Going naked - Openism and freedom in academia
|Take some time to look at this image... What is going on? What does the image say about sharing?
Some people shared some words and pictures in books. Children reading those books shared them with each other. Someone took a black and white photograph of these students sharing their books. That photograph was shared as a life-size print in a museum. Whilst a girl visiting the museum tried to look inside one of the books being shared (she didn't want to miss out!) another photographer took a photo - of the girl looking at the photograph of the children sharing the books ... This photograph was then shared electronically on flickr using an open license that allowed it to be imported to Wiki Commons and further shared on this page - you can use it too! ... and on it goes... Open academia is about sharing knowledge and learning resources in a mutually-enabling way - i.e., so that ideas can be re-mixed and re-iterated rather than coming to a dead-end.
A 15-minute presentation about open academic philosophy and practice.
Where: Hothouse, 1C32, University of Canberra
When: Friday 5th March, 2010 13:30
Now a solid(ish) draft - but still feel free to improve or comment
Summary: Going Naked - Openism and Freedom in Academia (Leigh Blackall blog)
Also recommended: Open education slides by David Wiley, 2010
Academia should be conducted in such a way as to benefit society. This means (among other things) that the processes and products of publically-funded academics' activities should, by default, be public (i.e., accessible and freely usable). It also means that academics should seek to use and promote tools (such as software) and materials (such as textbooks) which enable
students emerging academics to utilise and foster public knowledge. The evolution towards open academia is a cultural challenge because closedness is the norm.
Academia is about sharing
If I give you a penny, you will be one penny richer and I’ll be one penny poorer. But if I give you an idea, you will have a new idea, but I shall still have it, too.
- Albert Einstein
He who receives ideas from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine receives light without darkening me.
- Thomas Jefferson
Academia is about sharing - otherwise it is not academia. To not share is to retreat to an ivory tower. This is the "low game" of academia in which knowledge-development and knowledge-storing is approached as a competition (e.g., between staff, students, departments, institutions, sectors, countries etc.). The "higher game" in academia is to selflessly contribute to collective knowledge by freely disseminating one's knowledge and activities (for a deeper discussion of the "academic game", see De Ropp (1968)).
This claim may be summarised as "academics are public servants and our work is public property".
The default is (becoming) open
The cultural standard for public institutions is increasingly moving towards a "default is open" philosophy and practice. Several business sectors are also participating in this evolution towards openness.
Openness-closedness is not a dichotomy - it is a continuum - arguably, an evolutionary continuum.
To not engage with the palpably shifting tide towards openness is risky for academic institutions (e.g., funding metrics are likely to become more accurate at measuring the social value generated by academic institutions). Even more importantly, democratic academic institutions should be leading the charge towards openness since innovatively fostering public knowledge is their raison d'etre.
The biggest barriers to openism in academia are not legal or technical, but rather cultural, organisational, and psychological (because closedness is the norm). Most academics, for example, use closed textbooks and websites for teaching, publish in closed rather than open journals, user proprietary software, and do not make their work openly available.
5 pillars of open academia
If you focus your mind on the freedom and community that you can build by staying firm, you will find the strength to do it."
- Richard Stallman
In practice, going naked (free and open) can be a surprisingly complex and challenging endeavour - mainly because of the widespread cultural habits of closedness which need to be unlearnt. It can also be a liberating and empowering journey. By "going naked" and not carrying around the heavy weight of "closedness" much of one's energy and focus is freed.
Culturally, what's needed is to bulldoze the ivory tower and replace it with an open parthenon consisting of at least five pillars. These "five pillars of open academia" offer a practical, guiding framework for moving towards openism:
Expressed as a "creed",
"as an open academic I commit to providing open access to all my academic outputs (teaching, research and service) using open formats, open licensing and free software. I also commit to open management of my academic activities."
A closely related conceptualisation is provided by the Free Software Foundation (FSF; initiated by Students for Free Culture (SFC)). They define an open university as one in which:
- The research produced is open access;
- The course materials are open educational resources;
- The university embraces free software and open standards;
- The university’s patents are readily licensed for free software, essential medicine, and the public good;
- The university’s network reflects the open nature of the Internet.
The FSF goes further, to list specific criteria for each of these open university principles and university-rankings based on their degree of openness: Open University Report Cards.
Increasing transparency in higher education is currently being strongly by the Labour government in Australia. On the 3rd March, 2010 the government announced the creation of a "My University" federal website by 2012 (based on the "My School" site) which will provide transparent, comparative data about indicators of university quality (such as student satisfaction ratings). In response the chief executive of Universities Australia, Glenn Withers, welcomed the idea:
"Universities are fully committed to transparency. They are remarkably open already via their websites, public guides, reports to parliament, auditors general, ombudsmen and more. They fully welcome anything that can enhance this transparency through new, well-designed initiatives for universities and importantly, for all other tertiary providers." (Harrison, 2010)
Making the change
If you want to accomplish something in the world, idealism is not enough - you need to choose a method that works to achieve the goal.
- Richard Stallman
Two methods of moving towards greater openism in academia might be:
- Cold turkey (e.g., new institutions and projects and institutions undergoing major change may simply adopt an open charter from the outset)
- Iterative/progressive (e.g., for existing institutions, openist KPIs can be established and made part of their strategic plans and roadmaps can be developed (e.g., )
- Do a cost/benefit analysis measuring the costs of closed, including software, login caused inefficiencies and administration, copyright royalty costs, against the benefits such as free media, free software, skills, productivity, social capital, marketing benefits..
Barriers and benefits
What barriers are there to open academia? What benefits might there be?
- Performance anxiety
- Control and ownership
- Time/prioritisation, full disclosure and informed choice
- Moral: Helps to fulfill the charter of public universities to contribute to the common good of society
Feel free to share your thoughts, ideas, resources, and experiences by clicking edit - or use the talk page.
Completely agree with the ethos of course. I'm interested in the assertion that other parts of society are becoming more open - I'm not convinced. Knowledge is horded by elites as a source of power, and as such is hidden by a variety of mechanisms, eg legal, technocratic language, by omission. It seems to me that universities pretty much invented the 'knowledge economy' - that is the commodity they trade in. They package it up into 'degrees', they market their 'unique' courses to prospective students, they create competition for knowledge by limiting access, and then by grading, rather than simply critiqing, students' work. The only point at which they "gift" knowledge is the publication of academic work - and they have managed to commodify that by linking publication to prestige (read market positioning of individuals and institutions)
University 'openism' is truly counter-cultural in that it means that universities get out of the business of simply re-creating elites. This would indeed be a revolution. So two lines of thought occur
This is an interesting discussion. Based on the above thoughts, here's my new hypothesis. That individuals are becoming more open, due to the symbiotic relationship between technological advances and cultural changes to do with personal freedom and privacy issues. The individual is free to be altruistic and share knowledge. But this altruism does not translate well into the institutional/corporate sphere (at best partially, after a risk management process). The self-interest of the institution/corporation/professional groups (elites) is to maintain competitive advantage through ownership and control of knowledge resources (including education).
The university sector becomes the interesting case, as the institutional ideals clash with institutional self-interest. So I think your ideas around re-examining and reframing the institutional self-interest are practical... potentially 'subverting the dominant paradigm'??!! I guess the question is whether the university sector can be a master of its own destiny, or whether it is a tool of other dominant forces. cheers Jane
If history is any indicator, I think things will get worse before getting better. I can see a scenario where Universities become scared of their students undermining there business model and manage to control and limit access to knowledge by finding a way to make it illegal for students to share what they learned with others. -- darklama 10:22, 5 March 2010 (UTC)
Some more random thoughts. In Abstract it is said that "Academia should be conducted in such a way as to benefit society." In Academia is about sharing it is said that "Academia is about sharing - otherwise it is not academia." I think an assumption is being made that these two statements are true, and everybody knows this to be true is taken for granted. I think anyone trying to learn from this page could benefit from understanding why academia should benefit society and why academia is about sharing and why if there is no sharing it is not academia. -- darklama 02:20, 8 March 2010 (UTC)
Some responses from Leonard Low and Leigh Blackall
- De Ropp, R. S. & Lourie, I. (2003). The master game: Pathways to higher consciousness (3rd ed.). Gateways Books & Tapes.
- O'Driscoll, T. (2010). Social production as a new source of economic value creation opensource.com.
- Harrison, D. (2010). My School for universities on the way. Sydney Morning Herald, March 3
- Using social media for teaching and research - the broader series of discussions
- Open academia
- Open access
- Open formats
- Open licensing
- Free software
- Open management
- Open academia: A philosophy of open practice
- 5200 strip off for photographer Spencer Tunick at the Sydney Opera House: ""It doesn't feel sexual, it just feels tribal, a gathering of humanity."
- Is IP another bubble about to burst? A view from another civilization., Venkatesh Hariharan, 16 Dec 2009
- Open educational resources at Otago Polytechnic (Sunshine Connelly, 2009): Interviews with educators (8 min.)
- Open source way (30 sec video promo): "What if the work of one became the mission of many? Maybe you could try this..."
- Who will own what we read?, Colin Steele, Feb 24, 2010, The Australian