a place to post suggestions

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So I will start: 

> I would like to join/have a meeting with the present admin to decide on and implement web changes (I will put in the hours)

> decide upon a few main projects for OAC such as providing space for conference materials and conversation prior and post conference

> circulate a questionairre to members to see what they would most like OAC to do, out of a selection of things that we are able to do, and provide a funding link for any of those options that requite money or other resources, so people dont only have to vote with their mouth (or mouse in this case)

> start a working group on how to relate to and act/assist/start with/in any active and less mega-academic based projects: e.g. Occupy movement or more at home OR questioning and reconstructing the educational environment in which social anthropology is taught as it is vital to social anthropology yet follows principles which it deconstructs in other contexts yet fails to too when it comes to its own main community base: the University



I have suggested that we use part of this space to have an open discussion between all members about the direction of OAC. I offer to collate the responses at the end, in a similar vein to your thread "harvested suggestions". I have approached John Mc to steer it since he has a presence on here more often, and I have put it to Keith that there could be a way to make it open to all members, and to contact them about it, rather than restricting discussions to members of one group. I suggest we keep a discussion open for a set time- maybe til end of the year, then produce a document collating the vibe for the admin/ tech team to work from. I hope you will approve.


I ought to post this elsewhere since there are parallel discussions on this theme.


All the best, Elaine

Hi all,

I am pretty new (in my unlurking attitude at least) but I would like to contribute with some suggestions after having read your posts:


1. it would be good to have a word limit; As my mum, a teacher, tells me, "I speak too much because that's my job". I think we do need a limit as we all tend to chuck (great but redundant) ideas in.

2. a weekly meeting of sorts - I have no idea if current news would actually be ok, though. I think it would be good to give it a try.

3. a hierarchy of sorts. i.e. putting the "professional history" in the website of any contributor, as an incentive to participate more. eliminating unused/poorly used accounts. Also, a low word allowance for the beginners so to push them to write if really motivated.


I'll keep it short as I am a beginner. Consistent with my ideas.




I think one thing that could help encourage a more open community and more contribution from people who might otherwise feel inhibited would be greater openness to signing up with a pseudonym instead of a "real" name.

(Related to some of the goals here: http://openanthcoop.ning.com/group/action-group-4-oac/forum/topics/...)

These suggestions came to me privately from Jürgen Schraten who, because he is a noob, a German-speaker and a sociologist, preferred not to post them directly here. But I think they are really worth considering, if the attention span of this group has survived its first week as a talking shop:

I had the impression that members are trying to implement too many offline-structures into an online-community: groups, seminars, archives... and now some suggest a manifesto.

What could OAC offer that you can't find on Facebook, Twitter, Google+... etc. My answer would be: Academic quality and anthropological goal-directedness.

To achieve this I'd suggest to change the way discussions are performed.

1. Duration

Entering a group sounds like marrying into a tribe - it could be for the rest of your life. Every engagement amasses obligations, and members will soon stop entering new groups. Every thread you start increases the number of threads you have to observe - so that before long you will hesitate to comment on another thread.

A simple measure would be to limit the duration of discussions, changing the way they're organized and "tagging" them with academic labels like Christos Varvantakis suggested it for photos. An example: A discussion starts when at least three members are interested in discussing it, thereby perhaps inducing others to engage. And every discussion (like a "thread" in a newsgroup) lasts for no more than four weeks. This would have two effects: First, the duration of engagement is predictable and secondly, you'll have to add your arguments quickly.

2. Quality

Most threads in other groups (not only Facebook, even newsgroups today) consist of  "opinions" and gossip. To change this I'd suggest a simple Socratic rule: If you haven't read up on or researched a topic, all you can do is ask questions. This may be enforced by demanding references for what you claim. If you can't back it up, you have to change your assertion into a question. That way participants will generate a hierarchy themselves. Everyone recognizes who are the experts and any one can be a lecturer in one thread and a student in another. Heinz von Foerster once said: You can learn a lot even from the most stupid people ;-).

The area "DISCUSS" could be differentiated into a "waiting list" of questions, "running debates" and an "archive" to browse through. Moving a question to "discussions" would require three participants prepared to argue with references. So you have to read your books if you want your arguments to be taken seriously rather than as gossip.

3. Order

The principle of "tagging" a thing helps introducing an order and participants are able to signal a new direction of their debate by adding another tag. The "archive" may be searched by tags (have a look at http://ask.debian.net or http://ask.fedoraproject.org)

Members would be able to engage in up-to-date discussions at a high academic level. They might be encouraged to browse the DISCUSS area of OAC when looking for some expertise to consolidate their "opinion".

For instance, on the Occupy movement: I'd like to participate in a discussion about the idea of "SYSTEM" because the occupiers' relative lack of self-understanding is reflected in the formula "99+1". This ignores the inherent stability of systems - especially the system of money they all participate in. But I'm not sure if I'll be interested in the same question three months later (will Occupy still exist?!), so it would be nice to pool different areas of expertise for a while, getting suggestions for some texts to read and then move on (or reformulate the question after a month, starting a new thread).

These ideas ideas come from my engagement in the Free Software Movement.

I think considerations such as these are good at bringing out what useful technical changes can be made to facilitate them.

And so will keep my critique of some of the points to myself as it will not be that useful to putting them to practical use

It may be worth thinking about why a newcomer might not be comfortable posting directly here, maybe talking to some people who don't participate much.

It may not be the most comfortable place for many people to post, since comments are publicly searchable, and the profile asks for people's full names, no screen names. Here's a list here of some reasons why people may prefer to use a handle online:


Could be other reasons why -- and/or maybe other ways to address some of the inhibition that potential contributors may be feeling.

Bah! I just lost a nice reply to the group, I'll try again...


I liked some of Jurgen's suggestions in terms of duration and order- tagging is a tool we could harness which we just can't get with other media. However I would hesitate before trying to moderate for quality. This already happens informally and if it were formalised then effectively someoene would have to act as enforcer. How to enforce changes was a question that sprang to mind as I read the posts-  we may have to ask group originators to take on more responsibility as regards how their group operates.


I am not sure about real names, given rachelle's info there is certainly more to think about than I had realised. I'll happily use mine, but I do so outside of OAC for other anthropology-reated matters. I am not sure whether we could in fairness allow new members to join with an alias, we might risk infiltration by trolls which I don't think we currently have?


As for Rachelle's idea of understanding our lurkers, I wholeheartedly agree. I suggested something similar but got a mixed response on another thread, but I am glad Rachelle has raised it here. Keith- can the admin/ techs provide a list of "lurkers" (which could be defined as inactive, but perhaps better still, active users/ watchers who do not post) and do we as a group feel that it would be ethical to cold-call them with a few questions about themselevs and why they lurk? Alternatively can we post a notice on the site, or send an e-mail asking lurkers to privately send a message about their reasons for lurking. I think this would be worthwhile and so volunteer to carry out some of this. Rachelle- since you are of a similar opinion, would you work on this too? What is the general view about such a course of action?



Rachelle and Elaine,

I agree that Juergen's suggestions are worth considering in part if not in whole. He had three reasons for not posting directly, as I mentioned. I don't think that his case is particularly generalizable. I polished up his prose before posting as he and I are colleagues.

For a long time, we did not moderate membership applications in the belief that being open meant not doing that. But members complained a lot about the spammers we let in, so we changed our policy. Now they are rare, but one slipped through the other day. This is an example of how opennness requires some things to be closed. We settled on a real name policy from the beginning. We believe that people are more accountable for their actions that way. Other sites are more concerned to protect individual privacy, but we felt that identity should be open on the OAC and still do. But of course if there is a groundswell against it, we will have a general discussion. I am sure that publicity is a disincentive for some, even many. But I suspect that, like Juergen, the majority of lurkers read English, but don't write it very well.

If you are concerned about privacy, it doesn't make sense for the politburo here to check on which members post and which don't, even less who read and who don't (which I think would be impossible). The only way to keep a check would be a sample census of what people have posted on their pages (5,600 of them). We have been exploring member outreach on the rhizome thread of this group. We need to agree there on what we want to do and why and then explore how. I have mentioned some of the existing tools that might allow individuals to narrow their outreach to some places. Eventually, we may feel sure enough of our purposes and means to follow up some of Elaine's suggestions for mechanizing this process, but there is always a tradeoff between contradictory goals of the sort that have been touched on here.

The fact that Abraham sees ways of using ideas raised here for exploring technical issues reinforces the idea that a thread like this is a good place to raise general questions that might then be developed elsewhere in the group by a few members who are interested in them.

Re Keith's reply, I am personally less concerned with privacy since this is a public forum, but I would like to understand why lurkers lurk more before thinking about outreach. If, as Keith suggests, language is an issue, then as well as time and willing, an outreach team will need language skills to boot. John and I are willing but I am only able to write in English and John does too, although I believe he has Japanese and possibly more, so we would certainly need more skilled volunteers to be able to do a proper job if language is the key issue.

We can write to them in English and ask questions about inhibitions to participation and what migh timprove that. If they didn't read English, they wouldn't be here. That's also why targeting members by country might help. Remember we are 30% US and 30% other Anglophone, with 30% Other Europe and 10% the Rest, with lots of mixture of residence and origin. So lots of choices about strategy according to personal strengths.

I noticed the breakdown of members by country on another thread- is it worth scouting for volunteers from each (ideally) to act as outreach for their fellows?



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