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).
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?