April 2009


Today, I’m giving a proper Ape Notes finger to a blogger who decided to change 5 or 10% of the words from one of my postings last month and call his/her most recent post his/her own. Ironic that this person chose to do so using one of my posts (there have been a few) where I write about the value/effect etc/ of Google alert keywords. Duh, fucker – you didn’t think that shit would be key-worded for me to bump into? Names and URLs we won’t use, lest he/she get more hits at my expense. Bottom line: lame. Main line: get a comments section so I can call you out direct.


If he were dead, Dell Hymes would roll over in his grave every time a so-called ‘authentic’ ethnographer or a client suggested that conversations were a shoddy way to conduct research.

Observing people doing things is a great – and sometimes ideal – way to probe for insights, but to suggest that asking consumers about their behavior, patterns, beliefs, relationships, attitudes, ideologies and cultures or even to engage them to collaborate on where insights on those areas might lie has no value is ludicrous.

There’s more than a few reasons why 100 years of anthropologist in the field figured it might be a good reason to learn the local language – conversation, comeraderie, categories of experience, expert status, and the list goes on. Without these ethnographic foundations we’d have but a paltry few pages on kinship, barely a door ajar to the phenomenological, next to no narrative and auto-ethnography, perhaps zero activist anthropology and a data chasm in the ethnography of communication.

Then there’s social media ethnography or, as some colleagues have tagged it, netnography. Lots of methodologies there and, for those of us who conduct research in the spaces and places between the internet and mobile know, talk ain’t cheap. It might not be the only currency, but it’s value is undeniable.

So the next time you decide to pitch a client or you’re on the receiving end of a contractor’s pitch and ethnography – couched as ‘real’ or ‘authentic’ – is invoked alongside some methodological mumbo jumbo that ex-communicates conversation, try to remember Dave Chappelle’s rant on Keepin’ It Real. Between his take on how that phrase had imploded on hip hop culture and  the late-80’s-and-onwards post-modernist implosion of, arguably, the most of-epic proportions myth of our time, I am un-chuckling over how ‘authenticity’ can be used to refer to anything other than signatures on traveler’s cheques.

P.S. Pulling chimps from their natural habitats and making them wear ties is fucked up. I’d bite and kill people if they did that to me, too.


Wikipedia has given everyone the keyword-game to act like they know. C’mon – like you haven’t been at a cocktail party with someone dropping action-network theory into the mix?! Now, in the Ted vein, Academic Earth steps it up by offering viewers the confidence and cadence to talk like an expert. Lectures, lecture series and courses in a variety of disciplines delivered by profs around the globe, it’s cool(ish), useful(ish) and occasionally very engaging. It’s also a little amiss: in this most liminal of ages, with so many reconfigurations of social symbols, rife with pregnant rifts in how we communicate, gestative of new rituals and performances – the topic list has a glaring absence and a Search comes up with the unthinkable…”No Results Were Found. Try A New Search.” Sort by Relevancy? Ouch!


There are a number of products creeping on to the market that allow (and encourage) consumers to measure the energy being sucked out of the ether and into their homes, but Japanese electronics behemoth might just be taking the prize – along with Japanese IP Biglobe – for Carbon Diet. The deal? Install a wifi device to the home’s circuit breaker. It measure power consumption. Data is transferred to the home computer and sent to an online server where users log on to check the daily and hourly energy consumption, compare themselves to other houses participating in the program, and see how their monthly carbon footprint compares to the same month last year. Those who reduce get eco-points that can be traded in for virtual plating soil, water, flowers and grass in an online nature restoration game. And to keep users come back there’s Carbon Ball, a dung-beetle avatar game to keep the competition amped up. users motivated and focused on reducing energy consumption.

In a 3-month trial period and in social Beta right now (only in the homes of 100 NEC employees), the plan is to take it public and make a run for $20 million over the next three years


Stephen Colbert’s been taking some shots at a failing newspaper industry of late, but this new campaign from the Tokyo subway authority will be far more damaging to the space, place and time that the newspaper occupies in our lives. Begin your eulogies (again)………….now!


A quickie on Steve Portigal’s blog gets cred for posting me towards the new Firefox personas. Like him, I’m not the biggest fan of amalgamated humans transformed from lives and emotions to bullet points and recommendations, but I have eased up a bit in recent months (on the conditions that the thickest description possible and a direct line from researchers to authors to designers is followed). Still, gotta laugh at how the designers who these tools are meant for have so sucked them into their creative realm and spit them out that now we can dress up our Firefox in personalities. Just like so many of the personas folks are passing off as consumers, the Firefox skins are “lightweight, easy-to-install and easy-to-change.”