Blogs and bloggers have undermined a series of symbolic barriers that have limited the creation and expansion of knowledge and the development of our discipline in the past. Traditionally, anthropological knowledge circulated through rather closed circuits of diffusion, such as “impact factor” journals – scientific publications with a more or less strict editorial and content regulation. Submitted articles are reviewed by anonymous editors who are identified as experts in the field, with an academic rank similar to or higher than that of the author. These authorities determine whether the article should be published, modified or directly discarded.
This form of validation of scientific knowledge is not exempt from certain limitations. First of all, the vast majority of scientific journals are pierced by specific ideological lines. The editorial boards of journals, far from being aseptic bodies, are groups of people who have their own criteria for inclusion and exclusion that often transcend the “scientificity” of the work they receive (as the Sokal affaire or the false article on the conceptual penis demonstrates).
Secondly, impact journals tend to privilege articles coming from large epistemological centers- that is, renowned private institutions such as Oxford, Stanford, MIT or Berkeley. Any article “endorsed” by one of these universities will have -usually– more weight than the same one coming from the University of Granada, to use a close example. And of course, in the ecosystem of prestigious impact journals, any work published in English will have greater repercussion than one published in Spanish, Portuguese or Polish. The institution prestige and linguistic factors act as cultural filters that privilege certain works over others.
To suggest that the culture of blogging allows all these barriers to be overcome would be unwise. Just as the ecosystem of impact magazines is dominated by large multinationals like Thomson Cientific or Elsevier, those of us who practice blogging are at the mercy of decisions made by companies like Google or Facebook. On the other hand, just as impact journals have their ideological limitations in terms of knowledge validation, the viral factor of a post is not a good indicator of its quality, or even of its real interest. Phenomena such as fake news have called into question the ideal that the Internet was going to “democratize” knowledge. Coining the term post-truth as one of the characteristics of hypermodern societies. Nor should we forget that platforms such as Facebook privilege paid (advertised) content over free content, or that part of this virilization can come exclusively from an attractive title and cover photo, or a well chosen keyword.
Despite these issues, the emergence of an anthropological blogosphere that complements scientific publications is good news for our discipline. Blogs have allowed voices that would normally have taken years to express themselves (or would not have done so at all) to develop their own spaces of communication, and in turn, significantly facilitate the visibility of social anthropology. In the case of Spanish-speaking blogs such as Una Antropóloga en la Luna (An Anthropologist on the Moon) have greatly contributed to the dissemination of the “anthropological view” among the general public. Others, such as El Antropólogo Principiante (The Newly Anthropologist), have generated a feeling of identification among the new generations of Spanish-speaking anthropologists. There are blogs on applied urban anthropology, blogs by activists anthropologist, blogs on feminist anthropology or blogs to support the learning and teaching process on anthropology (such as the blog on Anthropological Theory and History from our professor Arturo Álvarez Roldán). There are also blogs that combine academic style with communicative will very well, such as “Antropología Organizacional” or “Ciencias Antropológicas”, both edited by Sergio Morales Inga and which enjoy great interest.
Unlike scientific publications and impact journals, which are certainly somewhat hermetic in nature, blogging allows a series of “freedoms”, of which we have listed seven here:
- Immediacy: While it can take years to publish an article in an impact magazine, creating your own blog is a process that takes no more than 10 minutes. But feeding it constantly, is a process that can take as many hours as academic production.
- Editable: Unlike academic journals, texts created in blogs can be edited a posteriori. This allows you to update your texts with new information that was not available at the time of publication, correct typos, incorporate editors comments, and even, if you are not happy with the result, delete the publication. These features allow greater control over the content, but also add liquid volatility to the information being used, as there is no guarantee that it will continue to exist in the coming years.
- Multimedia integration: While the impact magazines are eminently graphical, the culture of blogging allows interesting possibilities for the dissemination of knowledge. The popularization of smartphones and the progressive reduction in the cost of audiovisual production technologies have opened up new and dynamic ways of disseminating anthropological knowledge. Podcasts, video animations, tutorials, audio-articles, songs or short films are some of the alternatives to academic graphic design. Alternatives that require few resources and a good dose of creativity.
- Open communication: We do not mean that impact magazines do not fulfill an essential communicative function, but rather that the target audience is very limited, especially if its a paid subscription magazine. With a few exceptions, impact journals follow an A2A logic, academic to academic, which explains the scarce knowledge of our discipline in popular fields.
- Feedback: Although not all blogs enable this option, the truth is that generally the posts usually have a space for readers to comment on what they have read. In this way, the author’s original work expands with the criticism and contributions of the users. This option is not common in impact journals, and when they are enabled, it is usually under registration, and generally, under payment.
- No external validation: Although the refereeing system and peer review have proven to be more or less effective tools for scientific validation, they often act as a coercive barrier. The practice of blogging is more spontaneous, and assumes that a post is just a small fragment of an unfinished work.
- Ocean networks: Blogs, as a phenomenon typical of the Internet, are spaces where “navigation” takes precedence. If a blog is interesting and its content is well-structured, it may allow the user to spend several hours browsing it. Blogs generally involve links and references that lead from one site to another and where the user has the power to choose the content they want to consume. This process is infinitely less organic in the case of scientific publications, which generally require long processes of basic research and bibliographic consultation. It should be noted that linkbuilding, the practice of generating authoritative links to the blog itself, is not exempt from the epistemological hierarchy outlined above. This blog would gain in authority (and therefore in SEO positioning) if the Harvard University website decided to quote us with a link (if you are from Harvard, we encourage you to mention us!). As in the case of academic journals, the main search engines prioritize contact with prestigious institutions.
As we have seen, both blogging and impact magazines are two instruments for disseminating and creating anthropological knowledge, instruments that have certain similarities and many differences. While blogging gains in spontaneity, freedom and diffusion, academic journals assume greater scientific rigor and a certain standardization of format, which is not necessarily bad, although as we have seen it acts against other sensibilities of expression.
But then, which is the best? Well, it depends.
Anthropologists who decide to develop an academic career must sooner or later pass through the world of scientific journals. Much of their prestige will come from the impact (citations) of his work in this microcosm. It is common for people who decide to start a PhD programm to publish “slices” of their final thesis before it is finally submitted, usually co-authored with the thesis supervisor. In this way the PhD candidate wins in publications, as does the direction of the thesis, which automatically increases its caché, although this always depends on the authority of the journal itself. The system of impact publications is the axis of prestige and academic stratification
For anthropologists who do not want to follow an academic path or who do not want to make it their main livelihood, the option of impact journals may be less interesting. If you work as freelancer or in an agency, it will undoubtedly be more interesting to provide a blog that allows you to communicate your latest projects, show your digital profile and communicate effectively with your clients.
Finally, it should be noted that this dichotomy between blogging and academic journal is by no means watertight. Numerous academics combine their research activity in impact journals with a constant practice of blogging. In fact, building a community around your blog allows them to reach more people with your academic publications, and thus increase their chances of citing your article. In the case of professional anthropologists, we consider it absolutely necessary that the practical knowledge generated by the agencies reaches the academic circuits, and this necessarily involves publishing in impact journals. We believe that only in this way can we overcome the abysmal line that currently separates professional practice from academic practice, both equally necessary for the development of anthropology.
Antropología 2.0 firmly believes in the potential of blogging as a form of expression and development of ethnographic knowledge. In this new stage as an ethnographic research consultancy we have decided to make our blog an instrument for the development of anthropology applied to business and innovation. We have opted to improve the user experience by optimizing the interface, under a magazine model, and making it more navigable, more concrete and much more visual. We hope that these new changes will contribute to continue building a practical, professionalized and diverse anthropology of the 21st century.