I am a newbie to OER conferences, and #OER16 was the first I attended. I loved it, and live blogged and blogged quite a few keynotes and sessions. The picture above is of David Kernohan at Laura Ritchie’s Ukelele workshop at OER16. I really enjoyed this workshop that was so engaging, mentally and physically, that I couldn’t possibly have live-blogged it.
I am a fairly recent participant in OER conferences but for the second time, I have participated in planning and reviewing by being a member of OER17 committee. OER17’s theme is The Politics of Open, a topic that becomes more relevant by the day. I was intrigued when OER17was announced (thanks Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski) and inspired by the call to submit an individual submission and contribute to a joint one. My excitement was mounting: doing, thinking, writing,talking about open education/ resources in context was political. Then the abstracts to review arrived in my mailbox and I realised that if my sample was anything to go by, OER17 will be a very timely and significant exploration of the politics of open.
This week, the programme was published, and I have already started to think about which sessions I wish to attend. Obviously, I can’t decide until I can read the abstracts but I can already foresee some difficult choices. And then there are the corridor chats with the interesting people who will be participating.
All in all, I can’t wait for April 5 2017. Will you be there?
Peter Riley explains the Kinder Scout Trespass that took place in 1932 as a protest against the permanent closure of all the wild uplands of Derbyshire for about 12 days of grouse shooting in the year. It has been described as “the most successful direct action in British history” Lord Roy Hattersley, 2007.
The other day I read a review by Billy Mills of the narrative poem The Ascent of Kinder Scout by Peter Riley. What Billy said made me think about the relevance of the Kinder Scout Trespass for us today and how the poem can help us understand more about the purpose and experience of education then and now. The pamphlet arrived in the post today to my joy.
Extract from Billy Mills’ review
These radicals, both working class activists and middle-class poets, had lived through one World War and its aftermath and were about to see a second. As the first generation to benefit from the 1918 Education Act, they had the tools needed to engage in a process of learning about power and its implications. As Riley writes early in this work, ‘The foundation of the state is not violence but education.’ This statement, apparently straightforward on first reading, gains in complexity as Riley questions the role and value of the state a few paragraphs later, concluding that it ‘makes everything possible, and makes strangers of us all.’
He also calls into question the value of education, specifically literacy:
They taught us to read and we thought we were so grand as to join heaven and earth. But all we did was wallpaper over the crack between myth and science and lose our homes. The farmer’s wife sang a truer song, told a sweeter story, of hope and despair hand in hand walking back into society.
This last word forming an integrative counterbalance to the divisive state. It is no coincidence that the verse excursus, which echoes the song Goodnight Irene, follows on immediately after the prose paragraph from which I have just quoted. This interlude sits in the twin shadows of war and emigration, of ‘promise betrayed’ and ‘all the bathos of the modern state’.
I know that comparisons with the 1930s are a little overblown at present but I found that the poem and review are very thought-provoking in my ongoing consideration of critical and digital literacy in public and open education. I submitted an abstract recently for #OER17, a conference with the theme Politics of Open. My abstract looks at the role of criticality in Open Educational Practice, and how paying attention to the sociomaterial, as Fenwick(2014) encourages students and educators, can focus on the political as well as the instrumental nature of education, and critique the digital tools and platforms through which it is increasingly mediated.
So here is my proposal:
What if the critical and digital literacies that educators and students practice and share could help focus attention on the wider implications of using proprietary social networking systems and other platforms in learning, and activism and education?
What if these literacies helped bring about a digital trespass that was more like the Kinder Scout Trespass than a concern of cyber-security?
I’ll leave you with the words of the late Ewan McColl in one of my Favourite songs The Manchester Rambler.
I’m a rambler, I’m a rambler from Manchester way
I get all me pleasure the hard moorland way
I may be a wageslave on Monday
But I am a free man on Sunday
I read two posts about in/exclusion recently : one from sava singh about cliquenomics; and one from Maha Bali on Intentionality, Community, and When Open Isn’t Open. I really like the way that sava captures an observational view of community and how it can include and exclude. She identifies that although people can have malicious intent, cliques can be a byproduct of our zeal for belonging
“clique economies” – exclusive clubs for the special few, the practice of which I will call cliqueonomics. sava singh
Maha has signalled her intent to focus on intentionality in her forthcoming OER17 keynote and seems to flag up cliques as having a power dynamic that intentionally denies access. She gives a comparison within VConnecting of the close-knit communities that form on Slack and the public Twitter and Google Hangouts. That caught my attention because I have done a lot of wondering about the relationships between behind the scenes and public interactions in general, and specifically relating to some current work on network-building. I think that a qualitative study from in-community and ex-community perspectives of this would be interesting and could contribute to critical perspectives on openness.
All of this made me think about some research that Jenny Mackness, Mariana Funes and I did that looked at qualitative contributions/survey data and quantitative activity data across different tech platforms on one MOOC. We found that community could be a confusing idea for participants who espoused heterogeneity and that platform design could also have an impact. We can think of intentionality as relating to the agency of individuals or as an emergent property of groups but if we take a post-human perspective on intentionality then intentionality and agency can be shared between humans and non-humans such as the platforms. I think this view could be helpful.
I am not really sure that participants who felt excluded by the lash up of individuals, groups and tech would feel reassured that this did not meet a particular definition of a clique. Like community, clique is a term that I use fairly sparingly now after some mixed experiences. Both terms seem to me to provoke strong emotions, and can get in the way of sustaining difference without exclusion. It would be good to look at cliques as something that we can all contribute to despite our best intentions and working on understanding what’s going on is a worthwhile enterprise.
This blog post started life as a comment on Martin Weller’s post about language and how it affects behaviour and thoughts in Edtech. The comment mysteriously disappeared as I posted it so I thought that I would repost it here and link from Martin’s post. The title of the post “Let’s think inside the box“ made me think about Blackboxing .
Whilst I agreed with many of the ideas in the post, Martin’s statement “But this post isn’t about politics” stopped me short. I wondered what those of us thinking of making a submission to OER17 would make of this. I have been puzzling for a few weeks about what politics can mean in the context of “The Politics of Open” theme for OER17, and I guess that others may be doing so too. I think that the concept of politics being broad and interpreted in different contexts will make for a great conference that enriches our understanding of Open Educational Practices and Resources.
So I would like to encourage Martin to think about how his post could be about politics and ‘fit’ OER17 – maybe even rework it as a submission 🙂 I was grateful to him for getting me to think about politics and language and my Scholar Google search turned up 2 corking resources.
My subject discipline was Information Systems (that bears some parallels to Edtech) and in our teaching, we included social and organisational aspects as well the technological ones. Ethics, gender and power were definitely on the curriculum. When we think about education and/or technology without considering the politics – global, national, organisational, personal, interpersonal – we are filtering our understanding and it’s no wonder that our noble aspirations don’t always work out as we would hope. This is why I think the OER17 theme is so exciting – it can help us expand our thinking and our practice.
Reading posts on variations of Creative Commons licensing by Alan Levine, Doug Belshaw , and Maha Bali really made me think about our practices of licensing, copyrighting and attributing creative works, particularly of what we share as ‘knowledge’. Alan describes the various CC licenses he has used for his photos on Flickr, and the trials and tribulations he encounters in trying to apply CC0 to all of his images on Flickr. I had to check what CC0 was:
” Once the creator or a subsequent owner of a work applies CC0 to a work, the work is no longer his or hers in any meaningful sense under copyright law. Anyone can then use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to other laws and the rights others may have in the work or how the work is used. Think of CC0 as the “no rights reserved” option.” Creative Commons FAQ
Doug Belshaw explains why he has applied CC0 to all of his work (including his doctoral thesis) that is under his control. Maha Bali, whilst acknowledging that CC licenses can be ignored, reveals how her approach to licence choice is contextual.
Thinking about my own practice, I publish this blog as CC BY-NC and try to publish my research writing in Open Access journals. Having said that, the last two articles I wrote with colleagues as I was retiring were published in closed journals, since those were the most beneficial for my co-authors still subject, unlike myself, to the Research Excellence Framework. So my approach to copyright and licensing is also contextual. If asked do you publish openly? my answer would have to be – Yes, but it depends.
I am always interested in looking at historical accounts to try to understand innovation. Bijker(1995) was one of my teaching resources, with the story of the emergence of the popular style of the bicycle being a good classroom story to explore. Audrey Watters has argued powerfully that 21st Century ‘innovators’ in Educational Technology ignore/distort history in an attempt to big up their products and services.
Then I remembered reading about 19th century industrial innovations that relied on sharing rather than protection and secrecy. In looking for this, I didn’t find my original reading but instead found a very interesting article about the Cornish Pumping Engine (Nuvolari 2004). Nuvolari contrasts the ‘heroic narrative’ where individuals are credited with inventions with ‘collective invention’, an incremental approach where the contributions of individuals can remain anonymous. For example, we all ‘know’ that James Watt invented the ‘modern’ steam engine that helped to bring about the Industrial Revolution. Nuvolari’s case study examines what happened in Cornwall, a remote area of England, in the 19th century mining industry which had memories of a bad experience in the last quarter of the 18th century with the more fuel-efficient patented Watt steam engines, needed to address flooding in their mines. The business model that Boulton & Watt established with Cornish mine adventurers was royalties based on hypothetical fuel efficencies of the Watt engine as compared with the earlier Newcomen engine. This model was unsatisfactory to the mine adventurers not only for business and economic reasons but also because Boulton and Watt’s refusal to license the design prevented Cornish engineers from improving the engines to suit local circumstances. Watt’s patent hampered engine innovation in Cornwall (and elsewhere) and the 19th century started with a dearth of progress.
“This situation lasted until 1811, when a group of mine “captains” (mine managers) decided to begin the publication of a monthly journal reporting the salient technical characteristics, the operating procedures and the performance of each engine. The explicit intention was twofold. First the publication would permit the rapid individuation and diffusion of best-practice techniques.
Secondly, it would create a climate of competition among the engineers entrusted with the different pumping engines, with favourable effects on the rate of technical progress.“
Lean’s Engine Reporter continued until 1904 and was accompanied by a steady improvement in the thermodynamic efficency of Cornish engines. Cornish adventurers were driven by pragmatism rather than an ideological attachment to open knowledge. I can recommend reading Nuvolari’s case study as it questions the standard historical account of the ‘golden boys’ role in the Industrial Revolution and the role of patents in stimulating innovation, and draws attention instead to innovation’s incremental, anonymous reality that occurred in a variety of social, geographical, legal and economic circumstances.
Nuvolari also hints at the central nature of patents with frequency increasing with proximity to the Patents Office.
So what have I learned?
I have already started to think about the personal is political in relation to Open Educational Practice, and have long observed (from my gendered lens) restricted narratives and dialogues even within open educational communities , see this post from 2011. Cornish mine adventurers had pragmatic reasons for challenging patents and promoting competition between engineers, and will no doubt have operated within class structures. If we want to promote Open Education that challenges structural inequalities of class, gender and race, we need to acknowledge these inequalities and be alert to where heroic narratives obscure structure inequalities in the cause of ‘innovation’ and profit.
The OER17 Call for Contributions is about to be released but we already know something the theme of the 2017 conference, entitled The Politics of Open, chaired by Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski. OER16 was my first OER conference and I loved its friendly atmosphere, and of course I learned a lot too. The theme and chairs of OER17 were announced at the end of OER16, and I was thrilled at the boldness of the topic. From what I know of the OER community, we will rise to the challenge.
I have been thinking for some time about the topic of my own submission to OER17, and in preparation for writing it, I started to think of the different flavours of ‘political’ that are important to Open Educational Practice (a concept explored so well by Catherine Cronin, in her 2016 keynote). The theme of the conference is broad enough to welcome many different perspectives in policy, organisational and societal contexts, and is sure to include fun too.
My first thought was about openness in politics, and I found http://openpolitics.org.uk/ , and from there to http://www.rebootdemocracy.org/ . I wonder if there will be submissions that are specifically about political systems but it’s not really where I think I can best contribute. The conference themes include policy and practice in local and wider contexts, organisational politics, and issues of equality and participation. I think my contribution will look at digital literacies but I am starting by looking at how I can frame my thinking.
I am interested in approaches to openness that are contextual, and don’t expect openness to automatically remove existing structural inequalities. For the Networked Learning Conference this year, my contribution to a symposium with Catherine Cronin and Laura Gogia included this digital story that hopefully illustrates my approach.
As I develop my abstract for OER17, my challenge is to present my ideas in a meaningful way for the audience (assuming it gets accepted). The phrase ‘the personal is political’ popped into my mind and I decided to refresh my memory of what it meant. Carol Hanish wrote an article originally published in 1970 in Notes from the Second Year: Women’s Liberation. Carol’s article was renamed by the book editors as “The Personal Is Political”, and it has had widespread traction over the last 46 years. Reflecting in 2006, Carol said
“It challenged the old anti-woman line that used spiritual, psychological, metaphysical, and pseudo-historical explanations for women’s oppression with a real, materialist analysis for why women do what we do. ” from 2006 Introduction
A materialist analysis of Open Educational Practice seems important to me, revealing lived experiences and informing possible collective responses, beyond an idea that the political is personal. I am still homing in on my specific topic for my abstract but I feel sure that the feminist perspective of ‘the personal is political’ can help me explore the politics of Open Educational Practice.