Recycled Minds in 2012

by Lana Lynne on December 31, 2012
Keep taking the road less traveled...
photo by douglas reeser
The changing of the calendar year always compels reflection of the past and prediction of the future. This seemingly universal response to a new year is something that the contributors to Recycled Minds like to do year-round – reflect, interpret, and possibly offer new ways of thinking about the world. What we like to do is tell stories, one of the most powerful tools in humankind’s handbag for preserving and encouraging knowledge. As a culture, we have become accustomed to hearing a single story – one that hopes to leave us complacent and taciturn. Our storytelling intentionally seeks out a different narrative with many perspectives, and we’d like to thank our readers for contributing to this collection of ideas.

Following is a short reflection on some of our stories from 2012.

Since douglas spent most of the year in the field for his dissertation research, many articles he wrote for his “Views from the ANThill” column centered on his experience as a field researcher. Among other things, he wrote about  knowledge and trust among his research participants, how language affects research and fieldwork, applied anthropology at work with the development of language classes, going through research slumps, and the positive experience of working with a local research assistant.

Similarly, the Maya and other indigenous people of Belize were a frequent topic of conversation, given doog’s research interests, including a fun video of Maya Day 2012; a not-so-fun look at the creation of a new Belizean ministry that lumps together Forestry, Fisheries, Sustainable Development and Indigenous People; and how the decline of the ancient Maya compares to today’s environmental destruction and concentration of wealth.

The “Consumption Junction” column continued to examine consumption in its various manifestations, including an article on agency and panopticism in a digital world, pursuing meaning instead of money, and the state of literature in our self-centered “culture of me.”

Creating a Socialist Social Network

~ Sunshine Skyway ~
an Instagram photo by douglas reeser.
by douglas reeser on December 29, 2012
In slightly old news now, Instagram recently drew the ire of many of its more vocal users when it attempted to update its Terms of Service (TOS) Agreement and declared that the company could sell usernames, images and more without notice or compensation. The new TOS read:
"Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you."
After the uproar from users and fairly widespread media coverage, Instagram backtracked and went back to the old TOS. Co-founder Kevin Systrom released a statement apologizing and attempting to explain the change:
"Our intention in updating the terms was to communicate that we'd like to experiment with innovative advertising that feels appropriate on Instagram. Instead it was interpreted by many that we were going to sell your photos to others without any compensation. This is not true and it is our mistake that this language is confusing. To be clear: it is not our intention to sell your photos." 
The backtracking worked, and it appears that millions of Instagram users have happily continued using the platform to share their pictures of the holiday season. Lost in the public relations nightmare, however, is that Instagram may have been on to something with the idea of selling users' photos. It's just that they didn't take the idea far enough.

Recycled Minds Picture Show Highlights from 2012

Some highlights from the 2012 Recycled Minds First Friday Picture Shows.
We've chosen some of our favorite works from the 2012 First Friday Picture Shows - one from each month. A special thanks to our contributors for sharing their amazing photographs and art. The Picture Shows have become one of our most successful additions to Recycled Minds, and we couldn't do it without the artists! Thanks also to our readers, who make this work so rewarding.

A New Day and a New Year: Happy 14 B'aqtun!

A recreation of a Maya ritual at the ruins of Lubaantun
in southern Belize. Photo by douglas reeser.
by douglas reeser on 12-21-12
Well, here I am, sitting at my desk on the Winter Solstice in 2012. It's sunny and nice, although the storms that came through last night had me a bit concerned. For many, this day has been anticipated with excitement, wonder, and fear for at least a few years now. Much has been made of the supposed ending of the Mayan Long Count Calendar, with some seeing it as the end of the world as we know it, others debunking that popularized belief, and still others seeing it as a transition to a new era. On one extreme, so called "Doomsday Preppers" have reportedly gone into hiding in anticipation of something - anything - happening that might cause mass chaos. On the other, more common extreme, are the majority of people going about their daily lives as if this day has no significance, as if nothing is happening, and nothing is changing. In my mind, both extremes have their faults.

The anthropology magazine Savage Minds has had a recent series on this Mayan Apocalypse, and in the third piece of the series, Clare Sammells describes two aspects of this day that the popular press has picked up on:
One is scientific proof that the apocalypse will not happen, such as astronomical data that Earth is not on a collision course with another planet, Mayan epigraphy that shows the Long Count does not really end, and ethnography that suggests most Maya themselves are not worried about any of this. The other scholarly theme the press circulates is the long history of apocalyptic beliefs in the west. In the logic of the metanarrative of western progress, this connects contemporary Apocalypse believers to the past, nonmodernity and “otherness.” 
In the strange world of the mass media, the idea seems to be at once to discredit the possibility of a "Doomsday" and even marginalize such beliefs, while at the same time, promoting them for their entertainment value as seen in the various television shows currently being aired on the topic.

Scandals Under the Sun: McAfee, Indigenous Knowledge, and Corruption in Belize

An aerial view of Punta Gorda Town in southern Belize, where the
author is conducting research on health and health services.
Photo by douglas c reeser.
Views from the ANThill
by douglas c reeser on 12-19-12
Thanks in large part to the adventures of anti-virus software pioneer John McAfee, some of the world’s attention has recently been focused on the tiny nation of Belize. I won’t rehash the entire story here, but in short, McAfee has had some run-ins with various levels of the Belizean government, and is now wanted for questioning in the murder of his neighbor. Fearing a set-up, McAfee has gone underground and continues to elude authorities three weeks later. While on the run, McAfee has started a blog (the Hinterland) to get his side of the story out, which includes bringing attention to widespread corruption in Belize. The story has been picked up by major and minor news outlets around the world, and it’s fair to say the attention brought upon Belize is not the most positive.

My interest in this story has two aspects, both stemming from the fact that I have made Belize my home for the better part of the last year and a half while conducting fieldwork on health and health care. I never had the opportunity to meet Mr. McAfee, but our paths did indirectly cross in 2009. It was October, and I was with a colleague at the ruins of Tikal in neighboring Guatemala. We had accompanied a small group of Maya healers to the annual Maya Day Celebrations, a sort of anti-Columbus Day protest/solidarity gathering. My colleague, an ethnobotanist also working in Belize, had arranged to meet Dr. Allison Adonizio, a biologist that had just been hired by McAfee to start a lab in Belize to develop new plant-based anti-bacterial products.

The Bounds of Belief in Belize: Health, Belief, and Biomedicine in Rural Communities

Conference Flyer where this paper was presented
by douglas c reeser on 12.12.12
As an anthropologist, it is expected that I present my research to the public. One of the most accepted means of doing this is through national and international conferences. A big issue with conferences, however, is that they reach a very specific public. Conferences are often quite costly which limits who has access, many papers are presented to very small audiences, and the papers are rarely published or otherwise made available. So while I get "credit" in the eyes of colleagues and potential employers for presenting at a prestigious conference, chances are just 20 people ever get to see, hear, or read my paper. To me, that is a limited public.

I was lucky enough to have a paper accepted at the latest annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association. I was only able to attend because of a small travel grant that covered my airfare to San Francisco and my room for the week. Although well attended, the conference is quite pricey (almost $200 for student membership and registration), which limits attendees to primarily anthropologists. My paper was given on the first day of the conference when many people are still arriving, and the audience was quite small. So in an effort to make my research available to a wider public, I am sharing the paper here, for free.

Read the abstract and the entire paper after the jump:

First Friday Picture Show: Fall.Food.Fashion! by Tender Branson

A First Friday Picture Show, December, 2012
by Tender Branson
Tender Branson is the nom de plume of the innovative website Write.Click.Cook.Listen, where you can find original vegetarian recipes, great food photos, and music playlists to listen to while you're cooking. An elementary school teacher by day, a food-music genius by night, Tender's going big. This is his second contribution to our Picture Show, and we're always happy to have him on board - even if it does make our tummies rumble. Enjoy the show... 

~ Zucchini Bites ~
Photo by Tender Branson
These pictures feature fall fashions in the food world. With a new emphasis on buying from farmer's markets, I have really come to experience the foods that each season has to offer. This fall it has been a lot of comfort foods such as soup and pasta being meshed with harvest flavors like cranberry, squash, zucchini, pumpkin and hominy. The result has been meals that are rich in flavor and depth without the heaviness in the stomach that typically accompany fall menu items.

John McAfee is Screwing (up) my Dissertation

John McAfee and his girlfriend, Sam, made it to Guatemala. What's next?!
photo courtesy of TradeArabia
by douglas reeser on December 6, 2012
Frustration. I'm spending inordinate amounts of time sitting in front of my computer, trying to find the motivation and focus to start putting serious time into my dissertation. This has been going on for weeks. What else has been going on for weeks?

John McAfee.

Regular readers know that I've been in Belize for the better part of the last year and half working on my dissertation research. Belize also happens to be the adopted (former) home of John McAfee, the founder of the ubiquitous virus protection software company. McAfee has been on the run from the Belizean police for the last three weeks, wanted for questioning in the murder of his neighbor. Right there is at least a semi-interesting story, and I'm drawn into it because of the Belizean-connection. But that's like the needle on top of the iceberg in this story.

Consumption Junction: "Forget the Money"

by Lana Lynne on November 30, 2012
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" That ubiquitous childhood refrain echoes throughout many people's lives, evolving with each new chapter of experiences. When we're young, the possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. As we get older, for many these choices begin to fit into pre-molded channels, into recognizable and attainable occupations. By the time we're "grown up," what we want to be has been replaced by what we do for money. Our options for alternative lifestyles are few, and unceasing bombardments by consumerist messages tell us what to do with our money, each tailored to our socioeconomic positions. Cultural critics call us automatons of the industrial complex, and as members of "the masses," we fall in lockstep time to a soundtrack of retail therapy.

And yet, the idea of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" or, as Alan Watts puts it, "What if money were no object?" still resonates with us. A short video made by a 20-year-old "self-taught video creator" takes a snippet of Alan Watts speaking about living a meaningful life to narrate a nicely spliced montage of dreamy time-lapse images. Watts asks listeners straightforward, "What makes you itch? What would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?" For the rest of the video, he laments people's complacency with "doing things you don't like doing in order to go on living." "Forget the money," he says, "because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time."

On Youtube, the video has gotten more than one million views. On Facebook, one posting of the video was shared over 200,000 times. Is this a whisper from within the masses of complacent consumers, breaking free of the amnesiac lullabies of monetary desire? Or has our ability to answer Watts' question been reduced to a like and a share?

Read more about Recycled Minds' exploration of similar ideas in this article about a world without money, this one about profiteering in academia, and this one on how Occupy is helping people out of debt.

Mutual Beneficience with Research Assistants

The University of Belize, Toledo Campus in the small town of
Punta Gorda. Photo courtesy of UB. 
Views from the ANThill
by douglas c reeser on November 22, 2012
A major aspect of my research in Belize involves trying to get an understanding of how families manage their health, given the various options available to them. After spending a good year in the community, I had in mind to speak with the female head of the household. Wives, mothers, and grandmothers are often the decision makers when it comes to matters of health in southern Belize, and they are most often familiar with the health issues and events faced by their families.

My challenge with this stage of the research was not so much where to find participants, but how to most effectively go about recruitment. My goal was to cover the economic and ethnic diversity among households throughout the community, necessitating the need to cover the varied geography that exists there. Going door-to-door would be the surest way to get that coverage. Time of day would be a factor in my success as well, and most women who do not work outside the home have the most flexible time during the day while their children and partners are usually out of the house.

What we talk about when we talk about hipsters

by douglas reeser and lana lynne on November 14, 2012
We started this fun conversation about hipsters after reading two articles: "Hipsters and Low-Tech" by PJ Rey and "Away from a Sociology of Hipsters" by Andrew M. Lindner. In brief, Rey’s article discusses the trend of low tech devices such as Polaroid cameras and fixed-gear bikes in relation to individualism and authenticity. Basically, Rey argues that the hipster aesthetic hinges on a desire to be unique, resulting in a socially-mandated hyper-individualism. The trendiness of low-tech devices or even the illusion of low-tech (such as can be seen in Apple ads) reflects a desire for agency and independence. Lindner’s article argues against the use of hipsters as a lens through which to do any type of critical thinking. Having become such a broad category, the noun hipster can refer to any number of groups of people: the artsy Williamsburg type, the hipster-clothes-wearing-type, or rich young people. Lindner believes that specifying factors such as age, education, political leanings and the like would be  more accurate analytic concepts. From these two interesting pieces, we indulged in our own analysis of the hipster aesthetic:

D: I get Lindner's argument, but...

There is definitely a hipster aesthetic, and I do think it probably started as a sort of counter-culture (like the hippies), but was quickly appropriated by corporate interests for profit (like what happened to the hippies, only much much quicker). So maybe there really were some authentic hipsters that held a certain anti-mainstream view of the world, but that can no longer be said. Hipster is mainstream now. So even if you were/are an "authentic" hipster, it doesn't matter; the subculture has been appropriated. If you don't want to be a part of that, best to look for a new (life)style. I mean, steampunk, skinny jeans, fixed gear, big-rimmed glasses, tight flannel shirts, librarian-esque clothes, and all the other aspects of aesthetic hipsterism now belong to the mainstream corporate world. They took and are selling it. It's no longer unique, but it remains identifiable, and it seems to include a certain subset of the population that has money to spend on things (with exceptions of course, but every [sub]culture has exceptions).

L: Yeah, this is basically what I was getting at.

There is no "being hipster," it's just a style, or a fashion. So Rey’s article strikes me as giving way too much depth to the style. People who dress hipster-like can find these "toys" (such as polaroid cameras) at Urban Outfitters. Maybe the 16-year-old hipster thinks s/he is being unique, but I would imagine most people older than that recognize on some level that it's just fun or cool or trendy or whatever

And just to go on a little bit more about the fashion... Before the internet, it USED to be that fashion did align people in certain ideological camps. Especially when you tied music to it. Hippies, goth, preppy, hip hop... it was fashion and music, and certain assumptions (and stereotypes) could be drawn from what you wore and what you listened to.

Now, it seems all those categories are gone. It's just about the way you look, and there's nothing of substance behind it at all.

Occupy your Debt

The People's Bailout - a variety show in support
of the 99%. Live online and in NYC on November
15, 2012. 
by douglas reeser on November 12, 2012
In case you haven't heard, Occupy is back in the news and this time it doesn't have to do with protests, sit-ins, or police violence. And to the surprise of many, it seems that the potential for Occupy is actually growing, as the movement is working on at least two fronts, and certainly in terms of public relations, Occupy is scoring some points. The movement has shown the public a different side of itself through its relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in early November. The hurricane resulted in extensive damage throughout much of New York City and New Jersey, so much so that the traditional governmental and non-governmental relief agencies have had difficulty responding to all the needs of those affected.

With so many in need, members of Occupy were able to quickly mobilize a response that other relief organizations were unable to do. According to a piece in the Nation,
"Occupy Sandy, as the effort has been branded, arose quickly in the aftermath of the storm, setting up local community hubs to dispense water, food and aid, and form groups to help communities pump water from their houses and clean up the vast quantities of rubble left in Sandy’s wake. Distribution centers have been set up in numerous locations in New York and New Jersey, and they continue to help those in need... While federal mobilization efforts can often take weeks—sometimes months—to reach citizens, Occupy was one of the only local groups capable of quickly mobilizing to help victims. Organizing volunteers and supplies is no small task, but Occupy Sandy has been able to generate a large amount of aid. On Sunday, Michael Premo, one of the volunteers, estimated the mobilization effort included 2,500 volunteers, 15,000 meals and 120 carloads of supplies sent to recovery sites."

There's Oil in those Hills: Fracturing Land and Communities in Southern Belize

Aerial view from the sea of Sarstoon Temash National Park in southern
Belize, where US oil interests have begun to drill.
Photo courtesy of News 5 Belize.
by douglas reeser on November 8, 2012
As some of our regular readers know, I've been working and living in southern Belize for most of the last year and a half. Spending so much time in a place begins to provide insight into the day-to-day lives of the people that live there. An understanding of the strengths of the community and the challenges it must face begin to emerge. The south of Belize has historically been the region in which poverty is most concentrated in the country. In 2009, nearly half of all households (~47%) in the south were living  in poverty, and in 2010, unemployment in the district was over 21%. These statistics sound alarming, but probably remain abstract to most readers. Living in a place makes the abstract real.

During my time in Belize, the ways in which these types of economic statistics are experienced have become evident. Many of my closest friends have struggled financially, to the point that the economics of providing the basic necessities of life (food, clothing, a roof to live under) were everyday challenges. Jobs are scarce, and when they do open up, the applicant pool is always huge and usually includes more qualified or better educated applicants from outside of the region. In many cases, people are forced to turn to a more informal economy in which they may do things they may not otherwise do given the choice. I have seen people struggle immensely in this type of position, but when it's a choice between a home for you and your family or no home, there really isn't much of a choice.

First Friday Picture Show: Papua New Guinea by Alan Maschek

by Alan Maschek on Friday, November 2, 2012
~ Picture #8 ~
Young boys play rugby alongside the big field. The girls tease them as they play.
photo by Alan Mashcek.    

Last November I found myself lucky enough to travel to Papua New Guinea for field research in the Coral Sea. I wouldn’t say that I visited Papua New Guinea having only stayed in the city of Port Moresby for a few days, but I did get to drive around the city, visit the university campus and watch a rugby game between local teams.

Alan Maschek is a chemist working on marine natural products.

~ Picture #11 ~
Another handsome kid hangs out.
photo by Alan Maschek.

View in Full Screen for Optimum Pleasure!

You can also view this show on Flickr >

Žižek on Reconceptualizing Nature

by douglas c reeser on November 1, 2012
In some of my recent articles, I've brought up the need to begin rethinking the world around us. The current capitalist-driven approach is likely to more deeply embed the problems and issues that we currently face. Most appear eager to continue down this path, but there are a growing number who are beginning to question that wisdom (or lack thereof). But how do we rethink what has become so normal, so routine, so everyday?

One of the more popular social critics of our time is Slavoj Žižek, and he has a gift of being able to identify large-scale social problems and offer new ways of examining and addressing them. What follows, a 10-minute clip of Žižek from the documentary Examined Life, is such an example. Žižek offers his views on the environmental problems facing humanity (appropriate now, considering the destructive hurricane Sandy that just battered the northeastern US). He then goes on to offer a reconceptualization of nature, and the start of a different way to move forward to address one of our most pressing predicaments.

Check it!

A Future of Debt and Part-time Work? No Thanks.

A future of unpayable student debt and exploitative
part-time work is not the future for me.
Photo created on
by douglas reeser on October 29, 2012
Lately my days have been filled with working items off of my bottomless to-do list. A return to the U.S. after almost a year and half of field work finds me jobless and out of money. Perhaps this was poor planning on my part, but research funding never came through despite repeated and ongoing efforts that started over a year before my fieldwork and continued while I was in the field for almost a year. I thought my effort put into grant writing would pay off, and I was wrong. Still, my fieldwork needed to be done, or I would risk floundering around campus for who knows how many years. One colleague in my department wrote grants for 5 years before finally getting one that allowed her to do her research.

For me, already pushing 40, I didn't see waiting around as a real option, especially after already delaying my fieldwork for over a year. Instead I depleted my meager savings, and went further into student debt to get out into the field and get my research done. To be fair, I did receive one small research grant that basically paid for my airfare, and while this was a big help, it was really just a drop in the bucket of costs for a long-term field project. All the while, I had to pay tuition three times per year to stay continuously enrolled, a nice budget-draining touch from the university administration. 

Corporate Crime Comics

Corporate Crime Comics, 1977, front cover
by douglas reeser on October 24, 2012
"Corporate crime... Corporate crime... I could be robbed or poisoned by corporate criminals and never know it until I read about it in the papers... or maybe never know!"
And so begins Issue #1 of the 1977 publication "Corporate Crime Comics" (CCC) by the Kitchen Sink Press - the first of only two issues. From an era before personal computers, smart phones, and tablets, Corporate Crime Comics is a great example of the creative efforts of activists from the time who sought to get their message out in a way that may grab the attention of a youth-oriented readership. Issue #1 includes around 15 stories of varying length and quality that touch on controversial, unethical, and quasi-legal or illegal corporate (and government) actions, all of which have fairly dire human consequences.

The issue opens with the story of Karen Silkwood, a lab technician who worked for the Texan oil company of Kerr-McGee, which at the time was the largest producer of atomic fuel in the US. Silkwood had become active in unionizing and worker's rights, and had reportedly secured incriminating documents on the company, only to lose the documents - along with her life - in a suspicious car crash. This story was turned into the film "Silkwood" starring Meryl Streep, Kurt Russell and Cher in 1983.

Research on Botánicas in Tampa, Florida

A botanica shop, similar to many, in the city of Tampa, Florida.
Picture courtesy of google maps.
by douglas reeser on October 19, 2012
A couple of years ago I put together a small exploratory research project on botánica shops in Tampa, Florida with a colleague and friend who was also at the University of South Florida at the time. Botánicas are small shops found in many cities across the US that cater to a mostly Latin American and Caribbean immigrant population. They sell a variety of herbal and other products, and often provide services related to one of many Latin American/Caribbean medico-religious traditions like Curanderismo, Santeria, and espiritismo. Well it took a while, but I finally got a paper based on the research published. It just came out in the latest issue of vis-à-vis: Explorations in Anthropology, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal out of the University of Toronto. The abstract:
Botánicas are shops found in most major U.S. cities with a Latino population that carry products and provide services that are essential elements of alternative medico-religious systems that originated in Latin America and the Caribbean. This paper briefly examines the ways in which immigrants in the U.S. utilize traditional or alternative systems of healing, often – and even usually – as a complement to biomedicine. It then summarizes the small amount of literature on botánicas and the role they play in immigrant health in the U.S. This is followed by a discussion of an exploratory research project on botánicas in Tampa, FL, where a number of botánica shops are found in various neighborhoods in the city. A basic description of the shops and interviews with shop owners are presented, followed by a discussion on the potential significance of the geographic location of two particular groups of botánicas is explored.
Click 'continue reading" to see the full paper, or visit our Free Library for the link.

"Global Noise" Makes a Racket around the World

by douglas reeser on October 15th, 2012
The Occupy Movement has not been in the mainstream headlines all that much lately, however that does not mean it has stalled out. Just this weekend, Occupy camps from across the US too part in the "Global Noise" rallies that are attempting to link and unite protest movements active in all parts of the globe. Check out this short video from the Real News Network on the Global Noise rallies, and continue to spread the word.

Legacy Under Fire: The Work of Reichel-Dolmatoff and His Nazi Past

Do the Reichel-Dolmatoff revelations mean more
troubled waters for anthropology?
Photo by douglas reeser.
"Views from the ANThill" 
by Federico Cintrón Moscoso on October 10, 2012*
At the beginning of August, a video was uploaded onto YouTube in which Colombian archaeologist Augusto Oyuela-Caycedo (University of Florida) presented conclusive evidence of the relationship between Gerardo (“Erasmus”) Reichel-Dolmatoff, the founder of Colombian archaeology and anthropology, and the Nazi regime (read the transcript of the video). The video was recorded in Vienna (July 17, 2012) at the 54th International Congress of Americanists. Oyuela-Caycedo, student and follower of the work of Reichel-Dolmatoff could not contain his tears as he revealed one of the confessions made by the latter in a 1937 document entitled Confessions of a Gestapo Assassin, which described a series of murders that he perpetrated while a member of Hitler’s elite force—the Schutzstaffel or SS as it is commonly known. As it was pointed out in the video, this document appeared to have been written after Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff was expelled from the Gestapo due to “mental incapacity.” After being dismissed, the Austrian ex-officer spent a season studying in Paris before migrating to Colombia in 1939. The investigation that Oyuela-Caycedo presented at the Congress concluded that Reichel-Dolmatoff had been involved with the Hitler Youth since the age of fourteen, and his active participation continued within the SS until he was approximately twenty-five years-old. Other close paternal relatives were also Nazi officials, including his uncle, a professor of medicine and eugenics practitioner, and his cousin, who continued a prosperous career inside the SS, ultimately achieving the rank of Major.

First Friday Picture Show: Drawing Fantastic by Jedi Wright

Gauche (2000) by Jedi Wright
Jedi Wright returns with a set of drawings for our October 2012 Picture Show. Jedi is an Internet entrepreneur, Information Architect and a student at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, where he is studying Interaction Design. He has been working professionally in the information technology, multimedia, event production, and environmental fields since 1993. He currently resides in Los Angeles, CA where he works as an information architect and interaction designer at Disney, and is fully immersed in the Information Architecture (IA), User Interface (U/I), User Experience (U/X) disciplines and how they intersect with social values and sustainable practices. In his spare time, he is very actively involved with raising his son. Visit to learn more.

Old Man Winter (1999) by Jedi Wright
A note about the show from Jedi: 
For this month's picture show, I opted for an eclectic mix of my artworks produced between the ages of 6 and roughly 26. As I am now a student at Art Center, I felt inspired to return to my creative roots with this collection, which I felt was an interesting look at my progression of skill and style over those years. Note that very little visual art (work) was done after about 2001-2, as I had made a pretty large shift from analog to digital creative processes at that point. Now that I'm back in school, I am picking a lot back up within the analog realm, particularly drawing. I hope to return next year for another show with an even greater leap forward in (drawing) skills!

As usual, view this show in full screen mode for optimal enjoyment....

Happy World Animal Day!

My, what a smart cat you are! Today marks the 81st World Animal Day, a day first
set aside in 1931 at an ecologist convention to coincide with the feast day of
Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, to honor and celebrate animal life.
photo by Lana Lynne
by Lana Lynne on October 4, 2012

Most animal lovers, at some point or another, have probably come up against the anti-anthropomorphism argument, most likely when they are sharing some tedious detail from their pet's daily lives with a hyper-rational-minded friend, who refuses to believe that your cat cries for anything other than base survival needs. But, as any animal lover will tell you, not attributing human characteristics to animals is virtually impossible, seems sort of pointless, and makes for a rather empty emotional world.

Thankfully, there have been some changes in animal behavior research that sets aside the taboo on anthropomorphism and looks at animals through a human lens. Take a look at this New Inquiry interview with Laurel Braitman, a science historian doing just that in her work on animal personality and taste. On the subject of the taboo, Braitman says, "Anthropomorism – the ascription of human characteristics to other animals – has been problematized for a long time, certainly within the behavioral sciences. I think it’s high time we do away with the taboo. Some of the people doing the most interesting work about other animal minds have already done this, because it’s limiting. It’s impossible to look at them without using a human mind. If we’re trying to understand the behavior of another animal who is in some ways very similar to us and we refuse to use our own experience as a place to come from, I think that’s actually poor science. If we’re looking at a gorilla and that gorilla is acting sad in some of the same ways that we know ourselves to act sad, then refusing to acknowledge that link makes us less apt to understand the gorilla at hand."

The Growth and Breadth of Campus Activism

In the Neoliberal Society, students get pepper-sprayed in the name of
debt and greed. Image courtesy of Lucas Kretch.
by douglas reeser on October 2, 2012
I recently wrote about the lack of activism and protests in southern Belize, while people elsewhere around the globe have been mobilizing against what could be characterized as the Neoliberal Society. Many may remember the original George Bush espousing the benefits of a "New World Order" (NWO), and such has come to pass. The form of this NWO has been shaped by neoliberal policies enacted the world over, and generally accepted to have been started during the Reagan and Thatcher years (during which GW the First served as Vice President). 

Briefly, in the years since the 1980, huge sums of money have been loaned to governments around the world (both developing and developed nations), on terms that required the creation and maintenance of a favorable business environment, while severely limiting government-provided social services. Such terms allowed for the rapid expansion of global manufacturing and commerce at the expense of the health and livelihood of literally billions of people. 

Having been in a rural and fairly isolated part of the globe for the better part of the last year and a half, I  didn't always catch everything that was happening in the movement to counter this new Neoliberal Society. When I have the chance, I do some online searching for updates and news to try to keep abreast of actions in an attempt to develop my understanding of what's actually going on out there. In my most recent perusal, I found an informative article by Edna Brophy in Briarpatch Magazine titled The Combustible Campus: From Montreal to Mexico City, something is stirring the University.

Mrs. Robinson ~ Winner, Best Belizean Film 2012

by douglas reeser on September 23, 2012

As many of our more regular readers know, I have spent most of the last year and half living in the southern-most district of the small Central American/Caribbean nation of Belize. A little earlier this summer was the 7th annual Belize International Film Festival, and while I was unable to attend in person, a number of the shorter films can be seen online. Mrs. Robinson is "one woman's story of her return to the beginning" - a short (15 minutes) film by Tom Hines about reflecting on a life spent in Belize. It was the winner of Best Belizean Film of 2012 in this year's festival. Enjoy!

From the festival site
"A documentary about one woman’s return to her country of her birth after living abroad in Belize, Central America for 56 years, this is the story of her return to the beginning. The main and only character is Mrs. Patricia Robinson, [Thomas Hines’s] grandmother, and a woman who inspires [him] to keep on keeping on. She has made a very big change at the age of 83 and decided to return to England because she wants to pass away there, where her mother, brother and sisters have died before her. In returning to England, the country of her birth and youth, she must say good-bye to the country of her husband’s birth, where she lived with him for many years until he sadly passed away when she was 60; her many friends who she became very close with over the years she spent there; and the lifestyle that she had become accustomed to for so many years. In doing this though she will fulfill her wish, which is to die in the place of her birth."

Consumption Junction :: Speaking with Ghosts: Literature in a Culture of Me

Image courtesy of
by Lana Lynne on September 17, 2012
My copy of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, bought for a pretty penny for a freshman English class I don’t remember, is littered with half-formed thoughts jotted in the margins. At first, I only used pencil for these little notes – thinking that my take on something written anywhere from 50 to 300 years ago clearly did not qualify as canonical as what was printed. In grad school, my thinking must have changed, because when I cracked open the Anthology again (instead of buying another copy of the assigned T.S. Eliot’s "The Wasteland"), my comments were written in pen. At that point, I must have figured, my thoughts qualified for more permanency. I was more confident that what I had to say about Eliot’s poem would not cause fits of hysterical laughter from someone who might be reading over my shoulder.

This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, and in an interview in the New York Times, founding editor M.H. Abrams and current editor Steven Greenblatt celebrate the joys of a life enriched by literature. When asked the question, "Why study literature?," they both wax poetic. For Abrams: "Ha — Why live? Life without literature is a life reduced to penury. It expands you in every way. It illuminates what you’re doing. It shows you possibilities you haven’t thought of. It enables you to live the lives of other people than yourself. It broadens you, it makes you more human. It makes life enjoyable." And for Greenblatt: "Literature is the most astonishing technological means that humans have created, and now practiced for thousands of years, to capture experience. For me the thrill of literature involves entering into the life worlds of others. I’m from a particular, constricted place in time, and I suddenly am part of a huge world — other times, other places, other inner lives that I otherwise would have no access to." What they both get at, but don’t say, is that literature helps us think critically. By expanding your worldview, or by traveling to the past, or by living other people’s lives for awhile, our brains are exercised in ways that they wouldn’t otherwise be. Our little comments in the margins, no matter how obvious or insignificant or ground-breaking, for that matter, are evidence that we are thinking in new ways. 

Views from the ANThill: Where are the Activists?

The town square is filled with parades and parties throughout the year,
but never with any protestors. Why?
photo by douglas c reeser
by douglas c reeser on September 12, 2012
On a recent morning, while writing at my computer and having some coffee, I received a surprising text message from a good friend. It read, “Belize Lodge burned last night! Folks can have a pretty nasty way of settling conflicts.”  She was referring to a foreign owned eco-lodge in a nearby village in which I have conducted research for a number of years. The lodge had fallen into financial difficulties over the past year or two, and owed back wages to many of its workers. Local authorities became involved and assisted in the negotiation of a payment plan to ensure workers would receive what was owed to them. It’s unclear what transpired after that, but less than a month later, parts of the lodge were set on fire and burned to the ground.

This wasn’t the first time I had heard of people here resorting to the use of flame to settle differences. In September 2010, a nearby group of villagers torched a foreign-owned crocodile sanctuary. Two local children had gone missing, and rumors spread that they had been fed to hungry crocs. Without an investigation, villagers decided to burn the sanctuary and chase the owners from the region. These and other stories I have heard tell me that the use of fire, while extreme, is one form of protest that people resort to here.

First Friday Picture Show: Positive Visual Attention Intervention by Joe Castro

Joe Castro is an accomplished Philadelphia-based artist, musician and graphic designer. His paintings and collages have been exhibited in galleries and art spaces across the United States and Canada, and have been described as "intelligent and brooding...the subjects are often just a little-bit skewed -- leading you to take a deeper look." When not making art, he is also the guitarist/singer for the indie garage rock three piece, The Lift Up. For more information, please visit For now, enjoy his artwork for this month's First Friday Picture Show!

Tornado Alley
(mixed media collage on paper, 13" x 15" July 2012)

(oil on canvas, 24" x 12" February 2012)

Academia is Dead. Now What?

Today, acedemia is not taking care of its
own, but what are the alternatives?
image by douglas reeser.
by douglas reeser on september 3, 2012
There is a lot of hand-wringing among scholars going on right now out here in cyberspace. Much of what I'm reading is from and by anthropologists, but from the comments on these articles, it sounds as if the issue goes beyond anthropology and extends to all disciplines, from the sciences to the humanities and everything in between. The issues being discussed are systemic - in other words, there's a problem with the system. The model of the university as a business, with increased administration that is embedded in a larger system that is cutting funds to education, is pinching those at the bottom the hardest. From what I can tell, most agree that this is the case, however the roots and causes of the problem have not been fully agreed upon. And so, challenge is upon us.

The problems that I am referring to here, and to which I can relate, include issues such as the lack of a job market for young scholars, the turn towards adjunct-abuse at many institutions, the decrease in tenure track positions, stressors associated with decreased institutional funding, and the increase in administrative pressures to produce, produce, produce. In the mean time, PhD holders have reached record levels, and there are declarations that we have too many - that we have devalued the degree. Simply search for "number of PhDs" and the top results include the following titles (Google search on September 2, 2012) "Doctoral degrees: The disposable academic," "Education: The PhD factory, " "The PhD problem: are we giving out too many degrees?", "From Graduate School to Welfare," and "The Number of PhDs on Food Stamps Triples." Things are not looking so great if you're one of the many pursuing your doctorate degree, a camp in which I squarely fall.

Open Access: A Movement, a Policy, a State of Mind

[editor's note: re-posted as our most popular column in the month of August]

by Lana Brand on August 10, 2012

“An old tradition and a new technology have converged to make possible an unprecedented public good. The old tradition is the willingness of scientists and scholars to publish the fruits of their research in scholarly journals without payment, for the sake of inquiry and knowledge. The new technology is the internet.”

Each time I read this my heart swells. The possibility. The hope. The sheer logic. Yes, yes, of course the internet will be the savior of scholarly communication. We shall all find the information we need to learn, to help people, to effect change. With one click, we shall access data, share ideas, find answers, solve problems. Yes, leveraging technology will remove the physical and cost constraints that print brings. We’re wide open!

Tampa Ride-through at Start of RNC

Posted on August 26, 2012
From our old friend Broseph in Tampa, comes this short video of a ride through downtown at the start of the RNC convention. Broseph will be providing exclusive coverage of the RNC as it unfolds in the Sunshine State. You can follow him on Twitter: @brosephlives - and be sure to check back here for more commentary and coverage.

Views from the ANThill: What if Everything was Free?

What if everything was free?
Photo courtesy of the Groundswell Collective
by douglas reeser on August 23, 2012
I've been thinking about the concept of "free" a good deal lately. Our recent posts on for-profit universities, Open Access (the ability to access research reports and articles for free), and internet access reflect that thinking to a certain degree. But I would like to take the idea a bit further than we have so far. If internet access is to be a human right, it needs to be free. I would argue that education - all of it - needs to be free. And the ability for anyone anywhere to access the latest research needs to be free and unhindered. All of these things are related and intertwined in that they exist in the realm of knowledge and human understanding.

What about things that we traditionally think of as goods? Products? Should these things be free? A good friend of mine just shared an article from the Wall Street Journal on the declining success of "freemium" - a strategy employed by a number of online ventures in which they offer a basic service for free, with hopes that customers will pay for premium services. Companies like Dropbox and Skype have demonstrated that the idea can work, however, others have been a bit less successful. Apparently it takes a special formula and specific criteria for such a strategy to work, especially if the end goal is to make money. But what if the end goal was different? What if everything was free?

The Veins Run North: Galeano Revisited

The lion on the cover of Open Veins, taken from a carving
of the Knat, the Lion and the Spiderweb from Aesop's Fables.
All the great lion could do was scratch himself while trying to
get the knat. But that knat got caught in a spiderweb!
Shared by douglas reeser on August 19, 2012
I first read Eduardo Galeano's "the Open Veins of Latin America" during the summer of 2011. After reading, I shared one aspect of my reaction here on Recycled Minds (which you can read here). I touched briefly on the issue of mineral extraction and how little has changed since Galeano first published the book in 1971. I finished the short piece with: "Galeano’s work is an interesting and engaging piece of scholarship that begs for an updated edition. If you are interested in an understanding of Latin American history and international relations, this is a must read." Such remains true, and what follows is not a complete update, but a poignant reflection on why Galeano's writing remains so relevant to us today, and it may be especially interesting for our readers in the US. We would like to thank George Dardess, the author of this update, for freely sharing his work.

An Ironic Updating of Eduardo Galeano's "The Open Veins of Latin America" 
by George Dardess

Uruguyan writer Eduardo Galeano's 1971 classic, The Open Veins of Latin America reentered the spotlight a couple of years ago when Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez gave a copy to the then newly elected Barak Obama. Whether Obama read the book isn't known, but he should have, and so should we all. Or if we've read it before, we should read it again.

For-profit Colleges and the Lost Soul of America

When will our education stop being all about the money?!
Image by douglas reeser.
by douglas reeser on August 15, 2012
Times are tough out there. The job market is tight and there don't seem to be many options for a lot of us. As a graduate student working on his PhD, I find myself in a bit of a transition. I've been in Belize, working on my research, for almost a year and a half (I'm certainly not complaining about that part), and so have been out of the job market for a while. Before this stage of my training, I was teaching at the university level, and had a paid graduate assistant position. I still relied on some student loans to get by, but at least I had work. Fast forward to the present, and I find myself broke and heading home after a very costly, yet productive research experience. Those positions I had when I left are gone, and I haven't found anything else related to my field to transition into. I briefly considered taking a position at one of the online for-profit universities, but for a number of reasons, quickly decided, "Fuck that."

It turns out that I made the right decision. The very idea of "profit" is beginning to disturb me. The flip side of profit is that it comes at someone or something else's expense. Where the university is concerned, public and non-profit universities have largely moved to a business model of operations, and the profit has not gone to students or teachers. This shift has coincided with a rise in administrators, and huge financial stresses that have rarely been seen in the world of academia. Budget cuts, department closures, and rising tuition have all been common among the newly business-modeled universities around the US. And meanwhile, student debt has sky-rocketed.

If public and non-profit universities have seemingly lost sight of their vision - which I would think would be primarily "education" - where do for-profit universities stand in this picture. Certainly they don't stand with the interests of students and teachers, unless they are also shareholders. Unlikely. These thoughts were confirmed by a new report overseen by US Senator Tom Harkin. This and a couple of other things contributed to my feeling that taking a job with a for-profit institution would be akin to selling my soul.

The Harkin Report. The New York Times (here) and Inside Higher Education (here) both reported on the findings of the study that investigated for two years the for-profit college industry. According to the NY Times, for-profit colleges are part of a $32 billion per year industry that operate based on a number of highly questionable practices. Some of the findings include:
The bulk of the for-profit colleges’ revenue, more than 80 percent in most cases, comes from taxpayers. Enrolling students, and getting their federal financial aid, is the heart of the business, and in 2010, the report found, the colleges studied had a total of 32,496 recruiters, compared with 3,512 career-services staff members. Among the 30 companies, an average of 22.4 percent of revenue went to marketing and recruiting, 19.4 percent to profits and 17.7 percent to instruction.
Their chief executive officers were paid an average of $7.3 million, although Robert S. Silberman, the chief executive of Strayer Education, made $41 million in 2009, including stock options. With the Department of Education seeking new regulations to ensure that for-profit programs provide training for “gainful employment,” the companies examined spent $8 million on lobbying in 2010, and another $8 million in the first nine months of 2011.
The report doesn't end there. Inside Higher Education noted the high drop-out rates at for-profit colleges:
The investigation found that large numbers of students at for-profits fail to earn credentials, citing a 64 percent dropout rate in associate degree programs, for example. It also links those high dropout rates to the relatively small amount of money for-profits spend on instruction. 
For-profits “devote tremendous amounts of resources to non-education related spending,” the report said, with the sector spending more revenue on both marketing and profit-sharing than on instruction.
Pretty damning stuff, and enough to keep me from even thinking about participation - even if it becomes the only teaching job I can get. Quite randomly, just before the Harkin Report was released, Recycled Minds received a series of emails from two different parties offering to write guest posts. The email thread from both parties was titled the same: "Guest Post for - Recycled Minds." Apparently they give recruiters fill-in-the-blank subject lines. The requests were pleasant enough, and we gave the first one consideration, as we knew little about the entire for-profit college industry at the time. On June 14, 2012, we received the following:
I hope this email finds you well. I only recently started reading your blog, I am a freelance writer, regularly write for Online Universities. I was wondering if you would be interested in publishing a guest post on your blog.

I could write on any topic you wish, or I can simply come up with a post that I believe would supplement your blog. I just need a link to my homepage on my anchor text in the author by-line. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this; please let me know if this is something you might be interested in.
The "writer" provided links to a number of articles that covered topics such as how to write an effective short story, the top 5 iphone aps, indie-bookstore survival, and how to sell your ebook. We decided to inquire further by responding that we could be interested, and asking about a potential article topic. Five days later, on June 19th, we received the following email:
First of all, thanks for taking the time to reply to my request.

Here's what I'm thinking. In light of all the news surrounding NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg's choice to regulation the size of sodas and other sugary drinks, I'd like to write a post discussing the difference between health education and imposing regulations that dictate dietary changes. The NYC soda case brings up a lot of questions about how involved the government and other public entities should be in general health topics such as obesity, smoking, proper dieting habits, etc. My post would also explain how difficult it is to disseminate offical information about health to the general public.

How does that sound? I think the topic would fit fairly well in your blog's niche, but feel free to change and/or reject it for something else.
Hm. That sounded interesting, even if it was a topic completely unrelated to her other article examples. We like to support creativity and often explore new topics here on Recycled Minds, however the offer at the end - that we could change the topic or reject if for something else - sounded pretty desperate. In light of the source, she was likely arguing for less government regulation (although in the health arena), something close to the vest of the for-profit college industry. Apparently the "writer" would write anything as long as we published it and linked to her website. We had yet to respond when we got our second request from a different writer three days later on June 22nd:
I was wondering whether you accept guest posts for your blog or not. I am an experienced freelancer writer, and I enjoy expanding my writing abilities to cover ideas that I find interesting. 
If you are in publishing a guest post, I would like to offer you some solid content in exchange for a link to my website, Best Colleges, on my anchor text in the author by-line. I can write and research any topic you'd like covered, or else I'm confident that I can come up with something that would appeal to your readership. If published, the article would be your sole property, so you can edit it any way that wish.
This "writer" should think about cleaning up her email before sending it as an offer to write. Maybe she went to one of these online universities. Either way, her offer came with sample articles as well, and included topics like finding a green college, how to maintain your blog while away from your computer, producing popular content, and even one that questioned the need for the Department of Education (who needs educational standards when the free market has control?!). We knew we would never post an article from one of these "writers", but decided to see if they would give us any further information on their connections to the industry. On June 28th, we sent them both the following email:
Apologies for the delayed response - we've actually been talking about your interest in contributing. Interestingly, yours is the second request from an online-university website that we have received in the last couple of weeks. Before moving forward, we would be interested to know more about your relationship with the online-university website. In particular, we are curious to know if you are hired by the company to write articles and link to them?
Thank you for any information you can provide.
We probably shouldn't be surprised, but neither of the "writers" ever got back in touch with us. They didn't respond to our email or even ask again about their guest column. The lack of response however, makes it seem like we discovered a little secret of the industry - one that can not be talked about. We assume that the "writers" are being paid based on how many click-throughs they get from their columns, but really, we don't know how the scheme works. Whatever the story, it feels dishonest, and is just another sign of how far we have fallen as a nation and as a species. Today, profit comes before people, and it's a sad world for all of us.

Internet Access as Human Right

Internet access in Belize is among the slowest and most
expensive in the region. But access to the internet has been
declared a human right in a Guatemalan town not far away.
Image courtesy of Animal Ethics.
by douglas reeser on August 6, 2012
We're communicating with a craft on Mars, but I've been having internet problems here on Earth. I live in a rural part of Belize, so am probably lucky to have the service in the first place. But it costs me. I paid a $500US connection fee, and pay $65US per month (which includes rental of a wireless router). This is for 256K speed, which is really really slow - think dial-up speeds. It makes watching video almost unbearable, downloading painful, and uploading anything nearly impossible. Add to this the intermittent power outages that also take down service, and the extreme weather that keeps people at risk of surges. I'm on my 5th router in about a year, and I religiously unplug my power strip every night. Each time I've lost my router due to a storm (or something), it has taken a minimum of 2 days to get service back up and running. I have to just keep telling myself that I'm lucky to have internet service at all.

Think I'm exaggerating? Channel 7 News Belize recently published a story on a report that surveyed internet services throughout the Caribbean. Belize is among the slowest and most expensive in the region. The story reported:
First, Belize was one of only three countries still offering speeds of less than one meg; in Belize the lowest speed that you can purchase is 128k - only Dominica is lower with 64k. 
Second, the price for 256k in Belize - 51 US dollars monthly would buy you 1 Megs in Anguilla. 1 Meg is about 300% faster than 256K. 
Third, the maximum speed available in Belize is four megs - when in many other territories it is eight or nine megs. And the survey shows that in Belize, you'll pay the second most in the region, 436 US dollars for those four megs - when you can get twice that, 8 megs in the Bahamas for just 70 US dollars.
Perhaps internet speeds are something that could be argued aren't that important, and we should all be thankful just to have internet access in the first place. Well that would be great, except, I'm one of the lucky few here in southern Belize with that access. According to the 2010 Belize Census, in a district of nearly 40,000 people, less than 4000 are reported internet users, or just under 10% of the population. When 40% of the population lives in poverty, and over 17,000 people are unemployed (that's over 40%), paying over $50US for internet service is just out of the realm of possibility.

What made me write about this in the first place was another story that I read in Global Voices. Renata Avila reports that in neighboring Guatemala, the Maya village of Santiago Atitlan has declared access to the internet a human right. Village authorities are working to install town-wide wireless that will be available free of charge to everyone, locals and visitors alike. Avila reports:
The concepts of community and sharing are entrenched in the daily life of indigenous people in Guatemala. Common spaces, open doors, collaboration and sharing are the main characteristics of these communities, especially among small linguistic communities such as the Mayan Tzutuhil indigenous group in the Highlands of Guatemala. As cultures evolve and adapt to new discoveries in science and technology, indigenous cultures are embracing new technologies and adapting their use to accord with traditional principles. Such is the case with Internet access.
It's unclear how free internet access will ultimately affect the community, but it will readily facilitate people from this remote town on the shores of Lake Atitlan to more easily communicate with the rest of the world. Local youth have already begun a TV & web program that allows for discussion of local concerns like recycling and ecological issues. In such a historically poor and repressed region, having immediate access to global allies and friends may come in handy in times when others of their rights need protecting. 

Should internet access be a universal
human right?
Photo courtesy of Article-27.
A move towards such equalizing measures like the one made in Santiago Atitlan also allows us to see the situation here in Belize in a slightly different light. With prices out of the reach of so many people here, the widespread lack of internet access can be seen as a form of structural oppression. Whether deliberate or not, the inability to connect can be a liability in a world where global connections have become ubiquitous. The reporter for Channel 7 Belize asked an executive at the country's internet provider the following: 
"Has it occurred to you all that perhaps the fact that the internet being cheap or whether it is expensive and the existence of large corporations are inter-related that when you have inexpensive internet it drives economic and corporate growth and when you have expensive internet its retards that growth."
The executive replied by blaming the global recession and an ill-prepared workforce for Belize's economic problems, and basically sidestepping the question. As in most of the rest of the world, money rules the day here in Belize, and if you're poor, that's your problem. At least when it comes to luxuries like the internet. But should access to the internet be universal? Should access be a human right?