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Featured on Apr 22, 2011

Krystal D'Costa

"Never be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom."


Krystal is an anthropologist, New Yorker, and Mets fan—though not necessarily in that order. She divides her time as a digital strategist and a writer. Her research on digital sociality provides keen insights into user experience. Krystal’s blog, Anthropology in Practice, uses anthropology and history to explain everyday, often overlooked, patterns of behavior and explores the ways connectivity shapes our relationships.

  • Title: Digital Strategist/Anthropologist
  • Age: 29
  • Location: Long Island
  • Contact: @anthinpractice

You run an awesome blog called Anthropology in Practice. When did you begin combining your interest in anthropology and writing?

I started writing publicly in Sept. 2009, and it was partly in response to the reactions I would get when I'd introduce myself as anthropologist to people within the digital industry: There seemed to be a lot of confusion about why an anthropologist would be involved with technology (despite there being several prominent social science figures who have been studying and talking about technology for years). The romantic mythology of the Indiana Jones/Lara Croft character is pervasive, and there seems to be this lingering notion that anthropology is something that can only happen in exotic locations. So I started thinking about how I could show the relevance of anthropology to everyday life here in New York City, where so many cultures interact with each other on a daily basis. It evolved into Anthropology in Practice which highlights the history and behaviors that bind us together as a society. Much of my writing deals with everyday interactions, but it has also become a platform for encouraging people to think about how the emergence of a digital sociality is changing our relationships with each other and the world at large.

Can you tell us more about what you do as a digital strategist at Harris Rothenberg International?

I'm heavily involved in the development of our digital tools. HRI provides Employee Assistance Programs and Work/Life Services, and unfortunately, these benefits are often underutilized. My team helps expand these offerings to the digital space where a sense of anonymity and distance can actually encourage people to seek the help they need to balance the challenges inherent to work and life. I help direct user experience, design and layout, and I write and curate the content that we offer.

What are your most interesting anthropological observations about New Yorkers?

New Yorkers: We love our coffee, we have opinions on everything, and  we're actually very friendly people. One of the things that fascinates me is our relationship with space. We have clear personal space requirements, and yet the boundaries that we establish for comfort are fluid. For example, on mass transit or in a packed elevator we're able to negotiate close quarters without disrupting our sense of personal space. We also follow very distinct patterns of behavior on the subway, which I've categorized. I'd be interested in determining whether those character types are unique to New York or exist in other forms elsewhere.

Are there any other writing projects that you are currently working on?

This summer, I'd like to do a "Then and Now" series on some popular places around New York City, similar to what I did last year for the Five Points. I should have some exciting news to share about Anthropology in Practice in the coming weeks, but otherwise, I try not to plan too far ahead--the process is really organic, and grows out of the observations that pique my curiosity.

Social Media, Digital Strategist