>AA_discuss musings

>I’m not entirely sure why I started up this entry. I think it had something to do with being pleased that people were finding out about the AA_discuss list independent of the network I know. It’s gratifying that the forum has an external appeal. There’s nothing wrong with word of mouth, but it’s great to have others click through and join up. By doing so, they give me a sense that the group meets a need out there.

The AA_discuss list used to be called the oz-amida list. When it first came into being, Amida was a newspaper/magazine still being published in Canberra. It was touted as “Australia’s National Asia Student Magazine,” and the e-list sprang up around the themes of that publication. The e-list seemed to default quite early on to Asian Australian material. That was possibly because the person who set it up is someone who’s very interested in AA issues, and who has ended up working on postgraduate studies in this field. I contributed an article to Amida: a short piece about the media rhetoric surrounding the reporting of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia. This was something I went on to work into a longer, more substantial piece for Overland, “Penal Posturing.”

When Amida folded, the e-list seemed a little anachronistic. Its anchoring publication had, after all, disappeared. After some discussion with the moderator, the e-list was handed over to me and I re-invented it in April 2003 as asian-australian_discuss. The stalwarts from the oz-amida group hopped over to the new one, which gave it a starting population of about a half dozen. Currently, our numbers stand at 63. I’m particularly happy with this 63 because they are 63 ‘good’ subscribers.

I instigated a cull earlier this year in March when I deleted those who didn’t respond to a hardline email about putting their hands up to stay. Many of the older subscribers had bouncing emails and others, unfortunately, are folks I know are still interested in the e-list but who’ve changed their emails and never updated their list addresses. The cull took the list from about 70 to 50.

I’ve had a steady stream of subscribers (‘steady’ in this instance meaning one or two a month) recently. I often don’t know how they came by the list. I assume many are from google searches or they’ve stumbled across my website/CV. It’s great to hear from other AAs who are interested in issues of political and cultural identity in Australia, and the positioning of racialised minorities in general. The list is not only made up of Australians, but the overwhelming majority are East Coasters. Hopefully, I’ll only sound a bit like an old fogey when I say: I remember the days when I didn’t have a single person around me with whom I could talk about these issues. Now, it’s a question of how much time I can afford to take to thresh out stuff in intricate detail with others who are specifically researching/writing in the areas. It’s really very exciting when I step back from it all.

The list is quite academic in tone because many of the most active participants happen to be university folk (myself included). I suspect this puts some folks off. I feel I should be concerned about this but, truth be told, I’m not. I like having that level of engagement in discussions. I enjoy seeing turgid theoretical guff being applied by folks to their everyday lives and experiences. It makes it all seem less ivory tower and more hard, frictional work at the ‘coal-face.’ It provides me with good balancing perspectives when I get too bogged down in the same old, same old theorists’ obfuscations. But it’s not all theory/politics and no fun chat (not that theory/politics can’t be fun…but it’s often not! Challenging, interesting – yes. Fun, good-for-a-laugh – most often, no).

What I wish for, and what every moderator wishes for, is more active participation from a larger range of people. I’m an advocate for lurkers because I’ve often been one myself. Yet I do believe that you get out of the e-list as much as you put in. I know many of the lurkers read every post religiously and have many interesting/sarcastic/contradictory perspectives. It’d enrich the list so much if they’d share some of these. I know many lurk because they feel that what they have to say isn’t important enough, or interesting enough, or they feel they’ve missed the boat on certain topics…but, hey, I’ve answered threads two weeks after they started and many of my posts aren’t of earth-shattering import. Ok, ok. None of my posts are of earth-shattering import. I hadn’t intended this entry to exhort anyone to do anything, and it’s ended up doing so. How gauche.

I need to end this, and I’ll do so on this note: The best thing about moderating is that the original oz-amida stalwarts who peopled the reincarnated AA_discuss list are, for the most part, still all there. I’ve gotten to know them better, met many of them face-to-face over time, and feel that there is an empathetic community that’s grown around the forum. Not everyone agrees or holds the same political or social views, but there’s generally a solid sense of wanting to talk about things rather than showboating or shoving opinions down other people’s throats. This is a very good thing.

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