“Anthropology is the most humanistic of the sciences and the most scientific of the humanities.”
– Alfred L. Kroeber, American cultural anthropologist
The above quote was said decades ago, but using it to define the study of humans and the world around us makes even more sense in today’s digital world. Anthropology is a broad field that includes areas such as archaeology, that studies human culture through material remains and ethnography, that analyzes past and present human culture through research.
Why is anthropology “the most scientific of the humanities”? Because it uses scientific tools to study something so human – people – and why we do what we do. Today, digital tools and technologies like robotics, data analytics, space technology and even social media are increasingly influencing the field.
Computers enable anthropologists to build and program underwater robots that can scan ocean environments, build software to analyze consumer behaviour and use space exploration tools to discover secrets of the ancient world.
Many big tech companies like Intel or Nokia employ anthropologists to help them stay competitive and invent the next big thing. These professionals, called digital ethnographers, use computer software to analyze mountains of online data to predict what added features customers might want next. And it’s not just the tech industry – anthropologists work in healthcare, marketing, non-profit, education and even the government industries.
Thanks to satellite imagery technology, space archaeologist Sarah Parcak was able to identify an ancient Egyptian city that was hidden for thousands of years. She explained the whole story in her Ted Talk.
What’s more, today’s digital tools enable pretty much anyone to add their share to an already vast amount of anthropological data. Online film archives like MyStreet allow people to share stories from all over the world by uploading their video clips to a geo-tagged virtual global map - making their mark in the global community of curious minds.
To sum it up, technology is paving new career paths in the anthropology field – from space archaeology to robotics engineering. Many jobs don’t even list ‘anthropologist’ in the title, which makes the variety of options even bigger.
What does this mean for you? As a start, this should give you an idea for how you can combine your inherent curiosity about the world with a technical background to become part of something incredible.
So hold off on dismissing anthropology as a dull job that involves digging in the ground all day or spending long hours at the library. Read our anthropology and tech career mashup to explore all the different and exciting career options and educational paths in this field.
P.S. Don’t forget to let us know which career excited you the most, or what was your favourite takeaway from this article.
Let’s have a conversation!