Some of you will have been following the Forum discussion ‘What is open anthropology?’. This has recently been concerned with a controversy over the name of this network, Open Anthropology Cooperative (OAC), in response to blog posts by Max Forte - here and here. We acknowledge his complaint and wish to address it in ways that reflect our own commitment to this site and its members.

Max Forte was one of the founding members and administrators of this network. Issues between us concerning governance arose in a context of spontaneous excitement and haste as each of us brought our different ideas and expectations to a process that took off in a few days. You can read more about this network’s beginnings here.

Early conversations via Twitter, email, blogs and The Memory Bank Forum, before and after the establishment of the Ning network, included the administrators as well as other contributors and observers (Max Forte among them). In the early stages, we floated ad hoc lists of the attributes that might make up a useful site for anthropologists (a place to share ideas, to collaborate, to raise questions, to publish and discuss, etc) and several possible names. No-one then raised the possibility of a conflict of interest or a significant threat to other sites or projects on the web.

This creative process of formulating a dedicated philosophy and purpose for the OAC seemed to reach a provisional consensus. The agreed title ‘Open Anthropology Cooperative’, which came out of pure brainstorming, was chosen for its friendly and encompassing tone which for us encouraged limitless cooperation in the field of anthropology. Max agreed to act as administrator with this title in place and did not contest its usage. Then, following his advice, we tried out Ning as a possible site for developing our idea. Several of us expressed our admiration for his pioneering work as we laid the groundwork for the OAC Ning homepage. At this stage, Max sent the following private message to the rest of the admin team as part of a discussion in which he was an active participant:

“Some of you have been referring, I think, to this page on my site, http://openanthropology.wordpress.com/about/. It is rather long, and a lot of it will be very contentious for many people in this network. I am not sure which parts of that page attracted people the most, but you can feel free to cut and paste and reword as you like, if it helps to move things along quickly. Michael MD Fischer has already taken me to task on the blog for the ways I use ‘open’...so there will be some debate about “what does open mean” (I think some understand it to mean *wide open*).” [emphasis added]

We are not aware when this offer was rescinded or other conditions put on it. Having said that, the admin team acknowledges Max’s current wish to distance himself from this project and would welcome discussion from all members regarding a possible name change for the OAC, in order to avoid confusion with his Open Anthropology project.

The admin team does not claim to own this network any more or less than the other 1500+ members. Our role is to provide assistance and guidance, where necessary, while seeking to maintain a comfortable atmosphere for sharing and discussion within the framework of our own published statement of purpose. We wish now to move forward with the consent of current members.
We therefore ask you to consider the problem and make suggestions on how to proceed.

Should the OAC change its name in light of Max Forte’s complaint? Alternatives suggested so far include:

Open Anthropology Cooperative [no change]
open anthro co-op
Online Anthropology Cooperative
(The) Anthropology Cooperative
Worldwide Anthropology Cooperative

Feel free to suggest others.

The best way to improve the OAC is for all interested members to make their voices heard. We strongly request that all sides refrain from attacking and defaming the character of others. This is a serious and unwarranted offence. Let us rather try to maintain a collaborative spirit in our exchanges. A debate on the Open Anthropology Co-operative’s future should hardly be otherwise! We look forward to hearing from you.

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Until now, we could freely decide to visit any anthroplogy site on the net. I think it is aquestion of sharing ideas and knowledge. Let netizens (citizens of the Net) decide which sites they would like to visit. Let's do all we can to keep our name - unchanged. Vive la liberte- vive Open Anthropology Cooperative!

Michael Fischer said:
It is unfortunate that what had been a very interesting discussion in how and in what ways an open anthropology could be open was closed by a claim of infringement of intellectual property. As the claim itself appears to have little or no merit, morally or otherwise, the OAC reaction really boils down to just a few considerations.

If, as summed up by Joshua Treadway in the previous post, there is no commitment in the group for exploring and expanding the mission of anthropology to be open, but rather it is just a group of anthropologists wanting to discuss the many factions and fractions of anthropology, then there is no bar to changing the name - it is after all then just a name, regardless of the merits or absence of merit of the proprietary appropriation of the fragment of the current label.

If there is a sense that the openness of open anthropology is an issue, then we should sit tight on the simple principle that we will get nowhere if we accommodate everyone who happened to designate their viewpoint by a common (and open) label and then wish to make it unavailable to others for broader use.

I have seen many many attempts to create online groups like OAC fail due to a lack of engagement and participation. Whatever its other faults, the Wikipedia coverage for anthropology is disgraceful in comparison to other disciplines because of lack of participation by anthropologists. I believe the sudden success of OAC was not entirely due to 'the time was right', but in large part to the excitement of participating in a project beyond a bunch of anthropologists getting together and jawing over issues.

What open anthropology might become is still a matter of discussion and development, but it would be hard to argue that the attributions we are applying are unrelated to the development of 'open' in the history of the internet going back to a brainstorming session in Palo Alto in 1998 leading to the formation of the Open Source Initiative. The energy that has characterised this movement (and the more morally based version that Richard Stallman introduced over a decade earlier with the 'Free Software' movement leading to the Free Software Foundation) was tremendous and changed all of our lives. The ethos was not rooted in a new way of developing software, but in engaging with the world as it was to make a new world we hoped would be better. At least a world that more people thought was better. It was an overt act in the politics of knowledge and who benefits from knowledge. It has been one of the few successful political movements over the past decade to counter the processes of power that working overtime to increase inequality. And it did this outside traditional politics ... the proponents, contributors and users of open source span the conventional political spectrum, and have successfully dragged much of the traditional corporate structure into line with its principles.

Now I could, of course, be idiosyncratic in this view, or just plain wrong. But I think Open Anthropology is beckoning to many of us to an anthropology that is not controlled by a few people in academia, government budgets and priorities, corporate sponsorship, quality assessment panels, and whose results are not hidden behind obfuscated prose, political repression from within or without the discipline and that can be confronted by anyone willing to invest the time to address the issues, and whose contributions will be taken seriously.

This may be a dream, and has been a dream of mine for three decades since I started the first online anthropology exchange in 1977. Around the same time as the open source movement was taking off in 1998 these principles started to look achievable, with contributions along these lines by John Gledhill and others to the Experience Rich Anthropology project in 1997, open ethnography by Stephen Lyon in 1999, and a host of others since. The sudden success of the Open Anthropology Co-operative appeared to be the dawn of a new approach to anthropology and a vehicle from which anthropology might have a means to impact the development of our mutual futures.

In my view if OAC loses altogether the principle of Open Anthropology this will dissipate the energy that has thus been brought to the OAC and it will join the scrap heap of other failed organisations. Maintaining this ethos may be achievable whilst changing the name. But in my view capitulation to the alter of proprietary ownership of basic ideas simply demonstrates that 'the time is NOT right'. But it will be. Someday.
I agree that it would be good to debate the meaning of all three of the terms in our name and of their possible combination. I am attached to the present name because its poetry seemed to capture the nearest thing to a spontaneous movement that I have ever been part of. 'Open' is a weasel word like 'free' that expresses something we want but usually can't pin down. 'Anthropology' is something of an anti-discipline and more so here, where we encourage people without credentials to take part. 'Cooperative' has its own political history, as we know, but it does imply working rather than just consuming together.

I have long been with Vico and against Aristotle on this one. Beginnings matter, not ends. The explosive and unruly enthusiasm that gave birth to the OAC is precious, as is what we have become in three short months. I know how fragile social life can be and I cling to the name as a symbol of our survival. We have suffered an attack from a brand of politics for which destruction is the principal measure of its social effectiveness. Things will probably never be the same again. We are being forced to grow up faster than I would like, since the poetry of childhood gives way soon enough to the rational routines of adulthood (Vico again) and it would have been nice to play a little longer.

The rational solution to our problem would be to continue as we are and provide prominent links to other sites advocating open anthropology. But reason is in short supply here. The founders of this network always recognized that the openness of the OAC was on ongoing project that we hoped we could work out internally as we went along. But 'open' is a dialectical word expressing movement, not a condition. You have to be closed in some respects in order to be open in others. It's the same with freedom: you have to accept some things as necessary in order to be free in others. But dialectic is not the English language's strong suit and most of its speakers have difficulty grasping the point.

I am a supporter of Michael Linton's project, Open Money. What he has in mind is money that we can all make for ourselves rather than depend on the kind they make for us. But he proposes to do this by forming closed circuits of exchange, each with their own currency. The markets we are familiar with are truly open-ended in that they go everywhere. So which form of money is open and which closed?

I was greatly moved by Michael Fischer's post in this thread. He expressed my own aspirations for an open anthropology in terms that were more effective than I could muster, since he has been at it for three decades. He leads us in the sense that you can see in his words what you want for yourself but couldn't say. But clearly many of us don't particularly want that; and I sympathize with the women members who said 'This argument has nothing to do with anything I care about'.

I am sure we have lost a lot of our initial enthusiasm as a result of this debate. But maybe we have learned from it too. I still cling to the magic of the name, but it is time to put it to a vote and I am sure that the result will be mixed. I have just seen the Google Analytics figures for our third month. We had an average of 322 visitors a day in a slow August. 46% came from the US, UK and Canada. But the rest of the top 20 make for interesting reading (in order): Germany, Italy, Portugal, France, India, Norway, Brazil, Greece, Switzerland, Taiwan, Georgia, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey, Netherlands, Australia, Mexico. There have not been many of them in this thread.

We have been ticking over during the summer with a series of discussions of which a few have got somewhere and most have not. A wiki repository has been started, a Press proposed and a seminar series launched for later this year. Those of us who have chosen to invest our time in developing the range of our activities can continue to do so. I would claim that this is one of the most open forums you will find anywhere, especially given our close relations with an academic 'discipline'. There is obviously a lot of work to do if we wish to encourage wider active participation. I take a particular interest in those who have no formal relationship to 'anthropology' and in trying to attract (and keep) people from around the world.

In the end, my strongest attachment is to 'anthropology'. To quote myself: Anthropology has a distinguished past, but it has an even greater role to play in future, not necessarily as an academic discipline, but perhaps as an interdisiciplinary project: to discover what we need to know about humanity as a whole if we would make a better world. Such a project depends on making full use of the emerging social and technical synthesis entailed in the digital revolution.

So, if the members vote for it, I would sign up for a name change in which both 'open' and 'cooperative' are considered to be problematic. The best idea I have seen so far is 'The Anthropology Commons'. The child in me still hopes to keep our first name. But if we adopt a new one, I hope that it will be followed by (formerly the Open Anthropology Cooperative).
I am honestly sick of all this debate, it is simply quenching all the enthusiasm who brought 1600 people to sign up in less than two months. I agree with Keith: 'open' is a weasel word like 'free'! I suggest we all go back to Levi-Strauss and think that 'OPEN' may be just another bloody 'MANA-TERM'!!!

'Always and everywhere, those types of notions somewhat like algebraic symbols, occur to represent an indeterminate value of signification. In itself devoid of meaning and thus susceptible of receiving any meaning at all, their sole function is to fill a gap between the signifier and the signified. I believe that notions of mana-type serve to manage an overspilling of signification, they represent a floating signifier. I see in mana and other forces the conscious expression of a semantic function, whose role is to enable symbolic thinking to operate despite the contradiction inherent in it. Mana represents all contradictions together, but is that not precisely because it is none of those things but a simple form, or to be more accurate, a symbol in its pure state, therefore liable to take on any symbolic content whatever'

(From the Introduction to the work of Marcel Mauss.)

If anyone has a political project on the word 'free' or 'open' and want to attribute to it a specific meaning or use it as a motto for a revolution, he can go forward but just don't try monopolize a mana-term please. My proposal is : 1) keep the current name and put a BIG link with a CLEAR note stating that this website does not relate to Max Forte's open access anthropology (which is indeed remarkable) and invite all interested parties to visit Max website. This move would even give Max free advertisement of his website and (partially) compensate the nuisance of the googlegangers. Actually, all this talk about the meaning of Open Anthropology may have even benefited Max since it may have determined and clarified the scope of his project for people who were not familiar with the concept. 2) If the administrators (who put a hell of efforts in setting up all this and I have no problems in giving up my agency in exchange of their work) or the majority decides to change the name I vote for The Anthropology Cooperative. It looks a bit like a supermarket where one may expect to buy yams or other exotic food but I have to disagree with Keith on Anthropology Commons since it reminds me of the Tragedy of the Commons which is one of the scenarios I would like to avoid.

Yours,

Giovanni

Keith Hart said:
I agree that it would be good to debate the meaning of all three of the terms in our name and of their possible combination. I am attached to the present name because its poetry seemed to capture the nearest thing to a spontaneous movement that I have ever been part of. 'Open' is a weasel word like 'free' that expresses something we want but usually can't pin down. 'Anthropology' is something of an anti-discipline and more so here, where we encourage people without credentials to take part. 'Cooperative' has its own political history, as we know, but it does imply working rather than just consuming together.
I have long been with Vico and against Aristotle on this one. Beginnings matter, not ends. The explosive and unruly enthusiasm that gave birth to the OAC is precious, as is what we have become in three short months. I know how fragile social life can be and I cling to the name as a symbol of our survival. We have suffered an attack from a brand of politics for which destruction is the principal measure of its social effectiveness. Things will probably never be the same again. We are being forced to grow up faster than I would like, since the poetry of childhood gives way soon enough to the rational routines of adulthood (Vico again) and it would have been nice to play a little longer. The rational solution to our problem would be to continue as we are and provide prominent links to other sites advocating open anthropology. But reason is in short supply here. The founders of this network always recognized that the openness of the OAC was on ongoing project that we hoped we could work out internally as we went along. But 'open' is a dialectical word expressing movement, not a condition. You have to be closed in some respects in order to be open in others. It's the same with freedom: you have to accept some things as necessary in order to be free in others. But dialectic is not the English language's strong suit and most of its speakers have difficulty grasping the point.
I am a supporter of Michael Linton's project, Open Money. What he has in mind is money that we can all make for ourselves rather than depend on the kind they make for us. But he proposes to do this by forming closed circuits of exchange, each with their own currency. The markets we are familiar with are truly open-ended in that they go everywhere. So which form of money is open and which closed?

I was greatly moved by Michael Fischer's post in this thread. He expressed my own aspirations for an open anthropology in terms that were more effective than I could muster, since he has been at it for three decades. He leads us in the sense that you can see in his words what you want for yourself but couldn't say. But clearly many of us don't particularly want that; and I sympathize with the women members who said 'This argument has nothing to do with anything I care about'.

I am sure we have lost a lot of our initial enthusiasm as a result of this debate. But maybe we have learned from it too. I still cling to the magic of the name, but it is time to put it to a vote and I am sure that the result will be mixed. I have just seen the Google Analytics figures for our third month. We had an average of 322 visitors a day in a slow August. 46% came from the US, UK and Canada. But the rest of the top 20 make for interesting reading (in order): Germany, Italy, Portugal, France, India, Norway, Brazil, Greece, Switzerland, Taiwan, Georgia, Slovenia, South Africa, Turkey, Netherlands, Australia, Mexico. There have not been many of them in this thread.

We have been ticking over during the summer with a series of discussions of which a few have got somewhere and most have not. A wiki repository has been started, a Press proposed and a seminar series launched for later this year. Those of us who have chosen to invest our time in developing the range of our activities can continue to do so. I would claim that this is one of the most open forums you will find anywhere, especially given our close relations with an academic 'discipline'. There is obviously a lot of work to do if we wish to encourage wider active participation. I take a particular interest in those who have no formal relationship to 'anthropology' and in trying to attract (and keep) people from around the world.

In the end, my strongest attachment is to 'anthropology'. To quote myself: Anthropology has a distinguished past, but it has an even greater role to play in future, not necessarily as an academic discipline, but perhaps as an interdisiciplinary project: to discover what we need to know about humanity as a whole if we would make a better world. Such a project depends on making full use of the emerging social and technical synthesis entailed in the digital revolution.

So, if the members vote for it, I would sign up for a name change in which both 'open' and 'cooperative' are considered to be problematic. The best idea I have seen so far is 'The Anthropology Commons'. The child in me still hopes to keep our first name. But if we adopt a new one, I hope that it will be followed by (formerly the Open Anthropology Cooperative).
I am very reluctant to add anything here because almost all that can be said has been said. I would just add one point though: for one individual to insist that many others may not use the word 'open' is a much greater harm than that two different groups of people should use the same word in their distinct ways or contrary ways. It is pleasant to be polite and to respect other people's metaphysics, however, politeness has a limit beyond which it becomes a personal flaw with serious consequences. If we accept the force of 'You may not use this word because I use it already' then we are agreeing to the rules of a dangerous game.
Ryan says: "Is open anthropology free of politics, free of ethics, and wide open to any and all interpretations? Where are the boundaries? Is it possible to be completely unbounded in a discipline that has certain ethical principles? Maybe Forte is defending certain ideas about what 'open anthropology' is--at least he has a stance. Here it's just some huge amorphous blob where anything goes. Is that what anthropology is? Not to me."

Ryan would like a more focused, committed, political, and partisan OAC, with a clear purpose and a clear ethics. This is his right, and I expect that he speaks for a number and perhaps many others. Crusades, even mannerly and scholarly ones, energize us and give us the satisfaction of being on "the right side." This is normal. Ryan also says that, for him, this is what anthropology must be.

There are of course other models of scientific, scholarly, and anthropological activity. Ralf Dahrendorf argued that the marketplace was the best model, with intellectual life a free and open marketplace of ideas, in which, as part of the unregulated flow (amorphous, to use one of Ryan's disapprobations), there is critical examination among competing ideas and arguments.

To me, Dahrendorf's vision is closer to what anthropology should be than is Ryan's. And this is why I find OAC more promising than Ryan does. For me, the second term, "Anthropology," is the most important. If we are to change names, a point on which I remain agnostic, for the third term, for reasons I have already mentioned, I would favour "Network," or one of the excellent suggestions that have come forth in this discussion: "Forum," or "Commons."
Tired of hearing and talking about names and property ? Let's read and talk about war and Marshall Sahlins, and listen to some music :

http://openanthropology.wordpress.com/2009/08/31/misrepresentation-...

Looks like there is more to the story than meet the eyes.

Igor, anthropologically at your service.
(no,not yours,Officer, you should have guessed I am no collaborationnist)

P.S. A mes homologues français : si vous voulez savoir de quoi il retourne et que vous avez un peu de temps, allez lire la discussion "What is Open anthropology", le blog de Max (notamment la section : the project), voire ma page perso sur ce réseau. Je pense que la situation est assez claire. Amitiés.
Ryan, each group can decide for itself what codes it wishes to adopt. But once adopted such codes do not always work out well. Do you remember the AAA Ethics Panel that roundly condemned the famous (perhaps too famous) Napoleon Chagnon and colleagues for heinous crimes in Amazonia? Well, this "ethics" report, accepted with thanks by the AAA Board, was regarded as so outrageous by the AAA membership, that a referendum was called, and the report voted down decisively, forcing the Board to repudiate it. "Ethics" in action! So, if you think that "ethics" codes are benign, you have not been paying attention.

Furthermore, I think that we need to acknowledge that we can have codes and be strict, or be open and free, but not both. To pretend to be both requires a suspension of logic and a suborning of semantics.

Ryan Anderson said:
Dr Salzman,

So, in your view, there would be no ethical standards or guidelines in an open marketplace of anthropological ideas?

What is your opinion of the various ethics statements of organizations like the AAA and the SfAA?
Igor, I read the link you put in your comment. Having read it, believe me, I would *never* confuse Forte's project with what I think is being attempted here. I know we are supposed to avoid heated language, but what a shameful and disgusting set of smears. Similar names notwithstanding, I think anyone who takes the time to look at both spaces will soon understand that they are different entities indeed.
Thanks to everyone for your ongoing efforts and for voicing your detailed opinions regarding this issue. Most positions have by now been clearly and thoroughly expressed. Out of respect for these differing viewpoints and for Max Forte's initial complaint/concerns, the admin team have posted a poll (open to all members) in order to move us forward in this process of deciding on/applying a name change for the OAC. Please take the time to place your vote.

At some point, we simply have to agree to disagree and move on. I hope that all parties can learn to accept such differences and avoid contributing to an endless battle of "shameful and disgusting smears". There's already a surplus of that kind of behavior on the internet (and off). Since this discussion began, constructive analysis has been mingled together with no small measure of mudslinging from all sides. To me, and I hope others will agree, this poll represents a concerted effort to put an end to the bickering and to take action that can satisfy us all in the name of compromise.

Click here to vote. The link has also been posted in the news box on the front page of this site.
I feel we should have had a few more days for the discussion to take place in this new thread. Though I know the matter is unpleasant, it was not one of life-or-death. In the end we only had a week-end, and I am sure there are people who still haven't checked the email addresses with which they signed up to the OAC.

I also think that we have been unimaginative and have limited our choices for no reason, remaining fixated on either/or, for/against solutions. For example, a few people posted comments saying that we could put a clear 'disclaimer' in the 'About' page saying we are not affiliated with Forte's online projects. Though Forte regards this as insufficient and argues for a name change, he has repeatedly made clear that he doens't want to be indentified with the OAC. A 'disclaimer' would achieve this to a considerable extent. It would be a compromise between Forte's position and that of those who don't want to drop the word 'open'. And I still feel that we could have explored the possibility of a new name with a subtitle that contained the verb 'opening' in some meaningful form.

I strongly suggest that the option not to change the name is made conditional upon adding an unambiguous and visible 'disclaimer' from Forte's projects. The status quo won't do, and this is at present the most likely outcome.

With regard to the 10% of the membership vote being binding to validate the referendum, this is as abitrary as any other percentage would have been beyond the dozen individuals who have participated thus far in the discussion. I don't think there was anyhing we could about this. But I would ask the admins, in addition to having posted the news on the homepage, to send a special message to all members alerting them to the referendum as was done for the creation of this thread. I think this is a much more efficient way of spreading quickly the news, especially given the deadline. Many people might not visit the website in time, or they might even miss the piece of information (it doesn't stand out very much), and we want to avoit this.
Good evening all:

I love this site. I have found very open and passionate individuals, amateur and professional alike who truly care about cultural topics at hand. We should focus on preserving this.

I fully agree with Nikos. I had one young woman who recently joined this site message me that although she would love to participate in discussions/forums, she felt like a novice because she was only a first year anthropology undergraduate. To which I replied that she should let NO ONE or no thought block her right to express her views on any topic posted here. That's how we learn. We are thick in the information age, an age where learning via these "open" sites bring together the theoretical and practical, and encourage young minds to follow the profession.

I always wanted to be a professional anthropologist. My current profession is in investments, and that's fine. However in my teens and twenties, had I the support of a community such as this, who knows? And further in defense of amateur anthropology, some of us who are out of the university and on to the streets (especially in developing countries) see anthropological tales unfold before our very eyes every day!

I choose the path of least resistance. I voted to change name to "Global Anthropology Coorperative." Or Worldwide Anthropology Cooperative. I did so simply because we want to move forward and grow without animosity - so let's take the high road - not fair at all, but the results may be far reaching. At heart, we will ALWAYS be open.

Best of wishes to the OAC, whatever the outcome!

Astrid Franchiska Kowlessar
One of the beauties of the broad church that is OAC is the open opportunity for any and all to establish specific groups of a more focused orientation. We now have 106, with an impressive range and diversity.

Some of these groups are clearly and purposely political, with definite and sometimes pointed "ethics"; other groups not so much. This is up to the founders and members of the groups.

Whatever we decide to call it in the future, OAC provides the open and inclusive platform for a wide range of specific interests and commitments. In this sense, perhaps it is the best of both worlds.

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