I am coming out of hibernation. Actually I escaped from the Northern winter to a Southern beach for a few weeks. The first day of March isn't the same in Durban, but the wind does blow off the Indian Ocean. The last three months I have been swamped by the task of getting two books finished and into the publishers at once; and now it's all over. (I just opened up a group discussion thread on the more exciting project of the two, The Human Economy). In that time I have been watching the OAC slowly grow, but didn't get much involved. But in the run-up to Christmas, I had a couple of ideas I want to raise with you now. Think of it as a harbinger of spring (or the fall if you are in the South)
1. The OAC's Mission
I like the colourfully anarchic feel of the OAC, the unpredictable way that links are made and ideas shared. Sometimes it seems right just to leave it to take its own course without any attempt to give it direction. But I also wonder if we are missing an opportunity by not identifying a mission for the OAC. I don't mean that everyone has to sign up for a constitution or a program. We are not a political party or a professional association. We have some good general principles and a few minimal rules laid out under the About tab. The best part is that we are truly open, as few organizations or networks are. Yet here we are after less than a year, getting on for 3,000 members, an impressive variety of people from all over the world with some interest in anthropology. So what is the OAC for? What do we want to do for anthropology?
This question was actively debated in at least two turbulent patches and I doubt if many want to go back there. But things are a little quiet now, don't you think? It might not hurt to ask what the OAC's mission ought to be. I have some ideas of my own, but it would be good to come up with a bunch of proposals and see if anything consensual emerges. So I am inviting you to say what you think we could aim for. Maybe we can work out how to reconcile the idea of a mission with the freedom each of us already has here.
2. A new window to discuss possible developments
The Admins team have been discussing off and on whether we might add a facility to the main page where members who are interested in developing the range of OAC activities could bring up suggestions, ask questions and take part in a more purposeful discussion about how to take the old Coop forward. We don't know if some people out there would like a chance to have their say or to join in future developments. One way of finding out is this Forum post. We don't have anything concrete in mind, but we would really welcome your suggestions and participation.
Maybe this is two items rolled into one, but the Mission could be taken as one of the issues to be included under the second. We have had lots of new members in recent months and it would be nice to hear from some of you.
OK, Fran, thanks. A lot to chew on there. I am more than willing to postpone discussion of the OAC's mission or rather to focus on how that might be reflected in improvements to the home page as a means of encouraging wider participation in its design and functions.
At the risk of caricaturing our brief history, the Admins were accused of being authoritarian and undemocratic at the beginning and now we find it hard to get members to play any part in extending the OAC's activities. So perhaps we should focus on a new window for feedback and wider participation in developing our functions, where at least the few individuals who want to be more actively involved amy come forward.
I am content with a view of the OAC as a largely passive resource for members and others to read as they wish. But Ryan's cotnribution above pointed to the need for a few more engaged members to play a role in articulating decentralized, fragmented and spoaradic activities with an attempt to move the OAC forward in a more coherent way.
Of course, if this appeal for feedback and participation fails, it is then up to those who care to launch a varitey of initiatives on their own. At least it would not then be possible to claim that such people are unaccoutnable to the wishes of the majority.
I think this forum should be a place where anthropologists, student anthropologists-in-training, and those in allied fields who work with or on issues of anthropological import - can come together in the spirit of mutual cooperation and respect to discuss important topics of the day. Discussions should be lively and all sides respected, however decorum should be maintained and people should be respectful in how they phrase their opinions and not done in such a way as to insult other participants. This is not to say that one cannot be passionate about a personal issue or cause but that 'agreeing to disagree' is a hallmark of adult, mature conversations. Opinions should be clearly stated as such so as not to insult others of opposing ones - example "I believe/think/feel that Wowists do better economically than Itists in Wigawam because of the religion prizes educational achievement more." While facts if possible should show their derivation, reference, or original author - example "according to Professor Blah-Blah's 1983 study, 83% of male adults from the country of Wigawam are circumcised."
We should remain "OPEN" enough that people on the internet not in the field and/or not in related fields are certainly welcome to read 'ALL' of our forum dialogue. However, I'm not sure I feel comfortable with people not in our or a related field having full participation rights to post on most forums and some sort of level of 'vetting' should be done so one is not bombarded with trolls, lutz (making fun of people for the alleged joys of harassing them) and other general malignant behaviour - lest we become just as bad as some of the darkest corners of the internet.
I don't think we need a "mission statement" per se but I do think we could give the site some vision, perhaps something as simple but profound as Keith's, "We symbolize an emergent world society in our own composition... anthropology could be a way of talking about and studying the principles that might make for a better world." The OAC is probably the most diverse and global anthropological association in existence. Why not make a point about it?
I don't know how to preserve hyperlinks in a copied text!
Because I think where my emphasis was a bit misunderstood I'll define first I guess what I mean by 'in the field.' .