Action Group 4 OAC

The purpose of this group is to have a peg in the OAC for people to share what they can do, or would suggest can be done to carry on the usefulness of having 5000 anthropologists linked (however protractedly).


Essentially Occupy it in the sense of bringing more life and meaning to a space.

Location: Canterbury & Online
Members: 43
Latest Activity: Jun 13, 2013






IMO - architects & techies

TIPI - relations to Occupy movement

AGARIC - offline activities

RHIZOME - members outreach

DIDGE - coherent media

Also see this discussion here: WHAT IS THE OAC FOR?

(you may need to repost your comments from the main thread)

Please still feel free to comment on the main wall.


This group has been instigated due to the reading of this by Keith Hart -

This group has two premises that should be answered (in an on-going fashion).

a) that bringing together 5000 Anthropologists is useful

b) that 5000 Anthropologists can both maintain themselves as a community for the purposes of sharing/learning and conversing on great anthropological stuff 

Proposal: We would also like it to grow to be more able at making this learning more of a total social fact outside of an academic or online discourse.

Elaine summary AG4OAC 1 Dec.odt

Discussion Forum

Isolated Anthropologists 8 Replies

Am I alone? I am indeed alone, as the single anthropologist in a University that specializes in management and technology.  This leads of course to a sort of academic isolation and - with the best…Continue

Started by Charles Kirke. Last reply by Charles Kirke Jan 11, 2012.

Suggestions 15 Replies

a place to post suggestionsContinue

Tags: sustainability, practical, suggestions, action, anthropology

Started by Abraham Heinemann. Last reply by Adonia Lugo Dec 2, 2011.

What is the OAC 4? 11 Replies

We have had some discussion on the main thread concerning a possible mission statement or manifesto for the OAC, with some emphasis on an apparent contradiction between the need to clarify what we…Continue

Started by Keith Hart. Last reply by Adonia Lugo Dec 2, 2011.

Comment Wall


You need to be a member of Action Group 4 OAC to add comments!

Comment by Elaine Forde on November 17, 2011 at 2:42pm



I think of John's comment these two bits could work


1. share duties, however small, among members giving a greater sense of involvement, and obligation and


2. thinking of different categories of members and what they can do for the group.


This might not necessarily make OAC un-egalitarian if it worked properly, and since we would find it hard to offer a coffee we might need to think of what other bribes/ incentives we can offer.


One role could be that longer term members could mentor newer members, offering "coffee". If joining involved basic Q and A about interests and locations, maybe this idea of grouping up could interplay with actual world activity. Rather than the user just looking around and choosing their own groups perhaps some website function could suggest groups to join (at the user's discretion of course), and flag up a newcomer with specific experience and interest to people already in relevant groups.


Another role could be, for instance, chairing a discussion. This happens in real life scenarios and could be formalised here. A new-ish, tentative contributor could be asked to chair a discussion that other folks wish to have, the discussion is arranged to begin whenever and a chair is requested. The chair might be chuffed to be thought worthy of such a role, one that they might never just assume. After all we have anthropologists of totally different backgrounds all rubbing shoulders on here and for some it will be daunting to just throw comments in.

Abraham, I have checked out this video and I am not sure I like it much as a theory, although it could be a useful analogy for what some people see OAC for. The idea that simple peasants would exploit common land beyond its capability seemed to emerge at the same time as such land was being steadily enclosed and alienated into private ownership then sold or rented back to them. The modern, extended premise seems to be based on game theory (that indIviduals act in rational self interest at all times), and the assumption that there is/ was an infinite supply of cows ready to be plonked onto common land (and the idea that cows cannot enhance either fertility or environment). If you are interested perhaps we can have a discussion on this at some point?


Will we see a class of landowners steadily enclose the OAC, deciding that simple lurkers will exhaust our shared resources while extolling the need for a responsible enlightened group to preserve the common good, allowing lurkers access just to look, no grazing? I fear we will be left going nowhere with a clash between ideology (keep it free, keep it open) and pragmatism,  since those running the show find it can't last and need something to move.


My final thing to say here is that especially in light of John's comments we might find we could do with some sort of actual world activity, a seminar here or a conference there as the face-to-face that JOhn mentions seems to be much more effective for fundraising on one hand, and perhaps this may extend to encouring activity online too.

Comment by John McCreery on November 17, 2011 at 4:57am

Based on my experience (credentials available if desired), neither culling nor expressing frustration is a good way to build an active organization, either on or off line. 

The model I keep returning to is the two Lutheran churches my parents helped to found and the one to which my brother now belongs. The key words are "outreach" and "engagement." 

"Outreach" did not mean standing on street corners or going door to door to proselytize. It meant, first, ensuring that there was a personal welcome for everyone who showed up at services. Second, it also meant follow-up. Members of the evangelism committee not only welcomed newcomers at services. Phone calls a few days later reiterated the the welcome, suggesting coffee, or asking for permission to visit. All this was in a very low key, welcome-to-the-neighborhood mode.

In the case of OAC, Keith, Paul and Francine are already implementing step 1. How to manage step 2 is something we need to talk about.

It makes no sense at all to pile more work on people who are already doing so much. We have to get more people involved. That is where engagement comes in. Another thing I have noticed about these churches is that there is always work for people to do and people are asked to do it: sing in the choir, teach Sunday school, serve as ushers, acolytes, or readers at services, serve coffee and cake at the coffee hour, serve on the church council, etc. There are also roles for people who prune the shrubs, run weekday Bible study groups, organize boy or girl scout troupes. The proliferation of service roles make it easy for people to get involved at whatever level they are comfortable with. 

This observation brings up  another consideration, a possibly uncomfortable topic for people committed to egalitarian premises about how organizations should be run. It may be useful to think of different categories of members and what they can do for the group. I learned this lesson a few years back when I found myself the chair of Democrats Abroad Japan. We had a lot of names on our mailing list, but the regulars who showed up for monthly meetings reminded me of a scene in a novel by David Lodge, a group of aging Trotskyites in cardigans chatting about the good old days in a space littered with yellowing pamphlets from actions past. Noting the absence of young, lively, still energetic members, I reflected that holding meetings at 6:00 p.m. on a Friday night in a meeting room in a missionary compound was not likely to attract a lot of new members in their 20s and 30s, who were, in Tokyo, likely to be working until 7:00 or 8:00 p.m., had more interesting things to do on a Friday night, and more interesting places to do them. So (I know this story is getting long), I looked up a couple of young newcomers who had come along and helped out with an envelope-stuffing. I told them I wanted them to found a new "Young Turks" group with meetings at a time and place of their own choosing. The result was recruiting a new cohort of young activists who started meeting on Thursday nights at 8:00 p.m. in a Japanese restaurant/bar that catered to their age group.

We were also having trouble fundraising. Odd, I thought, given that our membership list included the names of several prominent members of (be prepared for a surprise) the American Chamber of Commerce, of which I was, at the time, also a member. Then one day, I met a fellow, an expat American chief financial officer for the local branch of a Swiss corporation, who said to me, "You'd be surprised how much you can raise if you just walk up to the right people, put your hand on their shoulder, and say 'We need to raise X and you look like a three- maybe four-zero donor to me." He was right. There were people who would never have the time or inclination to turn up for our meetings who, if asked nicely, would pop for $500 or $1000 because (a) they could afford it and (b) they were flattered to be seen as being in that league.

In both these cases, nothing would have happened had I posted a notice asking for volunteers on our open Yahoo! mailing list. The key was direct, personal outreach. But the key to that is, in our case, winnowing (not culling) the 5,000 to identify likely activists. These could be people who are now active on the list or have been in the past. Our traffic records should point to them. It also occurs to me that, when Keith et. al., personally welcome someone and that person thanks them for the welcome, that is a really good sign. If we had some way to track them, maybe some of the rest of us could handle step 2 in the evangelism process. Could be as simple as, "Let me add my welcome to Keith's. Could you tell me a bit more about the sorts of anthropology you are interested in?" "In that case...have you taken a look at...." 

You can see where this is leading. We draw people in and when they start feeling part of the gang we say, "By the way, could you give us a hand with...."

If from a population of 5000, we can build an active circle of 50, we can relieve a lot of the burden on our administrators, make them feel valued, and, assuming we think it's worth ten bucks apiece, easily raise $500.

That's the way I'm thinking.

Comment by Abraham Heinemann on November 17, 2011 at 1:44am

but as you say Elaine, "I personally would not support such a course of action but it probably should be discussed" I agree it should be covered so thankyou for bringing it up

Comment by Abraham Heinemann on November 17, 2011 at 1:36am

Thankyou for your reply Elaine,

However I feel I have not expressed myself correctly.

I am not suggesting a cull of any form plus I do not buy into plagiarism as used as a word today in almost any form. Plagiarism will happen when when you have a system of enclosure that we exist in and will be given the power it has due a variety of factors devolving from the a none collaborative atmosphere. Which from another perspective might be called a difference in perception of an action and where people place their value.

Coming back to the cull, there is no need, it does not change much unless a vast large quantity of the net was culled but even then people would reproduce it again, plus I personally wouldn't want such a thing to happen anyhow.


I am more pressing for a discussion on the the interplay between Open Access Areas, Enclosures and Commons, where OAA's can never be sustained in light of either an enclosure movement or limited resources (such as people time and energy). To bring some classic literature in we can refer to the classic scenario in the 'The Tradegy of the Commons' which itself is totally flawed by its misuse of the word Commons, but anyhow, replace Commons with OAA's (which are not the same thing) and what you have here expressed in Keith Harts frustration perhaps (or at least in my interpretation of it, combined with my own experience) is this: where firstly replace the word Commons with OAA to be correct, you replace the grass with OAC content and the cows are our usage of OAC. Basically its hard for teh few to keep the grass green when they are not an infinite resource in themselves. 


I know this seems like a bit of a haphazard way to explain it but it occurred to me so I thought I would share it. I am also it is not quite the right metaphor as I am playing within the field that most believe leads to mathematical quantifying of stuff, which ultimately leads to alienation of exchange.

Comment by Elaine Forde on November 17, 2011 at 12:29am

ha ha! based on what you've both said, what about a cull then? If people feel they're supporting silent lurkers maybe we should cull the lurkers? Effectively create a hierarchy based on participation.


I personally would not support such a course of action but it probably should be discussed. I have enjoyed most of the engagements I've made with people on OAC, but admittedly these are few so I don't expect anything back. Perhaps more consistent contributors feel differently since leading a seminar in person is lucrative why should they do it here for nowt?


If a cull did take place we could risk becoming a clique which seems ditasteful to me since we are "O" AC, we would also remove the random element.


There certainly is the general feeling that putting out stuff/ work/ intellectual property online is somehow relinquishing it altogether- I was surprised at a recent discussion about the merits of different publishing routes to be advised that publishing online is risky- albeit from someone with shocking stories of plagiarism. Perhaps it's copy and paste, or perhaps it's the general feeling of possessiveness over work that has been laboriously prepared.


This reminds me of a video


the basic point is that writing for the web is a different craft and should be crafted differently.


John- the volunteer analogy is intersting and pretty timely for me given the work I'm prepapring right now, I will come back to you on that but have some errands to do right now.


I will post the cull point onto Abraham's other board

Comment by Abraham Heinemann on November 16, 2011 at 5:29pm

something in this cartoon that somehow touches on the topic of the post below -

Comment by Abraham Heinemann on November 16, 2011 at 5:28pm

practical suggestion

> OAC explicitely support and facilitate offline communites such as university departments


because you do already to a degree, but if the active community here feel undervalued then is this not because they are used as a consumption base in a 'consumer mentality' based educational structure. Where they are essentially filling in for some of the gap left by education cuts and buisnessization (such as contact hours, quality, number of staff, degrees of engagement). Hence a frustration emerging from practioners who fill these gaps, as they may not wish to enclose their knowledge and sharing anymore, however it is not sustainable to give away for free indefintely, so their is an expectance of a gift exchange but quite often the case, is that a gift exchaneg system cannot continue indefinitely when a capitalistic profit hordering mehcnaism is feeding off of it, as it either sucks it dry or calls upon its active partcipants to put far more than can sustainably give without reciprocation???


This also reflects a bigger game at play on the web.


Comment by Abraham Heinemann on November 16, 2011 at 5:09pm

I second John's point, however a few obvious technical changes can be made in Ning quite easily to give the platform a little freshness anyhow, but I think they should be implemented at the point at which any decisions on how to move forward are made. So if we keep collecting suggestions in the technical discussion board here, whilst also prying open the topic John points out below.

So on that topic, though not as extended as John's, my experience has been similar, also some tangentel points;

- the core team should outline specifically what their aims and visions (to be constantly updated) are and align activity with these. In essence do not leave oneself in a position where one feels one is doing a lot of stuff for the sake of others that one does not feel valued explicitely for.

- There also seems in these scenarios what might be called a PNG 'Big-man' relationship, however this is only sustainable when the 'Big-man' team feel that their efforts achieve a specific value within a socially defined context.#

- also a degree of acceptance of what John points should perhpas be made explicit?

- There is a matter of anthropological philosophy here, where one either leans towards accepting the social organization and tries to understand it or more towards recognizing it sources and trying to be an active ingredient in changing it. I would place myself somewhere between the two.

I am not sure how useful any of that is, however it seems that a key question here pointed out by John and my 'premise a)' probe at a key issue, what can be or is being achieved by linking together 5000 anthropologists?


I think that both John, Keith and a few others that I am sure exist, should share their frustration explicitely with the rest of the lurking community (which includes/included me) and draw on what is common between everyone, lurker or not, and set a challenge that evokes response;

We are Anthropologists and might be said to study people and their communities (or whatever unit size you want to scale up or down from this). So is it not integral that we ask questions about our own communities and what we bring/or dont bring to them and their viability? Most specifically the communites of anthropology we are a part of; online, university, academic etc.. Otherwise the anthropological endeavour maybe built on a rotting foundation.

Comment by John McCreery on November 16, 2011 at 4:34am

There is much to what Elaine says. But the problem may be a deeper one than local conditions at OAC. Having been on line since the pre-Internet bulletin board days, I have seen repeatedly the same phenomenon. Following an initial burst of excitement in which early participants come on board and stake out positions, the group structure settles into one in which a handful of regulars provide the bulk of the traffic, a few newcomers chime in once in a while but mostly don't last very long, and the number of lurkers increases to whatever its steady state will be. I have also noticed the same phenomenon in off-line volunteer groups to which I belong, where a small core of regulars keep the group going, a somewhat larger segment show up occasionally for meetings or other events, and together both these groups are only a fraction of the nominal membership list. There seems to be something very basic about human social organization going on both on and off line. It might be a good idea to spend some time talking  about these deeper issues before investing time and effort in technical solutions.

Comment by Elaine Forde on November 16, 2011 at 2:25am

Good Idea Abraham,


I suggest including a forum for discussion of current issues/ news, which I suggest would be word-limited in order to help conversations flow, try to coax people to make contact without having to make long, poised contibutions (obviously this is in addition to the groups that do want this). This was in response to the advocacy of facebook, which I oppose, although it can be lively. I'm not technical, but I guess what i'm proposing would be like an extended version of the chat thing we already have, or the facebook news feed.


I am not against long discussions but I think that is why fewer people comment as read- from my POV I don't like commenting without being pretty sure it enhances the discussion or risk repeating so sometimes I don't contribute. It could be the same for others??



OAC Press



© 2020   Created by Keith Hart.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service