Credit Where Credit is Due?

There has recently been a good discussion around Jon Mott’s forthcoming publication in the EDUCAUSE Review–it’s officially due out tomorrow—and the issue of getting credit for ideas. More specifically, getting credit for the idea of a post-LMS learning landscape, one wherein the Personal Learning Environment (or Personal Learning Network-depending on how you swing) becomes the new standard—providing a loosely coupled approach to teaching and learning. This is an idea I’m extremely excited about, and it is near and dear to the work I’ve been doing along with my compatriots at UMW, one of whom is now at Baylor.  And what strikes me about this conversation is that folks like Leigh Blackall, Stephen Downes, and Mike Caulfield  are suggesting that a lack of recognition in the journals is in many ways a slight. And while part of me sees that logic, and I for one appreciate recognition when I get it—and I have gotten too much of it at the expense of my colleagues and numerous professors at UMW—I’m also not too sure the issue of credit isn’t in many ways at the root of some of the more problematic issues tied up with traditional ways we have thought about teaching, learning, and scholarship more generally.

Now, before you jump all over me, hear me out. I’ll try and make it short and to the point (but no promises), and I won’t even pull a Rorschach on your ass—at least not just yet.

Funny thing about EDUCAUSE Review and EQ (and journals more generally) may not necessarily be the citations, I’ve seen articles by Alan Levine and Bryan Alexander, Brian Lamb, and Gardner Campbell—to name just a few—extensively cite blogs in their work—in fact Brian’s article on the Mashup in the EDUCAUSE Review is almost entirely citations from blogs—which might come as no surprise given the author. So, I’m not so sure we can tun on the EDUCAUSE Review here as a culprit that reinforces an intentional marginalization of blogging. In fact, I’d bet money their record is better than the majority of academic journals out there when it comes to citing blogs and other “untraditional academic media.”

That said, does the responsibility of credit then come back to the author(s) of these articles? I would argue to some great degree yes, and I would also argue that who those authors are and how they frame the tone/voice of their articles has everything to do with what is the crux of these journal articles: a normalized, objective voice that makes otherwise individualized and idiomatic arguments that make potentially powerful ideas—often expressed creatively—that much more palatable for the professional academic class. And, often times, but not always, that class is accompanied by three letters after their name and a long list of publications in similar journals which often, but not always, gives them entrè into the journal in the first place. Is this necessarily bad? No. Does it help certain ideas circulate to a particular audience? Yes. Are we putting too much power in the hands of these journals by reacting this way to the idea of credit? Absolutely.

Fact is, I have written extensively about the “End of the LMS” and the death of BlackBoard, etc. on my blog for close to four years now.  I have linked to Leigh and Stephen and Mike before, as well as Alan Levine, Barabra Ganley, Barbara Sawhill, D’Arcy Norman, David Wiley, Geeky Mom, and the list goes on and on, but no one is pissed at me for writing about it when I didn’t reference them. No one cares when I go off about an idea like this in the same way they might when it’s a journal article in a publication like EQ, and the reason why is that we still believe that Jon Mott’s discussion of the Post-LMS Era in EQ is somehow more official and real than it might be on a blog, meanwhile we all know that these ideas have been vehemently discussed and hashed out on the blogosphere, where credit is often and necessarily inconsistent and erratic, but somehow implied–and given we are all working for bigger idea of open and free and fluid education, credit seems to be a vestige of another time—like journal articles for tenure committees and the like. I don’t have to play that game, so I don’t. And the idea of publishing in a journal is odious to me because I can’t use the tone that has liberated me from a terrible bout of graduate school and helped me find my stride, and has, as a result, made my work and interaction fun, rather than a list of necessitated acknowledgments, citations, and origins. I don’t blog for credit, I don’t blog for tenure, and I don’t blog to promote a global micro-brand—first and foremost I blog because I like blogging, it’s fun, and when I blog about education it is often informed by the seemingly obvious fact that education is over-priced, run by fools, and in serious danger of becoming yet another commodity.  And this idea of credit gets to the heart of this idea of the commodity, because in many ways credit builds the abstract, but very real, commodity of authority—and the two often lead to some assumed role of leadership and justified power.

But, that is not how I see this loosely coupled conversation emerging and it is a bit distressing to see it move towards a scramble for credit, recognition, and some anemic sense of “edech celebrity” —not unlike what we are seeing play out in the Twitter commentary at TedxNYC as we speak—I guess the unconferences and barcamps didn’t highlight individual genius nearly enough—and what we have now is a push towards an almost ceremonious recognition of certain individuals as somehow more—and not to say they may not be—but I don’t understand the push to accentuate it so. Credit? I guess, and then soon follows leadership, power, and then what? More of the same, maybe?

Yesterday Joss Winn published a post titled “Towards a Manifesto for Sharing,” wherein suggests that the need for institutional sanctioning of sharing in many ways goes against the very logic of why and how we share. In this post he points to a new emphasis for education more specifically

…on grounding education in the reality of our social relations, the struggle of daily life, the hierarchical relations between institutions and people, and between academics and students. The desire for autonomy is also a desire to re-instate the commons, to break the enclosures that currently inhibit sharing. The conscious act of sharing is both a move to resist oppression and a drive towards autonomy.

Often journal articles, celebrity conferences, and the like remove us from the social relations that made so many of these ideas possible, they elevate and re-inscribe the hierarchical relationships between institutions and people, as well as academics and students. And the commons itself becomes unevenly distributed around ideas of credit, -who said what first? -who linked to who? -who made you? The point is, part of the move towards autonomy and a resistance to oppression has everything to do with letting go of some of our ideas of ownership and authority, in an attempt to cultivate a space of creativity and a tone and home of our own. Journals often don’t provide us with new ideas in edtech, but rather move to codify those we have already had some first hand experience with in shaping through thought and praxis. They are a barometer for all the folks who have decided not to join the conversation, and that’s fine, but I really don’t see it as a threat to—or a forgetting of—the sources, because we are all working towards a large idea of seeing education change, and if we revert back to the traditional nodes of power in terms of owning ideas, necessitating credit, and invidious distinction annointed our leaders than we really haven’t re-invented anything—just put a new label on old clothes. A social history of edtech as a emergent movement is far more interesting, and in my mind necessary and relevant right now, than an intellectual one.

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19 Responses to Credit Where Credit is Due?

  1. Mikhail Gershovich says:

    I’ve got some letters to add to the end of your name.

    I am at TEDxNYED basking in the glow cast by the edtech celebrities you refer to so I’ll have to come back and kick your ass later. I will say, though, that you talk a lot about connecting with others and learning from the many amazingly smart, insightful people in your network. Don’t you think that acknowledging in some nominal way what we’ve learned from whom validates, reinforces and encourages the exchanges of ideas and resources which have contributed to our growth as thinkers, writers and educators?

  2. > journal articles, celebrity conferences, and the like remove us from the social relations that made so many of these ideas possible, they elevate and re-inscribe the hierarchical relationships

    That’s why they have them, to make sure the hierarchy remains in place no matter what else changes.

    That is the over and _only_ purpose for their existence. They _will_ assign credit, preferably to one of their own, because that is how they entrench their power.

    I don’t mind not getting credit; what I mind is when this star-making industry explicitly assigns credit for work that belongs to a community to designated corporate-friendly publisher-friendly tame and compliant spokespeople.

    They create a mythology of agency, and then use that mythology of agency in order to justify their own usurpation of power and authority over others.

  3. As the unnamed “instructor of one CUNY course” quoted in the EQ piece, I’m with you, Jim.

    When it’s steamship time, the steamships get built, and they cruise forward. And the credit is less important than the cruise, and where the ships go. (And maybe I just pushed that metaphor much too far).

    I do have a name, even if it’s hard to spell, and I do like getting credit for what I said. But the ideas are out there and none of us are really truly inventing them.

    There are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt. (And for that one I will give credit, even though it’s somewhat contradictory to do so, to Audre Lorde)

  4. Pingback: Is Journal Publishing Anathema to You As Well? « Scholarcast

  5. I guess, all things being equal, recognition doesn’t matter. But things are far from equal. As much as I embarrass myself calling for recognition, it disheartens me – the need to do it, and that no one else has.. but why?

    1. It should be obvious that a lack recognition causes an inability to access a wider picture, to as easily as possible see the connections, the long tail, the context, the perspectives beyond borders of English speakers, academia, blogging white males, etc. The ignorance of very obvious links in this article not only portrays a poverty in the expression, but in its reception and review as well.

    2. A lack of recognition has implications for my job security. In Australia, academics are measured partly on their recognition, and that measure has an impact on their job security. Add to that the fact that so few of my colleagues are connected online, and that academic articles such as those that appear in Educause might be all they ever hear of a topic that relates to my work so strongly.

    3. The absence of a citation tells me that my work is not valued in my network, even on a subject that is so inextricably linked. Not all my work is emotive blog rants in an nonacademic voice (if in this case that is not valued). Unfortunately in this example, even after embarrassing myself with the attention seeking links to a small body of work, the academically voiced work I have generated didn’t get a mention, only the most popular and nonacademic blog post did, after my complaint. So either of both my blogging and my academic expressions do not cut the mustard in my network.

    4. Something in this conversation reminds me of the conference in Vancouver, about the power dynamics in OER, expressed in the gender, language, and financial investment bias for example. For me that conversation was as much about gender as it was about class, race, national inheritance and power. Those who hold it can and should do more to share it, but we can’t can we, if we are forever left to feel insecure..and if we don’t each have the ability or motivation to seek and situate a broader understanding with an ‘other’ who none-the-less shares a stake in the discussion.

    5. For me, my reaction to the lack of citation in Jon’s Educause article is a result of a cumulative sensation of insecurity and isolation that comes with the territory working as a ‘change agent’ within institution after institution, never sure of your standing, equally as unsure of the volume of support you can depend on from the wider online network.

  6. Reverend says:

    I absolutely do think acknowledgment is important, and I try and exercise it regularly, at the same time I think what happens in relationship to Journal publications is interesting because that recognition is somehow counted on—see @Leigh’s points in the comments above which brings up range of reasons why professional citation is crucial. I don;t disagree with Leigh, more on that soon, but I do think what we have is two different ecosystems that are bleeding into one another, and what becomes apparent is the Journals still hold the power it many regards. And while I may be lucky, or simply delusional, I work at a institution that really doesn’t expect me to do much of anything academically—in fact some would rather see me changing printer cartridges—which enables me to focus on the group of people I work with from this space. MY own publishing space, my own journal written in the very tone I want—my own.

    I couldn’t agree with you more on the issue of agency, and this in many ways underscores the issues Leigh raises about his own sense of insecurity regarding a space of authority on a topic he very much helped shape in regards to conversation with those who were posing the questions. And what begins to emerge is the question of “assessment” of one’s academic accomplishment measured by an institution based on one’s contributions to a peer-reviewed journal (although I’m not sure EQ is peer-reviewed). Fact is, this issue is going to emerge more and more as we move forward, and it makes sense it should start hitting a head in edtech as ideas of SPLJ that have been bantered around for a while now go mainstream, and relations get elided and what emerges is a new managerial class of ideas that are palatable.

    “There are no new ideas, only new ways of making them felt.” I love this quote, and in many ways says what I was trying to in one simple sentence, bully for Lorde. What’s more is that the recognition of how one say it becomes the issue of tone and how it is packaged. Fact is, professors have been repackaging ideas from the wild in a tone and vocabulary that is all their own an making an industry out of it, and I don;t want to necessarily hate on that approach, but let’s face it, the ability to do that now given the online, open, and transparent work that people have been doing and following for years becomes that much more difficult to repackage with a straight face. And the need to do so opens up the larger question of why? Why a journal and not your blog? What is the advantage? Why go that route?

    I’m glad you commented here, and I hope my broaching this issue again doesn’t annoy you too much, but I did it because I think it is important. And the idea of credit and citation is in many ways crucial to power and that feeling of insecurity you discuss. Point being, how do we begin to unpack some of the questions of where gender, race, class, etc. begin to inform the space of these conversations. Fact is, those issues are often quite difficult, and I know first hand they were for me at OpenEd. I a not at all comfortable with being in a position of influence, power and authority, but again and again i was approached on that front, and despite what I do to subvert that idea, I’m still placed within a position of middle-aged, white male guy in edtech. I guess it could be worse, I could have a ponytail, but fact is I know no way out of that space without humor. Kind of mocking myself because I’m guilty of much of that which makes the call for credit and ownership that much more fraught. I see no clean way out of those questions, and they need to be embraced, but I know I’m not smart enough to, and I accept that. I never really wanted to be an edtech guy, it happened, and I enjoy it, but once it becomes a means to an end I have a feeling I’d hate it. So I’ve systemically tried to make myself a laughing stock, undermining any credit one may try and give me. But like I said, making light of this stuff is the only way I know to take it seriously, and journals and the like seem to me the trappings of a life I learned to dread, in a profession that has proven to be far more internecine that I’d imagined when I entered it starry-eyed and naive 13 years ago. Blogging and edtech provided a way out from that I realized after the fact, and I’d hate to see it come back around to be more of the same. We can;t live a wrong life rightly, and we need not. I’m not gonna right the wrongs of gender, race, and class issues, I know that—but I am gonna speak my mind freely here. My ideas won’t hit on all those topics, but may broach one on occasion, but I’m increasingly fine with that. Cause maybe I don’t really want to change education as much as I want have something to do—and blogging has become what I do.

  7. Jim, everyone.. not annoyed at all! It’s very topical for me at the moment in other realms actually.

    At my new place of work, I have a lovely boss in Keith Lyons, who in a refreshingly laissez-faire approach to boss-dom, allows me to wonder in my own directions, assuring me that what I do can only be right!

    He’s only brief to me thus far is to be “altruistic, self sacrificing, platform agnostic, invitational, and to offer myself as mother Terressa would have”. Bizaare I know, he’s a nice fella to get to know.

    He leaves me to ponder what all that means in the reality of it all, and I go back and challenge him with the obvious contradictions and harsh realities faced when exercising those attributes..

    I think this little event with Jon’s article and the various responses so far, relates to Keith’s brief to me. And the take aways from that relate to the look in you offer to what motivates you to use humour and extroversions.

    I think we have enough material here to create a manifesto for popularising intellectualism free from the dogma it currently festers in. Someone must have written something about this before. back to my blog, and a search or two. TBA.

  8. Jon says:

    I wonder if this concern for credit had anything to do with the abject failure of my Wikipedia challenge a couple of years back.

  9. Reverend says:

    Funny you should mention that challenge cause it still kind of haunts me. And brings me to another point of this issue, Wikipedia in many ways makes credit more communal, a point you’ve made before and John Maxwell brought home at the Open education conference. I still have no excuse, but I’m actually trying to work on this, but no so much in edtech. I’ve been gearing up for an article on Mario Bava’s Rabid Dogs, which has nothing as of now. But, interestingly enough, I plan on blogging the article 🙂 So, in many ways the blog is far more germane to garnering credit than say working within a space like Wikipedia, and I’d be lying if I said that the anonymity of Wikipedia, and the relative invisibility of one’s work is one reason I don’t spend as much time there as I should. So, as is always the case, my own hypocrisy is never too far off—but I’ve learned to live with that too 😉

  10. Jeff says:

    Hey Bava,

    Thanks for reminding us who like to play on the edge of things that we need to be in this together. Otherwise we become the embodiment of the very culture we’re looking to change. In reading this post I could not help but think of Animal Farm and what happened after the successful overthrow of the farmers. “All animals are equal,but some are more equal than others.”


  11. Cole says:

    I gave up on the notion of credit a long time ago — and I am much happier for it. I could sit here and type out a list of things that I feel were ideas and concepts that came from my head first, but what would be the point. I have the luxury of not being judged professionally solely on being cited as the place where ideas come from. In many ways, my job is to experiment and promote new ideas and let those around me feel like they came to them first somehow. I guess I’ve just stopped worrying and learned to love the conversation.

    As a growing academic however I do see the need for recognition — and a lot of that world gets mapped into the ed tech space. The currency of the academic publication is the citation … credit in a strange and glorious way. Even in that World, the ability to be cited is so dependent on a number of factors — where the original article was published, who the co-authors may be, what language it was written in, and so on. We (as ed tech people) have not yet developed a structure related to our own professional currency like pure academics. Our publication opportunities are both radically limited and ridiculously open. The fact that we publish every single day changes our ability to use our ideas as currency IMHO. What I hope is that we all continue to write and share in the open, but take risks by writing more formal pieces where citations are valued in different ways — and when we do, we use them.

  12. Peter Naegele says:

    “Cause maybe I don’t really want to change education as much as I want have something to do—and blogging has become what I do.”

    You were channeling Linus with this one, Rev!

    Like it or not, every movement needs leaders and those leaders deserve credit.

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  15. EQ does it again! Who gets a mention in their Open Education paper?

    But, thanks to this discussion, I’m less affected.

  16. Steven Egan says:

    I am reminded of a few things. First, the best groups are made of servants, as even the leader is serving the group by doing the job of leadership. The second is the human tendency to want to measure all of something by a single number, rather than several numbers that encompass the whole from different perspectives.

    As for the recognition thing, my view is that what I want is to be able to get my projects and work done. That takes help, and the help should be recognized as at least existing. And Jim, you are stuck because of the network effect, but by eschewing the normal trappings of leadership you are actually doing more for the movement than if you were to do otherwise, IMHO. (… Just realized that IMHO and emo sound the same. …) That’s because we don’t need A leader, but rather MANY local leaders to facilitate, the true job of a leader. A single face, persona and such would make it too easy to categorize, and auto-react to without thinking.

    Anyways, the only recognition I want is that needed to get my stuff done. Being famous sounds like a pain, and I might be a little too tempted to shoot the paparazzi. The relationships are generally too distorted for my taste at that level of recognition. Blogs help this, as a personal voice and way of directly interacting with those interesting in the interactions and conversations.

    My views on publishing and citation are probably a little different, as a student. Being cited by those I respect means something to me. Getting in OLDaily and being a part of discussions on different blogs means something because of the relationships and respect I have for the people. To me, that’s where true authority comes, and the responsibility lies for leaders. The group has lifted up the individual for the sake of the group. Communication, a sense of identity and belonging as well as giving them somebody to point people to makes sense to me, but like I said, the best leaders serve the group in that role rather than thinking themselves above the rest of the group.

    Stephen Downes has voiced that he doesn’t like the spreading and support of the idea that it’s one person doing great things, and I agree, though i don’t know if it is for the same reason. Personally I find it disgusting in the sense that it perpetuates the “somebody else will fix it” type mentality. Think of those hero moments when they are expecting somebody else to save the day, and keep hoping as time is running out that the other guy will jump in, … and get the job done … and time keeps ticking away … till … they have to stand up and do the job themselves. I’m tired of people standing by and waiting to be saved, for somebody else to come and do the work. I’m tired of being the guy who walks by and cleans up the messes because nobody else was willing to take the time, effort or discomfort to help out others, or even themselves. Then, the icing on the cake is that they jump onto the band wagon, take the credit and look down on the person who was willing to get their hands dirty with mistakes. Sure, they didn’t do it all on their own, but they also took on the unpleasant parts that others were not willing to deal with.

    … I don’t normally rant, especially on somebody else’s blog, but it’s Jim’s, so I guess it’s okay. The points are there. Credit has it’s uses, and it’s pit-falls that many fall into.

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