Today, I was startled to see on the OAC home page the following statement. 

Winner of the “most active group award”: Dynamical Processes on Complex Networks.

As one of the three active members of this group, I would like to compliment our founder Johannes Castner on the way he set it up. As far as I can make out, most groups are generic. The topic is the anthropology of X, where X is art, theory, teaching, the list goes on and on. The Dynamical Processes group is focused on a book with the same title as the group, and the purpose of the group is to work through it to see what is useful in it for the members' own research. Most groups are trawling. The founders put up a group in the hope that someone will bite and say something of use to them. They don't even bother to do what serious trawlers do, throw some chum in the water to attract the fish. In contrast, Johannes has taken an interest in other members' research, by which I mean, in particular, mine. He is being extraordinarily helpful in thinking about what might be a new stage in my project, which stimulates me, in turn, to point to stuff he might find useful. The result has become an almost daily exchange of ideas and information that I, at least, am finding enormously stimulating. 

We are a small group. I am reminded of scripture, "Where two or three are gathered together..." I wouldn't expect anything different. Mathematical modeling of complex systems is an esoteric interest in a crowd of anthropologists. I can't help wondering though if others here might benefit from taking Johannes as your model. 

  • Start a group with something specific to do (not just present a topic that, oh, well, some day, maybe when I have more time...people might want to talk about)
  • Take an active interest in the work being done by the people who sign up for the group
  • Share ideas and information (Generic critique is generally not helpful!)
  • Don't be greedy, like the trawlers who forget the chum, or those of us who haven't kicked in to the fundraising appeal yet. 
  • Remember my grandmother's maxim: Learning is like a bank. You can only take out what you have put in. 

End of sermon. 

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Comment by Paul Wren on November 15, 2011 at 7:18pm

Nice post, John.  I've been thinking along the same lines, that topic- or even goal-specific groups might be the answer here.  More to come.


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