Avalon and Cultural Anthropology


This past May, the Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA) was awarded a grant from the American Anthropological Association's Committee on the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing to create a sustainable infrastructure for the hosting and preservation of audio and video content published in Cultural Anthropology, and with that announcement came news of the SCA's vision to use Avalon as their streaming media content tool.  

In the Editors’ Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, 30.1 "Circles Not Pyramids," Dominic Boyer, James Faubion and Cymene Howe set up an important use case for Avalon and academic publishing. "Anthropologists have long discussed the desirability of multimedia ethnography, and innovative projects like Ethnographic Terminalia have given us tantalizing glimpses of what is now possible in installation-style formats. We believe that there is no better time than now to reimagine the traditional scholarly journal article, especially in fields like anthropology with its richly and variously sensuous research. With digital affordances we need no longer restrict ourselves to the conventions of the printed article, even as we respect their rationale. New ethnographic modalities are beckoning."
As Marcel LaFlamme, managing editor of Cultural Anthropology wrote in the announcement of the award, "The Cultural Anthropology website already uses commercial services like SoundCloud and Vimeo to embed audio and video content, but these services are minimally integrated with discovery tools central to scholarly communication, they are built on closed, rather than open-source software, and they have no particular commitment to the preservation of digital media as part of an enduring scholarly record. Therefore, Cultural Anthropology will become the first scholarly journal to integrate Avalon Media System, an open-source platform for managing and providing access to digital audio and video collections, into its publication workflows."  


Aside from the seamless integration for presentation purposes, SCA understands the important services Avalon provides them. "Given the strong interest in enhanced multimedia capabilities at many of our sister journals, the project is intended to serve as a proof-of-concept for a scalable approach to preserving and displaying multimedia content across the AAA [American Anthropological Association] portfolio."  


This month, the latest issue of Cultural Anthropology was released, with audio and video tracks embedded within the journal's articles, and the Indiana University (IU) Libraries have entered into an agreement with AAA to host Cultural Anthropology's media content in IU's production instance of Avalon, Media Collections Online. The new issue includes an editorial describing the origins of the Sound + Vision project, and all three Sound + Vision articles include some degree of integration with Avalon. Stefan Helmreich's "Gravity's Reverb: Listening to Space-Time, or Articulating the Sounds of Gravitational-Wave Detection," does so most extensively, while the other two articles link to media files hosted in Avalon by the IU Libraries in the PDF version.


The staff at Cultural Anthropology welcomes any feedback that you might have (or might come across as you share the issue within the Avalon community), so please let us know what you think!