Re: Lurkers of the world, Unite!

Date: Tue Oct 26 2004 - 19:41:03 PDT

I am a grad student who has posted once or twice,
when my eagerness to say a certain little something
overcame my shyness. Being a listener on XMCA IS
central to my education, but I would also love it if
the grad student forum was re-opened. Was there a
reason it was closed down? Beth

> 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 in
> front of a large number of fellow scholars, including
> potentially many
> leaders across several fields. Some have said that
> they are actually afraid
> 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 erudition
> 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 as
> 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, so
> 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 "rise
> 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, xmca
> 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 question!
> In my experience, the most senior (and academically
> influential) members of
> 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 much
> 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 and
> 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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