I Don’t Need Permission to be Open

I made the mistake of mentioning I was a bit struck by David Wiley’s recent post “How is Open Pedagogy Different?” on Twitter. I should have gone right to the blog because the tweet onslaught from David and Mike Caulfield was a bit off-putting. What started off as a concern, quickly turned into a one-sided tweetstorm that felt like a DdOS attack on my brain. Also, part of what I couldn’t capture on Twitter was the fact I had just come off a day at the OER17 conference in London. In fact, for almost two weeks I was traveling around the UK and Ireland talking about a variety of work happening with domains. Now, I would agree if someone said my work tends towards open: I try and openly blog much of my work, I try and share resources (mostly human), and teach with an eye towards the open web. So, when I read Wiley’s post I referred to above, I was fairly struck (and not in a good way) by this bit:

Open pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical in the context of the 5R permissions. Or, to operationalize, open pedagogy is the set of teaching and learning practices only possible or practical when you are using OER.

My simple concern is, when did open become boiled down to a strict set of permissions? Seems to me the conflation of David’s vision of OERs, and a broader communities use of open in less orthodox ways has come to heads—but I’m not sure it needed to. Seems the idea of OERs sat comfortably within open as a broader series of relations and approaches in the field of ed-tech. To be clear, I have no doubt Mike and David can (and have) argued circles around me when it comes to the technicalities of what makes something open, but I do have to wonder about the spirit of such a message. In a moment when fences and lines are being drawn all around the world according to ideologies that other and petty definitions that exclude, why would this seem a good time to start drawing lines around open? Frankly, it seems a bit more like fear mongering. I am not afraid to re-use copyrighted work, in fact I enjoyed it deeply during #ds106, and I have been very clear again and again as to why. I don’t feel like I need permission to intervene with or critique the mediated culture being shoved down my throat. That was one of the pillars (a 106 bullet if you will 🙂 ) of . I never really thought of ds106 as a subtle struggle for permissions, but an outright attack on the copyright regime. In fact, in the various forms we taught it—all of which where abusing copyrighted material—we never heard a peep about copyright save the occasional YouTube takedown. Which if anything, was a good reminder of how little permission we do have when it comes to remixing our culture. And if we did get an onslaught of takedowns across the various blogs, I would be far more interested in talking about Fair Use with our students as a defense than becoming the arbiter of permissions. Or even worse, retreating to a textbook.

In the end, I am not too concerned if is understood as open pedagogy or not, because as soon as it is a choice between awesome and open, I will choose awesome every time. I am not interested in the strict rules that define open; open is not the ends, it is one means amongst many. But, I do wonder at the push to consolidate the definition beyond OERs into Open Educational Practices. Seems to me there is an attempt to define it in order to start controlling it, and that is often related to resources, grants, etc. Again, I’m not all that concerned personally given I have never depended on grants for my work, but many people do—and strict definitions of open could be perceived as threat to new approaches and ideas.

I think the locking down of open is dangerous. I think it draws lines where they need not be, and it reconsolidates power for those who define it. More than that, the power around open has been pretty focused on a few people for too long, and I count myself amongst them. More and more on this trip in conversations with others, I think we as a field need to do a better job of bringing the next generation of ed-tech folks to the fore, stepping back, and letting them frame what’s next. Even this post shows my harkening back to work I did 6 years ago, I don’t want to have a corner on open or ed-tech, I want something that gets me excited and passionate. OER17 certainly did that, and I crave more. What I see as hardline definitions of what is and is not OER or open need not police the discussion. I would hate for an edict about what is and is not open pedagogy to get in the way of people “coloring outside the lines” of the 5Rs, to appropriate Brian Lamb’s gorgeous turn of phrase from one of this 3 tweets in response to the avalanche.

Now, this may mean we have to move away from the term open because it has effectively been trademarked, and if that’s the case I am fine with that. EDUPUNK was long overdue for a resurgence 🙂

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30 Responses to I Don’t Need Permission to be Open

  1. Nigel Robertson says:

    “–all of which where abusing copyrighted material–”
    In fact, a lot of what was happening was a fight back against the abuse of the public by the owners of copyright material. Copyright owners are rarely the creators of the material, just money making entities. The act as false proxies for the creators and then there are the pseudo proxies of the licensing agencies who dive in for their cut too.

    There is a danger that we sell our ideals for power. Animal Farm wasn’t written for nothing. #4life

  2. Always choose Awesome .. a good ds106 tagline. (or is it appropriated from The Lego Movie?)

  3. dkernohan says:

    I don’t need 5Rs permission for the inside of my head. And if I want to share what’s inside my head with others, that’s my business. The fact that some of the ideas in my head have been put there by corporate idea salesmen, and that I need to refer to those ideas to express mine, is immaterial.

    Make art. Dammit.

  4. Simon Ensor says:

    Wild err ness.

    Er open?
    O PEN!

    O mo washes whiter.
    O ZONE?

    Defined art null.
    Free dom void.

    Phish licence, dog licence.
    A licence rights wrongs?

    UBER fuck.
    Hasta fascista baby.
    10$ per fucking mission.

    It may not be nice to be good, little 6655321. It may be horrible to be good. And when I say that to you I realize how self-contradictory that sounds. I know I shall have many sleepless nights about this. What does God want? Does God want goodness or the choice of goodness? Is a man who chooses the bad perhaps in some way better than a man who has the good imposed upon him? Deep and hard questions, little 6655321.
    Anthony Burgess, A Clockwork Orange

    Watership down.

  5. Michael Caulfield says:

    You dropped your comment, I responded, and Brian responded to that misunderstanding what I had said, and then backed off and said maybe he didn’t understand what my position was. I tried to make that clear and was a bit verbose, in attempting clarity. (I then got accused of telling people what they think).

    David was not attacking your position in most of his tweets, he was attacking mine, in a back and forth with me. It was an enjoyable conversation with David and I think we made some headway on our differences, though I still think the 5Rs is a somewhat impoverished model for open pedagogy. Much of what you saw as a DDoS was just a David-Mike conversation you should have been un-@’ed from. Much of what I said to David supported your position but not your rhetoric.

    Whatevs. I’m a structuralist. The fastest way to trigger me is to tell me that there is such a thing as a zone without rules. Everything operates according to some set of norms, “no rules” is simply a way of saying we refuse to examine our norms and power structure.

    Which is great — there’s no reason you have to examine your norms. And next time someone asks for clarification I’ll take it less literally. There appear to be some rules after all.

    • Brian says:

      Mike – I wish you could have been with us in Coventry on the day this went down. You were spoken of with admiration a number of times. Not just by Jim and myself, but by others as well. You’re doing outstanding, necessary stuff. You work so hard… I honestly don’t know how get so much done. You’ve always been fun and generous with me.

      I can clearly see how the way Twitter has re-arranged its replies fueled confusion of what was being said, and to whom.

      I do not think my query was so hostile (https://twitter.com/brlamb/status/850129014161383424), nor do I think was it really addressed. So being chided not to “gin up a non-argument” (https://twitter.com/holden/status/850369697899978753 — until auto-deletion) felt a little harsh. Seeing many repeated statements like “you talk about [x]”… about points I was not trying to make… it did not sit well. So I did snark about that. It had been a long, stimulating day and I was tired and a little overwhelmed by a lot of notifications, and I honestly wasn’t sure what it was all about.

      I’m still not sure what it’s all about.

      • Mike Caulfield says:

        I forgot about the “gin up an argument” which was not fair (even though it was really directed at Jim, not you, but it wasn’t fair to Jim either). For the rest, I was trying to connect the stuff you value in tech to the tech side side to points on the license side — the core idea being that saying “asking permission” sounds very un-punk rock but “permitting users to do things” is really the core of why we (not just you but we) want out of the LMS.

        The whole thing was a frustration that words get in the way, that some people say “I’m empowering students!” and some “I’m making more things permissible for students!” and we get hung up on the rhetoric when there is 90% common effort going on. And maybe it plugs into a deeper more long-standing frustration that online culture increasingly snags and snarks on words, not intent or impact (though that is not a critique of your words here, just a longer running frustration).

        So ironically I was trying to demonstrate there was much less an argument than people might think.

        Thanks for the kind words, and know that I still (and always) consider you one of the most thoughtful and reflective voices in edtech.

    • Reverend says:

      Live by the stream, die my the stream 🙂

      • Martha says:

        Phew. I don’t like it when dad and dad. . .and dad fight.

        Seriously, though, I read a lot of this and think that, wow, I have no idea where I fit in the debate. When I talk about open pedagogy, I’m usually talking about “teaching (and learning) in the open” which I think is different than teaching with OER. Although, I do think in a venn diagram the two practices intersect.

        As someone who often feels like she sits on the outside or on the sidelines (often by choice) of these conversations, it is a bit overwhelming when I see definitions that leave me feeling like I really don’t belong within the circle. Shrug. I own that some (a lot?) of that is my own baggage, though.

        • Pat says:

          Reading through the Open source / FSF schism, so much of that seems to come down to the terseness of Stallman being sufficient to move somewhere new and start something a bit different (but basically the same). How often do we hear “free as in speech but not as in beer” if it needed to be perpetually repeated as a dogmatic mantra.

          When I started openjoyce (http://openjoyce.com/) i put the license on it, but added – happy to talk other licenses, because it was obvious way back in 2012 that openness in one meaning would jar with openness in another meaning.

          Poor old open is a turkey with half the world stuff up its gizzard and is probably begging for the oven for some sweet relief

        • Maha Bali says:

          I had an idea this conversation had happened but had missed it live. Tried engaging with David Wiley about it later but didn’t get much in response so I have decided to plan a Google hangout discussion about this that I hope some people here would be willing to participate in. I don’t know how I will manage with only 10 spaces as I am intentionally aiming at including more women in this because….

          Because like you, Martha, I would see these debates between dad/dad/dad and think, I don’t have a place here. I won’t butt in. And then I would realize that I am allowing others the power to define for me an area I work in, and make me feel like I am doing less than I really am. It does matter to me that what I do is called open and not just awesome. Awesome is a non-specific word that does not have a conference in its name 🙂 tho it’s great.

          At the beginning of my OER17 keynote i asked how many in the audience had worked on how many OERs. And I was a keynote speaker who hadn’t worked on much. I talked about the difference between licenses and the spirit of openness. And I disagree with the attempt to have one person define what open means for a large group of people having conversations and doing practices that share other dimensions of open in practice.

          I am glad to see comments by more people here on Jim’s blog. I wonder how many saw the convo on Twitter live but didn’t participate and why. I’m hoping the hangout (tho limiting in terms of # of participants, offers a bit more space for folks to clarify/articulate and respond to each other properly? Maybe?) will help a bit

  6. Witness the rise of OPENPUNK? (good gravy, we hope not).

    I think the worst way to teach the ideas of open is to start with a set of rules and preaching about its virtues. I tried this the first time teaching DS106 in parallel with you at UMW with my thoughtful rational why using open content is so GOOD. It falls flat. Students say “why should I give my stuff away? Someone will steal it and make money”. They spend vasts amounts of time in online space where media and ideas are tossed around freely with no thought of credit/attribution.

    I shifted to approaches where they come about an understanding (with some nudging) in their own terms. We do audio assignments where they use tracks form Freesounds and Incompetech. We do media assignments where stuff comes from open licensed photo collections. We create blogging requirements to not only produce things, but to describe how they are made and from where their sources come from. We remix each others works.

    Some of my favorite moments are in the media assignments where they get their first take down notice from YouTube. Students are confused and ask questions. That’s the learning, getting them to question this copyright structure, not to blanch them with rules from day 1.

    The understanding comes from practice and scrapping knuckles. This is why I like so much Mike’s current work on digging for sources, it hits one something students are awakening to / dealing with. It make sense to question things.

    So big deal, we all had some ruffled feathers and dusted each other up a bit in twitter. That’s kind of necessary, to paraphrase my oft repeated quote from Edward Abbey “[Ed-tech] is kind of like a stew; if you do not stir it up once in a while all the scum rise to the top”

    Short live OPENPUNK!

    • Michael Caulfield says:

      Thanks Alan. I think your experience with students and the ideology of open resonates with me. They don’t come in in the market for that. They need to hit the limitations to get the concept. I think I get a bit more what you are talking about.

      I also think this was my first extended conversation on twitter with the new reply system. Normally in the argument with David I would have dropped people off mentions, or reordered the mentions to make the addressee more obvious. Part of the firehouse sensation was due to that. Not a great portent for the new interface.

      • Frances Bell says:

        Tiny comment about the new Twitter interface. I’m inexperienced with it too but yesterday noticed a ‘feature’ that might help explain it. I posted a vimeo link in a Tweet and subsequently @vimeo was included in the @s. So even if you avoid the share button at vimeo site, @vimeo still gets in. Paid-for sealioning?

        • Pat says:

          It’s a feature of the twitter cards, adds people into convos automatically

        • Maha Bali says:

          The new Twitter interface kinda caught many of us off-guard and they roll things out in batches such that I get different interfaces across different devices. Got caught in a 16-person convo yday where my interface didn’t allow me to remove ppl from my reply (figured out the app worked better than web interface and switched).

  7. Frances Bell says:

    I always struggle to make sense of these spats – I wonder what they are really about. Maybe it’s about the difficulties of real dialogue between people with different worldviews. How can someone who conceives of open/closed as a dualism exchange ideas with someone who doesn’t? (this is a genuine question BTW) In the late 1990s I tried to engage with someone who had made a statement that started – there are two types of people in the world…. Trying humour, I riffed off this “there are two types of people in the world – those who think there are two types of people in the world and ….”. Of course I failed miserably in my engagement attempt.
    I am grateful for the opportunity to observe these exchanges though. I went off to reread Wiley’s post and was surprised to see there were no comments, until I read the small print “Comments are closed”.
    And then there’s the concept of an open education community and its orthodoxy. These seem like territorial disputes to me.
    I guess I am older than the other people in this thread and the sources I was reading when developing my HE pedagogy and my educational philosophy spoke about open, active, even action learning. This gives a flavour https://scholar.google.co.uk/scholar?q=Open+Active+Learning&btnG=&hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&as_yhi=1995
    I noticed that there were a few definitional and territorial disputes there too but I just wanted to engage with the ideas not join a community.
    What refreshed me about OER17 was how much people talked about and demonstrated values. Our value sets may differ, at least in part, but declaring them and respecting difference in them might help us pop the filter bubbles.

    • Susan Jones says:

      I, too, am wanting ideas — and looking for community. My territory is adult ed, with different parameters (the ratio of “gotta get something out there for people to use” to “let’s talk about our educational philosophies” is a whole lot bigger, for starters — and that’s not always a good thing! ). Ferreting out meaningful tidbits from insider dialogue is a challenge!

  8. Simon says:

    You have to remember that the work you are doing Jim (and others) is “beyond open”.

    • Reverend says:

      I do think that’s right, and I feel like #OER17 was a continuation of those tensions, particularly when you get the sense open has become a set of rules around permissions that are framed as a cautionary tale about copyright or a feel-good story about cost savings. That, for me, is just a couple of the many, many ways it plays out.

  9. Ronald says:

    Stop talking

    Make art,

    Grab a pencil, guitar, notebook, tablet or whatever you like and start working.

  10. Pat says:

    Been doing some “reading”, so this comment might be “smarter” than “usual”

    So when we do the whole social contract thing, the logic is some liberty is lost so as to gain some form of protection (“we all promise not to kill each other and so on, because, death is like, bad”). So this makes sense when the contract is a single set of people, or people lumped together enough so as to make it a bit hard luck (living on a rainy fascist island for example, all being on the same boat). When you’ve got multiple groups co-existing, then those contracts don’t really work (and you get your savages and rights all mixed up).

    So when you say “X is”, over “X, to me, is”, you’re writing rules for people, who may not want your laws or rules or whatever phrase works best. Because the 5Rs, used to be 4Rs and so some 4R oers and 4r open pedagogy is now not open pedagogy and is open washing. Do we have guarantees a 6th R is not on its way? Do we have a right to alter the Rs? Are we bound to an R contract none of us agreed to, but can be criticised by as open washers?

    What then is interesting is to have open rules, taken from one context to another, as a form of word colonialism, because as Frances says (see Viv’s work also), open pedagogy already existed, it had meanings and uses. So as a literal Terra Nullius, open was taken as free to be claimed.

    As a comparison, giving people their own domains is opening things for them, and in doing is not taking anyone else’s resources or space away from them. The world for people outside of the group is as it was before.

    • Frances Bell says:

      Thanks for that Pat, you are helping me make some sort of sense of my own experiences in open and in education. I realised recently in writing my story of openness for #openstories that I became open (educator) by accident. Open is like education in general in that its benefit is in helping learners become adults who think and act according to values that they have developed freely and with thought. Its not about them joining the same club as the educators (who might be in different clubs anyway).
      I once made a comment on Facebook, saying that in teaching I hoped to help students think not teach them what to think. This was ‘liked’ by a very irritating former Masters student whose politics I detested and the memory of that like remains one of my most cherished compliments. I still unfriended him later for something he said 🙂

  11. Dead Moocman says:

    Beware the Open Educational Complex!

  12. Roger Harrison says:

    Hi, can’t we just forget the definitions and get on with it? Surely open means different things to different people at different times, for different reasons. Let’s focus more on allowing more people access to what we claim to be our knowledge, and in doing so, develop our knowledge further too, and that I’d the total collective.

  13. Sheila MacNeill says:

    Just catching up on this. Not much to add to what has already been said, but thanks Jim. I ain’t following no rules either!

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