Evolution of Technology (TEC 154 2014S) : EBoards
TEC 154 2014S, Class 31: Biopiracy (1)
- Today's note takers: PG and EG.
- Reminder: You should be meeting with a library lab person asap.
- Today's guest lecturer is the legendary Monty Roper.
- DB, CO, and LY: In-car technology
- CC and PG: Digital vs. analog recording
- EG and MK: Film/video
- TD, EL, and DS: Voting machines
- SA, DP, and JV: Representations of technology in comics
- FC and AF: Anti-immigration technology
Key Points from EG
So far we’ve looked at different kinds of knowledge/ownership of knowledge.
Cultural anthropology is the study of culture through a social science lens.
-i.e. observing traditions and social interactions
Beliefs and behaviors that characterize a human group. Culture = beliefs and behaviors that characterize a group of people, anthropology is interested in the whole of humanity.
Political Ecology and by extension cultural ecology is everything that has to do with feeding yourself and interacting with the land.
Political economy of natural resource management, but power relations outside the state are happening everywhere all the time and need to be interrogated.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge [TEK]:
- knowledge that comes from working in a certain geographical area
- Shaman- broad term = part time religious specialists (vs full time priest)
religious specialists in small scale societies.
one of few specialized statuses that exist.
PURPOSE of TEK - how do we see it manifested in societies and culture? (purpose/function/practice)
- enables manipulation or understanding or response to natural environment.
- hunting (subsistence)
- race/field [raised field] agriculture as long as 700 years ago = advanced chiefdom cultures required to achieve this.
- interaction with the spirit world = living a good life/being a moral person.
- all these knowledges are intertwined, there’s no separating spiritual from technical.
Why did Sam invite Roper?
- Different sense of "applied knowledge".
- Relates back to our models of intellectual property; one of the
- Reflect back on where the genes for genetic engineering sometimes
- "TEK" as Traditional Ecological Knowledge
- Monty has taught across from Sam's office so much that Sam wanted to
see him teach at least once.
- Roper is a cultural anthropologist.
- Very few of us have taken anthro.
- So it's important to know a bit about what he does.
- Cultural anthro: Study of human cultures through a social scientific
- There are also socio-biologists
- What is culture, though?
- Social interactions between people (within a group?)
- Beliefs and behaviors that characterize a group
- Includes rituals - Things we've done, even if we don't know why
we do them.
- E.g., We have cultural knowledge about how our classroom works.
- "You can't have a culture of one" - it's groups
- Anthropologists study everything, just from a different lens
- Even science
- Interested in the whole of humanity.
- Within Cultural Anthropology, Roper studies Political Ecology and
perhaps Cultural Ecology
- How do human groups make use of their natural environment?
- How do they manage their needs?
- How does that affect their social interactions?
- How does that affect their political interactions?
- "Feeding yourself and interacting with your land."
- Political ecology: Political econonomy of resource management
- Looking at environmental degredation / degredation of natural resources
- Why would a group decide to do more foresting than they need?
- Or choose a behavior that pollutes their land.
- Effects of globalization and capitalism and ...
- Political, cultural, and economic issues of ecological degredation
- Why cut down that tree or hunt that endangered species? Why?
- Understand within nested scales: Within the group, within the
region, within the country, globally, etc.
- This week, political ecological approach to biopiracy.
- We start with indigenous knowledge - how people take advantage of their
- Day two: What are the broader forces.
- Day three: Come back to reflect on this stuff.
- Where does economics fit into all of this?
- Some sense of markets.
- But not just the narrow sense of "rationality".
- Classic economics with an understanding of individuality and status
that fits in other cultural contexts.
- Where does politics fit into all of this?
- Notions of power that are at the root of polisci.
- But the government is not the only sphere of power (political
scientists understand this, but they do focus on "the state")
Be ready to interact!
Feel free to ask questions.
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
- Knowledge that comes from working in a certain geographic area.
- Passed down through tradition. (oral tradition?)
- Can be very specialized
- Based on empirical observation
- (Can it be replicated by western technology?)
- Connected knowledge (on integrated)
- And yes, we have some knowledge ourselves
- So, when we say "specialized", what do we mean by that?
- Perhaps unique to the region or group
- E.g., the Plotkin article - Different groups in the same region had
different knowledge set.
- Can also be specialized within the group.
- A status issue.
- Culture is shared.
- That culture is not necessarily shared by everyone - There is
- E.g., Industrial farming in US. Most of us don't know where
to get seeds or how to get them in the ground or .... So,
even though it's shared NA culture, many of us lack detailed
- There are specialists.
- Different status - a Shaman
- a wise person
- often with knowledge of medical remedies
- connection to spirit world
- anthropologically broad term
- non-full-time religious specialists (distinguish from priests,
who are full time)
- In most societies, everyone does what everyone does - no "just a
carpenter" or "just a farmer" or .... Everyone does all of these
- But Shamans are specialiszed; they are intermediaries
between our world and the spiritual world and have deeper knowledge
of certain things.
- So, when a Shaman goes into a trance state and encourages the
spirits to stop harming you, why might it make a difference?
- Some is the placebo effect, which is a real effect.
- Some is the additional knowledge of traditional medicines.
How is TEK Manifested? What is its Purpose/Function/Practice?
- Enables manipulation/understanding/responses to env.
- Manipulation can mean physical alteration of environment
- Can also lead us to adapt to the environment, responding to
aspects of the natural environment.
- Let's narrow (or talk about other broad categories)
- Hunting/subsistence - Getting your food.
- Kalahari desert - Six months without rain / 3 months without standing
water. How do we survive?
- The San (sp?) do fine, they recognize all sorts of signs, such as
roots that will have liquid.
- Not treated as anything particularly pecial.
- [Side note: Be culturally sensistive: Don't use the word "Eskimo",
- Ethnobotanists see medicinal properties or bioreactivity and
see if there are other applications.
- Some drugs for keeping the body in a state appropriate for surgery.
- Agricultural practice
- Detour: Story about one of his peers who wanted to do research on more complex
societies in Amazonia. Dismissed. But there's a bunch of raised field
agriculture, road networks, and more. That knowledge had been lost.
Archaeology shows deeper knowledge pre European times and that it
was possible to sustain higher populations.
- We think the populations and knowledge were lost to disease.
- Early European reports suggest thousands of people coming out to greet;
dismissed because other parts of the reports (12 foot tall women) were
- 10-12 million down to 1 million.
- We thought that the area could only support 1 million.
- Interaction with spiritual world
- Slashing the eyes is tied to other things
Where does this come from?
- Oral traditions from generation to generation.
- Oral traditions can be lost - E.g., raised field agriculture in the
- If the Shaman or apprentice die, we lose thousands of years of
- But it's more than oral tradition; it's also science. What does
it mean that Inuit are scientists? They are forming hypotheses and
seeing whether or not they are correct. And that knowledge is
passed on from generation to generation.
Wednesday: We'll wrap up today and then move on to biopiracy and
bioprospectiving and other related stuff.