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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It may be that you are right. We didn't choose the referendum questions with a view to securing a result of no name change. The present team of admins was given a half-year to launch the OAC before being replaced in a more accountable way. Perhaps we should draw up some elements of a constitution in that time, including rules for how a referendum should be launched.

In the meantime, we intend to post prominently under the About tab a section explaining that the OAC is not related to other sites employing the phrase Open Anthropology with links to the principal examples.

Philip Carl SALZMAN said:
I would guess that the results, clear though they may be, were less clear than they would have been had only the first question been voted on. I imagine that some voters were attracted to one of the alternative names offered, and voted the change on that account. Probably with the first question alone voted on, the total in favour of keeping the name would have been substantially higher. Even so, the results are decisive.
On another point, I suggest that, in future, requests for referenda require demonstrated support from membership. Minimally, that would be 2% of the membership in a petition, before being implemented. At the current level of membership, that would be 34 supporters. A higher number might seem preferable to some.
"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." - Keith Hart, two or three pages ago.

Geez am I glad I stayed out of this one. I had a family upheaval to keep me occupied and expressed my non-vote opinion, privately.
The above quote by Dr. Hart eloquently encapsulates my precise reason for joining OAC. The name itself is a little awkward for me to type, the URL does not match as it is a virtual site on a wan network. Nevertheless, open and cooperative are the reasons I joined. The only two questions that should have been debated were: legal, intellectual rights to the name and legal registration rights with Ning.

Since OAC is not OAP, no intellectual violation there. Since OAC is housed as a virtual website on a wan network, no conflict with Ning as their registration process would have told the admins they could not choose the exact same name as another virtual. This latter registration process is the same as every individual trying to register an userid which has already been claimed.

So we keep OAC by majority, the system works, good. I was referring thirty people to this site as the whole debate commenced, not a condition I was happy about. Nothing about the debate offended me; however I no longer live in my happy little pond, some currents from parts far-flung have been introduced. It remains to the "What now?" discussion to flesh out what that means. Bylaws and/or mission statements are standard identification practices, closing some doors and opening many windows of opportunity.

What does offend me as a netizen is, contributors who write in all caps. That practice is a psychologically escalating device. This coop has been the soul of polite, passionate, respectful academic debate. Let us return to the high-road and move forward in the spirit of Dr. Hart's ideal.

Cordially,
Vickie Reed
Thanks, Vickie.

Victoria Reed said:
"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." - Keith Hart, two or three pages ago.

Geez am I glad I stayed out of this one. I had a family upheaval to keep me occupied and expressed my non-vote opinion, privately.
The above quote by Dr. Hart eloquently encapsulates my precise reason for joining OAC. The name itself is a little awkward for me to type, the URL does not match as it is a virtual site on a wan network. Nevertheless, open and cooperative are the reasons I joined. The only two questions that should have been debated were: legal, intellectual rights to the name and legal registration rights with Ning.

Since OAC is not OAP, no intellectual violation there. Since OAC is housed as a virtual website on a wan network, no conflict with Ning as their registration process would have told the admins they could not choose the exact same name as another virtual. This latter registration process is the same as every individual trying to register an userid which has already been claimed.

So we keep OAC by majority, the system works, good. I was referring thirty people to this site as the whole debate commenced, not a condition I was happy about. Nothing about the debate offended me; however I no longer live in my happy little pond, some currents from parts far-flung have been introduced. It remains to the "What now?" discussion to flesh out what that means. Bylaws and/or mission statements are standard identification practices, closing some doors and opening many windows of opportunity.

What does offend me as a netizen is, contributors who write in all caps. That practice is a psychologically escalating device. This coop has been the soul of polite, passionate, respectful academic debate. Let us return to the high-road and move forward in the spirit of Dr. Hart's ideal.

Cordially,
Vickie Reed

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