~oOo~

2014-05-29

once upon a listserv: thoughts on professionalism, privilege, and power [#thatdarnlist]

Thank you to all whose thoughts helped form this post. 

Coincidentally, this is the 1200th post to go live at the feminist librarian. I've learned a lot from this idiosyncratic labor of love. It's been great to have y'all along for the ride.


(via)
So a thing happened last week on one of the professional listservs I subscribe to. While I’m relatively new to this listserv, having been subscribed for roughly a year, I’ve been around long enough to know this is not an isolated happening in this particular online community. Similar incidents, involving many of the same players, have happened before. More importantly for this blog post, this thing that happened follows a wider pattern, one that will be familiar to most folks guilty of “blogging while female” or “blogging while queer” or “blogging while [insert marginalized identity group here].” As a veteran of the feminist blogosphere (at seven years and counting the feminist librarian is firmly middle-aged in Internet time) I’ve seen it happen before in other forums, and will no doubt see it again. It’s a worrying pattern, a pattern of unethically leveraged power and privilege, and I believe strongly that it needs to be named as such.


Thus, this post.
I’m going to tell the story of what happened without naming names or linking to specific emails in the listserv archive. Those of you interested in reading all 91 emails in the thread can find the archive here. Scattered additional responses can also be found seeded through the listserv archive from May 19 through May 23. Many of you will have already followed the exchanges in real time. Even so, I have chosen to describe what happened in archetypal terms because my goal here is not to reopen/rehash the details of specific exchanges. Rather, I hope to point out how the dynamic at play is a familiar one to many of us, particularly those of us on the receiving end of its toxic effect, and to bear witness to the way its poisonous effect ripples out under the guise of “professional” interactions.

Simply put, regardless of specific individuals’ intent, the net effect of the interactions that took place has been to reinforce the status quo of social privilege for some and marginalization of others. Because that’s how structural prejudice works. The net effect of this particular incident (as in previous iterations of the same) has been to reinforce the status quo through a discouraging pattern of behavior, one that is identifiable to us in the “blogging while…” crowd. 

And it’s a pattern that, in this community, has been repeatedly denied, ignored, minimized, and obfuscated throughout the interaction, by multiple people who should know better (or should know enough to listen to those who do know better).

I write this post from my own relative position of privilege in the world of librarians and archivists. Although I am an early career professional I have a secure, full-time position. Many of the individuals I’ve interacted with via email in the past week have expressed legitimate fear of going “on record” about the situation due to the fact that they’re currently job seeking or otherwise job-insecure. I write this post on behalf of all of them (and with their anonymous editorial guidance) because I am in a position to do so while they are not.

That acknowledged, back to our story.

There’s a professional listserv. It’s a profession in which women are the majority, yet in this online forum, an “unmoderated” email list sponsored by the national professional organization, a single mid-career, male contributor -- we’ll call him X -- dominates. In a recent quantitative analysis of the top fifty contributors by volume to the listserv, over 45% of the emails are generated by X. The majority of his contributions are what’s known colloquially as “linkspam” -- links to online content relevant to the field, offered up with little or no contextual explanation. 

(As someone who habitually tags, and religiously reads, “linkspam” lists made by my favorite bloggers, I recognize the value of curated links lists. However, there are legitimate views across the spectrum from “always love ‘em” to “always hate ‘em.” And content value can, and should, be separated here from the size and shape of one’s digital footprint.)

In addition, X also has a history of responding authoritatively and dismissively to the concerns of younger, primarily female, professionals who bring issues to the listserv for discussion. Time and time again, he positions himself as the arbiter of what is and is not accepted professional practice. So, as is often the case in online forums, this individual has become, over time, a sort of shorthand for those frustrated by both his specific behaviors and also what his continued presence exemplifies about the community in which he thrives.

Last week, as happens occasionally, a person spoke up, on the list, questioning this dynamic. 

Does anyone else find the dominance of this one individual annoying? the Dissenter asks (the Dissenter happens to have male name, though his student status marks him as an individual in the early stages of his career). Perhaps we could manage this individual’s participation such that he did not dominate the list, leaving space for others to meaningfully participate?

This opening salvo prompts three groups of listserv participants to respond:

1. The Fixers. These individuals offer individualistic solutions to the Dissenter’s problem: “If you don’t like X’s contributions, the delete button is always an option!” Regardless of tone -- condescending or supportive -- the problem with this type of response is that it places the burden of managing what is a community-wide issue on the person who has identified it, not the community as a whole. Too often, the “fix” serves to further isolate the Dissenter, and others like them, from the community rather than providing a way to increase participation.

2. The Defenders. These individuals categorically deny that the Dissenter has a point, asserting that X’s contributions bring much value to the list; over time, these assertions grow ever more fulsome. X labors tirelessly on behalf of the profession yet gets only criticism in return! X is generous with his wisdom and you ungrateful children fail to recognize its worth! 

This type of response works to turn a discussion that should be about how to share community space (recall our original request: “could we manage this person’s participation … leaving space for others to meaningfully participate?”) into a discussion about the value of X’s contributions (and, implicitly, X as an individual). This is a common dynamic in social justice circles, where raising questions about structural discrimination all too often results in defensive reactions by individuals and their protectors who make it personal (“But she doesn’t have a racist bone in her body!” “But he grew up poor!” “I couldn't possibly be anti-gay, some of my best friends are lesbians!”).

This defense of the status quo, in turn, prompts...

3. ...The Supporters of our original Dissenter to speak up, adding their voices and perspectives to the discussion. Yet they’ve already learned, by watching how the Fixers and Defenders responded, to speak up in careful and conciliatory terms: “Oh, no, we aren’t questioning the value of X’s participation -- indeed, we find much of value in his perspective! We are only asking for a little more room at the table.” This apologetic approach, while (sometimes) effective in protecting the Supporter from accusations of unprofessionalism, of personal attacks, of mean-spirited snark, unfortunately also undermines the Dissenter/Supporter position by turning what should be non-negotiable expectation of respectful, welcoming behavior that is the responsibility of all community members into an “ask” which the powerful within the group can grant or deny.

Eventually, after a period of silence, X himself steps into the fray. Notably, he chooses to do so not in response to the (male) Dissenter but in specific response to a female Supporter, a young professional. This is a woman who has articulated clearly how his dominance on the list has the effect of silencing others, and who has offered several community solutions which could potentially meet the needs of both Defenders and Supporters. In mansplainy tones, X ignores her community-based solutions and goes full-on Fixer, suggesting the issue is her (and others’) ineptness with technology rather than his manner of participation in the shared space of the online forum.

If only these children would shut up and sit down until they learned the proper skills to participate on my terms. It’s simple, really.

Another key feature of these interactions is that X has a habit of responding to criticism “off list,” via direct email. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may be unaware of how this action comes across to the (often young, female) recipients of his unsolicited emails. Rather than being some sort of polite follow-up, it’s a bright red flag for any woman with experience “blogging while female.”

Rule number one for many female bloggers is to never, ever let conversations move out of the public realm. For most of us, uninvited contact by men attempting to continue public debates (particularly disagreements) privately is a power play. In our experience, men who angle for private discussion are angling for the upper hand, in a space where we a) won’t be able to draw on others’ support for our position, and b) where the evidence of whatever harassment, manipulation, or abuse they engage in will be out of sight. For an older male colleague to take a disagreement with a young woman in the same field “off list” is an isolating maneuver, whether or not it’s intended as such. Most of us have learned the hard way not to engage, or to take our responses back to the public realm, rather than let backchannel condescension escalate into harassment, stalking, or worse.

(I drafted this post before the #YesAllWomen hashtag went viral on Twitter in response to the misogynist motivations of the Isla Vista shooter, but this safety-first approach to online communication with men we don’t know fits into the category of experience #YesAllWomen seeks to highlight: the ways in which we perceived-female persons negotiate the world ever-mindful of the potential of gender-motivated violence.)

Meanwhile, of course, the discussion around X and his place on the list continues. Even as the Fixer, Defender, and Supporter emails continue at a steady clip, The Feels reach new levels of intensity and spawn a second layer of response:

4. The Disaffected. The Disaffected contributors position themselves above The Feels, intermittently pointing out to the group as a whole how petty their concerns about community behavior are, suggesting that the dissenters/supporters are simply making a mountain out of a molehill.

Since some people on Twitter raised this concern, I want to explicitly acknowledge here  that walking away from a community debate/discussion/argument you are not able to participate in (for whatever reason) is a form of self care and never needs justification. You get to set boundaries for yourself, full stop.

The Disaffected, however, are not engaging in self care (or not only that). Instead, they are Making A Point by walking out in a huff. This trivializes the concerns of the Dissenter and Supporters by sending the message that their concerns are unworthy of serious consideration, or the labor (emotional or otherwise) that it will take to address them.

5. The Concern Trolls, meanwhile, similarly position themselves as the group with a more mature perspective, over and against those who are absorbed in petty or narcissistic concerns. “Why are you all wasting time on issue Y when WORLD HUNGER” goes the concern troll’s argument. “Why are you arguing amongst yourselves when federal funding for our profession is on the chopping block?!”

Such arguments will be familiar to anyone who has ever discussed modern American feminist politics, where this gambit typically takes the form of “Why are American women complaining about [equal pay, sexualization, street harassment, reproductive rights] when women in [Sudan, Iraq, China, Ukraine, Indonesia, Cuba] don’t even have [clean water, voting rights, contraceptives, are dying of AIDS].” This is a false dichotomy in which situation B is thrown up as if in competition with situation A for attention. Both A and B can be (and usually are) important. In fact, they are often interconnected. Discussing or addressing one does not equate to ignoring the other.

In this instance, how we behave toward one another as colleagues within a given professional community is intimately entangled with how we engage in growing and advocating for the profession as a whole, how effectively we are able to do our jobs, and how we mentor those who will be future leaders in the field. How we treat one another speaks volumes about how we treat those we serve professionally (or, you know, ask for funding from). It’s not a distraction from substance; it’s substantially about who and what we are as practitioners of our craft.

6. The Drama Queen. You know that guy (and yes, it’s pretty much always a guy) who stands ready to cry “censorship!” or “It’s a free country!” in any Internet context in which requests for comment moderation or policies regarding participation are under discussion? Yeah. We had that guy.

7. The Equal Opportunity Shamers. Late in the game come the Shamers, who take it upon themselves to blame and shame all participants in the debate for behaving badly. As is typical, the Shamers wait until enough mud has been slung and hurtful words exchanged that they can point to “bad” behavior on both sides and ignore the substantive issues even as they ask (or require, if they have the power) that everyone be civil.  In this instance, they invoked “professionalism” and the listserv Terms of Participation to issue general slaps on the wrist for those who, in their estimation, were contravening both.

This post facto moderation tactic does a couple of tricksy things in aid of perpetuating the status quo.

First, Shaming blurs the distinction between the Dissenter and their Supporters and the individual(s) whose behavior was initially being questioned. The Shamer slaps them collectively on the wrist for uncivil behavior, acts as the tone police, or uses a variety of other tactics to imply or even outright assert that naming the offense is as bad as -- if not worse than! -- the offense itself.

Such an approach is one I’m very familiar with engaging with anti-marriage-equality folks in the blogosphere, where identifying anti-gay speech or actions as, well, anti-gay will bring out cries of intolerance when comments calling queer folk child abusers are overlooked as normal or negligible (#YesAllQueers).

Second, this false equivalence of behavior has the effect of ensuring that the individual(s) whose actions have been questioned continue to believe in their rightness, while the individual(s) who have raised the questions are quashed. This is because, in the type of scenario I’m talking about here, X  began the day in a position of social privilege, and X’s challengers began the day in a position of relative vulnerability. Professionally vulnerable people who find their professional behavior under question will, quite sensibly, withdraw from the discussion. Professionally secure people will shrug because, I was only defending myself from my accusers, after all, and everyone knows how much value I bring to the table.

While seemingly neutral, treating all people the “same” with their admonishments, the Shamers’  tone policing that fails to engage with the dynamics of privilege and power is anything but neutral. Instead, it ends up serving the already powerful and doing nothing to protect the already vulnerable.

To put it another way, what we saw last week was a highly influential man who had his position at the center of a specific social group challenged by younger, less-influential (and mostly female) individuals who are also part of the same group. He, and perhaps more importantly his supporters, dismissed their concerns. They used the discourse of professionalism and the rules for participation in the forum to enforce the status quo rather than to address structural inequality.

An opportunity was lost, and we are all the poorer for it.

I’m telling this story because this pattern will be repeated, but it doesn’t have to be. Instead, as a professional community, we could decide that it matters to us that all of our colleagues -- no matter how young, structurally powerless, or socially vulnerable they are -- feel welcomed to participate in the listserv of our profession.

We could decide it matters to us that a single individual, no matter how well-respected and valued by members of the community, takes up as much (virtual) space as he does, and we could ask him to take a step back and listen for awhile, instead of perpetually dominating the conversation. (I offer this as a voluble talker and writer who is no stranger to being asked to step back and let others’ speak.)

We could decide to value, encourage, even demand, broad-based participation and open-ended conversation rather than instructional, condescending responses. 

We could decide to cultivate playfulness, humor, nerdiness, cooperation, encouragement, and speaking truth to power in ways that "punch up" rather than "punch down." And we could decide that these things were not incompatible with being professionals.

Yet for now, we appear to have decided that not hurting a single, powerful professional’s feelings and/or not asking him to modify his participation within the community is a more valuable goal than the goals above. 

We’ve decided that giving one person a national, sponsored platform on which to disseminate his opinions in an endless stream, and in a manner that drives some of our fellow practitioners away, is more important than fostering meaningful conversation and networking for all who serve our professional goals.

On the afternoon of the day I began drafting this post, X made a contribution to the ongoing debate that I believe brings the arc of this particular story to an all-too-familiar close. Following the intervention of the Shamers, which effectively shut down the possibility of challenges by the less powerful, X saw fit to suggest that more profoundly alienating, more profoundly “abusive,” than his own behavior, is the behavior of those who post to the listserv with too little or too much of the previous messages in the thread left at the end of their emails.


Because at the end of the day, who’s the real victim here? One way or another, apparently, it’s got to be him. 

Lesson learned, I guess.

I hope, in future, we revise the curriculum.

49 comments:

  1. Excellent post. One of the things that surprisingly didn't come up in this particular listserv debacle but has in past ones is a post (from X, as I recall) chastising members for commenting on the topic at hand on twitter. A public shaming of (mostly newer/younger, female) professionals for not having the guts (or perhaps balls?) to engage in a space where, as you point out, he and the status quo dominate. Twitter has become the safe space to discuss the serious issues with "that darn list," which does not sit well with the dominant members. The calling out of people on twitter as unprofessional and gutless, and the dismissal of tweets as mere gossip/snark and lacking substantive value was the clearest example (to me) of a power play by the resident authority.

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    1. I agree, nelago! It's part of the toxic dynamic that people get pushed to other forums to discuss the dysfunction and then are shamed for doing so. Setting aside that we have the agency to discuss social dynamics *in whatever forum we wish to do so* and that doing so doesn't constitute unprofessional behavior ... those comments specifically erase the bullying behavior that led to the creation of #thatdarnlist and pushes people to comment there. :-/

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    2. I've been thinking today about how, coming as I do from the "feminist blogosphere," I don't see snark or humor as somehow antithetical to professional work, which seems to be a theme in a lot of the shaming. I also don't see openly discussing power dynamics as unprofessional, whereas some of the shamers do, and see it as a petty distraction from "real" work. So there are two very different versions of professionalism at work here, which intrigues the intellectual feminist in me :). "Calling out" (for example) people joking about Game of Thrones on thread while ignoring bullying seems like the true unprofessional act to me.

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  2. Thanks for posting this, there's a lot to think about here. X told me on Twitter earlier this year to bring a point I had tweeted to a listserv instead of Twitter and added, "if you can handle it." There are many reasons why I chose not to do so. I don't subscribe to #thatdarnlist nor to the companion list for another professional organization for which X recently was elected president by members of that profession.

    I did once subscribe to #thatdarnlist (I joined it in 1997). While it saw its share of debates and arguments 15, years ago, it then also sometimes generated substantive discussion. I remember 44 collegially worded messages in one thread from various people on in an ongoing discussion involving certain workplace issues. I posted several messages in one such thread. Hierarchies, power imbalances, management, leadership, communications, intuiting who isn’t speaking and why, information asymmetry, all have interested me for a long time. The reasons are spelled out in one of the permanent pages at my blog.

    The difference between then and now was that there was a critical mass of people on the List willing to engage on substantive issues. By doing that, intentionally or unintentionally, they built up equity and capital which stood many of them in good stead when occasional misunderstandings occurred. Some even discussed inclusiveness and how to make more people welcome there. And showed by actions and example that multiple viewpoints were welcome. That critical mass diminished over time.

    Do you think it is possible to rebuild a critical mass of people willing to create some semblance of safe space in that setting? Or is it best to turn to other forums? I was intrigued by the insightful comments about community you posted (admire your courage) to the List during the controversy earlier this month. Some of what you posted in one message in that thread reminded me of what I used to yearn for and sometimes ask if we couldn’t make happen.

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    1. Thanks for such a thoughtful reflection, nixonara. I'm not sure I have a very settled response to your question about a critical mass of people on A&A. At this point, I suspect there would need to be evidence of a concerted effort on behalf of people with already-existing influence to change the culture of the list.

      From my time as a blogger in mixed-company and/or hostile spaces (i.e. spaces where people with a diversity of backgrounds and viewpoints were present and active), I would argue that it is crucial to have a group of people who are designated moderators of the space, with some formal training in facilitating group conversation around substantive issues. 1970s feminist activist Jo Freeman wrote a piece in 1971 on "the tyranny of structurelessness" that talks about how freeform groups too often end up replicating inequalities:

      A "laissez faire" group is about as realistic as a "laissez faire" society; the idea becomes a smokescreen for the strong or the lucky to establish unquestioned hegemony over others. This hegemony can be so easily established because the idea of "structurelessness" does not prevent the formation of informal structures, only formal ones.

      So my two cents at the moment is that in order for #thatdarnlist to become a thriving, functional, community for professionals of mixed background and opinion, it would need to become a space with a formal structure that included dedicated, trained people to facilitate the discussion so that all were welcome.

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    2. Oops, here's the link to the full Freeman essay, which I meant to include above: The Tyranny of Structurelessness.

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    3. Thanks, will definitely check out the link. I often found myself thinking about what a difference it would have made, if more people (not just designated people) with training and/or affinity for facilitated discussion had joined in conversations there. And the Twitter backchannel actually is a good wake up call, in my view. I saw things on Twitter back in the day that made me rethink the way I did some things on the Listserv, when I still learned. As an effective leader I know once said, "You're never done learning." A big component in that is listening. I tend to try to give people the benefit of the doubt, having been misunderstood myself at times. But I wonder if the Listserv format, especially for those who subscribe to receive individual emails, encourages a ping pong enviro. Sometimes, it really helps to step back and think, what is my role in this and how do others see me. Can be very painful, especially if you deconstruct yourself, but sometimes worth doing.

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  3. Sorry, that should have been "the way I did some things on the Listserv, when I still subscribed."

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  4. A contribution to the discussion about moderation: the CodeSwitch team at NPR, which focuses on race, culture, and ethnicity, has written about its comments policy, including this recent piece: http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/05/19/313935774/lessons-from-a-year-of-discussing-race-and-culture-online It's worth reading to understand opportunities for more active moderation.

    Anna, this is a thoughtful and thought-provoking piece of writing, thanks for putting yourself out there for the more precarious archivists among us. I wonder where the room is for humor, playfulness, and openness in the field as the ratio of applicants to positions continues to be overwhelming. If archivists are in temporary positions, they will more frequently behave to the lowest common denominator - in this case, the more conservative - to keep their job options open. In my view, it will be hard to escape that dynamic no matter how welcoming we as individuals and as a profession try to be. I'd be happy to hear a more optimistic view, though!

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    1. sbliveshere, thanks so much for your comment and for sharing the link from CodeSwitch. Reading the piece reminded me (no mystery why) of many conversations that have come up regarding moderation at the blogs I have participated in which tend (intersectionally) to focus on feminist & queer issues. One of the key things we learned there, articulated in the CodeSwitch piece, is that "unmoderated" is not a neutral position -- it's not the absence of action, but rather the decision to let the loudest, most aggressive voices dominate. As Matt Thompson writes at CodeSwitch:

      For everyone upset about a deleted comment or revoked posting privileges, there's likely another person who values a more tightly managed discussion. And while some would prefer for us to err on the side of allowing more comments rather than fewer, a loosely managed discussion inhibits some from participating. We value all of these users, but there's a genuine tension between their needs.

      (Emphasis mine). Since those more likely to feel threatened, professionally or otherwise, in a loosely-managed discussion are those who are legitimately concerned about what a personal attack (against them) or misplaced, strongly-worded response (by them) could do for their career or safety -- setting aside the disparate emotional toll that these conversations take depending on one's situatedness -- the decision not to moderate is a decision to let the bullies win. Moderation will always be an imperfect tool, and bad moderation can likewise replicate structural inequality (see "The Equal Opportunity Shamers" above). But in seven years of blogging, I have yet to see a mixed community work successfully without strong and well-trained moderation.

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    2. (part two)

      I agree with you that job-insecure folks are legitimately wary of humor, playfulness, and openness in the current economic climate. As someone who is (relatively) job secure, I can only say that I recognize that this is a legitimate experience, and that it's "the lowest common denominator" that is to blame, not the individuals who are protecting their economic prospects by not taking such risks. I would argue that:

      1) If "humor, playfulness, and openness" is not valued by our mid-career professionals in their prospective job applicants, we should reconsider our values. Obviously we want people who are also excellent at what they do, but that can come alongside people who are gamers, genre fans, crafty handworkers, who don't come to work every day in business suits. Our definition of "professional" should be content and performance driven, apart from basic expectations of hygiene, etc. I realize we aren't there yet, but that is work those hiring and supervising need to do, it's not the job of those seeking employment.

      2) On the flip-side, as someone who is a relatively early career professional, I have been in situations where I ask myself, "Should I be open about ..." or "Should I speak up and question...?" because I recognize that some in the field might see what I'm going to say or do as unprofessional, whether it's dye my hair purple or write this blog post. And at the end of the day, I've decided that I want to risk being judged by (some) in the industry because the payback -- being fully myself, even as a worker; hearing from those who feel the same on an international scale -- is worth it. I am in an extremely privileged position to be able to take that risk whether because I have a wife who encourages me to do so, a boss who has never censured my style, or a workplace that doesn't monitor what I say or do as an individual, not on behalf of my employer. Many do not have these supports and their risk calculation changes accordingly.

      Still, I think it's worth asking one's self what self-limiting, or conforming activities you're willing to engage in on the principal of not crossing someone, somewhere, who much someday want to hire you but for your tattoo or your perspective on structural racism. There's no one right answer to the question, but it's an important one for us each to ask ourselves as we embark upon (and throughout) our careers.

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    3. sbliveshare, that truly is a tough question. I'll ramble a bit in reply. When I talk about "safe space" I mean a place where the largest possible number of people see themselves--including recognition by other members of the group that they may be limited or constrained in what they can say. That's why I referred to intuiting who is not speaking and to information asymmetry.

      This affects people in so many ways, job seekers and new professionals and people in temporary positions being the most vulnerable. There are other limitations on speech (for me, as a federal official, "message discipline" is a factor in some areas). I sometimes say at my blog, "some things we face alone and we just don't share."

      There were people on the Listserv when it worked better who were good at reading "unarticulated needs." Actually, to me, the ability to do that is one of the skillsets of the best managers and leaders I have known. But recent debates, such as the one about jobs and education, seemed limited by "here's what worked for me, do (or try) this," however it was meant. I longed to see more open framing, including respect for limitations: "How does it look to you? Share what you can--I understand you might not be able to share everything." Because, honestly, I certainly can't be entirely open--and I'm "late career." Much more likely to be a problem for those starting out.

      I'm all for humor, playfulness, and openness. I liked reading at one archival leader's blog about the need to bring some fun and even some weirdness into the workplace.

      Humor seems to me to be something that is very individual. Dismissing protests about some types of humor as "you just don't have a sense of humor" can really be a problem, especially when a man says it to a woman. I like Anna's phrases, "punches down" and "punches up" and have "filed them away for consdideration and future use."

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  5. Anna, that was an amazing post. You so perfectly captured the whole thread of this debate. I apologize for having been one of the Supporters who failed to be as effective as I would have liked, being probably overly defensive, as you say.
    Beautifully done and written.

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  6. Anna, thank you for being willing to put yourself out there and make such articulate, important, and inclusive comments on the list. I've been lurking for a bit over a year now and have never engaged, simply because I'm anxious that as an emerging professional with a female name, I would likely be humiliated. Even here, I'm posting anonymously because I'm afraid that X will see this post.

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    1. Thank YOU for taking the time to comment, and same to everyone who has joined this conversation "offlist" or anonymously to share their stories, despite their trepidation. I hope it nudges our professional community in new directions!

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  7. Thanks for this breakdown of the complex social interactions around this most recent kerfuffle (and applicable to many others, of course). I really appreciate the analysis and your ability to define the various aspects here -- my mind gets lost in the maze of back and forths and makes me just want to disengage.

    I do have a question about some of the semantics of these disagreements on the listserv. Obviously many people feel for various reasons that exchanges as we just saw (and see at regular intervals) and a vocal dominance on the listserv prevent them from posting in that forum, and that reluctance is expressed to a degree at some point during these large exchanges. X's common refrain is, "I'm not stopping anybody from posting." From a purely mechanical standpoint, X is right (and I doubt could be convinced otherwise): The listserv is not a finite resource where only x number (pun slightly intended) of items can be posted in any given day. From a social ecosystem standpoint where many of us assess the ethos of the listserv and try to determine the value or appropriateness of posting and where it fits in overall (or how it reflects on us professionally), X is absolutely wrong. Do we need to shift some of the language or focus of the argument to get this differentiation across? Not for X, but for the general community that cares about the avenues of discussion. I think your post here does a lot to move in that direction, but I can also see the points where someone can shrug and say, I'm not forcibly stopping anyone from typing and posting something. Any thoughts here?

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    1. A very thoughtful and nuanced point, Joshua, thanks for articulating it.

      I agree that neither X nor anyone else is forcibly or directly stopping individuals from posting to #thatdarnlist. Because of how the dynamics of social privilege work, it may be that X is even unaware how (at this point I'd argue the case is closer to "resistant to hearing/seeing how...") his contributions to the list act to silence others. Intent is only part of a conversational dynamic.

      For me, it helps to think about online conversations as similar to "in real life" conversations -- for example, a class discussion or family conversation over Sunday dinner. We've all been part of such groups where the discussion was dominated by a few individuals with strong opinions. Whether they are "right" or whether they are polite in their articulations is immaterial if some within the group feel, "Well, G has clearly thought about this more than I ever have, what could I possibly contribute?" So one way to shift the conversation, I think, is to encourage people to understand virtual conversations as similar to in-person conversations, and to approach the space accordingly.

      In the case of X's participation, I believe there are two distinct layers. There's the disproportionate participation, which is neutral in character but serves to crowd others out (for the reasons outlined above). There is also a gender & entitlement aspect here, wherein people with certain types of privilege feel comfortable taking up more space than others, verbally or otherwise. We need to understand how that works and challenge those individuals to be more mindful of sharing.

      In addition, I would argue that X in particular is not just sharing in a neutral way. He is also interacting with other list members in ways that are condescending and rude, at times bordering on creepy (as I outlined in the OP). This is a separate issue that is less about the general culture of the list and more specific to the way X positions himself within the profession and particularly toward younger, often female, colleagues. That needs to be addressed separately from the sheer number of posts, and should be done so not by the individuals who have been targeted, but by trained, designated moderators who make it clear what type of commentary will and will not be accepted in the "space" of the list -- and then actually enforce that.

      I mean, part of the reason X won't "be convinced otherwise" is that he has no reason to -- there's no "mallet of loving correction" (to steal a phrase from John Scalzi) being used to make it clear to him the costs of being a jerk. Dust-ups like the one outlined above happen, he re-asserts his "right" to dominate the list, and things return to the status quo. Apart from being slagged off at #thatdarnlist by people he already dismisses as unimportant, little of consequence happens and the cycle repeats itself.

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  8. Hi, Anna, I linked to your blog post and offered some of my own observations in a blog post today. I subscribed to the Listserv from 1997 until 2013, with brief breaks a few years ago. What surprised me (and I address it at my blog), is how no one in that 91 person thread exhibited conduct I would expect from someone in a middle management (much less senior management) position. The Listserv, as all professional forums, is "practice" for dealing with workplace issues in workplace situations. On that score, the 91 message thread represented a total implosion.

    As to communications, I'm 63 with 41 years federal service. I have had men "mansplain" to me in online forums and still run into it at times. Some appear to be acting from what Deborah Tanen calls acute "one up" awareness. I don't buy in to all her theories. She paints with a pretty broad brush at times. Having been stereotyped and misunderstood at times, I'm leery of that.

    But sometimes what she says seems to fit the scenarios in which I've run into putdowns despite being the more knowledgeable person. Tannen posits that some (not all) men deal with each other with a heightened sense of status in contrast to some women. Who is "up" and who is "down" is a constant calculation for such men, in her view.

    Some of the putdowns I've received may come from men with a heightened sense of that. I don't see that barrier to conversation and solution seeking among the most senior people, male or female, with whom I deal within the federal government. Perhaps too great a display of status awareness may screen some such people out of selection for higher ranking positions in the jobs where I have dealt with and still deal with executives. Calm confidence but not arrogance and openness to listening and commitment to engagement and finding solutions is the vibe among the best of them. It has to be. They are responsible for missions, high profile goals, and aware that they have people "in their care."

    Who spoke in the brouhaha as if they were accustomed to having others in their care? Most people had "me" responses, on a quick read through.

    The link to my post about your blog post and the Listserv is here: http://nixonara.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/open-community-closed-society/

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  9. Hmmm, I mean no one among the mid- and late-Career people, people from whom I would hope to have seen that. That said, many subscribers evidently filter their mail from the Listserv and may not have read the thread.

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  10. oh my, here we go again. I'm sure that he fact that archives, unlike libraries, are pretty much gender neutral in hiring, and that there are many more LGBT members than in most non-archival groups (biz, acad, and gov), despite the actual facts, the guys are picking on the little girls again. Cuz the girls are just so, you know, irresistable online. They're flaunting their power, by, you know, not agreeing with me.

    Grow up. Please. Really. Look at the archives and see how many times this topic has come up (every spring, like a ritual) and how many times an informal vote has been taken. Look how many times someone has been censured and taken off the list (once, and we're not sure yet if he/she/it was a person or a Turing entity). No one's picking on you. This is a semi-professional list, where you don't have to have a MLS or CA to post, where questions and comments are freely posted (even if ot engaged), where people can bring up the perrenial topic of "Why do you let X post these?"

    Cuz the list isn't censured, even when someone brings up the same old topic. Cuz maybe they have something new to say. Cuz maybe it's time to look at the subject again. Cuz even whiney people get their say. Even rude ones. Even old ones. That's the kind of list it purposely is. It's open.

    Take it to Twitter? Please! Take it to the one incomplete thought place on your own. We prefer full thoughts, even when abbreviated. And keep posting on the list. If people are interested they will respond. If not, they'll ignore you. Everything but overtly sexual and political subject are welcome. All us grownups know how to use the delete button. All us grownups know how to use the respond to list option, or respond to the person (which is not stalking, go to the archives and see how many people ask for "respond off list").

    When I was the New Kid, I got into a debate on a point of law within archives with a Big Dog. He got rather snippy, and I got offlist messages that said "Don't get discouraged, he's just like that and you'll get used to him. It's an open list, and you have just a much right to talk as he does, and your citations are better". They were right on all counts.

    Stay on the list. Or don't. Whatever. Don't accuse people of being sexist just cuz you're obsessed with gender issues, cuz frankly, you'll never be on a less sexist list.

    Before you accuse me of anything at all, I'm an early career female who's midlife - a career switch. I can safely say I was a feminist before you were born, and still am. But get used to the reality that feminism is about equality, and not privelege on any side.

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    1. Anon, I'm not sure if you are looking for a response to this comment, but I'm going to offer a brief one anyway. It is clear that you and I have a very different expectation of what adult behavior entails, and I don't feel that your identity as a feminist, a woman, or anything else necessarily inoculates you from my pointing this out. Women who identify as feminists have been disagreeing about how sexism and gender dynamics operate since the term was coined. So I'm not exactly sure what this identity-checking behavior proves, other than the obvious: we archivists are a diverse community.

      Workplace harassment and discrimination based on sex, race, gender presentation, age, size, and a host of other aspects of Self happen within the archives profession just as they do within any other field. The United States as a nation is still a society riddled with socially-reinforced inequalities. To suggest that the profession and we who go into it are somehow more immune to such attitudes and practices is a a hubris I find naive at best and willfully blind at worst.

      By calling upon me to "grow up," by identity-checking me, by in effect calling me an overly sensitive "New Kid," and deriding those of us who feel comfortable blogging and Tweeting about these issues, you are effectively proving my point(s) about the dynamics of the unmoderated list. So I guess thanks for that?

      You're obviously free to continuing interacting with the list as you have been, and finding the behavior there perfectly acceptable. I can't stop you. But I encourage you to reflect on the fact that we are a mixed community of many individuals who come from different background and bring a different set of experiences and personalities to the table. And that my different perspective on the dynamic of the list -- one which a great number of others apparently share -- is not necessarily more juvenile than yours. And it may bring something of value to the conversation about what kind of community we wish to be.

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    2. In follow-up, for anyone who thinks that librarians and archivists do not have work to do in the realm of sex and gender discrimination, see this post on a recent library conference incident (h/t to stevelibrarian on Twitter)

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  11. Hi, Anna--thanks for your post! I know EXACTLY who you are referring to, and believe me, it's not just women he goes after. I've been the recipient of his nastiness both on- and off-list. The impression I got from this clown is that he loves to hide behind the safety of his keyboard (though others have alluded that he's just as nasty in person). I finally had to spam-folder him--it was either that or leave the list entirely. I'm glad you spoke up!

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  12. I just realized last week that I had not been getting my emails from the list. I just now got it back and so I missed all this. It does fee like deja vu though as I have seen this similar discussion every year (it seems) for several years now. I have a love/hate relationships with X (and the listsrv for that matter)...I love the links, but dislike the tone of some postings. The funny thing though is that I found this post/blog from his links! I will following your blog now that I have found it.

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  13. I got here from one of his posts as well.

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  14. Welcome to folks who are coming here for the first time via Twitter or the A&A list! This is more traffic than my little blog has seen in awhile; maybe ever. Glad to be hosting this conversation.

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  15. Very interesting post with a very valuable perspective. I was very disappointed by the leadership of SAA, as they should do a better job of addressing the issue. Using member intput, they should clearly spell out the policy for "Linkspam" in an open manner. I am sure that there is way to balance the concerns of those who want it and those who don't.

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  16. Just for fun, what if X was female? How much of your critique would still apply?

    You mention at the beginning of your post:

    "I’ve seen it happen before in other forums, and will no doubt see it again. It’s a worrying pattern, a pattern of unethically leveraged power and privilege, and I believe strongly that it needs to be named as such."

    In your experience, were the other cases where "linkspam" has caused controversy also due feminist critique-worthy behavior? Or were they more mundane technology and communications issues that can arise in any unmoderated listserv space?

    As you say, librarianship & archival science are fields where females constitute a sizable majority--so I'm just wondering if a female were to be the "linkspam" offender, do they get their own special brand of post-modern critique or do they get a free pass?

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    1. Anon, I get the sense that you're being sarcastic/ironic in your comment, suggesting that my post is a "post-modern critique" (I took postmodern philosophy in college, but I'm not sure where my OP fits into that philosophical framework). But I'm going to answer your question about whether X was a woman and linkspam+feminism as directly as I am able.

      1) On the question of whether X's gender is the key point of my critique the answer is both "yes" and "no."

      If what you are asking is whether women are capable of acting in sexist ways toward other women, my answer is yes. Women are just as capable of, and often fierce enforcers of, gender stereotypes and gender inequality. In addition, I've seen women in our profession act in dismissive and ageist ways toward younger colleagues, and definitely seen women act as supporters of powerful male colleagues who refuse to engage seriously with their female colleagues.

      On the other hand, I stand by my analysis that the dynamic on the listserv under discussion here is shaped in part by X's gender and his socialized way of being in the world as a man. His behavior fits a gendered pattern. That doesn't mean men inevitably dominate a conversation, dismiss the opinions of female or youthful colleagues, etc. But it does mean that we have seen men do this and be rewarded for it socially because it's acceptable "male" behavior.

      As to your question about linkspam and feminism, my experience is more in blogging than in email lists. On the blogs I have participated in, we definitely had issues with commenters who took up an inordinate amount of comment space. One in particular I recall who had a habit of posting serial one-thought comments on a blog where each post had a comment limit. So her multiple comments had the material result of stifling discussion because she would "max out" the post's comment limit. Her comments were also highly repetitive, so her one-note messages tended to block out others who might have brought different perspectives to the table.

      In that instance, as here, the disruptive commenter was allowed to be disruptive because those in the moderator role (we had them, but they were scattershot in their approach) refused to enforce the policies with this individual. I don't believe technology is the fix for these community negotiations; I believe they require the labor of community members to resolve.

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  17. Thank you for a thorough, thoughtful, and well written account of this situation .. I had been on vacation and had not see this latest round of posts on "that list" . I personally don't mind all the posts which are more popular news about archives, which can easily be deleted ... BUT there is no place on a "professional" list for individuals to be rude, unhelpful, domineering, or condescending to others ... I did not realize that posters had received private responses that they felt were inappropriate and unprofessional (since they were all off list) .... I'm sure that others are also unaware of this .. it certainly puts a different light on the situation ... thanks again for your blog post, it has given me a lot to think about.

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  18. You should have a sit-down beer summit with X. I think you would be reading his posts with a different attitude if you knew him IRL. I have no idea where this everyone-is-a-victim mentality comes from. It appears to me that nearly everyone is now a member of the "some-form-of-marginalized-we-will-make-the-other-guy-suffer-for-our-misfortune" club. (Unless you're a white guy over 40 with some form of "social privilege.") I wasn't raised that way. That whole concept of thinking is foreign to me.

    I don't comprehend why people would be afraid to ask a question on the list. X (and many other very vocal male experienced archivists) usually have good advice, suggestions, resources. Phrasing their answer in "Why don't you have this book as a professional?" can be read in two ways. If you're on the defensive, you see it as an attack. If you're open to receiving all advice, you read it and think... Oh, yeah.. I should get that one! Cool, thanks!

    You've obviously put quite a bit of thought into your post. Even though I don't agree with or understand where you're coming from for 98% of it. As an employer, I really hope it wasn't done on work-time or if it was, that your employer is embracing your use of their paid time. And yes, I just realized that by admitting that, you can now dismissively discredit my entire honest, personal opinion as complete crap because even though I've worked my tail off and earned my position, it now come with some sense of "privilege" no matter how much I've given back to the profession, or mentored SNAP or encouraged or purposefully found ways to open doors for their own professional opportunity and advancement. I actually debated removing that last paragraph, but then I wouldn't be honest. And overall my take away is that you are encouraging people to be honest.

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    1. Anon,

      Since you pre-emptively assumed I would not read and respond to your post in good faith, I'm ambivalent about whether I should take the time to respond at all. But here are a few quick points:

      1) Regardless of how X comes across "in real life," what matters here is how X comes across on the list. And to some of us, he comes across as a bully. I would also add that, despite some peoples' determination to separate their online lives from "real" life, in my experience people are rarely radically different individuals in virtual space than they are face to face.

      2) I would encourage you to explore more deeply how social privilege works. Possibly starting with John Scalzi's Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. Social privilege has nothing to do with how we have or have not "worked [our] tail[s] off" to be where we are. It's about how society makes it possible for us to "earn" our place in society in the first place, while it actively works against others doing the same. I have my share of privilege in this world as a white, born-middle-class, college-educated, native citizen, full-time-employed individual.

      I have worked to get where I am, but society has opened doors for me too. It would be incredibly naive of me to assume that privilege and inequality had not enabled me in many ways (even as I am marginalized in others). We're all mixed bags of margin and center.

      In this specific case, we had someone in many ways centered who targets individuals in certain ways marginalized.

      3) Finally, I'm fascinated/appalled that as an employer you would not see professional engagement with their colleagues about issues that deeply affect the profession as part of your employees jobs as librarians or archivists. It's clear you and I have a very different understanding of what it means to be a good employee. My definition involves expecting the staff whom I supervise to do their part to keep our library running, complete their assigned tasks in a timely manner, grow as (mostly young) professionals, be passionate about their work and the practical and philosophical issues that work raises, and to understand the difference between representing their employer and speaking for their professional selves. I very much hope that my approach to supervising staff and setting the tone for a workplace environment never results in such bitter feelings as you display in this response to my OP.

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    2. I debated with myself whether or not to respond, but in the interest of your desire to maintain open communication I'll add a few more comments.

      1) I don't think Peter comes across on the list as a bully at all. He can be direct, but so are many others who dole out good advice. They're often busy. They write with a short, direct, tone. Now, that's just my personal perception. It was my perception when I was a younger (female) SNAP and it's my current perception now that I've officially reached the age of federal protection against ageism. (Calling someone "old" on Twitter isn't age discrimination is it?) :)

      2) Thank you for the reading recommendation, but I really don't have the time.

      3) My employer does not define blogging and commenting on blogs as professional engagement with colleagues. We are encouraged (and encourage others) that much of the casual social media interaction and philosophical reflection of that level is best done on personal time. Our professional engagement is directed more towards professional meetings (local, regional, national), professional development, continuing education, and the in-person networking that results from those meetings. We are also encouraged to engage in outreach or promotion of the profession by writing for peer review publication, historical publications, and presenting to our user-groups. So as an employer I expect my (albeit small) staff to do their part to keep our department running, complete their assigned tasks in a timely manner, grow as professionals, be passionate about their work, and understand how the business side of the house works so they may be stronger advocates for available resources. But no, I do not encourage them to blog about philosophy or how archivists engage one another in an online forum. That does not pertain to our current work assignment. It's not "bitter" it's just practical. I do the job for which I was hired to do and I actually enjoy it quite a bit.

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    3. Well, Anon, you've left another comment but it doesn't seem like you're actually much interested in communication -- since part of effective communication is listening to, and engaging meaningfully with, the perspective of the others involved in the discussion.

      You say "I don't think Peter comes across on the list as a bully at all," for example. This is not the point. The point is that some people on the A&A listserv experience it as an environment where they are bullied. Your response to this revelation should not be "I don't think you're being bullied." Your perspective on their experience does not trump their actual experience. Your response, as a member of the community these individuals are a part of should be, "I'm so sorry that you're feeling bullied. What is causing you to feel unsafe and how might we work together as a community to ensure this doesn't continue happening in the future?"

      And "Thank you for the reading recommendation, but I really don't have the time," means that I feel no obligation to continue this conversation. Social privilege is a complicated issue about which many far more articulate individuals than I have written. If you can't be bothered to read a single blog post written in nonacademic language by an engaging author about the dynamics of that privilege, then we have no grounds for fruitful exchange.

      Understanding and grappling with the way our world privileges some and marginalizes others is a collective responsibility. Privilege makes marginalization invisible; that's how it operates. In order for us to understand how we are privileged (and all of us are along some vector or another) we must do the work of learning to "see." That is OUR responsibility, not the responsibility of the marginalized whose eyes are already open -- because they have no option -- to how they are treated by society in shitty ways. It is my job, for example, to listen and learn from my friends with disabilities so that I learn to see how my privilege as an able-bodied individual operates. I don't demand that people I know who are undocumented educate me on the privileges that I take for granted as a native-born citizen. I don't demand these individuals "prove" the existence of privilege and oppression to me; I listen and learn from their anger and their pain. And take their reading suggestions seriously when they provide them.

      And as to the question of professional engagement and labor, you do not need to explain your management decisions to me. I stand by my original point that you and I have very different management philosophies and it is clear that we have chosen to foster very different workplace environments.

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  19. I'm an early career (rather: an unemployed new graduate) and I really appreciate you saying this. I saw the blowup a few months ago when someone wanted to discuss the difficulties of being hired as a new graduate, and I was terrified into silence by the vehemence of X's opinions that we, as new graduates, were fools for not understanding that there weren't enough jobs for all of us, and that we should not complain about the lack of jobs or difficulties in getting hired. This new blowup made me equally terrified to engage on a professional level for fear of being targeted (and also for fear that it would put my name out there as a "dissenter" and hurt my chances for employment later down the line). This active putting down of young archivists is disheartening and also intensely socially charged. I recognize the privilege at work that I naively felt, as a young woman coming into a woman-dominated field, I would not have to experience so keenly. Instead I find myself butting against mostly male archivists and librarians who are intent to call me an idiot for not understanding the profession before entering (I find that women are much more encouraging, and continually tell me to please keep applying, please keep trying).

    So I guess this is a thank you for this post. This is not only enlightening to the social structure of this listserv, but illuminating on the social and gender politics at work.

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  20. Ryan HendricksonJune 3, 2014 at 3:38 PM

    Thank you very much for this blog post, I think you got right to the heart of several issues that have been building within the U.S. archival community for a few years now. The biggest issue, in my opinion anyway, is what seems to be a generation gap but is really an "employment/technology gap" in the field. I've been an archivist for 14 years, hosted numerous interns, and taught an intro to archives class three times now. I see many new or relatively-new archivists who got into archives because they are excited about public history, outreach, social media, the bleeding edge of working with data, digitization, metadata, research methods, etc. But going by what I've seen on the listserv, there are a lot of archivists who find these "new" archivists and all they represent very disorienting and/or threatening, and don't want to engage with them at all. You can tell by their reactions: humorless sarcasm, patronizing condescension, glib dismissal; all of it smells like fear to me.

    I saw this when Jackie Dooley (who is wonderful) gave her Presidential SAA address last year. I believe she wanted to directly address the "gap" and the hostility on both sides, but from where I sat in the room, the seasoned SAA members didn't hear any of the criticisms directed at them; instead they embraced it as a smackdown of newer archivists. So it became a public "punching down," as you put it, even if J. Dooley didn't intend it that way. What's especially ironic is that Dooley was asking new archivists to get involved in SAA to change things from the inside. But that message got lost. Maybe there will be some positive discussion at SAA this year, but I'm not holding by breath.

    Incidentally, I've been a member of the archives listserv since 2000, long before SAA took it over. It's true that the discussion could be just as unproductive then as it often is now; the angry e-mails about G.W. Bush drove many off the list for good. The big debate back then was what to do about Don Saklad, who would post long paranoid rants about the Boston Public Library; he was eventually banned from the list, but not before a long internal debate. Every batch of people who leave the list every year -- over, say, endless discussions of "virtual picnics" and out-of-office replies -- are replaced by a new batch of archivists new to the field, and the cycle starts again. I have noticed the list dying a slow death, with fewer and fewer messages of substance, since 2008, which is about when twitter caught on.

    Thanks again for your post, and keep up the good work..

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    1. Thank you, Ryan, for stopping by and commenting. I read this just when I needed to at the low-energy ebb of the afternoon! I will do my best to keep advocating for a different, more inclusive conversation and conversational space.

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    2. The upside of this has been seeing how many others feel the same & who are also speaking up in their own ways as they are able.

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    3. Ryan HendricksonJune 6, 2014 at 5:29 PM

      Congratulations on your move out to JP, by the way. I moved to Boston from New Jersey in 1993 and I've loved it ever since. I lived downtown (by Symphony Hall), then in Allston, then in Quincy, now in Arlington. (I might finally be getting a house soon, near Fitchburg, if things go well.) Moving really is emotionally and physically exhausting, but when it's over it's great to be in a new place.

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    4. Ah, Symphony Hall! Right near my lovely workplace on the Fens (Massachusetts Historical Society). Some of my colleagues live out in Arlington at the end of the red line and seem to like it. Good luck with the house! My wife's mother grew up in Lunenburg and we get out toward Fitchburg every so often to visit her grandparents' graves. There's some lovely countryside out there.

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  21. Thank you for this post. I was curious to know why my digest started appearing in my SPAM folder and was behind in the flow of the conversation. I've been getting out of the habit of reading the digest, due to lack of time and how many times posts tend to be off topic. I also felt it was more of an exclusive group that I couldn't get into, instead of a collaborative forum to discuss concerns, standards and new trends in archives.

    I am curious to know which Twitter Groups people follow and post questions in? I am behind with using twitter, but it sounds like those groups are a bit more active and open to all.

    THANKS!

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    1. Hi krichardsbrown, that's a good question and one I may not be the best resource for. My professional networking is eclectic and opportunistic, using what social science researchers call "snowball sampling" and what might be colloquially termed "link hopping." I read bloggers and Twitter accounts I enjoy and pay attention to who they're retweeting or linking to, and then add those folks to my list.

      You might be interested in some of the resources listed on this page of the feminist librarian, based on a talk I did for undergraduates in 2012 considering the library/archives profession. As the page explains, I polled my library and archivist friends for resources that were their "go to" and compiled a links list for the students' exploration. Many of the bloggers listed also have Twitter accounts, if that is your preferred tool.

      Others may have good suggestions -- I'll be sending this query out to Twitter shortly so check back for further suggestions.

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    2. For Twitter, I'd suggest that you simply sign up for an account and then test the waters. Once you've signed up, find one account on Twitter for someone whose work you admire or who has similar interests. You can do this by asking the individual for their handle or by Googling "Jane Doe on Twitter". If they have a twitter account, you'll probably find them. 2) You can see which accounts a twitter account follows. 3) Follow some of the same accounts that the first account follows. 4) Over time, you'll see whether or not the folks tweet about topics that interest you. Unfollow if they don't. Also, you'll see that those accounts might re-tweet something of interest from yet another account. Consider following those other accounts. Builds slowly, but it gets honed to be only the ones of primary interest.

      Best of luck! @k8_bowers (tweets about archival metadata, historical notes, sometimes random life events or recipes)

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    3. In follow up, here is the stable URL to my Tweet querying suggestions and the replies people are offering, which appear in smaller format below the original Tweet.

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  22. @krichardsbrown I only follow small group on Twitter but have found that seeing whom people I follow reply to on multiple @ threads on archives, records management, history, often leads to delightful new discoveries of people to follow.

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  23. I left the list a few months ago as a direct result of a volley of replies between myself and X in a discussion about unethical hiring practices, and I was just looking at the #thatdarnlist tag today after seeing the In the Loop SAA Council Statement on A&A List in order to get a better idea of what was going on. That's how I found your blog, and I'm glad I did. I'm curious as to whether the Council's statement is related to recent events or if it has been a longer time coming; this is the first I've learned of the latest blow-up involving X.

    In the discussion that led to me leaving the list, it became clear to me very quickly that I had no power in the discussion and that no one with power was going to call X out for belittling me and other new professionals or for refusing to engage in any kind of meaningful, reasonable discussion. One user -- not X -- actually issued a veiled threat against the original dissenter (a new professional, not myself) couched in terms of that new professional reducing his own chances of being hired by complaining on a professional listserv. It's a little hard to look at a reply like that as anything other than an attempt to bully anyone who doesn't support the status quo into shutting up...and it was one of the reasons I gave up and shut up myself (the other reason was that the constant anger and frustration at the situation were impairing my ability to do my work). The comment about hireability was not directed at me personally, but it still made explicit a concern I'd already had about speaking my mind on the listserv. I have a stable job...but not a permanent one. I'm hardly alone in that. I received supportive responses on Twitter, but while supporting one another off-list can ameliorate some of the feelings of being alone, it does not improve the situation on the list itself. What should be a general forum for archivists of all kinds is an unsafe, noninclusive environment, and it's going to stay that way as long as a few individuals with the privilege of job security and longevity in that community dominate the list and respond to criticism with unchecked bullying. On some level I feel like I and others should remain on the list and offer each other strength in numbers, but thus far it does not feel like that approach has garnered results and it is difficult to invest the energy when it feels like I might very well risk career opportunities in exchange for making little to no lasting difference.

    Anyway, what I meant to write when I started this comment is that I really appreciate this breakdown of the social dynamics of online arguments. While I did my best to remain professional and reasonable in my own responses when I was on the list, I can recognize some of my own impulses in your descriptions of unhelpful contributions. Being Disaffected or a Shamer is, unfortunately, an easy way out, and it is helpful to be reminded of the effects that behavior has on the community. In the heat of the moment things get muddled and it becomes easy to doubt one's own position, and I think this post is a good resource for reminding oneself of the social dynamics involved and recognizing when another user (or even oneself!) is engaging in destructive, unreasonable behavior.

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    1. Sorry you got caught in mod, Kathryn -- I've set all comments on "older" posts (over two weeks) to go directly to moderation due to spam/bot problems. Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your experience. I definitely hear you on the impulse to respond in less than helpful, yet oh so satisfying ways!

      One dynamic that I think is not talked about enough on the Internet is the way the already-marginalized labor to continue being respectful long beyond when the more privileged folks do, and then when they finally snap and rage are tone-policed almost immediately. We're expected to take the higher ground as the price for participation in many forums, and I think it's legitimate to snap an not remain "professional and reasonable" sometimes -- and not feel guilty for it!

      Anyway, I'm glad the post resonated and proved useful.

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