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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I had resolved not to validate your presence here by responding to your comments which seem to have the sole purpose of winding up the team of administrators. It is bad enough to be stuck with an agent provocateur who hides behind anonymity and won't go away. But one that can't or won't read is intolerable.

The message we sent out yesterday stated clearly how we expect to resolve this matter, but not exactly when, since that depends on how successful we are in attracting more members to take part in this discussion:

The OAC admin team has opened up a new discussion ‘The OAC’s name’ in the Discussion Forum. This is in response to developments over the last week in the thread ‘What is Open anthropology?’ We intend soon to conduct a poll of all members on the future of our name. In the meantime, take a look at this post and comment, if you wish.


Igor Alcyon said:
My question to the admins is : on what ground will you make the decision to change the name or not ? When all members will have responded to this thread ? When you are sure all of them have been sufficiently informed about the story ?
Or it will be a decision "par défaut", that is : this discussion will last for some time, then die, and then you'll forget about it ? You (admins) seems to fear (correct me if I am wrong) to change the name, because it might be unpleasant to some members here. But what ? You do not fear to let the problem last, and create a new thread which is in fact a simple displacement and re-run of the previous one. You do not fear this while it is obviously unpleasant to some members. I think you should take your responsibilities. (And if you want to say that this is not democratic, well, doing nothing is also an act, and so you are already acting non-democratically.) And you have not proposed a democratic way to solve the problem. You propose a discussion, but then what ? Do you wish to build consensus here ?
Really, I do not understand what you have in mind(S).
I agree with the idea of changing the name while retaining the concept of "cooperative"
This discussion was created by sending an email to ALL members of the OAC alerting them to a problem that probably almost all of them had no idea existed. So this is definitely not a "displacement and re-run of the previous one', but a step towards inviting everyone to let their opinion known on the matter. Encouraging wider participation is in my view a very positive step.

Igor Alcyon said:
My question to the admins is : on what ground will you make the decision to change the name or not ? When all members will have responded to this thread ? When you are sure all of them have been sufficiently informed about the story ?
Or it will be a decision "par défaut", that is : this discussion will last for some time, then die, and then you'll forget about it ?
You (admins) seems to fear (correct me if I am wrong) to change the name, because it might be unpleasant to some members here. But what ? You do not fear to let the problem last, and create a new thread which is in fact a simple displacement and re-run of the previous one. You do not fear this while it is obviously unpleasant to some members. I think you should take your responsibilities. (And if you want to say that this is not democratic, well, doing nothing is also an act, and so you are already acting non-democratically.) And you have not proposed a democratic way to solve the problem. You propose a discussion, but then what ? Do you wish to build consensus here ?

Really, I do not understand what you have in mind(S).
Keep in mind that I am not the one advocating the deletion of the term "open" from our name.

Michelangelo Paganopoulos said:
In my view, it is ridiculous to argue about something that is only starting. Yes, the term 'openess' can be negotiated and re-negotiated a hundred times, and there will always be senior figures that claim exclusivity in knowledge, but the main point is that the term in itself is all-inclusive. As I wrote above, this is still an experiment about how open anthropology can be. However, by challenging the word 'open', before this project has actually moved forward to be allowed to demonstrate its openess, limits the scope of the project itself.

Philip Carl SALZMAN said:
There is an ongoing discomfort resulting from the contradiction between specific agendas--intellectual, social, political--and a fully open, inclusive community, or network. Even "openness" as an agenda can be restrictive, as it does not open the community to those who do not hold or agree with that agenda. There is nothing new about such contradictions; they are a commonplace of political debate and conflict. But the irony stands out when the agenda is openness.
Like Giovanni, I do not think that this is resolvable. We have to negotiate and find a compromise that most of us can live with.
I endorse Michael Fischer’s nuanced opinion in his recent post, and I vote that the term ‘open’ be kept in the acronym OAC.

Is it not ironic that we should find ourselves in the midst of a copyright or branding dispute over the word ‘open’, which is presumably being used by all parties to evoke (among other things) the opposite of professional clubbiness and proprietary associations? What we all share, including Mr. Forte (evident from a perusal of his interesting blog), is a commitment to cultivating an open intellectual commons for the fruit of anthropological insight.
I joined http://openanthcoop.ning.com/ in the first few days and thought it had the potential to be something I would find interesting and constructive. I've been off it for some weeks just for personal reasons (too much travelling and stuff). Now I am back (in response to the invitation just sent out to discuss the name) and, um, it feels kinda uninteresting and unconstructive. I don't really care what the name is, but I can understand why it can seem important to certain people who are intensely involved in a certain kind of conversation. Personally, I feel like I just accidentally butted in on somebody else's conversation. Pardon me, carry on. Catch ya later. (P.S. I still think the thing can be interesting and constructive, whatever it ends up being called.)
There is 'open science' and 'open education'; 'open source software' and 'open scholarship'. These are not trademarks but descriptions of emergent modes of exchanging knowledge. I find it a little embarrassing for the discipline that it should be anthropology, of all academic fields, that should develop a debate about whether it is legitimate or not to claim entitlement to an emergent form of knowledge-production. It is as if one were to lay claims over the notion of 'industrialisation'.

To my mind, the Open Anthropology Cooperative and the Open Anthropology Project are two distinct endeavours that share a common object and focus. We should keep the name.
Keith,

I am sorry, I do not chek that precise email adress every single day. Maybe it would be good to indicate somewhere that such an email was sent. Anyway.

Keith, I know you won't respond but I'd like to say that this one : "an agent provocateur" was enormous.

You are wrong when you write that : "your comments which seem to have the sole purpose of winding up the team of administrators". Or if that is the impression I gave, I am sorry.

My "sole purpose" is to make clear that, knowing the whole story, it is quite obvious that there have been wrongdoings, which can be almost entirely undone through changing the name.

I think it might have been good to encourage people to inform themselves about the whole story, because, if a poll is to be made, it should be an informed one.

Most importantly, I think my points are also in your personal interest, and in the interest of your co-workers :

If the name OAC remains, say for one more year, the conflict between OAP and the present network will continue, people (maybe a LOT of people) will try to understand why that Ning network bears the same name as OAP while being obviously not related to it. And it will appear that what the Ning network did was wrong (it may pretty much look like vampirism, even if it was not intended).

That is not "winding up" the team, that is advice, as I have no reason to wish that your reputations be dirtied. I am afraid it might be dirtied if the name is not change, and no one will need to do any kind of campaign for that social process to take place.
Igor, I appreciate that your questions are aimed at resolving this quickly. As Keith has reminded, we will be hosting a poll soon. Regardless of what may, should, or can be done to diffuse any dispute over the name of this site, the multivalent nature of the current title of the OAC requires – at the very least – that we present an open debate to all members. Rather than simply throw out a poll framed by the idea that a name change is the only valid, just and ethical course of action, we prefer to hear all views. In one breath, this is what members have requested of us: less admin control and more public debate and accountability. In another, alternative demands are made for the admins to take control and make a snap decision. I would rather bring this all into perspective and hear what everyone has to say. The solution to change the name may be accepted because it is the easiest thing to do. Some of us will consider it the right thing to do as well, but others will not. I have no intention of condemning or demeaning either side of this argument.

I second Kalman's endorsement of Michael Fischer's thoughtful post. I wholehearted share Michael's lament over the possible loss of the inspiring, hopeful energy enthused into this site by virtue of its title and all-embracing ethos. Before there was even an administrative team or a Ning network to speak of, as a spectator in the genesis of the OAC as a budding concept, I was excited to find that a lot of the ideas being offered by several anthropologists of different ages and backgrounds across a few time zones overlapped with my own. I unexpectedly became an admin here largely by chance and because I was enthusiastic about the project at hand, especially its apolitical and 'open' philosophy.

As Michael remarks,
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.

Maybe we should take our model of content moderation from other trends and change the title of the site to: The [content removed due to a copyright claim] Cooperative.

I fear that a change in our name would also set an awkward and confusing precedent. That personal agenda, politics, vendetta and ownership over knowledge threaten our purpose here is as ironic as it is sad. If a name change will satisfy detractors and allow us all to get back to opening up anthropology, I imagine that most will accept it (reluctantly, happily, or somewhere in between). I simply cannot support making this decision based wholly on personal politics as a ploy to restrict the use of the term "open", which sources itself from an eclectic mix of anthropological, scientific and open source themes. Regardless of our posturing and fighting over grand titles, anthropologists, like all people, are bricoleurs, and the more these sorts of fights are waged with no productive end, the more a naturally creative process is dying instead of flourishing.

That said, I am thus far encouraged by the quality of constructive criticism being aired on this thread. As Patty indicates, not everyone has, wants, or feels the need for, a place in this conversation. So let’s not have this issue dissuade us from further expansion and contributions to the OAC. It might be worth returning to an early list of attributes which we hoped would find a place here, and to think about taking the initiative to make this site what we want it to be, rather than what others want it not to be.

* A place to share ideas
* A place to find like-minded anthropologists
* A place to collaborate
* A place to hold virtual conferences
* A place to host podcasts
* A place to ask questions
* A place to learn about new tools for anthropology (online tools, field tools, etc.)
* A place to find resources (e.g. databases, good grad programs, upcoming colloquia, software, field opportunities)
* A place to publish
* The idea of an engaged anthropology for the 21st century in relation to the digital revolution
* Group blog
* Forum for discussion
* Online press to publish longer pieces
* The incorporation of Twitter, social bookmarking, wiki, etc

What is left to achieve? What should we add to the list? Answers to these questions would be more suitable in another discussion thread, but perhaps rethinking them will help us to keep in mind our wider purpose and objectives when considering the issue at hand.

Thanks again to everyone for contributing.

Fran
We're talking about proprietary rights over the term "open anthropology"? Come on,
Apparently, we're also talking about googlegangers.

Richard Irvine said:
We're talking about proprietary rights over the term "open anthropology"? Come on,
I was wondering if a subtitle of some sort could bring together the different positions expressed thus far in this thread. Something like:
"The Anthropology Cooperative: Opening Anthropology to the 21st Century"
or
"The Anthropology Cooperative: Opening Anthropology beyond Academia"

Is it possible technically (too many words to fit in?)? Can a Google expert tell us if this would solve the search results problem (I imagine it would)?

Just a thought.

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