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, 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’ 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've read through all these strings, and I do agree with Patty that it feels like somebody else's conversation, one with personal histories that most members of the co-op can't know about (and that I, frankly, don't want to).

But I also agree with Kalman, that if you believe in opening the discipline, then why try to assert IP rights over openness? Having read the definitions on Max's page, I find it hard to believe that anyone could assert their rights to have invented 'open anthropology', when the decolonisation of anthropology has been going on for decades, along with action research and so on.

As I see it, Max has a typical marketing problem on his hands. Either he fights tooth and nail to retain his brand-name (and upsets 1500 OAC members in the process), or he spots the advantage in potentially attracting 1500 new readers to his site. Why not put cross-links on both sites that alerts readers to the fact that the other exists independently, and then enjoy some cross-fertilisation? Then we can all live happily ever after.
Any objection to someone creating a "Savage Minds Cooperative" ?

(I would personally have objections.)

Thanks for contributing ideas. I have a couple of responses:

1. Either of the subtitles you suggested actually place limits on what this place might be doing, and I know that I personally want to avoid limiting what "open" could mean here.

2. Google confusion arises from a couple of things. The first is that both this site and Max's have the exact phrase "Open Anthropology" in their title and all over the sites. The second is that Google indexes Ning itself and gives it a fairly large page rank, allowing owr new network to rise to the top of search results quite quickly. If the resolution to this issue end up being a change in our name such that the phrase "Open Anthropology" is no longer used, then the Google confusion will disappear within a few weeks. The domain names themselves do not really play a large here, and since "anthropology" is abbreviated in our domain, even less so.


Giovanni Orlando said:
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"
"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.
Michael's, Kal's, and Alberto's comments reflect my view on the matter better than I could express. I endorse keeping "Open" in OAC.

As for the confusion, it is unfortunate. In my opinion, politeness would recommend a small note or link on the front page here noting the lack of affiliation of the entities.
Jeremy, I don't believe that the entire OAC (a community which also acts as a springboard for other initiatives) can be characterized as "distanced" from the open source movement or open access in all its forms. There are open source and open access proponents among us who are free to promote and develop these ideals within the OAC and its offshoots.

Jeremy Trombley said:
The phrase "open anthropology" (note: not the word "open") has been used for several years by a group of anthropologists (including, but not limited to Max) to promote a specific agenda ("open access" as opposed to restrictive copyright laws and corporate run journals). This movement has connections to the Open Source movement that Michael mentioned. However, our project here (as a result of a prior discussion) has chosen to distance itself from that, and, therefore, no longer has a legitimate reason to use the phrase.

Personally, I'm very disappointed with this fight over the "open anthropology" phrase. I have read Max Forte's blog on this issue. I think that he has a point in claiming original usership of the phrase, with a distinct meaning from the way in which it is used in OAC. He does not, however, seem to have the openness at heart that would allow him to accept another use of the term "open anthropology". From my reading, the issue is also related to how he perceives Keith Hart's statements on the relationship between the two "open anthropologies". Max Forte feels that OAC co-opted a name that in his mind is associated with his own open anthropology endeavours. (Never mind that he didn't feel quite as strongly about this in the beginning, because - although he did raise the issue - he still participated in OAC without protesting as vehemently as he now does. That may be unfortunate but does not change current the situation.)

In this conflict, doing the right thing for me means to be the less insistent party.

Therefore, I support changing the name. Although I don't know exactly how this will be put into action, I would like to voice my preference for a new name at this time already. Perhaps this will be useful for any potential name-gathering exercise:

My first preference is Online Anthropology Cooperative, because it retains the acronym OAC.

My second vote would be for The Anthropology Cooperative.

Have a nice day!!
I totes agree with Patty & Simone's sense that this feels like a fight in which I have no dogs, except at the same time it is *so* tiresomely familiar: an outbreak of Internet Angree!!!!!!! for that reason, I can't help thinking of the lolcat version of the debate:

Unintentional Irony: ur doin it quite well, akshually.

I can haz tragicomic obliviousness?

The whole idea of ownership of openness is silly. But beyond that, these kinds of debates (heated, nasty, off-putting) are all over political-intellectual blogs (actually, I even saw one erupt on Cute Overload about images of a hamster funeral). I have a sad feeling that this one is not going to be the last one that erupts here -- however this turns out, I think we might eventually need another discussion group for talking about methods of conflict-resolution so that we don't find ourselves in a position where rather than doing interesting things, we are constantly holding ballots about stuff like whether, say, photographing a hamster's funeral is disturbing or moving (clearly, the correct answer is: both).
The Anthropology Cooperative would get my vote (if I had one).
Stacie said, "That would help lessen the feeling that a single group is in control."

Looking at how most activities on OAC are totally decentralized, with anyone who cares to forming a group, putting up discussion questions, posting comments, etc. etc., it is hard to see how someone might think that "a single group is in control."

We have asked for volunteers to do the often tedious and occasionally creative work of administering the site on our behalf, for us. Some have kindly agreed to take on this responsibility. The amount of "control" exerted has been minimal.

My hypothesis is that such a large group of diverse individuals as OAC members includes a wide range of views about most topics, and could not easily come to a consensus on name, aim, procedure, activity, or content. Those members who want quick action on issues of their choosing then blame the administrators as the shadowy controllers thwarting them. This is unfair and unjust. Let us try to avoid being ingrates.
no one seems to be asking (or saying) *why* max forte is upset about the branding confusion. If it is because Max Forte is greedy and ironically possessive of the adjective "open" then that clearly sucks. But it might be because this project, whatever it is, *isn't about openness or freedom* in any meaningful sense. I'd much rather be reading a debate about what a truly open anthropology cooperative would look like than whether or not is should be labeled as such.

anyways, I vote for keeping "open " in the title if that's what this cooperative is about.

And Igor asked: "Would anyone object to starting a Savage Minds Cooperative?" To which I say, go right the fuck ahead... our whole goal in starting Savage Minds was to seed a non-denominational, open, creative, productive, proliferating anthropology blogosphere. If Max Forte wants to own Open Anthropology, then he loses. But if there is some kind of critique going on here, then maybe its time to fish or cut bait.
Based solely on which name is better, Open Anthropology Cooperative, I think.
Its a pity to see such admirable efforts - the setting up of this excellent and fun and informative site- sidetracked and hopefully not derailed by this issue. Getting an informed opinion about the claims against the founders and about the alleged appropriation will obviously take a bit of time for those of us who weren't even aware of the issue until recently. Perhaps if there really is confusion between the various 'opens'- a disclaimer (and a link even) that they are unrelated might be compromise.
Peace out!

Yes, it is indeed Kerim Friedman, and I have to give him the true credit: He started this whole thing with a post to Twitter about his disappointment with the AAA and how it was having so much trouble adapting to the 21st century (my interpretation, not his exact words)... and could there be something better?

The discussions from the old Drupal Memory Bank site to which you refer are here on the Ning site-- you can see them by clicking on the link "a group of friends who met on Twitter" found in the What Is This Place? section of the About page.

As for decision-making inconsistencies, you're right. We (the admins) requested early on that everyone use their full name on this site without taking it to the membership, and it resulted in a heated debate which I'm sure you remember. The membership has grown enormously since that time, and given that we have differing views even within the admin team, it seems like a good time to take a different approach (i.e., not a unilateral one). Unfortunately, you can't make all the people happy all the time, and now we are experiencing debates about the pending choice AND about how the choice itself should be made. But that's a good thing, yes? Everyone is having their say.

Stacie Gilmore said:
When the group was formed, there was a sense that it would have a specific set of aims. Both Max (Open Anthropology) and I believe Kerim Friedman (associated with the Open Access Anthropology Blog) commented at points in the discussion on Keith Hart's page, The Memory Bank. The comment just says "kerim," but from the detail of the response I assumed kerim friedman. Kerim laid out some very clear project ideas: conferences, journals (with open journal systems), actively promoting anthropology, etc. I'm already oversimplifying, so for exact details go here: Max saved a copy of the conversation immediately before the Ning network was put into play.
BDwyer said:
Also does anyone know why it is a cooperative - how come it is not a forum - I mean I belong to a cooperative in Darwin where I live and in that we have specific aims and ideals and activities and purposes that bring us together.

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