If you thought the dispute between Open Anthropology and the Open Anthropology Cooperative was just about a name, then there are consequences to that too. In my view, the only role that the name played was as a symbolic expression of a political affiliation that could never be realized, and the rejection of the OAC was the rejection of an attempt to assimilate my project into theirs, however remotely. (This post adds little now; its primary purpose is a necessary technical one, to close the loop.) By a “popular vote” members of the OAC affirmed that they thought the name of this project was the best one — I could not agree more, and I thank them for their compliments. It’s a great name, once you have a meaning for it. Unfortunately, Google, and the rest of the Internet, cannot easily distinguish between nearly identical names, and that will be a problem as much for the OAC as for the OAP, disclaimers notwithstanding.
Otherwise, certain issues were always of marginal relevance at best, such as: names (most people actually meant words, but they did not pause to reflect on the difference between “jack” and “smith” and Jack Smith…the first two are words, and “belong” to all speakers of a language, while the latter is a name belonging to a person, not a very unique name to be sure, but personal nonetheless); property (this has to do with ownership again, which is to misunderstand and displace the real, focal issue: respecting political difference) — this is very marginal, but not entirely nonexistent, since domain names are properties that can be purchased; and, copyright (this was the least relevant, as no claim of plagiarism or massive copying of contents was ever alleged by me, but it did become significant when some who misunderstood the issue were going to the extreme on this blog of asserting that I had no claim even to what I write). There was no legal claim, nor even a moral one, but rather a political one.
Of course, when the words are generic, relatively empty floating signifiers, meanings and the boundaries they mark do not matter. In the Western legal system, only highly unique identifiers can be protected by trademarks (and then lawyers), and there is no copyright for titles — this is why I said I would not be arguing about legalities. In addition, as so many in the debate swore (sometimes in the pejorative sense), no one can own “open” or “anthropology,” nor “open anthropology.” Everyone can have it, everyone is doing it — it’s the most successful project of all times. Some have been doing it since the telegraph was invented (cue to aging researcher to plug his or her own research here).
So in the festive spirit of openness, in the blandest sense, everybody Wang Chung tonight!
One can never own a name…
or at least not enough times.
More OAC networks to be added in the future?
Finally, before we go to some suitably obnoxious yet catchy 80’s music — a little note about what some missed. Open Anthropology, as understood by an anarchist site (that I cannot find again), rewrote the title as Open! (A)nthropology (the anarchist “A”) in a short article. They meant it as I intended it, as written elsewhere on this blog: as a command, a process, and a goal…not an activity such as merely placing anthropological information online, or being an anthropologist online, or open access publishing. It’s anthropology itself that is to be opened, so we can all get past it. (And by “opening” I don’t mean like opening the doors to a wonderful mansion filled with fine china and crystal chandeliers; no, I mean more like opening up the belly of a pig.)
“The words we use are strong. They make reality.”
“On the edge of oblivion,
All the world is babylon…
A ship of fools sailing on.”
* A very special thanks to Astrid and “MadAxe”