I would argue that the unhappy academics were creating and adding to what I described in my thesis as affective swirls of discontent, and that they were doing this as a means of bonding, or collective self-comforting. Anthropologist Nigel Thrift (2004), in discussing spatial affect, might argue that these swirls gather momentum, affecting the moods and feelings of others as they circulate. As they get translated into different, perhaps more durable contexts — such as via technologies like online chat and email — the affect begins to bed down into the objects (such as emails, or policies), as well as into the humans, strengthening the network and the feelings of discontent further. This is where collective trauma may become an apt description.
If you can, cultivate relationships with some people who will give you honest feedback, always make it clear to your listeners that you welcome their point of view, and try to guess before you publish something what the worst criticisms of it might be.
Dr. Tanisha Jowsey, an applied medical anthropologist at the University of Auckland (unidirectory.auckland.ac.nz/people/t-jowsey), spoke to our own Julia Brown about how to analyze a medical emergency, how machines and people communicate in the Operating Theatre, and how to manage her position as a pregnant anthropologist when there's blood on the floor.