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Tag: open knowledge

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.

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!!


  • 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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Destination Open: weaving my own way and building my own place

Well, I’m glad to say I think I’m making progress on my quest to more fully understand the notion of open and the triad of open-related courses that I’m weaving my way through seems to be shaping up nicely as I undertake my ‘Grand Tour’.

In my previous post, I thought about what openness means to me because, like digital literacy, ‘open’ is another one of those unhelpful ambiguous terms: used across contexts, meaning different things to different people. For me, I said openness was a way of being, a way of being a learner on the open web. I’d heard openness being described as a way of being before but I was unable to attribute the phrase or elaborate on what was meant. Fortunately, my readings quickly remedied this and I became acquainted with Cameron Neylon who draws attention to ‘being open‘; that is, being open as opposed to simply making open resources. He goes on to say that being open is about embracing a particular form of humility; it’s about embracing the idea that as a creator despite being supremely knowledgeable about your work, you can’t predict the use and application to which your work might be put. Further still, it’s about accepting that by working openly vital contributions and insights may come from unexpected sources. I think being ‘open to unexpected uses’ is something that the field of open research is grappling with as it considers the ethics bound up in such a position. Well, that’s what I’m picking up as I dabble in the Open Research MOOC from the OER Research Hub.

Used across contexts, meaning different things to different people
Used across contexts, meaning different things to different people

Meanwhile, over in Stanford’s Open Knowledge MOOC I was reminded that open, or more specifically ‘open content’ is the

attempt to appropriately adapt the logic of “open source” software to the non-software world of cultural and scientific artifacts like music, literature, and image […and higher education?] (Wiley, 2009),

which links nicely back to Cameron Neylon’s piece where he explains that the Open Source community is not just amenable to encouraging the unlimited use of resources thus maximizing their potential use (and their unexpected use), but they’ve also gone further in developing mechanisms that support the ability of anyone to contribute to projects. He explains, and this is where it gets interesting,

you don’t just throw the code over the fence and expect a project to magically form around it, you invest in and support community creation with the aim of creating a sustainable project. Successful open source projects put community building, outreach, both reaching contributors and encouraging them, at their center.

This is where it gets interesting because that’s what seems to be happening over in Connected Courses. Here, the pre-course weeks were dedicated to ‘Blog Talk’ and the nuts and bolts of getting participants’ blog sites syndicated and connected to the course hub, such are the practicalities of this distributed mode of delivery. However, this group of educators,

a collaborative network of faculty in higher education developing online, open courses that embody the principles of connected learning and the values of the open web,

are keen to dig deeper and support others in the whole area of open/connected learning and the tools and infrastructure that’s required to run these types of courses. Consequently, they’re not only modelling this stuff, but they’ve made available a series of resources and are willing to support anyone willing to have a go at hosting their own site and developing their own course, or learning community. So that’s just what I’ve been prompted to do. I’ve signed up with Reclaim Hosting and I’m now, as Howard Rheingold puts it, well and truly ‘Under The Hood: Where Technology, Pedagogy, and Power Meet‘.

blog talk
Building and supporting the connected courses community.

I’ve posted links to the resources below and you can view my Storify “Creating a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools” to see how helpful these folks are and what it’s like working in the open and building a community. Incidentally, and just to underscore the reason why going down the self-hosted route and developing your own webs skills is a good idea, I actually wanted to embedded my Storify in this post, like I’ve done before, but discovered that and Storify no longer have the same arrangement, so I’m at their mercy in terms of what I can do and how much control I have on such platforms.

Links to resources:

Connected Courses Documentation Wiki

Under The Hood: Where Technology, Pedagogy, and Power Meet – Howard Rheingold

Building with Howard: How to Create a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools Pt 1

Building with Howard: How to Create a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools Pt 2

Building with Howard: How to Create a Learning Environment with Open Source Tools Pt 3

Building Connected Courses: Feed WordPress 101

Feed WordPress 101: The Basics

Feed WordPress 101: Installing and Setting Up The Machine

Feed WordPress 101: Feeding The Machine

Feed WordPress 101: Some Feed Magic

Feed WordPress 101: A Few More Tricks For Your Site


Neylon, C. (2013) Open is a state of mind. Science in the Open. Available at:

Wiley, D. (2009) Defining “open”. Iterating toward openness. Available at:

Image source:

by Opensourceway

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.