Dear Savage Minds,
Rex’s recent post about the recent set of articles in Anthropology News raises a question I’ve started to take more seriously: switch or fight? By which I mean: the more I deal with the AAA, especially the component dealing with publications, promotion and public policy, the more I am disheartened by the state of affairs. I agreed to write a piece for this month’s Anthropology News because Stacy Lathrop, who has done yeoman’s (yeowoman’s?) work trying to change things at AN, and Jason Cross urged me to express in AN some of the things that have been a constant topic here on Savage Minds. I think this is a worthy goal, because AN serves a different audience than the blogosphere, and despite the remarkable reach this blog has managed to attain, there are still lots and lots of working anthropologists who have no effing clue about these issues, and the only way it might penetrate is to go through the official organ (sorry, valentines day brings out the worst in me).
The relationship started really well. The idea was to release the pieces under a Creative Commons license, along with the launch of the new AAA site. Jason and I urged the AAA publications staff to release the articles with fanfare and openly so as to instigate a discussion. We thought it would be great to use something like the Institute for the Future of the Book’s Comment Press software to allow people to do what Rex did… respond in detail to the arguments of the authors. I offered to set it up, I offered to host it, I offered to maintain it, I offered to eat any costs. In the end, we got neither the license nor the discussion. To be fair, the “negotiations” did result in a promise to keep the articles openly available after March 1, and there is a link at the bottom that says: “What are your thoughts? Share your comments here.” February 14th, and there are three comments, one of them from Jason Cross and one a trackback, two if you count this one.
So this is not only a failure of Open Access, its a profound failure of leadership and a failure to create dialogue. I still believe that publishing in AN reached a larger audience. And I still believe that we need to rescue the AAA from itself, and I’ve agreed to try to do that by serving on committees and even running for a position in the Spring (w00t. vote for me.). But more and more I’m hearing people say something like: do we really need the AAA? Can’t we start something ourselves? Can’t we secede from the AAA? Granted, no one is saying this in public, but I’m hearing it. A lot. So if this special focus on OA was a safety valve, someone turned it the wrong direction in my case.
So I’m not sure where to go in this relationship. The AAA does a lot for me. It puts a roof over my head once a year, and it gives me a line on my cv. Sometimes I even think it loves me… but I really can’t be sure anymore… what should I do?
Confused in Cambridge…