How technology Affects Anthropology
Technological advancement has affected all scientific fields, including anthropology. Specifically, technology is the utilization of scientific knowledge to fulfill particular roles (Carroll, 2017). Conversely, anthropology entails studying humans’ culture, biology, and behavioral patterns over time (Joralemon, 2017). The field has four primary branches: physical (biological), cultural, archaeological, and linguistic (Barnard, 2016). Considerably, technological advancement has impacted how archaeologists pursue the four sub-fields. Like other sectors, the improved technology has sparked positive and negative contributions to archaeological operations. Therefore, the report explores how technological enhancement has affected the four anthropological branches.
How Technology Impacts Anthropologists’ Operations
Remarkably, technology has unique impacts on each of the four branches. The following part explains the effect on each section.
Archaeology: According to Barnard (2016), this branch entails studying human remains. Considerably, technological advancement has impacted how anthropologists investigate people’s remains. First, anthropologists are applying more effective tools to evaluate humans’ bones. For example, radiocarbon dating technology enables anthropologists to track the ages of human remains that existed thousands of years back (Fiorenza et al., 2018). Consequently, the surveyors get more accurate results than relying on assumptions. For example, through carbon dating, an anthropologist can distinguish homo-sapiens bone remains from those of homo-Erectus. Even more reliable technology is 3-D printing, which scans the dental formula and gives reliable outcomes (Fiorenza et al., 2018). Consequently, many anthropologists are using 3-D printing to distinguish jaws for early people like homo-sapiens and Erectus.
Technology also facilitates accurate and reliable facial analysis. Notably, human faces align substantially on the skulls’ geometric shape (Wuyang et al., 2020). Hence, anthropologists depend on craniofacial morphology links between faces and skulls to predict traits like ethnicity, age, gender, nutritional status. Excavated human skulls lack faces, which undermine identification. Initially, anthropologists used the traditional craniofacial reconstruction (CFR) technique to predict the faces (Wuyang et al., 2020). The approach required anthropologists to collaborate with artists to uncover the faces. However, CFR had many flaws and yielded unreliable outcomes. Fortunately, the technological advancement that occurred over the past three decades enabled scientists to develop advanced medical image acquisition techniques and computerized CFR (Wuyang et al., 2020). As a result, anthropologists can now predict more accurate faces.
Cultural Anthropology: This branch evaluates the customary human feelings and behavioral patterns (Barnard, 2016). Remarkably, technological transitions have impacted cultural anthropology in various ways. First, information access has improved in the modern high-tech world (Seaver, 2018). In the pre-internet era, anthropologists could barely gather information about some cultures. Comparatively, the struggle was even worse when focusing on foreign communities. For example, American anthropologists struggle a lot to get information about Asian communities. However, technological advancement has eased access to cultural materials (Seaver, 2018). For example, a European anthropologist can use the internet to access information about the Maori community in New Zealand. Generally, present-day anthropologists find it quicker to understand a particular community than before the internet.
Additionally, technological advancement has limited the need for anthropologists to interact with the subjects. Before the internet and digitalization, most anthropologists visited the subjects and interacted with them for a long time to gather the target information (Seaver, 2018). However, digitalization and the internet can provide anthropologists with relevant information without visiting the subjects (Seaver, 2018). For example, browsing “Google Scholar” can unveil many relevant anthropological journals. Consequently, many anthropologists find it unnecessary to visit communities whose information is readily available online (Willermet & Lee, 2019). Critically, the reduced interaction with the subjects has benefits and cons. On the positive side, anthropologist no longer wastes much time to gather information. However, overreliance on the internet limits new knowledge accumulation and acquisition.
Linguistic Anthropology: This segment concentrates on studying human languages (Nakassis, 2016). For example, linguistic anthropologists investigate the historical aspects and social contexts of various languages. However, technological advancement has impacted this process substantially. First, the linguistic can access the subjects’ information conveniently (Shankar, 2017). Before the digitalization and internet eras, linguistic anthropologists had to meet their target communities to determine their languages. For example, a Canadian anthropologist had to travel to India and interact with local communities to comprehend their language and related features. However, the internet now avails relevant language-related information to any willing consumer (Shankar, 2017). Consequently, anthropologists barely travel to meet their target communities to collect information. The challenge is that failure to meet the subjects could expose the scholar to biased secondary sources on the internet, thus yielding unreliable conclusions.
Additionally, technological advancement has eased the communication between linguistic anthropologists and information sources. Before the invention of language translation software like iTranslate, linguistic anthropologists struggled to understand foreign dialects (Shankar, 2017). For example, an American scholar could barely converse with the Filipino-speaking communities. Likewise, the scientists could hardly read linguistic information written in foreign dialects. As a result, linguistic anthropologists wasted much time learning a foreign language for effective communication before studying foreign communities. However, technological improvement has yielded language translation programs that facilitate information acquisition (Shankar, 2017). For example, Japanese linguistic anthropologists can use Google Translate to change and comprehend a Mandarin peer-reviewed journal. Generally, the translation apps have eased the linguistic anthropological processes.
Physical Anthropology: Finally, this field focuses on the scientific examination of human biological attributes (Barnard, 2016). Technology changes have affected this sector significantly. First, information access is faster in the present world than a century back (Willermet & Lee, 2019). Due to limited data access in the nineteenth century, most anthropologists visited their subjects and conducted firsthand experiments to get information. While the process yielded first hand-information, it was slow and costly. However, technological improvement allows physical anthropologists to access secondary information on the internet and complete their analysis (Willermet & Lee, 2019). As a result, it is cheaper and faster to access biological anthropological knowledge today than a century back. However, reliance on secondary sources has made many physical anthropologists lazy and unwilling to conduct new experiments. Another benefit is that technological inventions like the DNA evaluation mechanism enable physical anthropologists to unveil the relationship between different subjects (Willermet & Lee, 2019). Overall, technology has elevated all anthropological branches.
In summary, technology has boosted and undermined the four anthropological branches in numerous ways. First, technological advancement has availed more reliable screening techniques like CFR, which promote archaeological scanning activities. Technical know-how improvement has also elevated cultural anthropologic surveys, as the scholar can access information without visiting the communities, which saves time. Additionally, technical elevation has improved linguistic anthropology through language translation software like Google Translate. Technology also supports physical anthropologists by availing biological information online for faster access. However, relying on secondary sources on the internet could lead to biased conclusions. Another concern is that the internet could make many anthropologists lazy and unwilling to interact with the subjects to get new first-hand ideas.
Barnard, A. (2016). Unity versus interdisciplinarity: A future for anthropology. Current Anthropology, 57(S13), S145-S153.
Carroll, L. S. L. (2017). A comprehensive definition of technology from an ethological perspective. Social Sciences, 6(4), 1-19.
Fiorenza, L., Yong, R., Ranjitkar, S., Hughes, T., Quayle, M., McMenamin, P. G., … & Adams, J. W. (2018). The use of 3D printing in dental anthropology collections. American journal of physical anthropology, 167(2), 400-406.
Joralemon, D. (2017). Exploring medical anthropology. Taylor & Francis.
Nakassis, C. V. (2016). Linguistic anthropology in 2015: Not the study of language. American Anthropologist, 118(2), 330-345.
Seaver, N. (2018). What should an anthropology of algorithms do?. Cultural anthropology, 33(3), 375-385.
Shankar, S. (2017). Linguistic Anthropology in 2016: Now What?. American Anthropologist, 119(2), 319-332.
Willermet, C., & Lee, S. H. (2019). Evaluating evidence in biological anthropology: The strange and the familiar (Vol. 83). Cambridge University Press.
Wuyang, S. H. U. I., Qingqing, D. E. N. G., Xiujie, W. U., Yuan, J. I., Xiaoqun, L. I., & Mingquan, Z. H. O. U. (2020). An overview of craniofacial reconstruction technology application in physical anthropology. Acta Anthropologica Sinica, 369.