Danny Yee (danny@STAFF.CS.SU.OZ.AU)
Tue, 21 Feb 1995 14:44:46 +1000

Hugh writes:
> Really, our "charter" is "anything that is relevant to anthropology,
> in any of its major, minor, or related disciplines"... I think that
> is broad enough to include news of, say, government versus ethnic
> minority troubles in Chiapas, but not really earthquake related angst
> from Kobe... (Remember, there are many, many fora out there, and their
> foci overlap in all sorts of ways, so don't feel we *must* discuss any
> one thing just because it is "important"... :-) )

There are indeed lots of other fora out there, including ones
devoted to anthropology. The question that then arises is what
should be covered in this list and, more generally the relationship
between "neighbouring groups". It's not as simple as saying that
"anything that is relevant to anthropology, in any of its major,
minor, or related disciplines" belongs here. I could set up a
remailer to send everything that appeared on sci.anthropology and
sci.anthropology.paleo to the list, but that would be a really silly
thing to do. This problem is bad enough on USENET, with hierarchies
of groups within the same namespace.

I still think the list is now more of a community than an abstract
discussion group, and hence that appropriateness can't really be
decided on a prior grounds; if lots of people on the list find
something interesting and worth discussing, then it's probably
appropriate. If lots of people complain, then it's probably not.
This seems to be pretty close to the policy Hugh has adopted, actually.
When he says things people disagree with, they are quick to say so,
and he's never tried to enforce (or make "official") anything against
serious opposition. When there is reasonable consensus on issues
(advertising, Gil Hardwick), he acts.

John McCreery replies:
> Hugh Jarvis writes that Anthro-L's mandate is broad to enough to cover
> "government versus ethnic minority troubles in Chiapas, but not really
> earthquake related angst from Kobe." I don't mind including the former,
> but what, pray tell, are the grounds for excluding the latter. If the
> list is used purely to vent feelings or political opinions that is,
> I think, unfortunate. But why responses (governmental, ecological,
> psychological, whatever) to a war in Mexico should be grist for the
> anthros mill while responses (governmental, ecological, psychological)
> whatever to an earthquake in Japan are not is hard to fathom.
> The anthroplogy isn't in the event. It's in the understandings that
> anthropologists do or don't bring to it.

I agree with John here, but I think he reads too much into what Hugh wrote.
The fact is that lots of people on the list seem interested in what is
happening in Chiapas, and not many in the Kobe earthquake. If John were to
write about the Kobe earthquake along the lines he suggests, I can't
imagine Hugh having any problem with that.

Nick Gessler writes:
> There is ample bandwidth available for anyone to start a thread "relevant" to
> their own interests. Clearly the "science" issues are relevant to many, but
> that should not discourage us from generating several threads all
> running simultaneously. Spark another discussion!

The problem is not network bandwidth, the problem is with the end users.
Many peoples' mailers or mail files would break if fed 1000 messages
a day, and it becomes finding harder to find the threads one is interested
in as the volume goes up. (Especially with mailers not providing any
support for threading.)

My prediction is that, for these reasons, the active membership of this
list won't grow past a certain point. In fact, I'm inclined to the
opinion that there is a maximum size beyond which virtual communites
in general cease functioning. (With a possible exception being MUDs,
where the existence of geography reduces some of the pressures that
exist in "point space" communities.)

Danny Yee.