Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 21st 2014 Contents A27
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He s been described as a
rock n roll anthropol-
ogist and it s not hard
to see why. With the title of pro-
fessor of anthropology at UCL
(University College, London), you
might expect a stuffy, beard-
stroking man, boring students to
tears with theories on social kin-
ship in Polynesia. Danny Miller is
nothing of the sort.
international media storm after
comments he made about Facebook
being "dead, finished, kaput, over,"
for teenagers. The Economist
reported his comments---written in
a UCL blog post in November---
and it went viral.
Within two weeks he d been con-
tacted by over 200 news organisa-
tions and Web sites until the media
interest became too intense to man-
age. Instead he wrote a follow-up
blog post clarifying his position and
detailing the research that led him
to the conclusion that many had
already noticed. Pew research had
published a similar report and the
general public knew it to be true:
Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat
are where teenagers hang out now.
Facebook is for adults with mature,
boring lives to share family photos,
post links to articles and amuse
each other with witty repartee dis-
secting current zeitgeists.
He unapologetically stands by
his comments, based on nine
months of research from his current
five-year project, funded by a grant
from the European Research Coun-
cil, called the Global Social Media
Impact Study. It will be completed
in 2017 and involves nine
researchers in eight countries for
15 months carrying out in-depth
interviews and participant obser-
vation in communities in Trinidad,
UK, China, Turkey, Brazil, India,
Italy and Chile.
Some journalists, he feels, missed
his point about Facebook and the
furore around the blog post, titled
What Will We Learn From The Fall
Of Facebook?, came about because
business analysts felt it could affect
the company s share value.
He says the blog was written
flippantly in order to entertain. His
approach to writing anthropology
has always been to use simple terms
and his writing is certainly more
fun to read than the likes of Levi-
Strauss, Bourdieu or Foucault.
"If we re precise, pedantic and
careful, we re boring, and nobody
is going to read a word," he says.
"Blogs should be popular."
As a scholar he has always been
drawn to exciting ethnographic
projects. He has spent 25 years
doing research in Trinidad (to the
envy of his compatriots) and other
research has included blue denim
jeans in China, au pairs in London,
Coca-Cola, high-street shopping
and the internet. He appears in the
news and on BBC radio pro-
grammes and, despite taking exten-
sive sabbaticals, the odd lectures
he gives to students are the high-
light of their academic year.
In person Miller is a blur of con-
stant movement. He wears vintage
Carnival T-shirts and leather san-
dals and his hands gesticulate ani-
matedly, a knowing smile across
his face, eyes scanning his sur-
roundings behind scholarly glasses.
Outside the Normandie Hotel for
his interview, he s calm and relaxed.
At the Fantasy fete later in the week
his persona changes. As he wines
to Machel s earsplitting perform-
ance, you realise he is not your
Miller will come back to Trinidad
every year for the foreseeable future,
ostensibly for work, but surely for
pleasure too. His one regret this
time around is that he won t be
here for Carnival.
Why Trinidad? Modernity,
Rudder and going brave
Miller not only loves Trinidad,
he sees it as the ideal place to do
anthropological research about con-
temporary material culture (the
things we make and use on a daily
basis). He is about to publish his
fifth book on Trinidad, called Web-
cams, on the subject of using
But why did he first come to
"I wanted to study a consumer
society and in those days (1988),
Trinidad had gone from being a
not-so-well-off country to having
an oil boom, then a decline, so there
was more consciousness of what
people had and didn t have (than
in the UK). The head of department
of anthropology at UCL was a
Jamaican called MG Smith and he
fostered fieldwork in the Caribbean
and he suggested Trinidad to me.
"But the deciding factor was
David Rudder. When I first heard
Calypso Music by David Rudder I
just thought, wow! He was at his
height and it was a great time."
When they first arrived, in 1988,
Miller s wife, Rickie Burman (former
director of the Jewish Museum,
London, now working at the
National Gallery) was six months
pregnant with their first child. They
had their baby here, a son who
spent his first year growing up in
Continues on Page A28
The man who nearly broke Facebook
Anthropologist Danny Miller who caused a storm with his analysis of Facebook's future. PHOTO: ROBERTO CODALLO
Latvians of all ages formed a human
chain in the freezing cold this weekend
to pass books from the old national
library to a new one 1.2 miles away as
part of festivities to celebrate Riga as
Europe s culture capital for 2014.
Some 14,000 people, including chil-
dren and the elderly, stood in temper-
atures of minus 12 degrees C on Saturday
to pass some 2,000 books hand to hand
to a new library designed by Latvian-
born US architect Gunnar Birkerts.
The remainder of the library s more
than 4 million books and printed items
will be moved by motorised transport.
The concrete building, clad with glass
panels and stainless-steel plates and
resembling a mountain with a crown
atop, sits on a bank of the Daugava River
near the capital s Old Town and has
been dubbed the Castle of Light.
Formerly a medieval outpost of the
Hanseatic League of trading nations,
Riga s art nouveau buildings have earned
its historical center a place on the
UNESCO list of world heritage sites.
Latvians kick off culture capital year with human chain
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