Tomorrow OAC  will be a one year'old child starting to walk. With 3400 members, the question is how many are really active and contributing to the discussions and blogs. Maybe we have to propose some new general lines , for example to close some groups that have not any activity in the last 6 months. Just a thought. Waiting for more opinions.  

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'Activity' is hard to legislate or even define - the fact that people do not add a comment here or there doesn't necessarily indicate lack of activity - I am interested in the discussion on bloated expensive conferences, but I don't necessarily have much to say about the topic etc. One problem with OAC is its two dimensionality - it can do words in a string and it can do pictures plus words in a string. Another is that people's faces appear next to what they say; appealing to some but probably off-putting to others. There is the question of legitimacy - self-censorship. The motivations for adding anything are probably very diverse - even the conscious choices involved. The open model requires very careful modulation (and in fact generosity) considering that anyone can in principle say whatever comes to their mind next. So, it may well be that proving 'activity' will be complicated if we assume that many people 'land' on those inactive group pages, take something from them, then go 'somewhere' else without registering their 'presence' with a sentence added to the string. Is the conversation only constituted by the amount of 'noise' or also by pauses; how do you measure absence of signal? I would say that OAC can point to various succesful conversations where new or invigorated insights are contained if people wish to read what has been said thoughtfully.

OAC as active vigorous debate leading to...
OAC as a warehouse of information/facts/theories for...
OAC as knowledge found in the middle of diverse/densely packed interchanges between distinct egos
Why IS Clifford Geertz so important?

‘For three decades Clifford Geertz has been the single most influential and the single most controversial cultural anthropologist in the United States.

Throughout his career he put his cognitive and literary skills to work "ferreting out the singularities of other peoples' ways of life", cultivating a provocative variety of philosophical pluralism and promoting the idea that there is no fixed kernel to human nature. No "mind for all cultures." No "deep down homo." No "dog under the skin." "If anthropology is obsessed with anything", he writes, "it is with how much difference difference makes" (p. 197). "If you want a good rule-of thumb generalization from anthropology I would suggest the following: Any sentence that begins, 'All societies have' is either baseless or banal." (page 135).

In many ways his intellectual style has exemplified (and given distinctive character) to his beliefs. He is a Zen master of discernment and distinctions who recoils at typologies, grand theories and universal generalizations and rejects abstractionism and reductionism as methods for the social sciences. He is a discriminating writer with meticulous sensibilities and broad knowledge and experience of the disciplines who feels most at home taking the measure of some complex scene (for example, the contemporary multicultural scene, both inside and outside the academy). "Rushing to judgment", he writes, "is more than a mistake, it's a crime." (page 45) He is Ludwig Wittgenstein (the latter day philosophical Saint) reborn as an American anthropologist who believes that meaning is use, that reality is a complex continuum of overlapping likenesses and differences that should not be placed in neat boxes, and certainly not two boxes. He is the mahatma of "thick description." Most of all he likes to look at actual cases. "I don't do systems", he writes, and his antipathy for general laws and formal principles is apparent. ‘

...The universalizers (mistakenly) think he is a radical relativist. The positivists (mistakenly) think he is anti-science. And the skeptical postmodernists, (by which I mean those scholars who really are subjectivists, nihilists and radical relativists, which Mr. Geertz is not) think he is a middle-of-the-road liberal and an antiquarian who still believes there is some good work to be done with that old fashioned idea of "culture".’


Richard A. Shweder, Professor of Human Development at the University of Chicago.

For more reading:
Shweder Review of Available Light, from 24Nov2000, issue of Science
Doug Renselle’s Review of Clifford Geertz, updated 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2010.

You have to admit..."thick description" was absolutely brilliant. Enough said; Happy Birthday OAC from Brasil.

tchau…
M Izabel said:
Although I am getting bored and frustrated every passing day, I will not quit.


I hope you don't, Izabel. You have brought something new and important to the OAC. A number of things, but especially yourself.

Since you kicked off this thread with a Latin tag, I would ask you if you might consider aurea mediocritas. One variable that we know is important on the internet, even more than in life generally, is attention. People vary considerably in how much they are prepared to give to what. I admire your commitment to the program you have launched here, which is clearly based on devoting more of your time than anyone else appears ready to give, even than me and I am a bit of an OAC junkie. But I sometimes wonder about your techniques of gaining the attention you seek.

In this post, as in many others, you berate other members for their intellectual and moral failures as you see them. You make blog posts so often that it is hard for less committed members to keep up with you. You say people should read before commenting, but what do you imagine they do with the rest of their lives? Have you considered any other mode of engagement than exhibition and complaint? Like being friendly or perhaps posting less?

I know that we live in a world of abundant information. I don't think it is too much, but it does take skill of an editorial sort to get people to read attentively. I am acutely aware that the OAC relies too heavily on unmediated posting and that the display of our home page could be improved to make it easier for newcomers to find their way around here. In our first year we have experimented with openness of a spontaneous kind, but perhaps we need to be more self-aware about ensuring that a few exhibitionists do not drive the majority away. I am keenly aware that I could be one of them.

I have run anthropological forums for almost two decades and people write to me asking if their post got through since no-one replied to it. I say, "If you stood up in a bar and gave a 5 minutes speech without being asked to, how many people do you think would be listening by the end of it?" There are essential ancillary measures needed to create an interactive audience.

The crippling assumption is one of reciprocity: if I give something, I deserve a return. I abandoned that principle long ago when it comes to email, blogging or tweeting. I bung something out and then forget about it. If I get something back, it's a nice surprise; if I don't, I don't worry about it. The fact is writers can not command a particular response from their readers or indeed any response at all. It's a mystery.

If I have a criticism, it is not of your prolific blogging, from which I always gain something and am sometimes genuinely stimulated. It is that you seem to want to define what the OAC as a whole ought to be about. When taken with your empirical dominance of the home page, that might put some people off. We are a broad church with many strands, if that analogy is not itself offputting.

The OAC's first year has been a puzzling joy for me. Our celebration of openness and freedom in the pursuit of anthropology has attracted an extraordinary range of members from all over the world. There are fewer constraints here on what members can do than in most places I know, certainly more than any other community of anthropologists. I understand too that this leads to complaints of the sort that Nikos could not forbear from including in his birthday notice.

I don't think the way forward will be encouraged by topdown force, closing moribund groups for example. But we do have to learn how to make our efforts more self-consciously social, rather than rely on a libertarian philosophy of anything goes. I think you are responding to that already, but making ex cathedra statements is probably not the best way of getting what you -- and I -- want.
Thank you, Izabel, for not taking offence. Yours has been a great birthday gift to the OAC and long may it continue to be so. I agree with you about over-reliance on name-dropping and your activist view of the OAC's potential to do anthropology rather than just talk about it is vital. You must not be impatient if most members are not there yet or look for other things from our community.

M Izabel said:
I just wanted to start something, my "birthday gift", that could spark a discussion on what OAC should be in constructing knowledge legitimately, usefully, and meaningfully.
When I decided to become a member of OAC, I thought it will be a collective construction of knowledge-- like constructing a big puzzle with many hands.

Does everyone have to agree when it comes to collective knowledge production? Or is there room for different perspectives, methods, and approaches in your opinion?

Most of the comments I read are personally interpretive. Most commenters do not read existing body of knowledge to contribute something fresh and new. They comment according to their feeling or personal interpretation of the posts or discussions or they just cut and paste.

In my opinion, you are making a lot of assumptions and judgments about the commenters here.

I expect through OAC, I will be able to read and know data from the field not from someone's opinion.

How do you tell the difference between "data from the field" and "opinion"? Just wondering.

When I wrote about pragmata, I expected someone will mention proxemics, mobility, culture of space. What I got was an outright dismissal.

And what's wrong with that? The point is to learn how to interact, share, debate, communicate, and support ideas. I don't see a need for getting defensive if people disagree with you, especially since you freely admit that you are here to be provocative. I agree that you should learn to roll with the punches so to speak, and maybe also take the time to consider opposing perspectives and points of view. There are, after all, many ways of looking at things.

You can't really predict how a certain audience will respond to what you write. That's part of the deal; this isn't about a one-way transfer of information, after all. Authors always have hopes and expectations about how an audience will understand and receive what they write--but there is no real way to predict. Besides, if everyone reacted in a predictable manner I don't think any of this would be remotely interesting. The goal should be dialog and interaction, IMO.

A sort of experiment, my experience so far is very telling that some people here are so gung-ho on authority and authorship. One of these days I will include at least ten book titles in every post I will write.

Sure, some people take it too far with the whole name-dropping thing. But then some people refer to certain works to illustrate or back up their points--and there is nothing wrong with that. And just to let you know--I referred to Bourdieu in some of your older posts because you said you hate French theorists, not because I think he is the end-all social theorist. There is no end-all social theorist. Sure, Bourdieu had some good ideas, but so did a LOT of other people. Social Theory isn't a church, and there is no need to follow or believe in any one school of thought.

Some members wrote their generalizations that obviously need makeovers using new trends and perspectives.

What new trends and perspectives do you have in mind?

There are also people who limits themselves to one or two theories or theorists. What's the point of using Turner or Geertz all the time?

I don't know ANY anthropologists who limit themselves to one or two theorists (let alone just Turner or Geertz). Again, I think you are making some HUGE assumptions about people here, and I think that your assumptions are pretty unfounded. Why not avoid this kind of combative evaluation and instead work toward understanding different perspectives--isn't that one of the points of anthropology?

I think the problem lies in discriminatory indifference.

To what, specifically?
Ryan, well done. Well done, indeed. I will add, for my own part, that I rarely find it useful to continue conversations with those who adopt a pose of contempt for those with whom they are conversing. If the attitude is unshaken after two or three attempts to move the conversation in more productive directions, I move on. Why not? There are, after all, several billion other human beings with whom conversation may be more productive.

ryan anderson said:
When I decided to become a member of OAC, I thought it will be a collective construction of knowledge-- like constructing a big puzzle with many hands.

Does everyone have to agree when it comes to collective knowledge production? Or is there room for different perspectives, methods, and approaches in your opinion?

Most of the comments I read are personally interpretive. Most commenters do not read existing body of knowledge to contribute something fresh and new. They comment according to their feeling or personal interpretation of the posts or discussions or they just cut and paste.

In my opinion, you are making a lot of assumptions and judgments about the commenters here.

I expect through OAC, I will be able to read and know data from the field not from someone's opinion.

How do you tell the difference between "data from the field" and "opinion"? Just wondering.

When I wrote about pragmata, I expected someone will mention proxemics, mobility, culture of space. What I got was an outright dismissal.

And what's wrong with that? The point is to learn how to interact, share, debate, communicate, and support ideas. I don't see a need for getting defensive if people disagree with you, especially since you freely admit that you are here to be provocative. I agree that you should learn to roll with the punches so to speak, and maybe also take the time to consider opposing perspectives and points of view. There are, after all, many ways of looking at things.

You can't really predict how a certain audience will respond to what you write. That's part of the deal; this isn't about a one-way transfer of information, after all. Authors always have hopes and expectations about how an audience will understand and receive what they write--but there is no real way to predict. Besides, if everyone reacted in a predictable manner I don't think any of this would be remotely interesting. The goal should be dialog and interaction, IMO.

A sort of experiment, my experience so far is very telling that some people here are so gung-ho on authority and authorship. One of these days I will include at least ten book titles in every post I will write.

Sure, some people take it too far with the whole name-dropping thing. But then some people refer to certain works to illustrate or back up their points--and there is nothing wrong with that. And just to let you know--I referred to Bourdieu in some of your older posts because you said you hate French theorists, not because I think he is the end-all social theorist. There is no end-all social theorist. Sure, Bourdieu had some good ideas, but so did a LOT of other people. Social Theory isn't a church, and there is no need to follow or believe in any one school of thought.

Some members wrote their generalizations that obviously need makeovers using new trends and perspectives.

What new trends and perspectives do you have in mind?

There are also people who limits themselves to one or two theories or theorists. What's the point of using Turner or Geertz all the time?

I don't know ANY anthropologists who limit themselves to one or two theorists (let alone just Turner or Geertz). Again, I think you are making some HUGE assumptions about people here, and I think that your assumptions are pretty unfounded. Why not avoid this kind of combative evaluation and instead work toward understanding different perspectives--isn't that one of the points of anthropology?

I think the problem lies in discriminatory indifference.

To what, specifically?
I will add, for my own part, that I rarely find it useful to continue conversations with those who adopt a pose of contempt for those with whom they are conversing. If the attitude is unshaken after two or three attempts to move the conversation in more productive directions, I move on.

Well said, John. I could not agree with you more.
I, too, agree with you John. Very well said.

tchau...

ryan anderson said:
I will add, for my own part, that I rarely find it useful to continue conversations with those who adopt a pose of contempt for those with whom they are conversing. If the attitude is unshaken after two or three attempts to move the conversation in more productive directions, I move on.

Well said, John. I could not agree with you more.
Find a contemptuous stance in my comments and posts. I do not think you can find one, since I do not have a feeling of contempt when I express my ideas and I cannot have it when it comes to strangers.

Consider some sound advice from an evil man--I refer to Frank Luntz: "It's not what you say, it's what people hear." Those who are heard as contemptuous are often the last to notice how other people respond to what they say.
I do not agree with the proposal forwarded by Nikos. Why, because there is chance of repeatation of the same groups and topics. I think we have already discussed elsewhere about this.

For the frustation of M, I would say, here we have many layers of knowledge, for example, honestly saying I do care the OAC, but I am just learner here, I do receive more than to give. Thanks OAC! Live long! Happy Buddha Full Moon Day!
Great, M! I am also looking for post-modern or post-structuralistist view on poverty, in fact, political ecology of poverty. Poverty is just text???? or False perception! Or is Epstein true? She argues that Post-structuralism can explain cultural politics more lucidly than Neo-Marxism but cannot give solution for alienation which is one of the core concepts of Marxism. Moreover, she blames that in the name of deconstruction of binary oppositions, post-structuralism mere confuses the readers?

M Izabel said:
Your duplicity is just funny. It was you who emailed me twice and requested me to write about poverty that would be posted on linkedin.com. I did not take you seriously since I found your ideas and appreciation of ideas flippant. I wonder why you cannot share your views or findings about poverty, if you are interested to know about it or if you are doing a fieldwork on it, using Foucault or postmodernism. I am interested if you can really postmodernize poverty. If you cannot, that is the crux of the matter-- all theory, no practice.

Neil Turner said:
I, too, agree with you John. Very well said.

tchau...

ryan anderson said:
I will add, for my own part, that I rarely find it useful to continue conversations with those who adopt a pose of contempt for those with whom they are conversing. If the attitude is unshaken after two or three attempts to move the conversation in more productive directions, I move on.

Well said, John. I could not agree with you more.
I find this whole thread thoroughly depressing. I can't imagine a quicker way of putting off the majority of existing members and casual visitors to the OAC than to find some of our regular contributors squabbling repetitively on the home page.

M Izabel has a point of view which she has certainly made sure we are aware of, by dominating the blogs section, arguing ad nauseam there and entering most other Forum posts in a confrontational way. In the process she has succeeded in winding up several individuals who have expressed their frustration here and elsewhere. Whatever the justification for the attitudes taken, the overall effect is a disgrace. If you all set out to speed up a shift to a managed home page, you could not have contrived it better. I do not want the public image of our network to be that of an introverted bickering clique.

The Admins team is in the process of refashioning the home page, having recruited Nathan Dobson, a journalist and anthropologist to assist in that task. In the meantime, please show some self-restraint. This applies principally to M Izabel, but also to her antagonists who at one stage took on the appearance of a pack egging each other on. My colleagues and I have put too much into this project to allow it to be hi-jacked by a personal crusade. Having failed to elicit moderation, we must now impose it.

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