The comfort and discomfort of working and in open and closed spaces #oer17 #critopen #femedtech

#OER17 is rapidly approaching and I am really looking foward to attending the conference. I am always aware of what a privilege it is to be able to attend conferences. This year it that privilege has been highlighted by the uncertainty of institutional support for me to be able to attend (budget cuts are getting deeper) but perhaps of more relevance, my own uncertainty of having any work to present that would be of any relevance.

Happily on this occasion both uncertainties have been overcome, and I am really thrilled to be part of a (quite fabulous) panel with Josie Fraser, Frances Bell, Viv Rolfe and from a distance Kate Bowles.

The title of our session is:  Staying open: sustaining critical open educational practice in a time of walls and borders

What it’s about: What are the prospects for sustaining a generous and critical practice of open educational practice and open research in these times, one that can address the pressing challenges of the emerging political formations that govern higher education? By staying open, can we find effective means to challenge the new politics of normalisation? What are the challenges and privileges of open practice under austerity and precarity? What kind of refusal does open practice now represent? And what tactics work at the local level, in institutions whose strategy for open is driven by the promise of reputational gain? (read more here)

We hope to foster a critical discussion through a series of questions and provocations.

The theme of this year’s conference “the politics of open” couldn’t really be more timely. Like everyone I am used to working with the “p” politics within my (and indeed any) institution and sector, however since the vote for Brexit and the election of Trump  “P”olitics has impinged on my practice and well, my being in a way I’ve not been aware of before.  I have always taken a pragmatic approach to open education, and OER. My politics of open have seemed to naturally fit with open educational practice, more than open educational resources.

I have always supported the need for closed spaces as well as open ones (check my OER15 keynote for more).  Over the past year I have become increasingly uncertain about my own ability to be open. This is partly due to some of the work I have been involved in which has had to be done in closed spaces and it not quite being at a stage to share in any open sense. But also due to me not actually knowing what to say in relation to wider, world events.  It’s not quite “not yet-ness” but there is something resonates with that concept in how I am coping with the challenges I face and my ability and inability to work through these in open and closed spaces.

In turbulent times it is easy to retreat into closed spaces, keep your head down and just try to get on with things, keep away from the increasingly loud negative and disturbing aspects of social media. Work with those closest to you and find comfort in a mutual solace in the things that really your own colleagues only really understand in terms of internal politics.

My provocation for the session is around exploring open and closed behaviour in relation to the Visitor and Residents methodology.  I could take comfort from the veneer of open-ness that one interpretation of my mapping offers.  In reality it is actually quite discomforting. I’ll hopefully be able to articulate this more succinctly in the session.

Lately, I often feel I don’t actually have anything worthwhile to say . Then I remind myself that I have a moral obligation, particularly from my western European, white, middle class position of privilege to continue to use my access to any platforms to continue to speak out – even if my voice is really, in the grand scale of thing, just a squeak.  Keeping my personal politics and Politics separate is increasingly difficult. I often ask myself is there is a new  level of risk? Where are my boundaries in this? Should I be deleting my tweets or be willing to live with higher risk of mis-interpretation?

Openness and sharing is part of me, of my practice. I find it very unsettling to be constrained to working in closed spaces yet conversely as I described I can derive comfort from it.

Despite the madness social media still offers me many wonderful opportunities for connecting and sharing.  In fact only this morning it reminded me of this paper from Jen Ross and Amy Collier on Not Yet-ness. It keeps me connected with fellow souls, it allowed for an initial germ of an idea for the conference to take shape and grow.  Over the past weeks I have to thank Kate, and then Frances for introducing me the concept of the hospitality of open-ness.

I find being an open practitioner  a struggle.  It’s a constant internal and internal battle, I struggle with not being a “proper” open researcher, a “proper” creator of OER, my own imposter complex, and the joy of being able to share lots of “stuff” openly.

On reflection I think I actually need that uncertainty. Open education gives me many anchors not least from the inspiration I gain from the wider open education community.  I have gained so much solace, strength and solidarity from the conversations I’ve been having as part of planning for the conference.

As part of our pre-panel discussions the notion of elephant trails or desire paths arose. These are the trails that mark the shortest route between spaces. Interestingly they are usually only one person/animal wide but many, many people can use them. I creating my revised V&R map, it seems all my open desire paths lead me back to my blog, to twitter, to open-ness.

I’m looking forward to the extending this conversation more at the conference, but if you have any thoughts, dear reader, then please share them with me.  In the meantime here’s one of those random, motivational quotes that found me in a waiting room on Saturday.


Categories: open education, Uncategorized | Tags: #oer17 #critopen #femedtech | Leave a comment

About sheilmcn

I am a Senior Lecturer in Blended Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University.

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