Caught between The Nothing and the Something? 


I’m currently travelling home from Germany where earlier in the week I gave ia keynote at the EUNIS conference. My talk was about open education and I called it “The Never Ending Story of Open“. I choose this title as I think the story of open education is still unfolding, but also because I felt that the concept of The Nothing, which in the book, and the film, is a very apt metaphor for what is happening in our (western) society just now. Post truth, alternative facts, incuriosity, are all combing to eat away at the very fabric of our society. Expertise, experts – who needs them?

In terms of openness in general there is an even greater threat.  The balance between regulation and censorship, the manipulation and erosion of human rights, free speech is being threatened as never before. As much as many of us want to continue to open up eduacation, the nothing is working hard to take that away too. Another of the keynotes spoke about the future of technology, about AI, self driving cars and seemed to be holding Uber and Amazon automation as the models education should be aspiring to. I wrote about this last week too. For me that is another arm of The Nothing  giving us the same hemgonised version of the future eating away at any creativity or alternative predictions. Mass personalisation of education is invevitable, the only way to “manage” this is through AI. That’s the only way to train the DNA editors, the asteroid engineers of the future.  

At the end of my talk I give a rallying call to fight against the many tentacles of the nothing that are eroding society from so many sectors. I see open education as a potential beacon of hope. It is our openness, our permability, our notions of open hospitality and sharing that provide the ammunition to beat The Nothing.  
In the light of the UK election results this morning I am wondering if we are at a bit of a turning point. Something has definitely happened, but something has happened in the last 3 elections I’ve voted in and The Nothing has marched rentlessly on. Are enough of us waking up and seeing beyond the nothing of meaningless political narrative and nothingness? Is now final  the time fo some serious and informed debate about key issues such as healthcare, social care, funding for education and of course Brexit? 

 I hope so, but we still have to be wary, The Nothing is always only a step behind or two behind us and there are still many people who are willing to take its offered version of the future. 

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