Have you noticed how our debates about the future of anthropology assume that the academic institutions in which anthropologists seek employment will continue to exist in something like their current form. Consider the following observations by marketing guru Seth Godin. What if he's right? What will we do?

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We will simply become more amateurs of what we are now. Financing ourselves for research from our own funds
( if possible). Otherwise reading posts in OAC or looking photos and videos made by friends and colleagues. Enjoying our pleasure called AMTHROPOLOGICAL RESEARCH. As simple as that.
I have long held that we falsely imagine the university to be an old established institution. In its modern form it was invented by Hegel and only began seriously after the first world war and has been in decline since its peak of the 60s and 70s. This is more obvious in Europe and Africa say than in the US. The modern university is a form tightly linked to national capitalism and the digital revolution has been undermining its premises for some time. These include a guild approach to learning, dominance of research (a Cold War phenomenon), rite of passage for middle class adolescents, the academic publishing boom, etc. Many of the names and buildings will still be there, but what goes on in universities will be unrecognizable as the 20th century institution it is and people will get what they want in many other more effective ways. Godin is right to emphasize learning as higher education's principal function or what I call bums on seats. Anthropology, I hope, is quite well adapted to this revolution since it was never really a discipline in the guild sense and its principal guild institutions like the AAA are demonstrably laughable. What we are doing here can and should be one major site for exploring alternative ways forward.
As I think about Keith's reply, I wonder how we bridge the gap between the fluid, largely inconsequential conversational style of interaction on sites like OAC and the discipline and resources required for serious research. How is it possible to replace the apparatus of graded assignments, grants and teaching positions on which academic careers continue to depend?
Universities are for education? The president of the Canadian student association argued that students come to university "to get drunk and get laid." Being there, face-to-face makes this easier than trying to do it on line. Give up Academic Camp? Not likely. Let the folks pay for it.

Universities are a "rite of passage for middle class adolescents"? "Rite of passage," yes. "Middle class adolescents"? One point to keep in mind is that in the U.S. over 50%, an absolute majority, of the age cohort go on to higher education. Another point is that vast financial support for poorer students, together with reverse discrimination admissions policies, guarantee an increasing portion of poor and (some categories of) visible minority students.

Other things that are free and easily accessible in life are exercise and dieting. So why do so many people pay large sums and take the trouble to go to gyms and diet programs? Because the structure supports the activity. Many individuals, perhaps most folks, find that they can but don't do it on their own. But they can study advanced subjects and learn effectively on their own? Don't bet on it.
What do you think, folks? Is John right when he refers to the "largely inconsequential conversational style of interaction on sites like OAC."

John McCreery said:
As I think about Keith's reply, I wonder how we bridge the gap between the fluid, largely inconsequential conversational style of interaction on sites like OAC and the discipline and resources required for serious research. How is it possible to replace the apparatus of graded assignments, grants and teaching positions on which academic careers continue to depend?
absolutely NOT
IN MY COUNTRY students have one more benefit :
once they get in (80% of total youth population study) they never pay a penny, the silly state pays even for the ..books ( one text book for a lesson-topic). So why to accelerate studies ? 4 YEARS FACULTIES ARE EXTENDED TO 8-10
I should be clear about what I mean by "largely inconsequential." The pattern to which I refer is by no means limited to OAC. It is, as far as I can make out, pervasive on all sorts of email lists, forums and social networking sites:

(1) Someone starts a thread by posting an interesting message.
(2) Regulars stake out their positions; hang around for more than a week or two and these become predictable.
(3) Conversation dies.

The work of serious scholarship, advancing conversations beyond preconceptions, rarely occurs.
The structure provided by the institution that Philip points out is certainly critical for me. My situation requires a non-anthropological day job to pay the bills (and help my two children with their OWN college experience), and without the structure (i.e., assignments and the all-important deadlines) imposed by the coursework, I would do little else besides visiting the OAC and reading an occasional paper.

I would love to believe that I could be a completely self-directed researcher in my spare time, but dropping $1500 a semester for a graduate seminar is much more effective.
And what do you propose John ?

To keep the conversation for 1 year ? Some items such as OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY as connected to subjectivity and reflexity are highly interesting band keep on but if u have 1530 members of 100 diferent countries and 50 different mother tongues u cannot expect better of what is going on right now. And in September after the vacations will finish, it will be a ..fever in the new topics. I ..have prepared myself only ..135......
I would hope that evaluating the potential of the OAC to advance the anthropological project in new and old ways would not be based on a snapshot of activities of the first three months, most of it in a slow summer period. I think the chat here is a good way of people introducing themselves. We tend to forget all those who read what is going on and decide whether to join or not (we get 300 unique visitors a day and it is will go up from September). It is true that the regulars, any regulars, can put people off from joining in. And I think senior academics might consider whether their style of argument invites younger and more insecure members to post or stay away. But this chat is not the main point of the OAC.

We are a social networking site of an unusually open kind for our intellectual content. But the wiki Paul started has the potential to be a useful aid in research and teaching. It will take time for this to be realized. We also intend to run seminars, workshops and even conferences, which will feed into an online publishing programme. These are quite traditional activities defined by the academy. But I expect we will find new uses that go beyond what we are familiar with already. I am keen to see how we might develop the social bookmarking idea to push the classification of anthropological knowledge in new and more democratic directions.

In my previous post I argued that the current academic emphasis on research is a passing fad and that life-time learning of the sort that Kant had in mind is a project for which anthropology is particularly well -suited. Ephemeral chat may not be the best way of pursuing that goal either, but it draws the punters in and has already created an audience of a size that might encourage some of us to develop longer-term educational initiatives. I really don't think there has been a site like this one before. In a year or two we will be the second largest anthropology association in the world, ready to challenge the dinosaurs at their own game and beyond. I look forward to that. In the meantime, it is good to have this chance for idle chat, some of which has already changed how I think.

John McCreery said:
I should be clear about what I mean by "largely inconsequential." The pattern to which I refer is by no means limited to OAC. It is, as far as I can make out, pervasive on all sorts of email lists, forums and social networking sites:
(1) Someone starts a thread by posting an interesting message. (2) Regulars stake out their positions; hang around for more than a week or two and these become predictable.
(3) Conversation dies.

The work of serious scholarship, advancing conversations beyond preconceptions, rarely occurs.
As I mentioned in my previous contribution, my concern is not with OAC per se, which as far as I can see is, albeit in its first three months, operating well above the norm. My intent is not to criticize OAC but rather to pose the question how best to sustain interest and move it to the next level. The words "the next level" suggest one possible solution, i.e., the one embraced by designers of role-playing games, in which successfully overcoming the problems presented at level x wins access to level x+1.

The anthropologist in me observes that game designers were anticipated by several centuries by Freemasons and other secret societies, in which mastery at one level is prerequisite to admission to the next. The problem may be, of course, that both games and secret societies are explicitly hierarchical, with the greater mysteries reserved for those farther up the hierarchy. By adopting an egalitarian stance and insisting on openness we have removed the motivation for upward mobility that hierarchy provides. Something like the mechanisms that Chris Kelty ascribes to "recursive publics," for which the archetype is the open software movement, might provide a replacement.

Any other ideas?

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