CK: That's mystical, Rex, what does that mean?
ARG: Chris, remember Eric Raymond's distinction between “the Cathedral” and “the Bazaar”? It's a classical statement of the Open Source philosophy you began the interview talking about. In it he contrasts large, cumbersome, hierarchically organized institutions (cathedrals) with collections of small institutions that are quick to innovate (bazaars). His point was that the rise of Open Source and the Internet demonstrated that when it comes to information technology, bazaar-type arrangements are much better than cathedral-type organizations. This is still true today—the kinds of standardization you are talking about are hardly something we need WB to provide. There are all kinds of tools, standards, and metrics being created by groups like SPARC, HASTAC, RoMEO and The Center for History and New Media at George Mason, or the Institute for the Future of the Book.6 These are the scholarly equivalent of the Open Source community, not WB, and they can supply exactly the sorts of “computability” you're talking about. When I served on the AnthroSource Steering Committee our goals were to be a node in this wider network that was advancing scholarship—to be part of the bazaar. But the AAA was unable to get anything done without hemorrhaging money, and so it had to sign up to become part of the WB cathedral. As a result all anthropologists who want to be part of the revolution in scholarly communication must do so outside of the AAA, when in fact the AAA is exactly the institution that is supposed to be representing us in the bazaar. This marks a major strategic failure on the part of the AAA. As far as I'm concerned they've made exactly the wrong allies.
JJ: Yes—in a way what is happening now outside of the AAA is a “shadow AnthroSource” that fulfills the ambitions of the original AnthroSource. In its visionary phase, AnthroSource was going to have a subject repository in which we could have put our field notes, white papers, unpublished book manuscripts, etc. I saw this vision die during my first year as an editor. When the AAA couldn't find a university to partner with, the repository was given up and AnthroSource became just a journal bundle. A recent article by (a different) Michael Fisher (http://www.anthrosource.net/doi/abs/10.1525/an.2008.49.3.16, accessed May 6, 2008) suggests that we revive this vision for the next iteration of AnthroSource. However, we do not actually need AnthroSource anymore because we have already built it up out of various bits and pieces outside the AAA framework. We have a subject repository (Mana'o http://manao.manoa.hawaii.edu/, accessed May 6, 2008), we have a constellation of weblogs and key metablogs (such as antropologi.info), we have people like Mike Wesch and Chris showing us how to mix and match readily/freely available tools to build powerful research collaboratories (like Digital Ethnography [http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/?p=160, accessed May 6, 2008] and Anthropology of the Contemporary Research Collaboratory/ARC http://anthropos-lab.net/ accessed May 6, 2008), again Mike showed us, with his famous video how to leverage Youtube into a major vehicle for research communication (http://youtube.com/watch?v=NLlGopyXT_g, accessed May 6, 2008), we have organizations like the EVIADA project (Ethnomusicological Video for Instruction and Analysis Digital Archive; http://www.indiana.edu/~eviada/, accessed May 6, 2008) and individual researchers like Kim building powerful, innovative database tools for use in our research and our collaborations with students and communities (http://www.mukurtuarchive.org), there are people (like Rob Leopold at the National Anthropology Archives; http://www.nmnh.si.edu/naa) in many archives and museums building great projects to make the archival database more accessible, we have folks like the team organized by the American Folklife Center and the American Folklore Society building metadata tools like the new ethnographic thesaurus (http://et.afsnet.org/), and as Chris noted recently in a SavageMinds blog post (http://savageminds.org/2007/12/12/the-state-of-open-access-anthro/, accessed May 6, 2008), we have more and more OA journals spanning the topical and international diversity of world anthropology. Will all this stuff somehow function better if it is centralized and put under the control of the home office?
CK: I think that the reason people like AnthroSource is because it provides full-text searching of almost all of the AAA journals. Turning all of that paper into a PDF has incredible value, but it also takes a lot of time and money. WB has the capacity to produce these PDFs but for me the question is: what do we do with them? I think we are best off seeing the WB's digitization and circulation as a service that the AAA purchases from WB in exchange for giving WB a license to sell some of what it has created in certain formats. But it should ultimately remain the AAA's decision whether that information is openly available or not. The vision at the heart of AnthroSource was something other than digitization and selling content—it was something new and creative and focused on moving anthropological research into challenging new configurations, for which open access is, in my opinion, a sine qua non.
JJ: It is worth noting that the Committee on the Future of Print and Electronic Publishing (which is the successor group to the AnthroSource groups) is undertaking work to move forward with the elements that had been abandoned during the journals crisis.7 They have set up a community wiki to crowdsource brainwork on this effort. I would encourage this effort, and I am glad that there is still interest within the AAA leadership in recapturing what was to be. I do worry that it has come too late, as the field has gone ahead and started building such systems in a distributed, networked way outside the AAA context. Compare the lack uptake for the AAA's In Focus: Reflections on Anthropology News blog (which launched with a discussion of open access) relative to OA discussions continuing at Savage Minds and elsewhere. We may now have a permanent case of resistance to organizational life.
Posted by Christopher Kelty on August 11, 2008