Labs Library: The Ethnography Edition

Today is Read a Book Day, and as a team that loves to read, our Labs book club decided to put together a list of book recommendations to celebrate!

This edition has more of an ethnographic focus, as after all the work we do and love is focused on the study of humans and their behaviours. We hope you enjoy our top picks!

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

All image credit: Sutherland Labs

The Digitizing Family

By Geoffrey Hobbis

We found this book to be incredibly informative, published in 2020 this book is the first in a series that aims to address the lack of ethnographic research into the Oceanic societies and their use of technology – with this study looking specifically at mobile phones and how they have become embedded into the everyday life of rural Melanesians.  We particularly enjoyed how the moral ramifications of mobile phones usage was tackled head on, and how it is down to future anthropologists to address this.  The book does a great job of looking at the unique situation we are facing in a world where a fast-evolving technological culture is affecting the way we operate at a societal level.  We can’t wait for the next in the series!

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous 

By Gabriella Coleman

When I asked the team for ethnographical recommendations this book came up more than once.  The author, Gabriella Coleman set out to look into an internet group known as ‘Anonymous’, a worldwide movement made up of a group of hackers, pranksters and activists.  Through her research Coleman managed to infiltrate the subculture of individuals who make up Anonymous, and what we found interesting is as the book goes on you are struck by how the characters emerge as complex, diverse, politically and culturally sophisticated people.  This book is great for those who are looking for a deeper understanding of today’s complex world of digital activism, and the various forms that it may take.

Tea and Solidarity 

by Mythri Jegathesan

This book was the 2020 winner of the coveted Diana Forsythe prize, an award presented for the best book or series published in the spirit of Diana Forsythe’s feminist anthropological research on work, science, or technology.  This book uses the critical lense of feminist ethnographic methods to look at the lives of women and families in Sri Lanka following the tea industry’s economic crisis and the twenty six year long civil war in the country.  Jegathesan does a fantastic job of using her writing to incoorprate both a historical, as well as a feminist account of the tea industry.  The result is a book that provides an all encompassing and eye opening account of the country and South East Asia as a whole, and seeks to move past the romanticization of the tea industry that is often portrayed by the media.

Automating Inequality 

by Virgina Eubanks 

This investigative style book takes a look at how the digitalization of the world has become a tool that exacerbates the gap between the rich and the poor.  Eubanks looks into the impacts that new age technological processes such as data mining, policy algorithms and predictive risk models have come to negatively affect those who are already poor in the United States – and as a result Eubanks makes the argument that these systems are working to undermine democracy as we know it.  For our team, reading this book made our researchers take a step back and think critically about their own work and how it may be affecting the world around them.

We hope you enjoyed reading our top picks, and be sure to check out our previous book reviews on our website. Please reach out to us if you have any industry related books that you have enjoyed reading recently – we would love to hear them!

Team Coordinator

Sutherland Labs
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