March 7, 2023

Creating Anthropologists on the Public Stage with Elizabeth Briody & Phil Surles

Creating Anthropologists on the Public Stage with Elizabeth Briody & Phil Surles

In today’s episode of This Anthro Life, anthropologists Elizabeth Briody and Phil Surles join host Adam Gamwell to discuss their latest project: Anthropologists on the Public Stage, a self-paced video course for social scientists who want to increase...

In today’s episode of This Anthro Life, anthropologists Elizabeth Briody and Phil Surles join host Adam Gamwell to discuss their latest project: Anthropologists on the Public Stage, a self-paced video course for social scientists who want to increase their public presence and impact.

Adam, Elizabeth, and Phil reflect on making the series, what they learned along the way, and what they hope people will get out of it.

Show Highlights:

  • [04:04] How the team came up with Anthropologists on the Public Stage
  • [07:46] The importance of teamwork in putting anthropology projects together
  • [13:58] How Elizabeth approached the project
  • [19:33] Phil’s thoughts on the process of putting the project together
  • [27:56] Why the project includes training exercises
  • [36:17] What Phil hopes people will get out of the project
  • [39:59] What Elizabeth hopes people will get out of the project
  • [45:14] Closing statements

Links and Resources:



[00:00:00] Adam Gamwell: Hello and welcome to This Anthro Life. I'm your host, Adam Gamwell. One of the things that I'm most passionate about is helping anthropology gain more mainstream relevance, which is a nicer way of me saying that I'm just obsessed with making anthropology mainstream. And over the past few years, I've set and followed an intention to make more episodes that highlight some of the most exciting emergences around anthropology and technology, business, design, and culture. And don't worry, that's gonna continue on into the new year. But behind the scenes, I've been doing a lot of other kinds of work as well. And one of the major projects that I've been working on over the past few years is a video series titled Anthropologists on the Public Stage. Myself and four other colleagues — who are Elizabeth Briody, Phil Surles, Dawn Lehman, and Jo Aiken — set out in the summer of 2020 to tackle this ongoing problem that we see around the lack of highly visible anthropologists working in public. To figure this out, we decided to learn from those who we see doing it well. And so, over the course of a year and a half, we recorded some 40 hours of interviews with highly successful anthropologists and anthro-adjacent public figures to gain their wisdom in their own words. We talk with folks like Gillian Tett at Financial Times; Helen Fisher who's from The Kinsey Institute and is a biological anthropologist and TED Talk All-Star, which means her videos have over 10 million views; bloggers and writers like Paul Stoller and Sheelona Battles; marketing and advertising gurus like Robert Marais and Tim Malefyt; innovative civic designers and media creators like Mike Wesh; and pioneering performers like Faye Harrison. Over the next year and a half, we crafted that wisdom into a six-module course that's designed to help anyone interested in having more public impact, learn how and where to start. We created modules around how to shape your ideas into stories worth sharing, how to connect with the media and pitch stories, the fundamentals of storytelling, influencing policy development, creating greater public awareness through offerings like podcasts and videos, blogs, fiction, civic design, and performances; and on techniques for promoting your work and anthropology by thinking with other industries like public relations, science, communications, and marketing. In short, there's a ton that went into the series and it was a ton of work for our tiny volunteer team of five. I mean, I had to learn video production and how to host on video. Nothing like learning while doing. So, the course launched in November of 2022 and we'll be releasing six modules between then and February 2023. The really good news is that this course is free and it's self-paced and it's open for anyone. To be clear, open to anyone, right? Whether you're an anthropologist or a social scientist or you're just interested in increasing your public impact, this course is for you. 

[00:02:37] Now, today's episode isn't meant to be an advertisement for the course, though I do hope that you'll check it out and keep in touch about how you're using the materials and what you're creating with them. So, today, I'm joined on the podcast by Elizabeth Briody and Phil Surles, two of my colleagues from the production, where we're gonna have a candid conversation reflecting on making the series, what we learned along the way, and what we hope people will get out of it. Now, this is the first of a series of conversations where we'll share about boosting anthropology's public profile, as well as techniques and tools, lessons learned, and how to build more public bridges and offerings. It is with a sigh of relief that I bring you today's conversation as Anthropologists on the Public Stage is now, well, public and we cannot wait to build what comes next with you. We'll dive into the conversation right after this message from today's sponsor.

[00:03:30] So, to kick things off, you know, thanks, Phil and Elizabeth, for joining me on This Anthro Life. Obviously, you know, we worked on this project together and so, the kind of idea here I was I'm hoping to do it with y'all is to talk through a bit about of our process, right? And so, I think one of the interesting things about making Anthropologists on the Public Stage is that was the name from the beginning and then — but really the kind of final product, the in the end series of six videos that we've put together at this point now that are out in the public didn't start that way. So, I want to kind of think a little bit about the beginning. 

[00:04:04] And so, Elizabeth, you're kind of our ringleader here in terms of tapped us on the shoulder a whole two and a half years ago at this point to get us thinking about what could we do for this project that's Anthropologists on the Public Stage? So, let's kind of go back to that early days. This is in COVID, too, right, or pre-COVID? Early in COVID, I suppose, in early 2020. So, how did this idea kind of pop into your head and like, you know, we applied for the Wenner-Gren Global Impact Grant as part of this to help support it. So, I dunno, I'm curious about this process. Like how did it kind of come into your head as this was a project that would be worth doing and putting together this rag-tag team? 

[00:04:36] Elizabeth Briody: I think that we wanted to help other anthropologists as well as help ourselves, those of us who didn't have much experience, on the public stage. And there were five of us at the time, each of us had a skillset that was different from the others. And we started looking around for possible funding. We looked at NSF — that didn't work out. And then we looked at Wenner-Gren. And Wenner-Gren had the Global Initiatives Grant that seemed like it might be a possibility. So, I remember calling up the program officer for, well, first sending the program officer an email and then we subsequently had a conversation — her name was Judy Creed — and it was a very positive conversation. She was extremely supportive of doing something. And I think at that point, at the time we were applying, we wanted to do something with video and we wanted to do something that involved training. That's my recollection.

[00:05:54] Adam Gamwell: Yeah. No, that sounds right. And it was interesting because that kicked off our process, right? I think it was important that we had support from Wenner-Gren in terms of the interest, right, to hear that okay, the organization that we all respect and that is an important force for anthropology was behind this set of ideas. Something else you mentioned, too, that I think is important for us to think about as we contemplate these kinds of projects is as intentional as we could be about building a team, right, and like folks that have different skillsets and perspectives — 'cause this is actually one of the big challenges I think that a lot of graduate students and professors might face, too, but also even folks in industry when you're trying to be more public is that we often take projects on by ourselves, right, especially in school in the academic setting. And in industry, we tend to work in teams more but even then one can still find themselves kind of working a bit more independently. So, when it comes to something like being in the public stage and bringing your work into an area where you're gonna have a broader impact, I think that's an important question to think about: How can we do that together? And that's actually one of the themes that has stuck with me throughout this process is as we think about how we all work together and that's I think a key thing that we could think about if we were to kind of pay it forward in terms of other anthropologists or social scientists were interested in telling other kinds of public stories. But then on top of that, how, you know, one can kind of share the load as it were? It's a simple point but it's one that I think is often forgotten by a lot of social scientists. So, Phil, I'd love to get your perspective on this, too as we kind of put this together 'cause at this time, you know, in 2020 and in 2021, Phil and I were also working on Human Science Task Force. It's like another kind of community group around building and framing expertise as something that we can do together. And so, I'm thinking about this because there is this kind of background, right, of like working on a team, producing together. 

[00:07:46] But Phil, I wanna get your thoughts about this, too, in terms of how important are teams when we're trying to tell these stories and put these kinds of projects together? I guess the flip side is: How do we help people not always try to take everything on by themselves?

[00:08:00] Phil Surles: Yeah, so when I think about teamwork, it's interesting because a lot of anthropologists, it really depends on the nature of your work. But a lot of us are used to being self-directed and doing a lot of work by ourselves. And it is something where we have our own disciplinary silo, but we also have our own like individual silos. Oftentimes, to understand something, we have to work by ourselves. And so, I think that that's something that we are sometimes inclined to do. And then when we go out into the marketplace or if we're working in industry or something like that, we have this new competence that we have to develop to work across different disciplines and if we're consulting different industries, different personality types. So in a sense, we kind of need to unlearn a lot of the things that we learn through, especially if we go through a dissertation process. And so, it's important for us to kind of embrace this aspect of anthropology that I think is really important, which is humility. You know, we don't have all the answers as individuals. We have some of the answers. And when we do our work, the goal, no matter how competent you are as a researcher, it's to make an impact that is very focused and small. And then in the grand scheme of things, that's kind of how you're able to solve problems. And, of course, in academia, we kind of problematize or we just talk about problems and that we don't necessarily know how to solve or even talk about people outside of the ivory tower. And so, you're working in industry, you have to learn how to work with people who are gonna be on the other end of that spectrum where they're used to try to solve problems but they might not understand them the way we do. And so, I think that teamwork is really important just because we don't all have all the answers. We have some of the answers. And it's even the same way with anthropology where, you know, if you're working in industry, anthropology's really hot right now and it's been that way for the last 12 years or so because of ethnography. But human science, when you look at other disciplines, they have so much to offer. So, like if you're asking questions in the field, you might wanna draw on cognitive psychology. You might wanna draw on history because of how human beings think about the future by leveraging memory. And so, I think it's just really important to kind of embrace the fact that we don't all have all the answers, but we have some of the answers. And that was a really, you know, even within the field of anthropology, that was something that was really fun to do, where you don't have to do all the work by yourself. But I think a part of this project is hopefully to encourage people to get it in their head that they don't need to do all the work by themselves. We need to cooperate. And there are a lot of, you know, as we know, there are a lot of separate projects that are going on. And if we organize, you know, of course, you have a great journal called Human Organization, right? Like if we organize to try to actually address some of these things that we talk about, these things that we problematize, like anthropologists not having a big impact on public discourse, then, you know, we can actually make a change instead of just talking about it.

[00:11:24] Adam Gamwell: Yeah. No, that's well said. And I think that like something I'm taking away from, you know, how you both framed a little bit about the kind of origin of what we were doing and then how we learned to work with others through, you know, with ourselves but then also on top of that, is this important part of as we were putting together what it was that we wanted to do, I mean, I think one of the interesting things about this is that like Elizabeth, you're right that we wanted to make something with video when we first started. We didn't know what that was and the entire process itself evolved over time. The kind of end product itself evolved. But, you know, to Phil's point in terms of like where and how do we have expertise, like one of the things that we always wanted to do was interview the experts, interview the folks that are on the public stage, right? While there may be folks that are not as well-known broadly in the United States as Margaret Mead, who's our kind of our scion, our example here of the anthropologist that wrote for Redbook for years and was a very intentionally public anthropologist and went for the, quote unquote, popular writing outlets like, again, things like Redbook, there actually is an incredible number of anthropologists out on the public stage and this is something that I learned while doing this project. 

[00:12:29] And so, you know, as both part of humility and, you know, being humble about the work that we do is as much as we also wanna have impact with it, that's actually one of my favorite parts about building this is that we did I think it was 28 interviews, each about an hour plus long, over a year and a half or so with a number of anthropologists. And on top of that, folks that are anthropology-adjacent, you know, kind of as Phil you're mentioning it was important to also work with folks that are outside of the direct discipline sometimes when the adjacency makes sense. And so, you know, we've talked with folks that are in PR and marketing that are journalists, you know, that have either some anthro training or anthro-adjacent thinking. And that was actually one of the things that really kind of helped crack the nut for me at least as we began to think about what's bringing these different conversations together. And so, I'd love to think a little bit about this, too, as we think about the evolution, right? Again, we did a number of these interviews. Like what was surprising or interesting to y'all about this process, you know? So again, what we did here is we would book different folks like Gillian Tett, Helen Fisher, Charlie Lehman who works in PR, Robert Marais, you know, who works in business in advertising anthropology, you know, Susan Aram, who is a journalist that also has anthropological training, you know? So, we talked to a number of folks kind of across our networks to help bring in these stories. Melissa Fisher about public policy. And so, we learned a lot of these kind of areas that anthropologists tends to be that have more of a public presence. And so, I thought that was a nice kind of rallying point in terms of folks that are already doing more public-facing work. 

[00:13:58] So thinking about that like, Elizabeth, what was surprising or interesting to you about this? The interview process was tough, right? You know, it was, you gotta book folks. You gotta go find and talk with them. But, you know, what stood out to you? I mean, you've obviously done work, you know, as an anthropologist for your career, right, at GM and then kind of in different independent places. So, interview is part of your part and parcel. It's a part of your lifeblood, you know, all of our lifeblood. Was this process of talking with public anthros any different? Was it something that was the same, you know? How did that kind of feel in terms of helping kind of direct some of those conversations with the luminaries across the public stage?

[00:14:31] Elizabeth Briody: I don't think the process was much different. The way I thought of this project initially was as a piece of research. So, here we were interviewing various people over time. They mostly wanted to get questions that we would ask them in advance so they could prepare their thoughts, which is a common practice for people that work in industry, nonprofits, government who are doing research projects. So, we provided those questions in advance. And eventually, those questions had kind of a particular trajectory to them. We wanted to know a little bit about their backgrounds in terms of the kind of work that they did. We wanted to know specifically their viewpoint on how anthropologists could make a contribution, how they themselves had made a contribution to the world. And then, we wanted to get some advice or tips that would be useful to those of us who wanted to become anthropologists on the public stage. So, we had this kind of sequence of questions that we customized for each interviewee. And once we had completed the interviews, at least in my mind, I looked at it as a data set and I started following the process I use, which is reading through the interview transcripts and identifying common themes. And pretty soon, it became very clear that we had some kind of training that we could offer on storytelling because many people talked about stories. We had another training that we could offer on how do you connect with the media, whether it's electronic media, print media, broadcast media. And so, based on those initial kinds of analyses of the so-called dataset, we started to settle into this pattern of saying, okay, I think we can write a module on this particular thing. And then one by one, we started crafting these modules.

[00:16:50] Adam Gamwell: You know, it's funny how organic that was, but it's true that approaching this like a kind of typical or traditional research project is sensible in terms of that's kind of our instinct. But then it's a nice point to, you know, if folks have seen the video series or they haven't yet, you know, we definitely encourage one to do so, but the videos are very produced, right? They're scripted. We do quick cuts. We cut between different talking heads. You know, we make points. We use a narrator to help emphasize the different points, you know, and images and all that kind of fun stuff, animation to help bring these stories together. But really again, like the production process like this was actually pretty organic and based in like ethnographic methods, which is neat to think about. So, I mean, I guess to me it's an encouraging point that if folks are social scientists and they're thinking about how can I make something that's pretty decently constructed, right, that's a scripted out series or videos, audio, whatever it is, you know? Even writing a play or a story, right? You can still use traditional methods to then help build something else that can come out of that; that can like look ultimately quite different than the process going into it. That was helpful for me to think about, too, as we're putting this together because I remember as we were doing the interviews, it wasn't really clear how we would get there, you know? At first I think we — I know we had talked about, you know, doing these longer kind of podcast-y episodes audio of the stories. But then it became pretty apparent as we were doing them that I started recording some of the voiceovers early on and we had video of everybody 'cause this is during the pandemic we recorded the video, too, which I'm glad we did. I don't know how foresight that was, but, you know, it ended up being a smart plan that we did record the video. And then, it was weird to have just my audio, but then have a video, you know, of the speaker. And so, part of it, too, is the technical pieces directed us a little bit, too, to then help kind of rekick us in the butt to actually make this into a video versus audio. And I'm glad that we did that. You know, that obviously that made the process like a lot bigger. I learned a ton like through production of putting the videos together with Phil. But, you know, it was something that was I think important for us to do because one of the big things about like having Anthropologists on the Public Stage is that everybody that we talked with does incredibly polished work, you know? Like there were TED speakers for financial times, you know, again, PR specialists helping with marketing and advertising, working on public policy, journalists, you know, again, across all the number of folks that we talked with, blog writers like Paul Stoller, who is writing for Huffington Post for Psychology Today. They're putting out all these very polished pieces of work. And so, I think it was part of our hope to help create something also that would look good on the public stage and, I mean aesthetically, but also just that could stand also with, hopefully with some of the folks that we are interviewing and trying to bring forward.

[00:19:33] So, Phil, I'd love to kinda get your thoughts on this part, too, and like the role of the design, the aesthetics, and like what does that matter in terms of how we wanna tell stories for public audiences? You know, one of the lessons that we learned early on in making the series was know your audience, right? And we talk about this in the series a number of times, like all of our, a number of our experts that we talk with, too, also talk about you have to know who it is that you're making something for. And that will affect the format, like a policy or a blog post or a podcast or a video. And so, that I think we kind of took to heart, too, as we figured out like what does it mean to make something that we hope will stand on its own. So, how was that process for you, Phil? Like as we thought through and wrestled with, you know, between audio and video and animation and this and that like, you know, we tried a number of different tools as part of that as well across the way. But how was that process for you?

[00:20:21] Phil Surles: Yeah, it's interesting 'cause it's something I like to refer to when I talk about research. You know, it's a nonlinear process. You kind of learn as you go. And in my work, I kind of divide it into like two sides of who I am. One side is being a scientist trying to understand things, and then the other is trying to express myself. So, that's kinda the art side. And there are issues that need to be addressed in academia in terms of just about everything from publishing to training, which is kind of our piece, but we don't often learn how to express ourselves outside of the ivory tower. And you just kinda have to learn how learn as you go. And, you know, I think the first person to respond when we sent some emails out was Helen Fisher. And so, we went, you know, we were able to have that I think be our first interview. But this is somebody who has been able to make a living as a scientist but she's been able to have a huge societal impact by expressing herself. And it's amazing if you ever watch one of her videos, the way she's able to just construct a narrative that's so digestible. And that's why she has tens of millions of views and bestselling books. And it's interesting 'cause there is this tension I guess between the scientist side of us oftentimes, where we just wanna understand something. And that's kind of where the humility comes in. But a lot of us have to get outside of our comfort zone. It would actually have an impact in society. So, we have to learn how to, you know, understand our topics but then how to express ourselves to people in meaningful ways. And that's actually another aspect of humility because it's not about you anymore. It's about your audience, how you actually communicate with your audience. And so, that was really the big part of this project was understanding, you know, going through and doing the analysis of the interviews and then figuring out how to express that to a public audience that's outside of academic anthropologists. 

[00:22:29] It's interesting when you think about the work of Margaret Mead, for example, where her work was instrumental in how you think about gender. And right now, today, that's one of the most controversial topics. We have a public discourse that's completely removed from the science of gender, gender identity, and sex, even though we have such an immense understanding of that, not just from anthropology and the work of people like Margaret Mead, but also in psychology when it comes to gender identity. Like there have been studies, even in terms of like biological implications when it comes to the behavioral science aspect of it. Like we have an understanding of all these topics. It's just it hasn't made its way into the public discourse because we're so used to talking to each other. So, I think one of the things that we were all kind of wrestling with was how do we talk about this outside of our community? And so, it was really a lot of strategy, you know, just kind of how do we construct our ideas? What media are gonna be the most effective in expressing the ideas? And it's kind of like doing a dissertation research. You're kind of just going and doing the work and figuring things out as you go and then at the end, you find out that you have something. It's kinda like doing any kind of research where a lot of times the messiest research ends up producing the most useful insights. And so, that's kind of I think the process that we went through.

[00:23:57] Elizabeth Briody: I think we kind of imposed a structure on the interviews that we did or I should say the transcripts. Once we understood what we had, it was easy or easier to at least start thinking about, okay, how can we take the words and phrases that people used and make them coherent into a larger understanding of a lesson?

[00:24:35] Adam Gamwell: We're gonna take a quick break. Just wanted to let you know that we're running ads to support the show now. We'll be right back.

[00:24:45] And I think that's an important point, too, is how do we make it both something that is understandable. Like how do we make the science expressive and understandable to an audience? And then to your point, Elizabeth, trainable, learnable. Like how do we take and then build something off of that? I think that was, again, also the other key piece, right? So, we put together a series of videos lessons, but then on top of that we also created some exercises that folks can do outside of the videos to kind of help take and build their ideas beyond. And that was I think an interesting and important point, too. This is actually one of the things that I've run into often in my other working life when working with clients is that one of the skills that is never on a job description but is such an important differentiator I see is the ability to teach and to like have a teacher's mindset and a learner's mindset when you're working with folks about, you know, you're sharing new ideas or, you know, could be straight up training them on using software. But any of these pieces like this part I think is, you know, one of those fundamental important parts that is interesting that we often talk about a dichotomy between academic and industry anthropology. But really one of the great unifiers across anthropology I find is the need to be able to teach well, right, to both express, I guess we might say, express the science, if I can blend, I like your verses there, Phil. Like, you know, understand through science and then also express that in a way that's engaging to folks. 

[00:26:06] Thinking through how do we make that digestible and actionable — if I can use a dirty industry word there — I don't think the insight's actionable in this case. I think it was an important part and I mean, it still is an important part of this project that I thought was also a really fun way to think about this. You know, we have, we're developing an idea, we're sharing, you know, we kind of put together a little model that was with the mnemonic CARL, which is thinking about like content, audience, like the rationale why you're making something, and logistics like how would you get it out to people, you know? What would be the medium? And like in module two, in terms of connecting with the media, we put together an exercise about how to do research intentionally about who are the local reporters in your area, like thinking about starting local with local newspapers or folks that are on Twitter, and then, understanding what are their beats, you know, what kind of stories do they cover to thinking about how you might contribute in the journalistic capacity. And we'll see this also in like module four around public policy in terms of what are the kind of policy issues that you feel might align with the expertise that you bring to the table as a social scientist or even what your interests are and then as finding kind of points of natural alignment. And so, one of the themes I take from across these projects is this idea of like how do you find alignment between what you bring to the table with, whether your expertise, what you're studying, what you're interested in, and then the outlet for it. Like who's it for your audience? Like how it might get out there, what medium might you use? And then, like what kind of impact you wanna have. Like would engaging with the policy process be something that's interesting to you? Would engaging in science communication be something that stands out where you wanna help the general public be interested in the scientific phenomenon, for example? So, there's a lot of different ways of thinking about this, but I think this idea of like, how do we bridge the insights, the interests that the experts shared with us with, you know, having people come away from a series. Like hey, they learned something. Hopefully, they enjoyed it, too, but then they're able to build something on top of that. So, this training learning process was also kind of one of these key fundamental parts. 

[00:27:56] So, Elizabeth, I'd love to just get your thoughts a little deeper on this, too, in terms of to you, why was this process important? Why do we wanna have training exercises and other things that people can take away from this series beyond just watching it?

[00:28:08] Elizabeth Briody: The need in anthropology is tremendous for how to share what insights anthropologists have about the work that they do to a broader audience — an audience outside of anthropology, outside of academia could be the general public, could be a very specialized public. It's not something that anthropologists are trained in. So, in my view, it was this enormous gap that needed to be filled. What we produced in these six modules is not covered in anthropology programs. And yet, it's essential that people who want to be on the public stage get some kind of foundation. And we saw no training that we were aware of that targeted anthropology and anthropology students to help them do that. So, I think what we tried to do was fill a hole. Do the best possible job that we could by adding in these exercises. So, the exercises after each module pivots from the module but forces the individual to take key insights from the module and then use it to guide that person's own way of thinking about how they can contribute more broadly to different audiences. Training to me was essential. I mean, we had the tips from the interviewees. We knew enough about the various domains that we covered in these modules that we were able to structure something in the exercise that we believed would be useful. Of course, time will tell. We'll have to see how people consider and evaluate these exercises. But from our understanding, we tried to build on what we heard in the interviews, what people in the interviews were advocating, and take it to the next level. 

[00:30:24] Adam Gamwell: Yeah, I think that's, it's an important part and it reminds me of, you know, conversations that we've had recently with folks in different organizations that, you know, when people are considering something new, getting by in is about how they can see themselves in the work, right? How could they see it applying to themselves? And it's an important lesson I think in this space, too, 'cause you're a hundred percent right that anthropologists are not traditionally trained. I mean, social scientists in general, but anthros are not trained in school, undergraduate or graduate school, right, to be public figures, you know? And it wasn't until years later, I mean, I've been doing This Anthro Life for nine years now, but it wasn't like for a long time in there did I still even understand what science communication was as a field or later things like media training, like how do you talk to a camera, you know, for a news broadcaster to as part of a journalism story. So, there's these pieces that I think was interesting because it's like we oftentimes gather, like we get really robust training in terms of how we can tell stories through our research. But then, we don't often think about the storytelling process itself, right? Who's it being told for? And certainly not in this kind of public capacity in this way. 

[00:31:30] And so, I think you also hit on a really important point, too, that I wanna remind people of is that when we're thinking about anthropologists on the public stage in the public, it doesn't mean, it can mean a broad, general public, like if you're on, I don't know, on ABC, on a show about anthropology. That could be general public. You can also be more specialized audiences to that point, too. So, really a lot of this is about understanding who the audience is that one wants to go after. And that's what, you know, why we heard this again and again and again from the experts and folks that we talked with in the interviews was this idea of understanding who it is that we're talking to. So, a lot of the exercises, too, also help us continuously reinforce and think through that idea because that will shape the output, that will shape the kind of media that you make. It will shape the way you talk about the story. Even if you did, you know, one set of ethnographic research, you can talk about it in many different ways, in many different mediums and formats. So, again, identifying that goal and that audience I think is a key piece. 

[00:32:24] And so, that is something else that, yeah, that I come away with this, too, that I learned a lot in making this in terms of 'cause we're making a video series and this is something that we all did together for the first time. And so, even thinking about what that would have to be, you know? And I will say that's like, you know, almost slightly embarrassing on my side, but it's like there's a lot of B-roll of me on video talking as the host having to figure out how to do it, you know, and seeing myself on camera saying, I look weird like that. Okay, let me turn this way and lemme try this and that. Let me say it this way but look at the camera a little bit to the left. Things like this like that you may not think about in terms of delivery make a difference, you know? How we put together the script, you know, one of the things that we did in this case was we story blocked the different insights that we're grabbing from the speakers and then we inserted narration around that and to give us a sense of sequence of what would happen across an episode. And then we would block out what potential animations, what would happen. And then, as I was hosting it, then I would take the script that we put together and then rejigger it in a way that would be as me naturally speaking, so that that way it was easier to say it live on camera versus sounding like a robot and you can tell. So, these kind of things like these are the interesting points, like especially around writing 'cause anthropologists do so much writing. Understanding both the revision process is key, but then learning to produce, you know, expressions in your own voice, if it's literally your voice or if it's also, you know, how you might write about it, makes a huge difference, you know? And like there's a power in things like flow and feeling comfortable in a space when you're making content or kind of expressing your research. 

[00:33:54] And so, I think this was something that really stuck with me. I mean, I guess in part 'cause I had to be in front of the camera a bit more, you know, but that gave me some insights in terms of like thinking more deeply about how all of our, the experts that we talked with, how they would position themselves, too, and what that would look like. And so, I think this is something else that I would hope to kind impart with folks, too, as we think about like what else one can do and how you could see yourself in doing projects like this or expressing your research is that really don't be afraid to try different mediums that you don't know that well, you know? Part of this that we learned a lot while making this series, again in terms of production itself, but then, you know, to Elizabeth's point like as we were treating this as a research project in terms of initial interviews and to Phil's point in terms of like how we learned to step outside of our own comfort zone and even knowledge base to understand where the gaps were and what we might understand and where we could find the right expertise to tell those stories. That a lot of this like it's I think fun that's it's an organic process, right? And so, I'm hopeful, too, that the lessons that we impart, the exercises that we put together to kind of help train are some helpful steps for folks to be able to kind of drill into and then and kind of define their own ideas in their own ways that work for them. 

[00:35:07] So, this is I guess in part an ask to folks if you're listening, you know, as you're listening to this, that, you know, we're happy to have feedback in terms of like what kind of projects you're working on, you know? I will say one thing that's been interesting so far, we've, at the time of recording this, we've released two of the six modules. And so, the next one will come out in a few weeks. We've already received a lot of interesting kind of conversations and feedback from folks and I do get asked by, I've been asked a number of times by people that are not anthropologists. They say, hey, I'm not an anthropologist. Can I still take this course? And so, one thing I wanna say is yes. You know, you don't have to be an anthropologist to take the course. It is geared towards anthropologists and social scientists. But if you're interested in having public impact as part of your work, that's actually one of the, I think the valuable parts of this work is that it really is framed much — we talk to anthropologists. We are anthropologists. But really, the value of public impact can't be overstated, right? And how you talk to the media can happen in many different ways, right? So, it's both a, I think of kind of an offering towards anthropologists 'cause you're right, Elizabeth, that this is a, it's a really underserved set of thinking that anthropologists don't receive this, you know, kind of public engagement training in school. But then also, you know, for folks beyond anthro, too, like it's definitely open to folks if you're interested in that space. 

[00:36:17] But Phil, I'd love to get your thoughts on where we are now, you know? So, we have had an interesting evolution of this, of the series itself. You know, here we are. We have six modules and they'll be coming out over the next few weeks, you know? What do you think about in terms of where this can go? You know, I think that like the training and modules, the training and the exercises are kind of the key piece here. But, you know, if folks were thinking about checking this out for the first time, how would you talk about this series to them? Like what would you kind of say, we hope you get X, Y, and Z out of the series. What do you want people to get out of it if they're thinking about coming to it for the first time?

[00:36:51] Phil Surles: So, as we've worked on this project, it's evolved. But it's also part of a larger evolution in public anthropology. You can think about Margaret Mead's work where she was leveraging video. And that was one of the reasons why she was able to have such a big impact. This was a new technology. And then, she was using the media. She was on TV and one of the most famous people. She was a social scientist. She was like the counterpart to Einstein in the human sciences. And then, you have, you know, people who've been able to learn from her. When I was in college, I watched Anthropologists on Public Stage, which was a video that was produced by Elizabeth. And that was something that got me thinking about going into anthropology because she was working at GM and I was interested in automobiles 'cause I grew up in Flint, Michigan for a time and I was at University of Michigan and I actually work at a car company now. And then, we have this, which in a way is kind of the evolution of anthropologists at work. It's just now, we're talking about Anthropologists on the Public Stage. And there are these same skillsets where if you're working outside of academia, you have to learn how to communicate with people who are outside of the silos that you're used to working with and talking to you. And it's this silo that we are kind of addressing now as it relates to the broader society. So now, you can talk about how you talk to people outside and it's I think really imperative for us. We were seeing, we're at this point in human history where so much work has been done in the sciences and that's true in the social sciences and the behavioral sciences. We have so much of an understanding of things, but we have this, we have a lot of noise. I think a lot of it has to do with social media and the way that's evolved or devolved. And I think that it's kind of an existential task for us to help society understand things based on science, including human science. So, I think that what I would hope is that there are people who learn from this and then they do something that is going to kind of be like, what's the next step of this? Maybe it's college students or graduate students who are leveraging TikTok or maybe it's even further down the line. It could be something in the Metaverse. It could be something in mediated reality, you know? It could be a lot of things. So, you know, it's baby steps and we're all kind of trying to do our part to impact society to go beyond just kind of trying to understand it. And so, that's what I hope comes from this — just, you know, inspire people, not just to speak to people outside of the ivory tower, but also to kind of learn from this and improve on it.

[00:39:52] Adam Gamwell: Right on. Elizabeth, yeah, if I ask you the same kind of question, like, you know, folks are coming to this for the first time, like what do you hope that they take from this?

[00:39:59] Elizabeth Briody: I guess I would answer that question in two ways. One way is that these modules are extremely well suited to classroom use because they're short. The modules last nine minutes is the shortest one and I think the longest one is around 22 minutes. So, there's plenty of time to show the module in the classroom and then ask students to do the exercise as part of their homework. Alternately, individuals can watch the modules on their own and then work on the exercises on their own. And the exercises are really just a guide. They're to help you think through things that you have been thinking about, things that you have discovered perhaps through your fieldwork or some other exploration. So, I would answer the question that way first in terms of how you could utilize this material. 

[00:41:01] And then a second way has to do with what is it that we are learning? In anthropology programs, the primary emphasis is on knowledge; that you learn about content. You learn about different areas of the world. You learn about the continuum from the social to the biological. That's really where the emphasis is. It's on theory, it's on empirical studies, and so on. These modules are really to help develop skills that many anthropologists have yet to develop but could develop if their choices or their life path put them in a certain place. So, for example, the skill building would come in through project work, whether it's a field project or some kind of internship or a new initiative that you are working on. And then, now that you know this kind of information, how can you then share it with others, you know? Is it media-worthy, some kind of media? Does it contribute to the public discourse? Is it worth telling stories about in various venues, you know? So, these are questions that we pose in the modules and which people who use the modules and use them intentionally can learn how to develop those kinds of skills. 

[00:42:37] And then the last thing I will say is, you know, we've talked about, we've floated the idea of doing a follow-on series. Do we have an idea of what that would consist of? No, it's certainly not formulated yet. But one thing, whenever I have a question, my go-to answer is, well, what do the people say? And so, I'm expecting that when enough people have listened to the modules and done the exercises, we will get feedback. And someone is likely to say, well, you know, you did this module on storytelling or you did this one on public policy. What about something else? What about, I don't know, user experience? Why don't you do one on user experience since so many anthropologists are moving into that arena? Anyway, we don't know what a follow-on series would look like, but I'm guessing that we will find that out from people who will tell us where the holes still exist and how those holes might be filled in.

[00:43:49] Adam Gamwell: Right on. No, that's a great point, too. I mean, in terms of treating this as a research project, right? In terms of offerings, like what can come next is similarly following the ethnographic path, right? Our informants began as experts in field. Now, it's gonna shift to the audience of the series and then it will shift back to experts again when we find out where the holes are, right, to fill in. So, I think that that's a great point, too, that this kind of work is also never done, right? Like this series exists. But yeah, I agree, too, that there's, you know, an infinite possibility of ways this could go in the future. So, as part of that, too, we encourage, you know, feedback, thoughts of what else folks would want to see more of if we were to make more of these or to have more of these kind of accessible videos. And I agree, too, I think that like it's an important point you hit on that these function really well in the classroom settings, like for both individuals and for classrooms, because they are short. The exercise is, you know, you can take as long as you want to but I mean, like they can be done in half an hour to 90 minutes or so, you know, if you did them kind of rapidly. So, we also made them so they're not incredibly long but there's enough to do that, you know, you can't rush through it in 10 minutes unless you really don't, you know, don't wanna do it, but then that's a different issue. So, in this case, too, like where can these work, right? So, thinking about classrooms, individual settings, and things like that. So, that's also something else that yeah, we again would love to hear about too. So, if folks are using them in classrooms, if they're using them individually, like how that's happening is definitely something that we're interested in knowing.

[00:45:14] And so, I just wanna, you know, say thanks, Elizabeth and Phil, for hopping on the mic with me today to kind of talk through this. This is kind of our first public discussion of Anthropologists on the Public Stage. We'll be doing a bunch more of these. We will be doing a session in March at Society for Applied Anthropology in Cincinnati this upcoming year. And no doubt there'll be some other places that we'll be engaging in and talking about this as well. So, depending on where you are, you know, listeners, you know, feel free to get in touch with us and let us know if you want us to video chat about it. Happy to do that, you know, happy to speak at conferences and things like that. So, we're excited to help get it out to the world, you know? And so, this is just a project that we all believe passionately about. I mean, this is a volunteer project. And that it's been great so far to see the positive feedback from folks. Maybe as an insatiable content maker myself, I'm excited to think about what we could make next also, you know, with this, so I think it's nice to see that it exists but then there's also more that we can do. So again, thanks, Elizabeth. Thanks, Phil, for joining today. It's been great to talk with you and share some stories and excited to do it again very soon. 

[00:46:16] Thanks again to Elizabeth and Phil for joining me on the podcast today and we hope that you are excited and willing to go check out the Anthropologists on the Public Stage course series. The link to the series is in the show notes and we really can't wait for you to check it out. This is meant to be a public project, so we want to hear from you in terms of what you're making out of it, what ideas are coming from it, as well as what you might like to see if we were to make a series two of this type of project. What more do you wanna learn about in terms of increasing your public impact? What areas, maybe areas of industry or career or different kinds of questions to ask how to have more public impact and talk about that? All these things are on the table. Please get in contact either with me through This Anthro Life, which you can do on our contact page or hit me up on LinkedIn or Or get in touch through the Anthrocurious website where we host the course. If you have a colleague, friend, or family member even that you think would be interested in this video series and/or this podcast, please don't hesitate to share it with them. Word of mouth is still the best way to get the podcast and video series growing and building the community and we can't do it without you. So, we hope you check it out. And as always, I want to thank you for offering your ears, eyes, maybe even a little bit of soul to devote to the conversation of how we can bring anthropology more mainstream and to bigger public audiences and honestly how we can help those who dedicate their lives to understanding the human condition to have more of an impact on it. So with that, I wish you all a fine farewell. I'm Adam Gamwell and this is This Anthro Life. We'll see you on the public stage.