Psilocybe semilanceata, freshly picked in Norway. Photo credit: Scienceman71 (from Wikipedia Commons)

This month, an article I wrote about the word “entheogen” was published by Double Blind, a new magazine about psychedelics. I’ve been fascinated by the growing popularity of this term for a while. It represents, to me, a subtle but significant disagreement within the psychedelic underground about what these substances do and what they essentially are. This all would have been an obscure topic — the changing terminology of an American subculture (I’ll be honest, I love this sort of thing; American subcultures have been my specialty, for better or worse) — but with psychedelics going mainstream, this obscure terminological…

The sudden development and frequently strange appearance of the fruit-bodies of larger fungi and modules have always attracted attention. - G. C. Ainsworth, Introduction to the History of Mycology

I wandered into the world of amateur mycology by accident.

My original dissertation topic was urban farming but a month into my research, after an afternoon of cutting arugula with a pair of children’s scissors, I realized I had a problem. In anthropology, you conduct field work (usually participant observation) for about a year, followed by a couple years (or three.. or four…) of writing up. In other words, you should…

The first thing to learn about fungi is that mushrooms, although commonly conflated with fungi, are actually only the fruit body of a fungus. The rest of the fungus is a network of filaments one-cell thick (between 2 to 10 µm in diameter!). These filaments are called hyphae or hyphal threads (singular: hypha) and the network is called mycelium (plural: mycelia). Hyphae grow radially in all directions in branching formations. The dense network of mycelia that grows in soil is called a mycelial mat.

A illustration of mycelial growth by a mycologist working in the early 1900s. (Taken from mycologist David Moore’s website.)

[Read Part 1 here.]

Now I’ll move on to the arguments against digital identity systems. These arguments are less about digital identity per se and more about digital biometric identification specifically.

The most strident critiques of biometric identity systems come from NGOs whose missions are the defense of digital security, freedom of expression, and the right to privacy. This opposition is based on analyses of how this technology has been used in the past and what this tells us about how it might be used in the future. …

International symbol of biometric passports.

This is the first of a four part series summarizing research I did for Dovetail Labs. Read the short introduction to this research here. Check back for a write-up on my research on Israeli VR/AR. Read Part 2 here.

I had two purposes in writing up this research for a general audience. One, to present an overview that is wide-reaching and complex. In this regard, I went for breadth rather than depth. Two, to identify significant overarching themes in how this technology is being applied, which emerged from an in-depth literature review. Questions of surveillance, state and corporate power, civil…

This past winter, I had the opportunity to work with Dovetail Labs, a consulting firm founded by cultural anthropologists that specializes in the ethics of artificial intelligence. However, my two assignments were not on AI directly but on adjacent, related technologies, and they not have been more dissimilar from each other: the first was on virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) in Israel and the second was on digital identity in Africa. So I toggled back and forth between a country the size of New Jersey, with disproportionate geopolitical significance, and a sweeping technological vision for the entire continent of Africa…

Mushroom cultivation is strange to most people; myco-technology, even stranger.

“It’s like tending to skin in a way,” says Nick. “It feels like a combination between surgery and cooking.” He pauses and then asks the others, “If it was a combination of things, what would it be?”

“Cooking,” says Ita. “Engineering, obviously.”

“Sculpting.” adds Caitlin.

“It’s also like working in a plant nursery,” says Hannah.

Caitlin agrees. “Yeah, gardening.”

“Imagine walking into a greenhouse, but it’s also a hospital,” says Nick, laughing.

In short, it’s all of these things and something else completely.

All of this is happening in a…

When I tell people I’m an anthropologist researching a community in the SF Bay Area, they’re sometimes puzzled. “Aren’t you supposed to be studying an obscure tribe in the Amazon?,” they ask me. At that point, I explain that since the 1960s anthropologists now study a broad variety of people. My research focuses on the culture and society I know best, North America — specifically the ecologically inspired cultures that are heir to the counterculture of the 1960s.

What I find fascinating about these cultural streams is both their diversity and the broad effects they’ve had on mainstream American culture…

Joanna Steinhardt

Writer, ethnographer, PhD, mycophile (previously @MycoWorks). Detroit Area native, Bay Area resident.

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