Combining the cultural embeddedness of anthropologists and the design innovation of the Berkeley Center of New Media (BCNM), this project builds a global online archive of conversations recorded by ethnographers in field sites worldwide. Our scalable global archive addresses two concerns in contemporary anthropology: 1) renewed interest in collaboration as both ethnographic object and method, and 2) the paucity of interactive, design-focused ethnographic archives. Integrating multimodal contextual materials, we present audio and video conversations between ethnographers and interlocutors, between mothers and daughters, politicians and voters, siblings, and friends, in their original language with accompanying English translation. The archive will be searchable by geographic region, theme, or relationship, inciting comparative and transnational inquiry. We will also produce an affiliated ten-episode podcast series that probes comparative questions and global connections.

This project is an experimental enactment of dialogic and collaborative anthropological methods. Both methods recognize that field interlocutors co-produce ethnographic knowledge. Confronting ethnographer-subject power inequalities head on, they promote interlocutors’ involvement in both producing and circulating ethnographic narratives. Applying these principles to archival practice, we enact collaboration on multiple levels: 1) We promote collaboration with our interlocutors; the first cohort of conversation recorders (see below) will invite interlocutors to record and post their own conversations. 2) We promote collaboration with scholars from other disciplines and institutions by allowing them to upload their own conversations and tagging shared themes 3) We explore diverse modes of “collaboration” at work in communicative encounters, in ethnographic fieldwork and in everyday life. We probe the question, what is a conversation in the first place? We do not take the linear, dyadic conversation form as given. Rather, we allow the format of 'conversation' to adapt to diverse communicative contexts and personal histories. What if one broadcasted fragments, disputes, or conversations in which natural landscapes “speak” alongside human participants?

Project type