“To understand a name you must be acquainted with the particular of which it is a name.”
–Bertrand Russell (p. 182)
“The author of the Iliad is either Homer or, if not Homer, somebody else of the same name.”
–Aldous Huxley (source)
As Huxley also said, “facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored,” and in that spirit I present some nearly-vanished facts, and it can only be of interest to those following the details of the dispute between Open Anthropology and Open Anthropology Cooperative.
Guanaguanare posed a very basic and direct question in her post here. I especially value her views, for many reasons, not least of which being that our collaboration preceded this blog and gave rise to the conceptualization, and the naming, of open anthropology. She wrote:
I was uncomfortable from the start with the name and had asked you certain questions about the use of your concept. I believe that if these questions had been raised at the beginning, this situation could have been avoided. Of course, I could only trust my instincts as I had no way of determining exactly what the motives of that other party were, though the refusal over time to address the concerns of those who questioned the use of the name makes me trust my suspicions.
And you were silent because???… I gather that you were observing some arcane gentleman’s rules of engagement which required that you bite your tongue until the offending party’s sense of decency kicked in?
The history had become blurred in my mind, in part due to the fact that it was scattered across at least three separate discussion threads in Twitter, which does a poor job of archiving discussions (and thus necessitated that I dig through the tweets of individual participants in the discussions), as well as a now deleted discussion on Keith Hart’s The Memory Bank, which I saved and archived here.
The questions for me to answer for myself were: (1) Where was I when the discussion about the naming of the OAC took place? Did I have much time to consider it? (2) Who was the first person to think of using the phrase “open anthropology,” and why? I answer each of these questions below.
(1) I have found a record showing that, just like Paul Wren here, I had missed most of the discussions in Twitter. I said so on Lorenz Khazaleh’s blog on Thursday, 28 May, 2009: “I wonder where I have been. Something tells me that I do not have an effective method for following discussions in Twitter, because I completely missed all of this until you posted this. Many thanks as always” (link). Readers will note that one of the would-be administrators, Francine Barone, posted a mere two hours later, “By the way, looks like we’re setting up on Ning” (link). Thus two hours passed between my discovering there was a discussion, and the establishment of the OAC, which I was quick to join, and almost as quick to leave.
Moments after my post on Lorenz’s blog, antropologi.info, in fact just five minutes after, I apparently visited what is the now deleted discussion forum on Hart’s blog (here). My input was merely a technical one, suggesting that they might want to try using NING, as an experimental first step. Nobody, apart from Hart, seemed convinced that any solution should be permanent, everything was to be trial and error. In fact, nobody apart from Hart endorsed the NING idea (an earlier poll pointed to other solutions). He simply proceeded to create it, on his own, and very quickly (one hour) after I made my first appearance on the discussion on his site. His stating that he had created the network was the last post in that discussion. Indeed, no one even agreed that Hart should be the one in charge of us all. He simply assumed that position: “I decided to be autocratic in order to shift the operation to a more formal level” (from Hart’s e-mail to the “inner circle”).
As for the naming issue, I barely followed or absorbed the discussion, but my first impression, superficial as it was at that time, was that they wished to forge a link to my own initiative. “Forge” may have taken on another meaning later, and it was only after the network was created that the explicit statements of affinity to my project were made by at least three of the administrators, in private by email and on the OAC itself. I quoted them in the latest post about this dispute. In addition to those statements in the first post, one of the early administrators, Jeremy Trombley, who was the first to resign (we resigned for similar reasons concerning the autocracy Hart was creating), stated in an e-mail to all the administrators:
“As for a [mission] statement – I’ve said before that I really like Max’s Project statement on his blog (/about/). Maybe he would be willing to let us adapt that for our project here.”
To Jeremy’s statement, one of the other administrators, Francine Barone, replied:
“I also think Max’s project statement is brilliant.”
Keith Hart then replied:
“I like Max’ project statement too and I have often expressed our collective debt to him. By all means we should draw on his example. The issue is whether this is going to take place out in the open or here.”
However, these last statements above came after the network was created, and they certainly reinforced my earlier belief that the OAC was meant to be constructed as some sort of partner to what is my OAP (Open Anthropology Project). That it is mine is clearly recognized in their comments above, and in my last post, so this is not a matter for dispute.
To answer my first question, I was absent from the Twitter discussions, very late to the final pre-OAC discussion on Hart’s site, and then very quickly I became an administrator, reading the statements of affinity above. If the OAC was not meant to be linked to my OAP, then that certainly was not made clear, and indeed the opposite appeared to be truer. It also appears that I had a grand total of about six minutes to consider the discussion, from the moment I read it on Lorenz’s blog, to the moment after I posted on Hart’s discussion board. That now answers the first two questions.
(2) Who was the first person to even state that “open anthropology” be part of the name of what became the OAC? That was tough to answer. It is clear from reviewing the archived discussion from Hart’s blog that the OA part of the name had already been settled upon earlier, which means in the Twitter discussions. Today I drilled through all the tweets posted by key discussion participants starting from mid-May of this year: Jeremy Trombley, Carole McGranahan, Paul Wren, irenarco, Keith Hart, and Kerim Friedman. Before I write anything further, let me state that what I am about to write is definitely not meant to cast any blame, and it in no way diminishes my great respect for the person concerned.
The first person to have suggested the name portion, “open anthropology,” was Carole McGranahan in Twitter: “not great, but perhaps open anthropology association. the oaa?” (link). What was “not great” in Carole’s view was the first suggested name by irenarco (Cyber Anthropology Association), that appeared to be modified by Jeremy Trombley as the: International Cyber Anthropology Association. Carole had replied to that and said: “might we take ‘cyber’ out of the title altogether? also strikes me as meaning anth of cybercommunities” (link). Jeremy Trombley and Paul Wren agreed with Carole.
Why did Carole like “open anthropology”? This is critical, because no one challenged her reasoning, and her first statement on this issue contains a very significant mistake, that was later reversed in her subsequent statements within the OAC (quoted in my last post). Carole, writing in the Memory Bank discussion on 21 May 2009 (06:37), explained:
I do like the connotations of “open anthropology” including that it does not already have a history (of which I am aware anyway) and so comes not without meaning, but with much room for creativity, range, and growth.
It has no history. It is a name, that she places within quotation marks, and not a random combination of two separate words. My project, with that name, and that concept were already in existence, for over a year before Carole wrote that. I am surprised, since Carole communicated with me in Twitter, that she had never apparently visited my blog, and missed the large image down the left hand side of my Twitter page, with logo too, stating: “Open Anthropology.” Others would have known it had a history. This no longer concerns Carole, as she recently resigned as an administrator from the OAC in the wake of this dispute.
In conclusion, we now know how the name came into being, why, why it was not discussed by me before the OAC was created, and what was said within the OAC that clearly represented different modes of linkage to Open Anthropology as it exists on my sites.
Some on the other side of this dispute responded with snide remarks, insults, name-calling, and even the bullying of one of their anonymous members, responses that are not even vaguely civil, let alone professional. If they continue to behave in that manner I will surely continue to respond as I have on this blog.
My own arguments are based on careful documentation, quotes, references, and actual facts (and I never even called myself a “scientist”). And “science” without facts is what again? That some, particularly Philip Carl Salzman and John McCreery, among those who boast about “science” and “objectivity,” should choose to respond with petty insults demonstrates in public what great scientists they really are in the end. All posture, puffery, and propaganda from some of the most diabolically biased individuals hiding behind masks of professionalism. Open Anthropology never does that.
I agree, one can have different ideas about what to do, and how to do it. Excellent. Do it under another name, because what you do not do is, (a) create an artificial affinity between projects, and then, (b) adopt the identical conceptual terminology and identifying label. You are “scientists,” right? Well the first thing you should have learned about science is that it scorns anything other than very precise conceptual distinctions, with their own specific terminology. An atom is never a molecule, and this atom refuses to be assimilated into anyone else’s molecule.