Looking Back at June 2009, Looking Forward

Posted on 24 July 2009 by


June was one of the best months yet for this blog (with hidden ironies for me), thanks in large part to the article, America’s Iranian Twitter Revolution, published just days after the street protests began in Tehran, alongside the explosion of communication about the events on Twitter. So far that article has received 5,100 views, just on this blog, making it one of the all time top posts for the blog. The month as a whole saw 19,800 views, not including syndicated feeds and email subscriptions, making it the second busiest month ever for this blog. Overall, the blog broke past the 200,000 visitor mark, standing at just over 218,000 views now (covering an 18 month period) making this the most successful of the many sites I have had. Of course, in a broader context, that is hardly an achievement, as the really successful blogs get that amount of traffic, on average, in a single day. But what is interesting to me is that the highest traffic to this blog has been in these last six months, as I published less and less each month.

What was also unique about America’s Iranian Twitter Revolution is that thus far it has been the only article on this blog to be translated, in whole or in part, into other languages, by other persons, and to be reproduced on news media sites. It was translated into Arabic and published by Al Jazeera, where for a week it was the most e-mailed article for Al Jazeera. It was also reproduced on Mathaba Independent News Agency. It has been translated into Farsi as well. Arising from publication of the article on this blog, I was interviewed by the Egyptian journalist, Amira Howeidy, for an article in Egypt’s Al-Ahram Weekly, which was then itself translated into Arabic and published in Lebanon’s As-Safir newspaper. On this blog it was one of the articles to receive the most comments, and well over 30 links from external sites. This has gone further, leading to the creation of an annotated bibliography on Twitter and the Iranian election protests.

This experience has spawned certain ironic realizations that I will get to in a moment.

The other top posts for June 2009 were also Iran-related: Source Verification: Notes for Activists Using Photo and Video in Protests (1,055 views); James Lockridge’s guest article, Congruent Methodologies: Impactful Pre-invasion Imperialist Guerrilla Warfare Tactics in Iran (535 views); Causation or Correlation, a Useful Crisis Notwithstanding: U.S. Democracy Promotion in Iran (532 views) — all of these being on site views. The other top posts were News: Militarizing the Social Sciences and Humanities in Canada (555 views); How to Get More Frequent Flyer Miles for Your Zombie (540 views); These Fine, Young, Humanitarian…Zombies (505 views); Extreme Canada: Ruling Party Interferes with Social Science Funding (490 views); What are the Pentagon’s Minerva Researchers Doing? (456 views); and, Resisting Free Trade, Racism, and the State: Peru’s Amazonian Indians Fight Back (450 views).

The first realization is that this system of openly tracking and outlining what are the top posts is not aiding me in developing a useful analysis that could be more broadly meaningful for anthropology bloggers. One problem is the lack of a proper methodology and theory on my part, leading me to draw only the most impressionistic conclusions — such as: the most popular items are almost always also the most popular subjects in the mainstream media. That means that the visibility of an anthropology blog, above and beyond a narrow online anthropological readership (and it is a small one), may be shaped and conditioned by events, interests, and agencies external to what might be considered the domain of anthropologists, and only to the extent that an anthropologist chooses to engage with and respond to public, mass happenings and media-generated interests. That can be problematic: take a few more steps, and pretty soon you have an anthropology blog with a ton of posts about Brittney Spears and Paris Hilton. Otherwise, the only other times I have seen such visibility attained on this blog is when I either said the most outlandish things (inventing fake tribes that had been just “discovered”), or said them in the most outlandish and delightfully atrocious manner. Those posts that other anthropologists actually said were their all time favourites were, comparatively, among the more invisible ones. In the final analysis, given that these monthly reports begin to resemble what a Honduran sparring partner in Twitter referred to as “throwing flowers on myself,” this will be the final report.

The second realization is that this blog is not turning out like I originally intended, which was to be more of a scrap book of ideas, an analytical journal, and a place to vent so that I can avoid venting anywhere else. Instead, it has become more audience-shaped and audience-driven, and posts no longer take me about an hour, but several, or in some cases, many days of preparation, as if I were publishing in a more formal sense.  Note how I have gone from about three daily posts to, recently, just one in the last two weeks. Writing a blog post was originally something I could do while having a coffee, or to evade email which is even more time consuming. Time consuming research and writing for ulterior purposes was certainly not my objective when I first created this, and as one can still see in my “about the blogger” statement I mentioned that I had “no ambitions” for this blog. You can hardly tell that by looking at what it has become.

The third realization is about the tension between preaching and practicing. I tend to be spending more time practicing what I mean by Open Anthropology than openly articulating the philosophy as I once did. Soon it will be time for me to rejoin my own discussion. Otherwise, the plan was definitely not to create a movement, to gather a following, and to be forced to quickly postulate the principles and conditions for Open Anthropology simply because others, who did not have the privilege of building up the philosophy, were in a mighty big rush to create something with it. None of this means to say that I am not genuinely gratified by the shifting groups of regular visitors who have inhabited this site, the partners and friends, and the other sites that follow similar and independent inspirations such as Open Source Sociology and The Issue Joined (see also here).

As a result, beside ceasing these monthly reports, I plan a number of things in the coming months. One will be to publish more guest articles, and indeed I am about to start a whole series thanks to the materials sent to me by Jamil Hanifi, an Afghan anthropologist who studies Afghanistan. The second will be to write more reviews of research, and to share my course notes for decolonizing anthropology, cosmopolitanism in anthropology, and world anthropologies. Third, to spend more time discussing what Open Anthropology is meant to be, while revising the manifesto and project description. And fourth, to publish much less frequently than I did prior to this past January, opting for maybe two to four articles per month at most, or perhaps publishing on other sites (my favourites in this regard being being CounterPunch, Dissident Voice, Global Research.ca and Mathaba). Lastly, I also have some more material on the current and likely future conditions of anthropology in Canadian universities. That is, in general terms, the plan, to be followed at a much more leisurely pace.

Until then, very best wishes and thanks for reading.