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[Xmca-l] What are we doing here?



I am an interested but time-poor lurker on the margins of xmca but the ripples stirred by Mike's decision to reduce his pastoral contribution to our community have made me question how different participants understand what kind of activity we are engaging in here.

It seems to me that each of us may understand the social form of what we are doing in different ways. For some it is like a conversation and we feel disappointed or hurt if our contributions are met with silence or if the chain moves on in a different direction. For others we are a working group, collaborating to develop a practical and ethical theoretical model. For others we are something like a conference, where thoughts and ideas can be put before others for their consideration and response - and I am sure there are many other ways in which different people understand their participation differently.

Does this matter? Would xmca be 'better' if it was more consistent, more coherent, more tightly and predictably governed by shared social understandings? While more explicit regulation (protocols for labelling streams and posts and for timing of responses etc.) might help to make our activity feel more inclusive and more sharable it may also introduce new kinds of discomfort.

What I have found interesting in my time around the margins of xmca is the challenge of sustaining conversations without all the non-verbal feedback which we rely on when we talk with people. When 'wordings' float off into the ether, cast off from the body and personhood of their speakers or writers they become objects which can be scrutinised and revisited and this can be a reason for 'lurkers' to feel reluctant about contributing. What we are doing is not a conversation. Nor is it even a forum, in the sense of people taking turns to orate before a crowd, because contributors often get very little phatic feedback from the lurkers and may have very little sense of how their arguments have been understood or received. But we are moved by our understandings of what it is and is not OK to do, which come from other kinds of interactions. Can I say something if I have not been part of what has gone before? Should I respond or stay quiet? What should I do if I am annoyed or angered by something someone else has contributed?

I am already getting anxious about how what I have said might be interpreted by others and feeling I have had a long enough turn but I would be really interested to hear what others think about why we are here!

I have found what people do here very helpful but I do feel uneasy about risking contributions!

All the best,

Rod
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