Questionably open and not always by choice

In preparing my ALT format piece for OER19, I thought about these questions in the context of my work as a volunteer IT Buddy at my local library in the town of Macclesfield in the North West of England.

  • Why open?
  • Open for whom?
  • Whose interests are served?
  • In what ways has the open agenda been appropriated, and what are the implications of this?

In my 7 minute slot, I wasn’t able to answer these questions. Rather I encouraged participants to think about the questions as they listened to three brief stories I told them: the first two were composite stories woven from fragments of experiences I witnessed and heard IT Buddy clients tell me over the last two years; and the third was an individual’s story told wuth permission.

Jim’s Story (49s)

Jim is persistent and organised and has come to know what he wants. Using the Internet without logging in or using an email address, Jim is a bit like WWW users back in the day. He has made an informed choice to stay away from email, but will that always be open to him?

Enid’s Story (1m 8s)

Because of her increasing visual impairment, Enid finds it difficult to manage her tablet on different levels. She leaves apps and browser windows open because she doesn’t know they are open. Google Voice recognition has a lot of potential for her to control her tablet but using it would mean her being “always on” Google, with associated data harvesting issues.

Another issue is that her visual impairment makes it difficult for Enid to cut her fingernails, resulting in some strange outcomes from clicks and double clicks, if she uses the pads of her fingers. She had to use the side of her little finger to avoid this problem.

Mr P’s Story (1m 28s)


Mr P has no wish to learn to use a computer, smartphone or tablet. He wants the proxy use that Selwyn(2016) describes in his report but this doesn’t fit with the two factor authentication increasingly being pushed by government and other systems, to “solve” security risks. The workarounds come with their own issues and problems, some of which are also security-related.

Family help and limited access to IT Buddies are no substitute for real choice not to use online; and person-centred support in person and by telephone.

Issues
Apps

In the world of apps available on phones and tablets, there are real efforts to give a good user experience but this can be at the expense of said users’ understanding and real control over what they are doing. The attitude of service providers can be “Don’t worry about that”  in response to users’ confusion and the attitude of users as “What can we do? “ or a shrugging of the shoulders.  Users’ confusion and feelings of lack of agency accompany the service providers desire to harvest data and track users across platforms eg Facebook, Google. This is no coincidence.

Platforms want us to be always online.

“The only way to sign out of the Gmail app is to remove your entire account from your phone or tablet.”Google help

Apparently, it’s possible to log out of the Facebook app but I couldn’t work out how to do it a couple of years ago when I deleted the app on my phone and now I rarely visit Facebook on my laptop.

Systems Developers

Some systems developers seem to be making assumptions that everyone is online, has a smartphone and an email address that remains constant.

There may be a creeping tendency to mandate online or just obscure the alternatives for reasons of cost.

Well that was as much as I could cover in my 7 minute Alt Format session. I was pleasantly surprised by the reactions I got within the session and afterwards on Twitter.

Later reflections

The three stories I shared in the session did not represent all of the people I meet as an IT Buddy. Many have broadband at home and have top-end devices. I focused in the session on those who chose to use computers at the Library, or were forced to do so for various reasons.  The question of user choice in using online services is an interesting one, I think. Jim’s story shows us a way to use the Internet with little or no tracking, as he has specifically chosen not to have an email address, though I don’t think tracking was a major element in his decision. Enid can glimpse how the Internet might improve some things for her as her family thinks but can’t see how to make it work in her day to day life. Mr P just wants to do his VAT returns. These are #smallstories but significant.

In viewing recordings and reflections from Reclaim team, I came across the term Digital Fatigue. I don’t think my stories were so much about Digital Fatigue but rather in Jim’s case Digital Freedom,  and in Mr. P’s Digital Coercion.

Older people can operate in spaces that span Digital Freedom, Fatigue and Coercion. I want to challenge mandated online, developers’ assumptions; and think about alternatives, including telephone, face to face and proxy Internet use.

Just before #OER19, I read an odd article

“Older people play an outsized role in civic life. They also are more likely to be online targets for misinformation and hyperpartisan rhetoric.”

from Old, Online, And Fed On Lies: How An Aging Population Will Reshape The Internet

The concept of older people shaping the Internet seemed somehat at odds with the three stories I have told, though I can see that for e-commerce, older people with time and money must be an attractive demographic. I am very concerned about social media interference in democracy, even more since viewing Carol Cadwalladr’s TED talk  but I think there are more effective responses for older people and us all than mass digital/media literacy education programmes, however important they may be in the education of young people and adults. Is the article promoting an evil twin of the Digital Natives trope?

I am more concerned by the mandating, or the effective mandating by obscuring alternatives, of everyday services to be online, for reasons of cost-saving for the service-provider.

And then after OER19, I came across this tweet

My hopeful thought from #OER19 is that things can be different, and they must.

Reference

Selwyn, N. et al. (2016) Going online on behalf of others others. Available at: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/83436/.

#ALTC Preconference Walking Tour details and contact

Whitworth Gallery by the picture drome CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Are you in Manchester for ALTC 2018, and free on the afternoon of Monday 10 September? Then please consider joining me for a walking tour, taking in the Whitworth Art Gallery, and back to the Conference Venue in time to register. You will be free to go around the Gallery on your own or with others. Details of other activities, registration and Monday evening meetup are here . Currently, the weather forecast is 18 deg C, Light cloud and a gentle breeze, but you never know with Manchester.

Here is what I said my  ALTC Blog Post of 2 weeks ago.

If you are in Manchester on Monday 10 September, then you are welcome to join a walking tour with me at 3pm – …..  we will walk down Oxford Road with a brief detour past the Pankhurst Centre, former family home of Emmeline Pankhurst where the first suffragette meetings were held (open Thursdays 1000-1600). The Whitworth Art Gallery (our destination) is a beautiful recently refurbished art gallery situated in Whitworth Park. The art collection includes textile and mixed media art as well as paintings and sculptures, as you can see from the current exhibitions. We’ll leave time for refreshments in the magical cafe in the trees before walking back to the conference venue for registration.

Please contact me to let me know if you will be attending, and ask any questions either via Twitter @francesbell or by completing the form below. I will share my mobile phone number if you contact me, and it would be good if you reciprocated.

I will be waiting at the entrance to Cafe Muse, right opposite the Conference venue, University Place from 1450 on Monday 10 Septemeber, hoping to set off at 1500.

Looking forward to seeing you on the day.

 

Resistance as a Digital Capability #udicap

Kerry Pinner invited me to give a presentation at the UCISA Spotlight on Digital Capability Conference at University of Warwick. My presentation was based on some work I have being doing on Digital Trespass and Resistance as a Digital Literacy.

I approached the UCISA event (my first contact with the organisation) with a slight sense of trepidation, as I knew very little about Digital Capability and my presentation seemed a little different (well quite a lot different ) from others I saw on the programme.  I decided to treat my role as providing a provocation for discussion on compliance and Digital Capabilities.

As I told the audience, I was relying on them to provide the knowledge of digcap.  I was greatly helped by having attended a talk by Safiya Noble in Manchester last week, based on her excellent book ‘Algorithms of Oppression’, see links in presentation.  I introduced the audience to earlier work on Resistance in Information Systems, that explored the more positive aspects of user ‘resistance’, see http://usir.salford.ac.uk/855/1/2004.2.pdf. I think we need to reinvent this in our changed landscape of technologies and platforms in use in learning and teaching.

In the event, my presentation connected to some of what Donna Lanclos said in her keynote about a practice perspective, and was kindly picked up by Farzana Latif in her talk later in the day.

Here is my presentation, and thanks to the audience for picking up the provocation and tweeting about it later.

Missed Conversations – in more ways than one #OER17

This evening I participated in a Missed Conversation via VConnecting session that followed up on a #TowardsOpenness workshop at #OER17.  It’s lovely that OER17 continues to ripple on nearly a week after it finished.

This was a missed conversation for me in more ways than one. Although I attended OER17 in person, I had missed the original workshop as I was part of a panel running in parallel. And then I missed the first 12 minutes of the Google Hangout as I had connection problems but I am so glad I got there eventually as it was a lovely session.  It was great to hear what participants had to say but I also loved the chat stream that was a missed conversation for people watching the video. I have just watched the video  and I am missing the first 12 minutes of the chat stream from there 🙂

When I eventually joined the Google Hangout, and was invited to introduce myself,  I explained that I am an Itinerant Scholar, having retired from Higher Education in 2013.

Here’s what I said as my introduction:

In preparation for this event, I read the abstract, blog posts and viewed the video provocations. I reflected on the process model

Towards Openness Framework
Towards Openness Framework

especially “Create and share a realistic or fantasy intervention/ prototype/ tool / process”.

My personal motivation, based on me tending to talk too much, was to participate differently in inclusive conversation. As well as changing my actions, I am imagining a counter to algorithmic shaping of conversation online.

First I thought of a human algorithm (or even humane algorithm). I like the human bit but think we can do better than fixedness of algorithm.

So this was my attempt to re-create the workshop activity and I came up with some heuristics, rules of thumb that I see as a concept, a broad guide, a space of adaptation and action.

I had started to think about these heuristics when participating in #tjc15 organised by the lovely Laura Gogia. The hashtag twitter conversation was busy and fast flowing so I tried to think of what I could do to have a meaningful participation.

In the Missing Conversations hangout, I concentrated on listening to the speakers and participating in the chat, both of which channels were very interesting, though those viewing the video, live or as a recording, couldn’t see the chat. Privacy, surveillance and sacrifice of personal data in return for ‘free access’ were all explored, and it’s worth watching the video, if you missed the session.

I find it difficult to separate the spoken contributions from the chat room, and in a way that is an example of the differential experiences that platforms such as Google Hangout can engender. Kate Green explained beautifully at 25.30 into the Hangout that she had to change her browser and cookie permissions so that participating in the workshop compromised her privacy strategies. This chimed with Chris Gilliard’s contributions (video and spoken) regarding the implications of surveillance capitalism.

Towards the end of the Hangout, I shared my heuristics for participating in a one hour synchronous conversation online, which are:

I will:

  1. LISTEN – I minimise my speaking, and maximise my listening.
  2. PREPARE – I research in advance and note THREE points that I might make/respond to.
  3. WAIT – I make ONE of these points as a statement, being prepared to bring in the others in response, if relevant, within the flow of the conversation.
  4. REFLECT – I reflect and report back via a blog post/ Twitter comments.

I don’t really think that these heuristics are sufficient to counter algorithmic and functional shaping of conversational streams in social media but they are my human shaping. Of course, we can also resist in other ways.

This was a great experience – thank you all.

The Paradise (hopefully not lost) of #OER17

Last week I was lucky enough to attend OER17 an Open Education conference, The Politics of Open. When I heard at the close of OER16 that was the theme and that Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski were the Chairs, I was thrilled. I did wonder if that ‘politics’ aspect might be be off-putting for some. But the submissions that I  reviewed engaged with the topic and were generally of high quality. I felt reassured and optimistic.

And it was a lovely conference (organised by the very lovely ALT) with so much friendliness and spirit and voices from beyond UK where it happened. I guessed it was going to be great from my experience on the planning committee and reviewing abstracts, but it really did exceed my expectations. And for that, I should start by thanking the Conference Chairs who came up with the inspiring Conference themes. The whole experience was invigorating, and I am still enjoying the space after the conference. There was so much going on at the conference, and is still happening, please check out hashtag #OER17 as delegates and hashtag attenders continue to share and engage. I have been able to get a flavour of sessions that I couldn’t attend because I was in another good session.

I blogged the wonderful keynotes, which were inspirational in different ways, and I had blogged in preparation for the conference check my tag.  Feeling slightly dazed, I am reflecting and trying to fulfill my desire to contribute to OER17.

So let me think beyond the web links to the experience. This was a lovely conference from start to finish. The conference themes were inspirational: the keynotes were invigorating, they opened up thinking and generated some lovely abstracts and many beautiful presentations, lightning talks, workshops. The corridor/tea break  encounters, the discussion within sessions, the social media exchange, the bowling and Karaoke on Wednesday night all contributed to my good experience of #OER17.

But a bigger question is how can this conference make a difference in a broader sense?

I can’t capture the difference it will make in terms of an organised movement but I suspect that it will make a difference, however small, to how people think and what they do. I saw a few glimpses of criticality being seen as powerful for change rather than as a negative approach. That gladdened my heart but what of all the things I didn’t see? I am scouring #OER17 tag and seeing more but there will be far more that eludes me and that’s OK.

I will share two experiences that I had and that are part of the difference OER17 made to me.

The first was that I plucked up my courage and sang (very badly) at the Karaoke on Wednesday. I chose Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, and hadn’t realised till then that it’s an anthem for Open.

They took all the trees
Put ’em in a tree museum
And they charged the people
A dollar and a half just to see ’em

Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot

The second was seeing Chris Gilliard’s provocation for, I think, 2 OER17 sessions. I love the thought that digital creations can flit across to face to face sessions and flit back to channels like Twitter and blogs. I love the way Chris performs his own and Shoshana Zuboff’s ideas in this video.

These are ideas that are already familiar to me, and that have informed my own work but Chris’s video triggers new thoughts. That’s part of the beauty of open in a digital age that we can engage with ideas through and about the means by which we share.

Opening up Wikimedia Content and Communities #OER17 Keynote

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Lucy Crompton-Reid, the Chief Executive of Wikimedia UK, and Karaoke Queen, introduced herself to us, revealing her broad experience, and enthusiasm for Wikipedia.

Lucy was very happy when Jim Groom made this statement at OER16

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She is passionate about the use of Wikipedia and associated projects in education, formal and informal. Education is a natural home for Wikimedia, and Education is a key part of Wikipedia’s strategy.

Lucy showed a  video from a Wikipedia colleague

more background here.

Lucy gave us examples of how Wikimedia is engaged in projects with schools, colleges, universities and libraries across the UK and elsewhere. Wikipedia can play a part in developing digital literacy.

She also highlighted the different activities that can be done in the different language instances of Wikipedia. The English Language one  has over 5 million articles, while other languages have a need for content but that need offers opportunities to translate and recontextualise in young editors’ own languages.

Wikimedia are well aware of cultural and gender gaps, and works hard to address them, in order to diversify Wikipedia’s content and contribution.

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Another strand of Wikimedia strategy is to advocate for change in policy and practice in institutions with whom they are involved, with the help of ambassadors eg Wikimedians-in-residence in universities.

Lucy emphasised that Open as a political act does not mean that Open is in opposition to Privacy.

She highlighted ways in which we, the audience, could get involved in events, joining Wikimedia, and attending the Wikimedia UK AGM. I attended last year’s AGM, and it was a great opportunity  to meet people, learn at workshops and contribute to decisions.

The keynote was inspiring for those of us who were keen to learn more about Wikimedia through the sessions provided in the programme.

Lucy’s keynote is here.

[I promised to live blog the keynotes for OER17 as I had for OER16 but my method depended on pictures from my phone being pulled through to flickr. The wifi at the venue wasn’t up to this so the post is a combination of live and edited.]

Reaching Other Audiences #OER17 Keynote

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Diana Arce @visualosmosis, Director of Artists Without a Cause @ArtistsWAC, gave the second keynote at OER17.  She is an artist and activist who works with other artists to critique and make change with positivity. She told the story of the Charging Bull, and the Fearless Girl, supported as an advertisement by Hedge Fund – rather than by, say, Planned Parenthood.

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Diana told us that this demonstrated 2 things she has learned: that location is everything; and the need to participate by engagement and activism rather than photo-opportunity.

Diana gave an example of an art installation concerning Enron that she worked on right in the centre of the Financial centre. Some financial workers engaged with her, even bring their shredded documents!

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Her next example was the project that refurbished 25 row houses in Houston Texas – most used by artists, and few as homes for battered women.

Another of Diana’s own projects was White Guilt Cleanup – cleaning up privilege, one white person at a time. White people could buy a White Guilt Offset Credit that would benefit their or others’ victims.

Diana worked with Indie magazine in Berlin to help them change practices through the project, and their joint work was successful in making change.

Diana has done different political Karaoke projects at Democratic National Congress, and a bar in Jerusalem.

Her takeaways were:

  • make sure you have local cooperation to work in their spaces
  • or bring them to your project
  • use Art projects as a Trojan Horse to make change where it matters

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Conflict Kitchen in Pittsburgh only employs people and serves food from countries in conflict with USA. Waiters are trained in handling conflict/communication. The goal is to counter media narratives about conflict locations.

Watchwords: DON’T TELL PEOPLE WHAT TO THINK

Politaoke, another of Diana’s brainchildren is where people respeak real political speeches It’s a kind of non-partisan political karaoke, with interpretive dance and rants.

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There is no work without the audience: they bring the speeches, and other performances. The work is in resisting descent into propaganda, and attracting an audience where change can be made.

Diana plans to release outcomes of Politaoke in an open environment for broader benefit.

Diana applauded the work of the Center for Artistic Activism in helping change happen.

Sheila MacNeill asked about how we could harness Art in Education. Diana told of her experience mainly in after school activities, Higher Education being her least favourite area.

Bryan Lamb asked about people who may be using related techniques but for less than desirable purposes. Diana explained how Art can become a disruptor.

Muireann asked about the possibilities of OE researchers to spread their message, and Lucy  described a political art installation in the House of Westminster that gave  disenfranchised young people a voice in the right place to be heard.

This was a keynote that felt and looked to me like an art event – it was great fun to be there.

[I promised to live blog the keynotes for OER17 as I had for OER16 but my method depended on pictures from my phone being pulled through to flickr. The wifi at the venue wasn’t up to this so the post is a combination of live and edited.]

Hiding in the Open #OER17 Keynote

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Maha Bali describes herself as “open and connected educator, learnaholic and writeaholic” and you can find her on Twitter and at her blog.

Maha has modelled openness in the development of her keynote by blogging for ideas, sharing her slides in advance and adopting an inclusive approach through the process.

Josie Fraser introduced Maha as an open educator who models and personifies open educational practice.

Maha started by asking the audience to share how many OERs they had produced – quite a variety.

She then asked a series of questions that highlighted (without being too explicit) how openness might benefit, followed by a ‘meet your neighbour’ activity.

Maha used the Little Miss Helpful book to highlight the nature of ‘helping’ and how the helped relate to it – does the person on crutches want you to open the door for them? and does the beggar with no teeth appreciate the apple she is given. Maha and a member of the audience discussed the nature of intentions – whether we nurture our intentions properly, whether they include those we engage with.

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Maha went on to discuss Education funding as ‘foreign aid’, an interesting analogy.

You try to ‘fix the shirt but spoil the trousers’. Your intentions are good but what you help spoils something else. Maha included stories shared by others.

Christian Friedrich shared his stories about trying to help refugees and the unanticipated problems that arose.

Aleks Tarkowski talked about Creative Commons Licenses and the complexity and legal nature created mini-copyright police.

Maha then went on to talk about curriculum and how the hidden curriculum and the power relations that lie behind open relations in Egyptian HE.

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People with less privilege may have a different experience (and fears) of using CC0 compared with the  more powerful.

Maha looked at curriculum as content , using example of SOAS students who challenged a white privileged curriculum.

SHe also gave the example of the 2 versions of the 6 Day war in 1973 on English and Arabic wikipedia – same ‘facts’, different interpretation.

She compared cMOOCs and xMOOCs , usually in English, with Edraak a MOOC written in Arabic.

Maha went on to speak about Virtually Connecting that includes people who can’t be at the conference and to encourage face to face delegates to take away some of their experiences for the benefit of those who weren’t there.

You can watch the recording of the keynote here.

[I promised to live blog the keynotes for OER17 as I had for OER16 but my method depended on pictures from my phone being pulled through to flickr. The wifi at the venue wasn’t up to this so the post is a combination of live and edited.]

Still time to register for OER17

Happy people eating cake
#OER16 Crew by Catherine Cronin CC BY-SA 2.0

I am a newbie to OER conferences, and #OER16 was the first I attended.  It was fun, informative and helped me move forward my ideas about Open Education. I loved it, and live blogged and blogged quite a few keynotes and sessions.

If Open Education is something you do or plan to do, why not consider registering for OER17 . The theme is The Politics of Open, a topic that becomes more relevant by the day. The Conference Chairs Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski were prescient in their choice of theme and today a session was announced that will provoke lively discussion

The themes address politics in a broad sense:

  • Local, national, and international policy and practice
  • Institutional/organisational politics
  • Participation & social equality
  • Open Party

Here are five good reasons to attend OER17

  • there are lots of varied and interesting presentations, panels and workshops, check out the programme
  • you can see three keynotes from speakers who lead in Open Education across a spectrum of activities
  • you can participate in an interactive plenary
  • you can network with OER researchers, practitioners and exhibitors
  • you’ll have fun and cake

So check out the website and watch this video if you want to know more.

 

You can register here. Hope to see you in London next month.

Personal is Political – a frame for thinking about Open Educational Practice

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.

A Door Half Closed from Frances Bell on Vimeo.

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.

I’d love any feedback or discussion of this.

References

Hanisch, C. (2006, original article 1970) ‘The Personal Is Political’, Carol Hanish.org, (January), pp. 1–5, [online] Available from: http://www.carolhanisch.org/CHwritings/PersonalisPol.pdf.

Check out:

Twitter – conference hashtag #OER17, Chairs @josiefraser, @atarkowski , Conference Committee list https://twitter.com/josiefraser/lists/team-oer17

Web site https://oer17.oerconf.org/