Could there be a global anthropology that responds to global-scale challenges? This panel considers such a response through an examination of the global impact of smartphones, with particular emphasis on the contemporary experience of ageing.
If anthropology is increasingly called upon to address global challenges, then one way it might respond is by developing a contemporary global anthropology - one that combines the parochialism characteristic of traditional ethnographic fieldwork with a broadly encompassing global perspective. The topic of the panel concerns the impact of the smartphone amidst transformations in life expectancy. Smartphones and ageing today signify global transformations, though they are experienced as local re-alignments. With its ability to align highly parochial fieldwork with comparative studies that speak to global heterogeneity, Anthropology is well situated to represent and respond to such global challenges. In particular, ethnography allows us to match the 'smart from above' process of technological innovation with the 'smart from below' (Pype) experience of cultural appropriation, facilitating robust, comparative understandings of the issue. This panel invites papers that speak to the above in light of the conference theme on Identities and Subjectivities, with particular interest in the well-being of bodies and social identities through digital engagements. One example the panel will present is the Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing (ASSA) project, based at UCL Anthropology. The ASSA project will be discussed in order to highlight ways that a comparative, global-anthropological study of smartphones and ageing might be undertaken, based on ten simultaneous sixteen-month ethnographies. The panel will consider these insights alongside a range of other ethnographic projects that touch upon the related themes, in order to stimulate debate about the potential of contemporary global anthropology vis-à-vis technological and socio-demographic change.