What We Talk About When We Talk About Tech

Why we need digital anthropology: culture, ethics, and power in tech with Caitlin McDonald

August 18, 2021 Rich Gall, Jennifer Riggins, Caitlin McDonald Season 1 Episode 21
What We Talk About When We Talk About Tech
Why we need digital anthropology: culture, ethics, and power in tech with Caitlin McDonald
Chapters
What We Talk About When We Talk About Tech
Why we need digital anthropology: culture, ethics, and power in tech with Caitlin McDonald
Aug 18, 2021 Season 1 Episode 21
Rich Gall, Jennifer Riggins, Caitlin McDonald

Rich Gall (@richggall) and Jennifer Riggins (@jkriggins) talk with digital anthropologist Caitlin McDonald about what it means to be a digital anthropologist and why it matters in helping us to understand the way we build and use technology today. 

Caitlin begins by talking through how her work intersects with questions of agency and digital literacy, providing some useful context on how perceptions and understanding about what techbology does and how it's made can have an impact on the way it influences our lives. 

She also explains why there's a growing need for anthropological thinking in the tech industry, and why businesses and governments are starting to see the value in the disciplines specific ways of thinking about culture and communication. She also talks about digital anthropology in the context of the emerging conversation around ethics, and how changes in legislation and compliance rules is increasing demand for work that can help companies tackle these issues head on.

We also discuss ethnography, and compare it to quantitative research. Caitlin notes that there's an emerging scepticism of quantitative methods and its ability to deliver value. 

Finally, we talk about Caitlin's work outside of digital anthropology, such as her work as a coach and her personal technology projects.  She emphasises the value of having a space to adopt a more playful and less productive approach to technology and to "reconnect with technical skills in a low-stakes way."

Show Notes

Rich Gall (@richggall) and Jennifer Riggins (@jkriggins) talk with digital anthropologist Caitlin McDonald about what it means to be a digital anthropologist and why it matters in helping us to understand the way we build and use technology today. 

Caitlin begins by talking through how her work intersects with questions of agency and digital literacy, providing some useful context on how perceptions and understanding about what techbology does and how it's made can have an impact on the way it influences our lives. 

She also explains why there's a growing need for anthropological thinking in the tech industry, and why businesses and governments are starting to see the value in the disciplines specific ways of thinking about culture and communication. She also talks about digital anthropology in the context of the emerging conversation around ethics, and how changes in legislation and compliance rules is increasing demand for work that can help companies tackle these issues head on.

We also discuss ethnography, and compare it to quantitative research. Caitlin notes that there's an emerging scepticism of quantitative methods and its ability to deliver value. 

Finally, we talk about Caitlin's work outside of digital anthropology, such as her work as a coach and her personal technology projects.  She emphasises the value of having a space to adopt a more playful and less productive approach to technology and to "reconnect with technical skills in a low-stakes way."