Re: Lurkers of the world, Unite!

From: Peg Griffin (
Date: Mon Oct 25 2004 - 05:33:58 PDT

All other things being equal, these notions could account for a lot, I bet.

But, right now, there is a knockout factor in the US that takes time and
energy -- the presidential election.
A lot of people are traveling to a swing state/battleground state if they
don't already live in one!
There were, what, 537 votes? in Florida that it came down to last time -- if
each xmca'er got to help only one voter cast a vote this time ...


----- Original Message -----
From: "Jay Lemke" <>
Sent: Sunday, October 24, 2004 8:33 PM
Subject: Lurkers of the world, Unite!

> I guess it happens periodically on xmca, but at long enough intervals that
> the active posters of a particular era may not remember the last time ...
> namely the recurring mystery of why so few people post to xmca when there
> are so many subscribed members.
> The first theory is usually that our topics have not been sufficiently
> interesting. I think this is rarely true, or at least not over periods of
> more than a few weeks (or maybe a month or two in the Northern summer).
> In the past, when we have investigated the mystery of the lurkers (a
> common, if not perhaps entirely respectful term for those who listen but
> don't post to any online group), we have occasionally got some of them to
> talk about why they don't post ... and in many cases they have done so
> off-list to a few of us privately. We have discovered, I think, two very
> different kinds of lurkers: the genuine listeners and the inhibited (some
> say intimidated) might-be-posters.
> True listeners don't have much desire to post; they enjoy reading the
> messages and learning from them. Many are grad students or people new to
> the fields and topics we draw on. I've been told that reading xmca can be
> quite a good education, if a bit like learning to swim by jumping in the
> deep end of the pool!
> The inhibited posters, on the other hand, often have things they'd like to
> say, or ask, but worry that they might possibly make fools of themselves
> front of a large number of fellow scholars, including potentially many
> leaders across several fields. Some have said that they are actually
> of getting negative reactions from others on the list. Most difficult I
> think is that we have also learned over the years that many potential
> posters feel intimidated by some combination of the styles and/or
> of many of the frequent posters. This tends to come as a shock to the
> frequent posters, who think of ourselves as a very welcoming and
> un-intimidating bunch of people!
> At one point, a significant number of women left xmca, or at least stopped
> actively posting, because they interpreted some of the norms of the list
> gender-biased, or more specifically as less-than-welcoming to women and
> kinds of discourse and community they preferred. This, too, came as
> something of a shock and was a mystery I think to most of the men who were
> posting frequently at the time, though it was triggered by a very few
> posters who did seem to have a somewhat adversarial or belligerent style
> (the most egregious of these also left the group not long after).
> Long, long ago there was actually a separate sub-list for grad students,
> they could discuss with each other without fear of looking stupid in front
> of their elders. On the other hand, some grad students have made good
> reputations for themselves on xmca and its precursor lists, and have I'm
> sure received conference invitations, writing invitations, and maybe even
> job offers in part as a result.
> From time to time the conversation here may get, for any given person's
> tastes, a little too wrapped up in Marxology, or the near-idolatrous
> obsession with the minutiae of what this or that other theorist may have
> said or meant. Sometimes we veer further into history and anecdote than
> people may like, or get so abstractly philosophical that we forget to
> to the concrete". Sometimes we come to resemble a book club more than an
> open discussion forum. But with these any many other transient faults,
> is still about as good as it gets for scholarly intellectual discussion of
> issues of human culture and meaning. Just ask a question here ... any
> In my experience, the most senior (and academically influential) members
> this list are also the most willing to find something interesting and
> discussable in postings by newcomers and those who bring different
> perspectives to the group. The only thing we don't like is belligerence.
> One reason that xmca exists is to provide an opportunity for people to
> learn more about mind/meaning, culture, and activity ... as well as a lot
> of different conceptual perspectives on these central issues. We're not
> here to judge people, at least not professionally. I tend to just ignore
> and forget postings that don't inspire a response. I don't even usually
> remember who wrote what ... unless it was really interesting. I pretty
> only remember the good stuff.
> So I hope (though in the past this hope has not always panned out) that
> more of you who worry about whether to post or not will take the plunge
> hit Send the next time you think of something to say or something to ask!
> JAY.
> Jay Lemke
> Professor
> University of Michigan
> School of Education
> 610 East University
> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> Tel. 734-763-9276
> Email.
> Website.

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