I found it interesting that you wrote about the ways in which everyday language and conversation is used to explain the biological processes of conceiving a child is very similar to the ways in which language is used within an everyday context to explain gender relations. Discourses are highly prevalent within society and it seems that they feed into each other, where discourses are used in one context and those discourses create and reinforce those same discourses to be used in other areas regarding gender relations.

I wonder, in what was are individuals able to subvert or change gender roles or beliefs about gender when these beliefs are so entrenched within society? Especially since we are using science as a way to legitimize these sexist processes of oppressing and stereotyping women? How can science go about getting rid of these bad articulations regarding gender in order to create a more inclusive idea about what gender really is–that all individuals are different and gender is on a fluid continuum and no woman (or man) is the same.


In this article, Van Cleave begins by trying to deconstruct notions of addiction, especially the notion that addiction involves drugs (V). There is a growing belief in the scientific community regarding “behavioural addictions”, which consist of video games, gambling, love, internet, as well as a multitude of other things (VI). Addictive behaviour is a repetitive pattern that increases personal and/or social problems or the risk of disease, along side immediate gratification, long-term costs, and attempts to change are often with high chance of relapse (VI). 

There are 6 components of addiction (VII-VIII):

  1. Salience: where gaming becomes the most important thing to in a person’s life, usually overtaking their thoughts and behaviours. 
  2. Mood Modification: an experience that people have as a result of gaming, such as a “buzz” or an uplifted feeling.
  3. Tolerance: Increase of the amount of gaming in order to achieve that buzz.
  4. Withdrawal: unpleasant feelings and physical effects when an individual is not gaming, such as moodiness and irritability.
  5. Conflict: individual will engage with conflict of those around them, conflict with other important life activities (such as school or work), or a conflict within themselves 
  6. Relapse: trying to quit and then going back to earlier addictive patterns of gaming.

Van Cleave then goes on to talk about the game World of Warcraft and one of his informant’s experiences with video game addiction. For this informant, every thought was consumed by the game (2). He became consumed by the virtual world in 2007, where his wife was threatening to divorce him (again), and his children hated him (3). Eventually, his addiction and his life in general degraded to the point where he tried to kill himself (4-5).

When reading this article, I was not surprised that individuals have been addicted to video games, and especially World of Warcraft. I had heard stories of Warcraft and video game addictions, read articles of people who have died while playing Warcraft due to their addiction, and I even know people that are addicted to video games. Although I have never experienced a video game addiction before, the closest thing to that kind of addiction I have faced is when playing the game Pokemon. I often get obsessed with the game and will not stop playing until the game is done and I have often sunk over 100 hours playing the game. However, the difference here is that, once I have beaten the elite four and finished the game, I stop playing. With other games, I don’t really get addicted or even as hooked as I do playing Pokemon, often I get bored after a few hours and move on to something else (usually to my true addiction, the internet, which consumes my life). 

For this response, I have decided to do a response in the form of a poem, like we had the chance to do last term. I chose a sentence from a bunch of other people’s journals involving play and games because so far play has been my favourite topic. I have included the url to everyone’s journal after their works to make it easier to find their blogs.

Explaining play is also explaining the mind, every metaphor is a play on words. https://civicinsight.wordpress.com

games go far beyond what I associate play with at first glance or thought. http://amandaliotta.wordpress.com/

games often reinforce the different socially dictated avenues, such as gender roles. http://msvin.wordpress.com/

Critical play can also subvert norms and rules  in order to create new ones. https://amnicol.wordpress.com/

play can work to legitimize or facilitate alternative ways of knowing. http://samfranierullo.wordpress.com/

The ability of playing is becoming apart of everyone’s lifestyle. http://gianlucaschepis.wordpress.com/

they essentially escape from reality and enter a virtual realm. (http://charugas.wordpress.com/)

Play is very much part of us as we are part of it and we while being in it are in constant state of transformation which is good articulation. http://sabmunir.wordpress.com/

All in all play is contagious. http://ladyambiguity07.wordpress.com/

Sport is a type of play or game involving, rules, competition, and some sort of physical exercise (10). The anthropology of sport and exercise uses a variety of research methods, one of which is reflexive ethnography, which is a type of positioning of themselves as an outsider, an insider or someone who is in between in terms of power relations within the topic that they are studying (10). Although being an insider and an outsider is completely contextual, as one can start out as an outsider and through their own researcher become considered an insider or someone in between, however researchers still need to reflect upon themselves the power relations that exist within their status (11). By the researcher actively questioning and reflecting on power relations, they are negating their privilege on the topic as some sort of authority figure on the subject matter (13).

Within Anthropology, claiming to be an authority over what they have researched is problematic, as there are a variety of different voices that exist–each of them with a slightly different take on the subject matter. To claim to have authority over the knowledge of people or cultures, takes away the voices of those with less power, those at the grassroots. Now they are no longer an authority in what they do, a researcher or Anthropologist is. So knowledge is then taken out of the hands of the people who gave the Anthropologist that knowledge, and then the Anthropologist keeps that knowledge for their own career as the problematic authority  over what they have studied (which may be constantly changing). So anthropologists do need to think about and question the ways in which power relations work through what they are studying to avoid taking away agency and power from those individuals that they are studying.

Last year, I took ANTH 3110, where I had to write my own ethnographic work. I wrote about gender, racism, homophobia and general discrimination within video games. Through doing this ethnographic work, I had to constantly think about power relations, especially within how I chose to represent people within my work. I had to critically engage with the interviews in order to try and create positive representations of the individuals I worked with and the game I was playing–as each of these were not inherently bad, racist, homophobic or sexist–but rather these forms of discrimination did exist within the game itself. I also had to reflect on my own power relations with the people I interviewed, as I had the power to represent these individuals, since they could not represent themselves in my work. Even after all the work I put into the ethnography, to call myself an authority on the topic of video games (even in terms of discrimination) seems to be rather humorous, as I only got the opinions of a few people… and even among those people, views were greatly different. No one really had the same answer, the answers tended to be fluid and definitely could not span across all games. The knowledge I gained could only be span across the people I interviewed, not the entire gaming world–or even the entire virtual world in the game I studied).

Critical Play is a type of play that serves answers certain questions about human life (6). By thinking critically through play, individuals are able to question things that are normally glossed over or taken for granted otherwise (6). By being critical, individuals are able to conceive new possibilities, in play and in their lives (6).

Games, like real life require some sort of decision making (7), for example, choosing to buy a railroad in Monopoly or not. Since there are decisions to be made, there are possible alternatives that could happen during the course of the game, which could affect one or more players (7). So buying that railroad in Monopoly could cause you to win–or perhaps you did not spend the in-game wisely and you just landed on Boardwalk and cannot afford to buy the property–causing you to lose the game later.

Games are a sort of social technology, as they create certain meanings involving social relations and make everyday everyday actions more easily understood among players (9). This is because the ways that games are designed give certain implications within the social group, depending on if people choose to play, watch, cheat, etc. thus creating certain social relations between how individuals choose to participate (9).

Critical play can also subvert norms and rules  in order to create new ones (11). An example of this would be the video shown in class, with the scientist doing the dance to create new molecules. This is subverting norms, as scientists do not normally dance or use play in order to find things out (or at least that is what they say). However, through these dances, movements, and play, scientists are placing molecules together when they normally would not be able to otherwise. This kind of play allows for new understandings and new meanings to unfold in ways that were not otherwise possible through the traditional view of science as simply non-play oriented.

In terms of play and games that I have participated in, I have been playing a lot of Portal 2 and Rayman Origins recently (among a plethora of other video games). With Portal 2 specifically, I often have to think critically and think of new ways to play and strategize, as the game is a puzzle game involving my character, a portal gun and the items available to me to use within the level. So using what I have available, I have to think of new ways to escape each level and think of new possibilities in order to escape the level and move on to the next one.

In terms of Rayman Origins, there are a lot of hidden places to find throughout each level. So often I will have to subvert the norms of just running through a level and I have to actively seek out these hidden places in order to unlock other parts of the game. Not finding a hidden area may mean that I would have to choose to go back and play the level again, or if I choose to not go back and find it, then I probably cannot complete the entire game. So even within video games, there are choices that have to be made. Sometimes a choice may be if I want a specific item, like a coin, I may lose my life several times trying to do so (and having to face the consequences of starting over several times to do it).

Having to give up one sense is a very difficult decision, but some individuals lose a sense of theirs all the time–whether they have lost it from an accident, from old age, or a plethora of other reasons a person may have lost one of their senses. I feel reluctant to actually answer this question, as all of my senses feel valuable to me in one way or another. However, if I absolutely had to pick one sense to get rid of, as though I am in some theoretical life or death situation, I would choose to get rid of my sense of taste. I am following the 5 senses model of the senses here, in order to make my decision slightly easier because there is less selection of senses to choose from.

Even though I absolutely love food, and I know that having food with no taste would be the absolute bane of my existence, as I probably would no longer like to eat, I could still force myself to eat food for my own health. I also feel I could live vicariously through my sense of smell, knowing that my food smells spicy – so it must be delicious, even though I cannot really taste it. In this case, smell seems more important to me because I would be able to smell (and also see) if my food is rotten or not. As products like milk often do not have a visual signifier as to whether the food is good or bad, and yet milk gives off a rancid odor signifying that the food has gone bad–rather than having to taste that the milk (or another food) has gone bad as the food has already entered your body (possibly making an individual sick).

As for other senses, such as hearing (which was another contender, however I value hearing too much), I imagine that my own life’s safety may one day be called into question. What if I am unable to hear a fire alarm? What if I am crossing the street and an emergency vehicle is zooming down the road and I cannot hear them–and what if they are unable to stop in time? Among a number of other possibilities that could happen if I were to become hearing impaired. Not to mention, I could not listen to music or hear conversations anymore, and I would have to learn American Sign Language (ASL) just to be able to communicate with others.

In an occularcentric society, like the one I live in, it would be hard to actually give up my sense of sight. Everyday activities are designed around individuals having a sense of sight and there are very few accommodations made for individuals who are blind. So everyday activities would become next to impossible to perform without at least a little bit of help everyday, especially by going with to without my sense of vision.

As for touch, I would not like to lose that one either. How would I be able to walk if I could not feel the ground? How could I eat if I did not know if there was food my mouth? How would I know that something is hot if I could not feel that it was hot? How could I lift anything if I did not know if the item was really in my hand or not? By losing my sense of touch, I may end up damaging my body if I touch something that is hot, especially for a prolonged period of time.

I imagine it would be a lot harder to live without even one of the senses. Especially for individuals who have at one point had all (or most) of their senses and have lost a sense. There would need to be a lot of accommodations made in order to help that individual, as they have lived for so long one way and now have to learn a completely new way of life. Even though I have chosen to give up my sense of taste, I would not really want to give it up. All of the senses are far too important (to me) to give up. My senses make me who I am, they make my life easier and more enjoyable to live, and are a complete necessity to my own life. I commend those individuals who were born without a senses or have lost a sense because I cannot fathom the difficulties they run into in their daily life.

In the show The Next Iron Chef: Redemption, the judges would mainly base their decisions on taste, but also how the food is presented or how it looks on the plate. Everything from the vibrant colours of the food, to how the food is arranged on the plate is extremely important in how they judge the winners. Although, I am unable to use my sense of smell and experience the “smellscape” that the judges are experiencing (Sutton 2010:214), often times the smell of the food is mentioned and I am sure that has a lot to do with how the judges pick who wins (although not formally mentioned as a criteria to win because viewers are unable to experience that aspect through their television).

A main aspect to the show is how each flavour is used, mainly in terms of one food item chosen to be the forefront of the meal and how that item can be displayed (through vision and taste) on the plate. In terms of cooking, at least through cooking shows such as The Next Iron Chef, “taste, then, becomes the capacity to distinguish and name, or categorize, flavors (and to make other aesthetic judgments), rather than an actual multisensory experience, which involves the dissolving of the object into the subject” (Sutton 2010:211). The judges need to be able to taste the food item that the chefs need to showcase in their meal, in this episodes case, regular white bread. Sometimes actually showing off the taste of an item can be difficult, especially with a malleable food item like white bread, which can taste like almost anything.

Memory of food is often spoken about by the chefs, as those memories that they experience often influence their own personal cooking styles, what the chefs feel comfortable doing and even what they choose to cook or how they decide to cook the item. The different cooking styles differ depending on where the individual learned how to cook, but also upon the memories and experienced that influenced that individual in becoming a chef (Sutton 2010:212, 214, 215, 218). So each chef is different and each cooking style differs cross-culturally, with one of the best known styles being the French style of cooking. Each cultural style of food and techniques have their own sensibilities as to what is important in making food look and taste good (Sutton 2010:215).

One of the biggest aspects to cooking shows, especially ones which are competitions like The Next Iron Chef, is how much passion the chef has and how that passion transfers onto the plate for the judges to taste. Passion is mainly just the chefs showing who they are through their own food and that they actually care about what goes onto the plate; that they are able to “construct critical dimensions of themselves and the objective world they inhabit” through the food that they create (Sutton 2010:217). So through this passion, no two cooks can cook the same thing and have the same tastes, even for items that are seemingly the exact same (Sutton 2010:217).

In the article “Anthropologist Underwater”, Helmreich writes about his sensory experiences of going on a submarine and how being underwater, transduction, and the senses of resonance, echo and reverberation can change the ways in which individuals experience underwater sound through cybernetic technology (Helmreich 2007:621-2). The soundscape starts as soon as the submarine is submerged for Helmreich, as there are an array of sounds that exist while they are going down into the water (Helmreich 2007:621). The sounds are everything from gurgling and the bubbles as they immerse themselves into the water and sink further and further into the darkness of the ocean (Helmreich 2007:621).

Sonar is an essential technology for submarine exploration as it is needed to map out the underwater abyss and the signals mark the existence between one submarine to another, and marks that the submarine is not lost (Helmreich 2007:624). The ocean has become a large soundscape with vibrations accessible through sound technology, but with that technology individuals can become inactive in listening; so historically submarine pilots needed to ensure that they are actively listening to the sonar calls, rather than just hear the sounds in the background (Helmreich 2007:624-6). However, after World War 2, the technology had changed in submarines allowing pilots to not have to actively listen anymore, so now sonar is a sound merely featured in the background of submarines (Helmreich 2007:625-6). Having sonar as a background noise had changed the ways in which sound was experienced underwater in submarines as now there are new features to the soundscape (Helmreich 2007:626-7).

The new aspects of the soundscape featured on a submarine are individuals own music that they play while on board, this music immerses people into the world outside of the submarine, allowing individuals to not feel as trapped (Helmreich 2007:626). Among the sounds featured on a submarine, there are also the voices of the passengers on board that all create a vibrant underwater soundscape for the individuals in the submarine (Helmreich 2007:626-7). So in this way, the sounds created on the submarine are constructed by the individuals on board, as they selectively choose what to listen to and what to ignore or simply hear in the background. Even within this context, the individuals living in the submarine “had to abide some noise–or go mad,” (Schwartz 1995:6) as the lack of sound reminded these individuals that they were stuck in an underwater abyss they were long from escaping (Helmreich 2007:626).

Even though a lot of the soundscape of the ocean is mostly accessible only through cybernetic technology, the ocean is full of various sounds that exist and the ocean is not by any means silent (Helmreich 2007:629). The ocean has a wide array of sounds that exist, which are “fluid, quick, ethereal, outreaching, time-based, erotic and mathematical, immersive and intangible, rational and unconscious, ambient and solid” (Helmreich 2007:629; quoted from Toop’s Ocean of Sound 1995:280).

I found it interesting the ways in which sound can be constructed, where a specific sound can be important at one point in time and not in another point in time. I had never previously thought of music as being a form of transportation before, in the sense that individuals can almost remove their minds from one place and put their mind into another place all through music. Even though I have never thought of it that way, I experience that every time I listen to music; especially if it is of a band I have met or seen live, or even if the music reminds me of a certain place the song was played, or a certain time of my life where the song fits or was played often. Yet at the same time, I can listen to a song or just hear it–and the more times I play a specific song, the more it seems that it becomes background music and just heard (rather than listened to) because I know the song so well.

Response: Poem.

October 23, 2012

Who says one sense is higher than the other?

The article says, “You can feel happiness and you can feel sorrow in your body.. seselelame describes all of these things” (Guerts, page 185).

Ever since that day, whenever the conversation switched to road kill or cats, I always got the same feeling that day when I was driving.

instead of dividing sensation and emotion, the experience is valued as seselelame- (“feel-feel-at-flesh-inside”) (Geurts 2003).

was it possible that the object itself could have given off that feeling?

How can one truly get an adequate and whole sense of our world by observing it through only one sense?

It occurs to me that the Church would devalue sight because it cannot be used to confirm the presence of a god or instill faith.

it is through the odor of sanctity that one can experience holiness or sin.

Further these associations made me wonder, do I recognize good smells as a sign of cleanliness because it’s a personal preference or is my association so deeply shaped by society that it is simply just an outcome of what I was taught to believe.

In this light, we might then ask what possibilities acknowledged by one sensory model are disregarded by another, and wonder about the consequences.

As a smiled to myself, a slight quiver of ick ran down my spine.

Which then would also conclude that personal experience has a lot to do with how one associates their senses in terms of what are important.

In the Guerts article, “Rocks, Walks, and Talks in West Africa: Cultural Categories and an Anthropology of the Senses”, she talks about the Anlo-Ewe and how they use their senses. The Anlo-Ewe believe that senses are intrinsically connected with certain sensations and that the items are also connected to certain emotions and moods (Guerts 180-1). Through using the experiences of the Anlo-Ewe, Guerts analyzes the western ideas of the senses and the restrictive categories that have been created through the western models of the senses. One sense that falls outside of the five senses model that the Anlo experience is called “azolizozo” or “azolime”, which is a kinesthetic sense and the development of morals together (Guerts 182). Another sense the Anlo experience is “sesetonume”, which is the sensations your mouth feels while talking and anything else your mouth may feel (Guerts 182). I find it very interesting that the Anlo sense their world completely different than I do, as I would have never thought of my mouth as a sensory experiencing part of my body before beyond taste, but as I think more about it, my mouth does feel a lot of senses such as burning, I feel my tongue as it moves around, and I can feel the vibrations in my mouth as I talk or hum or even when I cough. There is also “legba” which is where rocks are spiritual guardians for the Anlo (Guerts 182). I found it strange that an object that I normally believe to be inanimate, the Anlo believe that the object has spiritual qualities. Another interesting point was seselelame, which is the senses experienced inside your body such as intuition, imagination, perception and sensation (Guerts 184). This particular sense reminds me of the Desjarlais article with the “heartmind”, where one of their major senses is mainly in their minds and their imagination, including their future (Desjarlais 74).

The Classen article, “The Breath of God”, they talk about the sense of smell within a Christian religious usage and how important that sense use to be within the west. Christians believed that those individuals that were sanctified would have the scent of God’s breath and their scent would signify the presence of God near them (Claseen 36). Most often the smell of God’s breath would be associated with saints and others close to the church at the time of their death or shortly there after (Classen 37). Christians at the time believed that smell had natural and supernatural qualities, and that God’s breath was the smell of ambrosia, so nice smells were associated with god (Classen 44). Individuals that wanted to smell godly would often burn incense or perfumes especially when performing various Christian rituals in order to be closer to god (Classen 44-5). On the other side of that, Hell was associated with the smell of filth and dirt, so with that the Devil smelled dirty and smelled like “excrement” (Classen 48). An interesting thing I find with this is during my experience as a child, my grandparents (who are Christian) would always tell me that cleanliness is next to godliness, essentially meaning that to be clean (and thereby also smelling good) then you become closer to god somehow. So to me, it seems interesting that the use of the senses as told by the bible as pertaining to good smells being associated with God and bad smells associated with the Devil has been linked to bathing and even education on bathing and the importance of smelling good within western culture. As to smell good (and be clean) is godly, but to smell bad (and be dirty) is closer to the devil and hell, even within my own life experience through learning as a child.

In terms of the different uses of the senses and the different importance of the senses cross-culturally, this brings me to the Classen and Howes article, “Museum as a Sense scape”, when western individuals take artifacts from other cultures such as Aboriginal cultures for our own sake such as museums it is almost impossible to fully comprehend the full use and importance of an item using our own sensory model of the 5 senses (Classen & Howes 217). Since items are multi-sensory, this makes it almost impossible for an individual who is an outsider to a culture to completely understand the entire importance of an item to that culture without trying to understand how they use their senses and what is important to that culture (Classen & Howes 217-9). So museums often have to deal with issues of power and misrepresentation, as it is often very hard to grapple with the true importance of an item to a culture without trying to ‘push’ your own ideas of what is important onto them (Classen & Howes 119). This is why participant-observation can be helpful as the culture can take you through their own sensory experience of an object, individuals can be shown the true use and importance that the specific culture has on that item and it can be easier to understand what is going on, from the cultures own perspective.