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Hacking Anthropology

Knox, H; (2021) Hacking Anthropology. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute , 27 (S1) pp. 108-126. 10.1111/1467-9655.13483. Green open access

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Abstract

This essay outlines how the ‘hack’ might offer a model for anthropological research in the face of the distributed relations evidenced by digital data. The argument builds on fieldwork with citizens and activists and looks at their attempts to understand and make use of the data produced by energy sensors and monitors. Drawing on their experiences, I suggest that ‘the hack’ emerges as an important form of practice that helps people navigate the place of data in social relations. Taking the hack not just as ethnographic observation but also as a methodological proposition, I use my ethnographic material on the practice of the hack to reconsider the anthropological challenge of doing ethnography of processes that are only perceptible through numerical or digital data. To explore the value of the hack for anthropology, I introduce an example of an attempt to do ethnography in the mode of the hack. The essay ends with reflections on how the hack might provide us with new ways of getting to grips with the anthropological implications of systemic and emergent relations that are both brought to light and remade through data.

Type: Article
Title: Hacking Anthropology
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1111/1467-9655.13483
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9655.13483
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Anthropology
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10116529
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