I’m going to use this space to share a few thoughts on a paper I read as part of the Masters in Online and Distance Education I have been chipping away at for some time. This paper has the same title as this post and you can read it here.
It lists four assumptions about Open Scholarship:
- Open Scholarship is based on a set of ideals similar to those upon which democracy and human rights rest
- The belief that Open Scholarship has the potential to enhance the outcome of the scholarly interactive process
- That there is a co-evolutionary relationship between technology and the culture surrounding it
- Open Scholarship represents an improvement in practicality and efficiency for scholarship
The paper expands on these assumptions and presents the challenges and potential gaps in logic for each assumption as well as the evidence in favour. I find this kind of criticism refreshing as too frequently is technology represented as a ‘silver bullet’ for all that is wrong in education and that there are no drawbacks or false promises.
One quote in particular stood out for me. The paper quoted a 2008 paper (Caswell, Henson, Jensen, and Wiley) to make a point about the democratisation of education:
We believe that all human beings are endowed with a capacity to learn, improve, and progress. Educational opportunity is the mechanism by which we fulfill that capacity. Therefore, free and open access to educational opportunity is a basic human right, … [and] we have a greater ethical obligation than ever before to increase the reach of opportunity.
It caught my attention because it touched on a particular pet peeve of mine. It’s the ever growing list of things considered basic human rights. Internet access has been cited as a basic human right for example. To me assertions of this nature go some way to undermining the whole notion of basic human rights. These services are only recently technologically possible and already they are basic rights alongside the right to life, shelter and water. Some barriers do not necessarily constitute a denial of basic rights. Tuition fees are not the same as the lack of basic education for millions of girls.
Another thought I had was on the idea of ‘filter bubbles’. It absolutely is the case that predictive algorithms can give different people very different experiences of the internet. The wider argument is that groups of people who tend to agree with each other and have certain barriers to entry to their group can create echo chambers where assumptions are never challenged and group-think prevails. This phenomenon is manifesting itself in politics at the moment, I believe, where increasingly different groups are completely failing to understand each other because for so long they have been experiencing the world through very different prisms.
However I believe there is a flip-side to this, in particular there is a benefit to certain, moderate, barriers to participation. To comment on a Youtube video or news paper article requires passing the bare minimum of barriers and the result is predictable; nasty, childish arguments that help no one. If, however, a few moderate barriers are added, like the removal of anonymity, a payment to entry (as in some online courses) or the necessity of membership of some form of community (however tenuous) then suddenly there is a shift in attitude (in my experience). Some online communities can be extremely polite and helpful, a good example of this is technical message boards. Forums on online courses tend to be civil and polite too. I think it’s the humanising factor of having something in common, regardless of how small it is.
Those are my thought on that particular paper, in general I hope to get back in the habit of writing the odd blog post. It really helps to clarify my thoughts to write them down.