Applied Anthropology on the Internet: 
Communication and Innovation

NAPA Bulletin #19

Terry Redding, Issue Editor


This online NAPA Bulletin is a first-ever Web-based document for the association. As such, it is rather experimental and departs from traditional, print document formats. It is meant to be a practical and useful tool for applied and practicing anthropologists: therefore, the tone is somewhat less formal than traditional academic writing. This should facilitate clarity and ease of use.

Before plunging in, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the format, structure and navigation of this site. You should find it practical, helpful and easy to use. Please give NAPA and the editor your feedback, as updates, changes and additions can be incorporated periodically into this bulletin. Contact information is found at the end of each chapter: there is also a user survey in Appendix D.

With such a vast topic to cover as the Internet, with its many facets and approaches, you may find items of interest to you are missing or merely skimmed over here. Therefore, this bulletin should be considered an introductory resource, and perhaps a catalyst to Internet utilization, rather than an exhaustive investigation into all its aspects. It is hoped that enough information is presented to facilitate your exploration and use of the Internet.

Notes on navigation:
Contrary to traditional wisdom in Web site design, this site is extremely text-heavy.  This is due to the quantity of material being presented. It is also very light on graphics. This facilitates quick loading of the site, and availability to a wide range of Web browsers.

Below you will find a table of contents, an abstract and a purpose statement. The site is divided into individual chapters as well as appendices. Using the table of contents you can click directly to a chapter or subheading which may be of immediate interest to you. I recommend reading through the entire bulletin in sequence, as chapters are built upon each other. Once familiar with the contents, you can return to the Bulletin and go directly to information resources which may be of primary interest to you.

You will also notice many links embedded in the text. For example, all citations are linked directly to the "references cited" section. This allows you to quickly check a reference and return to the text. This may take some practice but you should find this makes for easy review; it is much easier than flipping to the references cited section of a book to find a source, for example. Other links take you to Web sites under discussion or related in some way to the text. In some cases,  you can achieve at the click of a mouse what once took a trip to a library or visit to a data base to achieve. A caveat, however: you should consider "bookmarking" this site. Links which take you off this site may lead to other links beyond, and it may be difficult to navigate back. Use your "back" button to return to the text, or use the bookmark.

As you conclude a chapter or section, links are provided which can take you 1) on to the next section, 2) return you to the top of the current page, or 3) send you back to the home page (this page).

There are other options for reading as well. You can print out individual sections to read as hard copy. You can also download the entire bulletin and print it out as a text document. But remember that one advantage to online reading is the ability to click on the links to references and resources.









The Internet represents a powerful new communication medium. In its present, early genesis, the medium already is being used in a variety of applications by a range of corporations, institutions, agencies and individuals.

This guide will investigate the use of the Internet as a medium for applied anthropology applications in five contexts: education, research, commerce, entertainment and communication. The central focus will be on the latter, and it should be noted that there is much overlap between these categories. The analysis is presented from the perspective of how these various sources of information can assist in guiding applied anthropologists in using the Internet as a communication medium effectively, ethically and efficiently.

The first chapter introduces the Bulletin and notes goals, contents, theory, terms, descriptions, and related basic topics. Relevant literature from scholarly journals as well as information from the Internet itself is briefly noted. Information taken from several scholarly fields reflects the multi-disciplinary nature of applied anthropology in building an appropriate applied anthropology Internet presence.

The second chapter presents a framework for action, the concrete steps needed to build effective Internet communications. Topics begin with assessing needs and considering issues such as representation and ethics. The second part of this chapter covers the technical aspects of creating a basic, useful Web site. The third part details ongoing issues such as site promotion, monitoring and assessment and long term maintenance.

In the third chapter, several case studies are presented, wherein applied and practicing anthropologists introduce and discuss their own Internet activities. The lessons shared should be valuable in providing insights into how applied anthropologists can use the Internet as an adjunct to their efforts.

The fourth and final chapter provides further analysis, recommendations and conclusions, pulling together the diverse sources of information into a set of practical guidelines for the use of the Internet in applied and practicing anthropological endeavors.

Within the appendices, the first appendix constitutes a list of Web site resource links for review. These will be indexed to facilitate use. Some will be mentioned in the text as well: this appendix organizes the resources in one place. Planned, regular maintenance will keep these links updated and will incorporate sites suggested by readers.

The second appendix offers a bibliography of print literature covering various germane subjects.  The third appendix consists of notes on various insights, time-sharing shortcuts and hints on using the Internet, while the fourth consists of an online survey for readers to offer ideas, suggestions and critiques. 


The purpose of this NAPA Bulletin is to enhance the ways in which applied and practicing anthropologists can use the Internet to communicate. It reviews, discusses and provides current examples of uses by applied anthropologists, and serves as a catalyst to stimulate discussion and generate ideas for exploration of this new and powerful communication medium. This issue of the NAPA Bulletin, the first to be published online, takes advantage of World Wide Web technology by providing links wherein readers can easily navigate from the text to related references, cited resources and other information and then back again. User interaction with this electronic NAPA Bulletin should enhance use and innovation of the Internet for applied anthropological endeavors, particularly as a tool for communication.

The contents focus primarily on the Web and include descriptions and definitions, a framework for action (including assessing, creating and maintaining a Web site), issues to consider, case studies of existing applied anthropology Internet applications, and specific ideas, suggestions and recommendations for Internet and Web use.

The bulletin will benefit from planned, periodic updates incorporating information on the continuing and rapid changes in Internet capabilities and technologies. This will prevent the bulletin from becoming quickly outmoded in the fast-changing Internet environment.

As to relevance, a 1997 AAA poll showed that by the year 2000, ninety percent of anthropology departments in the US will have their own Web sites, and eighty-eight percent of department chairs said that the Web is or soon would be an important departmental tool. Practitioners outside the academy should also not lose sight of the Internet's importance. Figures vary, but global Internet usership by one estimate could reach one billion by the year 2000. This is probably unrealistic: nevertheless, tens of millions of users in the US alone is a reasonable figure. The interest of anthropologists in communication as a topic should be noted here as well: at the 1997 AAA annual meeting, one third of the workshops conducted were related to some type of communication, and much of this was mass communication.

The Web has at least five main functions: to entertain, to educate, to provide research opportunities, as a means of commerce and to communicate in general. While all are in different ways relevant for anthropologists and will be discussed, the bulletin at this stage will primarily focus on the latter.

Applied anthropologists should be aware of the ever-growing potential of the Internet as a useful communications medium for addressing a variety of audiences (e.g.; colleagues, educators, informants, administrators, funding agencies, the news media). This Bulletin demonstrates that the Internet is an extremely flexible and practical tool which can be incorporated into various projects and programs as an adjunct resource -- in some cases with relatively little extra cost or effort. 

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Copyright 1999 by Terry Redding/National Association for the Practice of Anthropology