Hopefully this new post will not bring to an abrupt end the discussion that continued in the comments to the last post. One of the administrators of the “Open Anthropology Cooperative” has issued the OAC’s first coherent statement regarding “the name issue,” which as I have explained is about much more than just a name. There are particular errors in fact and interpretation, as well as important omissions that I will point out below. My intention is not to make the issue any more complicated than it is, and I will therefore sideline for now any of the denser political and ethical issues involved.
Error of omission:
“Early conversations via Twitter, email, blogs and The Memory Bank Forum, before and after the establishment of the Ning network, included the administrators as well as other contributors and observers (Max Forte among them). In the early stages, we floated ad hoc lists of the attributes that might make up a useful site for anthropologists (a place to share ideas, to collaborate, to raise questions, to publish and discuss, etc) and several possible names. No-one then raised the possibility of a conflict of interest or a significant threat to other sites or projects on the web.”
As I have already shown, my participation in that discussion amounted to a grand total of five minutes. I do not blame anyone for that fact, but it is a fact that I was not anything more than a very late latecomer to the discussion. That “No-one then raised the possibility of a conflict of interest or a significant threat to other sites or projects on the web,” is in fact true, and that is what led to the current problem. That should have been discussed, and now it is being discussed. Before considering the name, the OAC had become a fait accompli. I was not provoked into questioning the name then, because what immediately followed were statements of affinity, discussed before, and below once more.
Error of interpretation:
“Max agreed to act as administrator with this title in place and did not contest its usage.”
I volunteered to act as an administrator, while I thought that some linkage was being formed between the Open Anthropology Project and the Open Anthropology Cooperative. As demonstrated in the last post, there were concrete reasons for believing that some form of linkage was being constructed. Indeed, the idea of one of the administrators, approved by two others aside from myself, was to use parts of this project’s own “mission statement,” to build theirs. Abimbola confirms this much.
This confirmation ought to shift the discussion to a new plane, one above the suggestion that the two names merely, accidentally, sound alike. In addition, my mission statement is a political one, so there are political implications to using it.
Then Abimbola adds (now I will add my own emphases instead of theirs):
“Max sent the following private message to the rest of the admin team as part of a discussion in which he was an active participant:
‘Some of you have been referring, I think, to this page on my site, https://openanthropology.wordpress.com/about/. It is rather long, and a lot of it will be very contentious for many people in this network. I am not sure which parts of that page attracted people the most, but you can feel free to cut and paste and reword as you like, if it helps to move things along quickly. Michael MD Fischer has already taken me to task on the blog for the ways I use ‘open’…so there will be some debate about “what does open mean” (I think some understand it to mean *wide open*).”
Here are I am acknowledging their interest in building a bridge, but also expressing some uncertainty about what that bridge should be exactly. They never clarified the issue. I am reaffirming there that in two key ways, they might not want to build such a linkage, given the political implications, and the debate about what “open” can mean to others, especially if it is taken out of its original context (the very mission statement on this blog to which they referred.) Again, nothing was said to address those concerns.
Error of fact:
Regarding the beginnings of building a link between the two sites, Abimbola says:
“We are not aware when this offer was rescinded or other conditions put on it.”
If you are constructing a connection with a political project, which is what the Open Anthropology Project is, then the conditions are political ones. Those political conditions were not, to my knowledge, ever observed or understood, or part of a dialogue. The conditions would not have conveyed themselves on their own, they required a political actor to project them. I am that actor, and I left the OAC. That should have been a firm expression that any intention or plan to link was now over.
As I was reminded, immediately after leaving I wrote this, in response to an updated article about my actual leaving. On 10 June, I stated, in response to an OAC administrator, Francine Barone: “you guys need a new name.”
Therefore, it is incorrect to say that they were not aware that the offer was rescinded or that any other conditions had been presented. They had, and they were ignored, at least back then.
What I fail to understand is why 1,500+ people are being given the right to decide whether they should appropriate the name of this project. They are being asked if they think the OAC should change its name, which in light of the facts presented through three posts now — undisputed facts — implies that they may feel entitled to retain my project’s name. My question is: do they then concede that others may feel entitled to the OAC’s name as well, and may act on that sense of entitlement?
I have also been asked about whether a formal statement on the OAC, indicating that the OAP and OAC are two separate and distinct projects, would meet with my approval. I think that such a statement merely acknowledges what is already a fact. But then the question is: if you acknowledge that they are separate and distinct, and I would maintain opposed as well, then why does the second site have to mimic the name of the first one? And, to repeat the above question, would they be happy with the potential consequences of setting that precedent?