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High technology meets cultural anthropology: Dr Genevieve Bell

4 February, 2007

An article has just appeared on the ABC about anthropologist Genevieve Bell, who has just given a keynote address at the Australasian Computer Science Week in Ballarat. She provides an interesting perspective on just what it is a cultural anthropologist can do as an employee of a company like Intel.

The keynote speaker for Australasian Computer Science Week discusses the past and the future of wireless technology trends around the world and across generations.

Her anthropologist mother took her along to live in Aboriginal communities as a child, but Dr Genevieve Bell’s vision of cultural anthropology has a more high-tech approach: her role is ethnographer and researcher for the world’s largest microchip manfacturer, Intel, advising on global trends in the domestic use of technology.But in the spirit of her return to Australia – and Ballarat – for Australasian Computer Science Week, would it be fair to say her job is to tell American technology experts that the world’s users of technology aren’t all American?

“I’ve never heard my job put exactly like that,” she laughs, “But yes, that’s certainly one way of thinking about it. I think one of the key roles for me in my job at Intel is to help bring stories of the world back into the company. One of the jobs for most anthropologists is to tell stories of the people we spend time with, and to really do justice to their aspirations and desires and frustrations by telling their stories back to other people who wouldn’t listen to them otherwise. Often that means yes, I am talking to Americans about the rest of the world, but sometimes it means I’m talking to people from other places about yet another set of places they themselves haven’t been to.”

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