Posted by: crumphelen | October 31, 2014

My Open Tour: a critical turn

Amongst several concepts of openness that Open Knowledge MOOC has turned its attention to recently is that of open scholarship, asking us to consider how the new principles of openness, as facilitated by digital means, affect the way in which knowledge is produced, published, disseminated and reviewed and entreating us to think about the limits, or tensions, that ever greater openness may bring. This segues nicely with the material that I’ve just covered in the Open Research course from OER Research Hub and the new MOOC on the block, Networked Scholars #scholar14.

One of #okmooc’s core readings was ‘Assumptions and Challenges of Open Scholarship‘, co-authored by George Veletsianos and Royce Kimmons (coincidentally, George Veletsianos is the ‘main man’ over at Networked Scholars). Anyway, I enjoyed reading this article, the dual aim of which was to identify the assumptions of open scholarship and to highlight the challenges associated with open scholarship’s aspirations for broadening access to education and knowledge.

critical

Identifying assumptions and highlighting challenges.

Most notably, I enjoyed reading the paper because it called out the edtech community for being overly optimistic when stating technology’s roll in educational transformation and displaying a lack of critique of open educational practices.

 such critiques are largely absent from the educational technology field, as members of the field tend to focus on the promises of educational technologies, rarely pausing to critique its assumptions (Selwyn, 2011, pp. 713).

Veletsianos and Kimmons’ paper went on to declare a pressing need for the understanding of educational technology narratives and their unfulfilled potential. Citing Hall (2011, pp. 11) they said,

in order to understand our present position, and to develop alternatives that matter, we need stories and metaphors and critiques of where we are.

Such a challenge made me think of Audrey Watters‘ recent and awesome keynote speech at altc, entitled Ed-Tech’s Monsters. Indeed, it really is “a [fascinating] romp through literature and the cultural history of ed-tech” that, by retracing connections through narratives and counter-narratives, talks about teaching machines and monsters and also serves to inspire a re-examination of the Luddite cause as a critical starting point.

The inherent assumptions Veletsianos and Kimmons identify within Open Scholarship are:

  1. Ideals of Democratization, Human Rights, Equality, and Justice
  2. Emphasis on Digital Participation for Enhanced Outcomes
  3. Co-Evolutionary Relationship between Technology and Culture
  4. Practicality and Effectiveness for Achieving Scholarly Aims

Here, two things caught my attention. First, relating to the assumption concerning the co-evolutionary relationship between technology and culture, mention was made of the phenomenon of  ‘homophily’. I must confess, I’d never heard of this term before but basically it’s the tendency to connect with similar or like-minded individuals. Therefore, in actuality, social media mightn’t after all foster the diverse spaces for knowledge exchange and negotiation that we think they do, instead leading to the creation of ‘echo chambers’: a situation in which we share knowledge and perspectives with individuals who already share the same views as ourselves. This is vitally important to recognize when developing a personal learning network (PLN). As Howard Rheingold is credited with saying,

 “if your network isn’t offending you, you’re stuck in an echo chamber.”

Well, may be not offending you exactly, but definitely singing from different hymn sheets, which brings me to the second thing that caught my eye, that is the assumption that Open Scholarship is ‘capable of achieving socially valuable scholarly aims’. Here, the work of Robin Goodfellow comes to mind, a scholar whose work is in the field of new technology in teaching and learning, yet who chooses not to engage in social networking practices such as those exemplified on Twitter.

Referring to the complexity and interplay between openness, scholarship and digital technology as ‘an impossible triangle‘, he’s sceptical of Open Scholarship’s ability to deliver the aforementioned ‘socially valuable scholarly aims’. He points out that

particularly confounding is the tension between digital scholarship and open knowledge, where the former is focused on the creation by specialist communities of knowledge of a stable and enduring kind, whilst the latter is characterized by encyclopaedic knowledge and participation that is unbounded by affiliation or location.

Further, he says

that the enduring importance given to objectivity and the ‘scholarly record’ is often in tension with ideas about democratizing scholarly knowledge.

On which note I’ll sign off. It’s been worthwhile taking the time to think about open knowledge practices and the assumptions and tensions relative to Open Scholarship. It’s certainly taken me some time to think about this and get round to posting this blog. The reading was flagged up in week 6 of Open Knowledge MOOC and it’s now week 9 or something. Doh!!

References:

  • Selwyn, N. 2011. Editorial: In praise of pessimism—the need for negativity in educational technology. British Journal of Educational Technology, 42(5), 713-718.

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Responses

  1. This is a great post and chimes with my thoughts (as yet unresolved) about how we can ‘be’ (as scholars and as our whole selves) on the web and in all of our lives. It provokes connections for me. First to Cristina Costa’s post about the need for a broader definition of literacy http://socialtheoryapplied.com/2014/10/25/education-needs-broader-definition-literacy/ . Homophily is something I have been thinking about since 2008 – it can make us cosy but also constrain our personal growth and contribute to oppression here’s what I said recently http://francesbell.wordpress.com/2014/10/13/homophily-intersectionality-and-institutional-cultures-as-played-out-on-social-media/
    I am really glad to see posts like yours that prick the ideology of ‘open’ – and help us to really examine our practices and those of others to help maximise the benefit and minimise the damage of open technologies. At the heart of it is the tension between human baseness and virtue that exists between and within us all.

  2. Hi Frances,

    Thank you for taking the time to call by and comment on my post. Apologies for the somewhat tardy response but I’ve been thinking some more about your reply. I’m glad it resonated with you, and Cristina Costa’s post that you highlight chimes with me also. However, I’m not sure that it’s just a broader definition of literacy that’s needed so much as an honest discussion, or realization at any rate, about the nature of literacy and that literacy practices are ways in which communities include some and exclude others. Literacy is as much about marginalization as it is about empowerment. So as education and scholarship acculturate to the digital, it will be interesting to see what, or whose practices, appropriate the right to dominate and subsequently how the rights of others will be recognized.

    I enjoyed reading your post relating to homophily, or the balkanization of the internet, and the dark side of human nature that can be played out there. For better or worse, this isn’t a topic that I am fully abreast of so I’m glad to be given the opportunity to think about it in week 3 of #scholar14 … which I must say is turning into a very worthwhile learning event.

    Once again, thank you for your comments.

    Helen


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