 4, 2009 at 10:15am
Ning does have an API and capacity (eventually - I think it's still in beta) to add apps similar to how Facebook operates, so there may be potential here eventually.

What about Connotea or CiteULike? Both are online bibliographic services that allow sharing bibliographies with other users/groups of users, and import/export from desktop biblio software. Not quite Digg though - all the biblios. would be separate, rather than allowing for multiple users tagging / rating of a single shared reference.
Comment by Paul Wren on June 3, 2009 at 1:55am
I think the greatest value of Kerim's suggestion is that we all see what other OAC members are reading, and which papers they think are worthy of reading.

I find out about a lot of new studies and articles from my RSS feed, but the articles being mentioned on the various anthro-related blogs are likely a small subset of the interesting papers being published that I would want to consider reading.

Most of us in the OAC read a lot of articles, and having a system to even simply note what we're reading and what we think of it would be highly valuable. It would be sort of a broad-based bibliography (although tagging would help find the papers that interest you) merged with a rating system.

Obviously Ning is not equipped to support such a system, so it will need to live elsewhere.
Comment by Keith Hart on June 2, 2009 at 4:50pm
Thanks for these posts, Kerim. I share your interest in social bookmarking as potentially a great way of humanizing and democratizing search on the Web. I have grasped something of the principle and began to use StumbleUpon in a tentative way. I am sure you have taken it much further and I welcome your attempt to get a discussion about how the principle might be incorporated into OAC. I haven't quite grasped why or how a priority might be to search anthropology journals, although I agree that the AAA makes a mess of most of the services it touches.

I was stimulated by David Weinberger's popular book, Everything is Miscellaneous, to think more about the impact of the tagging revolution on classification. Instead of every item having its unique place in a folder system designed by experts, tagging allows the users to generate multiple categories, drawing on specific relations with people whose judgment or knowledge they can get a feel for. So the promise is that, instead of being given a million anonymous leads by Google, we can navigate the infinite range of material available on the web through personalized networks of deepening sophistication.

So this leads me to ask, How might the growing familiarity and range of contacts generated by the OAC be deployed to the ends of social bookmarking in general, not just to search a particular source like professional journals, but to help provide smarter answers to whatever research question I hit upon in my writing, whether it be about credit default swaps, Obama's inauguration or lobola.

It is more than likely that I have grasped the wrong end of the stick on this one. But I am trying to make a contrast between finding a Digg way of doing something traditional in academia like searching anthro journals and using this amazing collection of people that has materialized out of nowhere to refine methods of personalized search in the universe of information out there.


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