re:publica – #FreeBassel: The cost of loving free culture

This video is a small contribution to a session taking place as part of the re:publica 17 media and digital culture convention in Berlin this week.  The session #FreeBassel : The Cost of Loving Free Culture is part of the Love Out Loud strand and is being led by Barbara Rhüling, CEO of Booksprints and Melanie Dulong de Rosnay, Research Associate Professor, CNRS.

The session will feature a public reading of texts dedicated to Bassel Khartabil, loved and celebrated Internet volunteer who was detained in Syria in 2012, demanding his immediate release and reflecting on the love and the costs of free culture.

“Bassel Khartabil, loved and celebrated Internet volunteer was detained in Syria on March 15, 2012. His name was deleted from the Adra Prison’s register, where he was detained, on 3 October 2015, and there has been no information about his current status or whereabouts since.

Seeing Bassel paying a high price for his love and participation in free culture, many of his friends and fellow free culture activists have reflected on their own fates, actions, and choices. As part of the #freebassel campaign, 44 activists, artists, designers, developers, researchers, and writers involved with free knowledge movements wrote and compiled more than 50 original contributions in the book “Cost of Freedom”. The contributions include paintings, poems, personal reflections, critical observations, polemical pieces, and theoretical treatises.

Many contributions by Bassel’s friends and family, including his wife Noura Safadi, create a collective memory of Bassel and urge for his immediate release to his normal life and freedom. Other contributions by free culture advocates such as Lorna Campbell, Lawrence Lessig, and Jon Phillips offer personal reflections about the experience of working within free culture.”

The video above is my reading of The Open World, the short piece I wrote for Cost Of Freedom, a book dedicated to Bassel in 2015.

OER17 – Open Education in a time of Trump and Brexit

As well as my paper (The Distance Travelled) and lightning talk (Shouting from the Heart) at OER17, I also took part in a panel session organised by Jim Luke: Open Education in a time of Trump and Brexit.  The panel featured video provocations from Robin DeRosa, Nadine Aboulmagd, Chris Gilliard, and David Kernohan and responses from Jim, Martin Weller, Maha Bali and I.

The aim of the panel was to “provide different perspectives on the relationship between Open Education and the political changes represented by Brexit and the Trump election” and to address the following questions:

  • What challenges do these political movements pose for Open Education? What opportunities?
  • Open Education movement has largely embraced values of inclusiveness, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. How might these values be furthered under these new regimes? How might these values be hindered?
  • Will our work in the open education movement change?
  • In what ways can we shape the future of the Open Education Movement?

I don’t think any of us quite knew what to expect from the session, but we had a really lively and wide ranging conversation with some brilliant contributions from the audience including Helen Beetham, Audrey Watters, Laura Czerniewicz and Sheila MacNeil.

All the videos and materials created for the session are available from Jim’s website here Open Ed, Trump, Brexit and there’s a Storify of tweets here #Trexit.  Huge thanks to Autumn Caines who periscoped the whole session: #oer17 safety in open online learning, and to Bryan Mather’s for capturing the discussion.

@bryanMMathers, CC BY ND

OER17 – The Distance Travelled

Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration

Paper presented at the OER17 Politics of Open conference.

2017 has officially been designated the “Year of Open”.

The Year of Open is a global focus on open processes, systems, and tools, created through collaborative approaches, that enhance our education, businesses, governments, and organizations … Open represents freedom, transparency, equity and participation … During the Year of Open, we want to capture and display these efforts to increase participation and understanding of how open contributes to making things better for everyone.

This initiative is backed by many of the major international players in the field of open education, including Creative Commons, the Open Education Consortium, OER Africa, etc.

And the reason that this is the Year of Open is that we have a number of important anniversaries

It’s the 15th anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative, and it’s also the ¨ 15th anniversary of the release of the first Creative Commons licence.

It’s the 10th anniversary of the Cape Town Declaration which laid the foundations of the “emerging open education movement” and advocated the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are openly licensed. And if you haven’t read the Cape Town Declaration recently, I can highly recommend revisiting it, it’s really quite inspiring and inspiring statement.

And it’s also the 5th Anniversary of the UNESCO Paris OER Declaration which, five years after Cape Town, strengthened this call by encouraging governments and authorities to open license educational materials produced with public funds in order to realize substantial benefits for their citizens and maximize the impact of investment.

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OER17 – It’s been emotional

I got back from #OER17 late last night, I’m still slightly reeling, and not just from the conference cold I picked up. OER is my conference, I’ve been to every single one and they’ve all been special in their own way, but this one was…emotional.  (Sheila has already written a conference blog called My OER (open emotional response) to #oer17 so I’m obviously not the only one with feels.)

There are so many reasons why this year’s conference was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster.  The theme,  The Politics of Open, couldn’t have been more timely; it provoked anger and disbelief, defiance and hope.  It was the most diverse, most international OER conference ever and it was a privilege to be part of such an inclusive group. It was really inspiring to hear about positive open education developments from countries including Canada, Germany, Morocco and Lebanon.  I got to catch up with some very dear friends who I haven’t seen for a long time (looking at you R. John Robertson), met others face to face for the first time (hey @Bali_Maha, @thatpsychprof, @fabionascimbeni), VConnected with others (*waves* at @NadinneAbo in Cairo) and met lots of new colleagues. And so many amazing women!  Never in my life have I been to a conference where all the keynotes and plenary panelists were women.  It’s hard to describe the buzz that I got from seeing this representation in such a public forum. Thank you Maha Bali, Diana Arce, Lucy Crompton-Reid, Muireann O’Keeffe, Catherine Cronin, and Laura Czerniewicz for your challenging, thought provoking, brave, funny and inspirational talks.  And thanks of course to the conference chairs Josie Fraser and Alek Tarkowski and the amazing ALT Team for making this happen.

I’ve made a storify of my personal highlights from the conference here: OER17 Personal Highlights, including my panels and presentations, trexit, shouting from the heart, wonderful women, wikimedians, shoetweets and…umm… goats.

There was another reason this was a bit of an emotional event for me. In addition to participating in Jim Luke’s #Trexit panel and presenting a UK open education policy update, I also presented a short personal polemic called Shouting from the Heart.  I’ve never given such a personal talk at a conference before and I confess I was nervous as hell.  I wrote most of the talk late on Tuesday evening, but I was struggling to find a quote to end the five minute piece with. It was during the #Trexit panel the following morning that someone, I can’t remember who, possibly Maha, Sheila, Helen Beetham or Audrey Watters, said something about openness and freedom which immediately brought to mind the famous quote from the Declaration of Arbroath.

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence, written in 1320.  Appropriate, given I was talking about writing in response to events such as the Scottish Independence referendum and Brexit, and also because I was highlighting the disappearance of detained Syrian open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartabil. When I came to it however, nerves and emotions got the better of me; I choked on freedom, and I couldn’t read the last words of the quote.  So please, read it now.

It might sound silly, but Shouting from the Heart is without doubt the most nerve wracking 5 minutes of public speaking I’ve experienced so I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone who responded so positively.

What was really astonishing though was that a few minutes after I finished speaking, Sheila retweeted this:

Yesterday, 6th April happened to be the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath. I had no idea!  Serendipity is an amazing thing….

OER17 – Shouting from the Heart

This is my blog.  It’s called Open World.  It’s powered by Reclaim Hosting and the title is inspired by Kenneth White, Scottish poet and Chair of 20th Century Poetics at Paris-Sorbonne.  Mostly I write about work, about conferences and meetings I’ve been to, presentations I’ve given, papers I’ve written.  Sometimes I write about my thoughts on other people’s writing.  Sometimes I write about the frustrations of being a woman working in technology.  Sometimes I write about events like Open Access Week,  Ada Lovelace Day, or International Women’s Day.  Mostly I write about Open Education.

Mostly I write because I want to; but sometimes I write because I have to.  Sometimes writing is a necessity, a catharthis, the only way to process experiences or events that are too overwhelming, too infuriating, too incomprehensible to mediate in any other way.  That’s when writing gets, personal and political, messy, emotional and confrontational.

I seem to be writing more and more of these personal blog posts recently; after the failed Scottish independence referendum (Hearing voices), after  Brexit (This time it’s different), after the US election (The wrong side of history).  It was Helen Beetham who called one of these posts a shout from the heart and I guess in a way they are.  There’s no denying that they’re a personal emotional response to events that seemed, that still seem, to be utterly incomprehensible to me.  There’s also quite a lot of swearing involved, but I’m not going to apologise for that.

So what has any of this got to do with open education?  I’ve always had a strong personal commitment to open education.  I believe passionately that as educators we have a responsibility to work together to improve opportunities for all, not just for a select few. I believe there is huge creative potential in openness and I believe we have a moral and ethical obligation to open access to publicly funded educational resources.

 “Open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens. In addition, open education can promote knowledge transfer while at the same time enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing.”

These words are from the Scottish Open Education Declaration.  I wrote them and you know what?  These aren’t hollow words, I actually believe them.  I actually have a genuine commitment to these words, and that’s why I find it increasingly difficult to disentangle my open education work from the personal and political.  And to be honest, I don’t really care because never has the feminist rallying call “The personal is political” rung more true than now.

I know I’m extremely fortunate to be in the position where I can write these personal political blog posts and express my opinions without fear of reprisal and I am aware that this is an incredibly privileged position to be in.   It’s very easy for some of us to take openness for granted but it’s important to remember that for many there’s is also a risk associated with openness, because openness, education, knowledge all seek to challenge structures of power and control. And in talking about risk, I don’t mean risk in the abstract sense.

“Bassel Khartabil (Safadi)” by Joi Ito – http://www.flickr.com/photos/joi/4670781482CC BY 2.0

Do any of you know who this man is? This is Bassel Khartabil a Syrian open source software developer, open knowledge advocate, Wikipedia editor and project lead for Creative Commons Syria.  Bassel is also a contributor to the New Palmyra project; a digital archaeology and open data project that aims to create a virtual reconstruction of the ancient city of Palmyra, much of which has been destroyed by ISIL during the Syrian civil war. Bassel was detained by the Syrian government in 2012 and held in Adra Prison in Damacus for 3 years. In October 2015 his name was removed from the Adra prison register and despite calls from numerous human rights organisations, his whereabouts are unknown.  In order to raise awareness of Bassel’s disappearance a group of open practitioners came together to write the open e-book The Cost of Freedom: A Collective Inquiry.  My contribution to the book was a short piece called The Open World which touches on the personal risks, costs and benefits of openness, much like this talk today.   The plight of Bassel Khartabil is a sobering reminder of the risks of openness, proof that open is always political, but it’s also shows why we need openness more than ever, because openness is inextricably bound up with freedom.  And in the words of another older declaration, the Declaration of Arbroath.

It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself.

OER17 – Come and find me!

Image credit: Taro Taylor, CC-BY-NC, https://flic.kr/p/3pQWP

The OER17 Politics of Open Conference is taking place in London this week, and I can hardly believe it’s been a year since Melissa and I chaired last year’s conference in Edinburgh!  As always, I’m looking forward to catching up with friends from all over the world and meeting some long standing online colleagues irl for the first time.  I’ve got several sessions lined up up over the course of the two days, so if you want to catch me, this is where I’ll be. Come and say hello!

Perspectives on Open Education in a World of Brexit & Trump
Wed, Apr 5 2017, 11:20am – 12:40pm
Panellists: Maha Bali, Lorna Campbell, James Luke, and Martin Weller

Like the Internet itself, the Open Education movement, including OER and OEP, has grown in a world of globalised capitalism that has been dominant in North America and Europe, and indeed, developed and growing economies. The Brexit vote, Trump’s election, and shifts toward nationalist-right parties elsewhere are changing the political landscape. At a minimum, the rhetoric of these movements, both in support and opposition, has altered public discourse and often attitudes toward higher education. These political shifts have complex and multifaceted implications for the open education movement.

This panel aims to stimulate deeper thought beyond our initial reactions to these political movements. We will provide diverse, multiple perspectives on the relationship between Open Education and the political changes represented by Brexit and the Trump election. Many questions arise, including:

  • What challenges do these political movements pose for Open Education? What opportunities?
  • Open Education movement has largely embraced values of inclusiveness, sharing, connectedness, equity, voice, agency, and openness. How might these values be furthered under these new regimes? How might these values be hindered?
  • Will our work in the open education movement change?
  • In what ways can we shape the future of the Open Education Movement?

The Distance Travelled: Reflections on open education policy in the UK since the Cape Town Declaration
Wed, Apr 5 2017, 1:30pm – 2:50pm
Author: Lorna Campbell

Ten years ago the Cape Town Declaration laid the foundations for what it described as the “emerging open education movement” and called on colleagues to come together to commit to the pursuit and promotion of open education and to overcome the barriers to realizing this vision.  Among the barriers the Declaration recognized were “governments and educational institutions that are unaware or unconvinced of the benefits of open education” and it went on to advocate the development of open education policy to ensure that taxpayer-funded educational resources are openly licensed.  Five years later, the Paris OER Declaration strengthened this call by encouraging governments and authorities to open license educational materials produced with public funds in order to realize substantial benefits for their citizens and maximize the impact of investment.

This paper will provide an overview of the advances and mis-steps in open education policy and practice in the UK in the ten years since the Cape Town Declaration, while comparing and contrasting the UK experience with developments elsewhere in Europe and North America. The paper will include a case study on the Scottish Open Education Declaration and the efforts of the Open Scotland initiative to lobby the Scottish Government to endorse the principles of the declaration and adopt open licenses for publicly funded educational content.

Virtually Connecting
Wed, Apr 5 2017
With Martin Hawksey, John Robertson and Lorna Campbell

End of day session, from 1730-1800. With onsite buddy Teresa MacKinnon and virtual buddies Nadine Aboulmagd and Simon Ensor.

Shouting from the Heart 
Thu, Apr 6 2017, 11:40am – 12:40pm
Author: Lorna Campbell

This lightning talk will be a short polemic reflecting on political and personal events that have led me to both question and strengthen my commitment to open education over the last two years.  These include the detention and disappearance of Syrian open knowledge advocate Bassel Khartebil, and the project that created an open book dedicated to his life and work The Cost of Freedom: A Creative Enquiry.  The privilege of co-chairing the OER16 Open Culture Conference. The result of the UK’s European Membership referendum, announced the day after a meeting of European colleagues to discuss how we could work together to join up open education policy and practice across the Europe.  The appointment of the first Gaelic language Wikimedian in Residence by Wikimedia UK and the National Library of Scotland. The surge of horror and shout of rage following the results of the US presidential election.

My response to these disparate, seemingly unconnected events was to write, to blog, to try to find words to make sense of events and my reaction to them, and to reassert my belief that we have a moral responsibility to work together to improve education opportunities for all, not just the privileged few.

I can’t promise this talk will be neutral or balanced, but it will be honest and from the heart, and ultimately it will be open.

The wrong side of history

After IndyRef I was hurt, after Brexit I was angry, but when I woke up this morning I was genuinely horrified and more than a little afraid.

I grew up in the Outer Hebrides in the 1970’s and 80’s at the height of the cold war, the nuclear arms race and the military build up of Nato bases around Northern Europe. The USSR was supposed to be the enemy of course, but it was the Americans I remember being really afraid of. They were the ones building military bases all over the country and right on my doorstep.

This morning America feels like a place to be afraid of again. Really afraid.

The thing that horrifies me about the projected election result (it hasn’t been called yet), is not the realisation that the world is full of people who think so very, very differently from me, Brexit proved that, it’s the realisation that there are so many people out there who care so little for anyone they see as “other”.

Fear of the other is a powerful force and it has led us to some of the darkest moments in global history. We’re paying the price for not knowing our history.

If there’s one thing that this reinforces for me, it’s that it proves yet again why it’s so important for everyone, and I mean everyone, to have access to free and open education.   And I really do mean education in the broadest sense. Now more than ever we need education that focuses on history, on politics, on philosophy, on economics, on human geography. We need to understand how we got into this mess and the consequences of our actions if we fuck it all up again.

The first thing my partner said to me this morning was “We’re on the wrong side of history” and it really does feel that way today. My first instinct was to hit up Skype and twitter and reach out to my American friends to tell them how very, very sorry I am about the result but you know what? We’re all in this together. I never thought a US election result would make me cry, but here we are.

It’s kind of ironic that the previous post on this blog is Dream A Little, and boy does that look like a utopian delusion now.  That post ends with the semi-ironic quote “We live in the short term and hope for the best”.  We need to live for more than the short term now, but we sure as hell need hope.

Hope is Power

 

 

This time it’s different

I’ll never forget that feeling the morning after Indyref. I just felt sad, so fucking sad that so much positivity and promise had gone to waste. It feels different this time round. Today I’m angry. But the worst thing is, I’m not surprised. There seems to have been a horrible inevitability to the result of the EUref. It’s like watching a carcrash in slow motion.

Martin Weller has already written a really powerful personal response to the result that really chimes with my own feelings. I work in open education, and I believe passionately that as educators we have a moral responsibility to work together to improve opportunities for all, not just for a select few.

The Scottish Open Education Declaration says

“Open education can expand access to education, widen participation, create new opportunities for the next generation of teachers and learners and prepare them to become fully engaged digital citizens. In addition, open education can promote knowledge transfer while at the same time enhancing quality and sustainability, supporting social inclusion, and creating a culture of inter-institutional collaboration and sharing.”

I wrote that. Those aren’t just words. I actually believe all of that. That’s what I work for.

The thing that really struck me about Martin’s post was his reference to Primo Levi’s The Drowned and The Saved and Levi’s anger at those who try to absolve their guilt by claiming that they didn’t see the evil when in actual fact they chose to look away. It struck me because I’m reading The Drowned and The Saved right now and Levi’s anger has stayed with me since I read that passage in Paul Bailey’s masterful introduction.

So yeah, I’m angry. Angry that we’re sleepwalking over the edge. Angry that we’ll let the unthinkable happen because we don’t have the courage and the honesty to open our eyes and think, really think, about the consequences of our actions.

I don’t know how to end this post, because I really don’t know where to go from here. I guess if there’s one tiny glimmer of hope in all this, it’s that I’m so fucking proud of Scotland right now. That doesn’t make me any less angry though.

 

1.6 Million

Aye, weel, it’s not the result I had hoped for, but I’m still hugely proud of what Scotland has achieved. The turn out and the level of engagement and positivity has been immense. I’m proud to have voted Yes, proud of all those who campaigned so hard, I’m proud of my adopted home city of Glasgow, and of the 1.6 million Scots who voted for independence.

I hope this has been a wake up call for politicians of all stripes and a welcome reminder to the people of Scotland that there is more to political engagement than Westminster and Holyrood party politics. Lets hope that we can maintain this level of positive action and political engagement and let’s make sure we all work towards to a more equitable, fair and democratic society.

If there’s one thing that rankles with me this morning though, it’s that I will continue living in a country that hosts nuclear weapons.  Perhaps it’s time I renewed my membership of CND…

ETA I rejoined CND at the weekend.  You can read their case against Trident here: No to Trident.

thistle

Hearing Voices

Earlier this evening I cast my vote in the Scottish referendum.  To be honest, I’m not sure I ever thought this day would come. I felt slightly woozy when I stepped out of the front door to walk up to our polling station.  The first step on a new journey perhaps?

I was ten years old at the time of the last referendum, two years older than my daughter is now.   My memories of growing up in the Outer Hebrides and later in Glasgow in the 1970’s and 1980’s are a jumble of images and events; The Cheviot The Stag and the Black Black Oil, the oil boom years when Stornoway was filled with Norwegians gambling impossible sums at private poker parties, Scotland’s mortifying 1978 World Cup campaign, the bitter disappointment of the 1979 referendum, the Cold War and military build up in the Western Isles, the despair and disenfranchisement of the Thatcher years and the injustice of the poll tax.

But the thing I also remember is the glimmer of hope that never quite died, and the voices that still spoke out.  I remember trespassing the NATO base, Monseigneur Bruce Kent speaking passionately for nuclear disarmament at a packed public meeting in Stornoway, I remember Peter Watkins filming our local CND meeting for his magnum opus Resan, and going to watch his banned film The War Game in a packed darkened room in the QMU at Glasgow University, I remember Dick Gaughan playing Songs for Scottish Miners at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, I remember the poll tax riots, and the Glasgow Phoenix choir singing The Red Flag at The Big Day in Glasgow in 1990 and later, I remember the day that Thatcher finally went.  I’m sure one of my colleagues in the Archaeology Department had a bottle of champagne at work that day.  I also remember the day that Donald Dewar announced “There shall be a Scottish Parliament.  I like that.”

Nelson Mandela’s quote “May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears” has been widely used by the Yes campaign, while the No campaign has been overwhelming in its negativity.  For me that’s what it’s all about, having the courage to choose hope over fear.  What has inspired me most about the referendum, is the passionate political engagement of the Scottish people and the myriad voices that have spoken up for their beliefs on both sides of the campaign. I hope that whatever result we wake up to tomorrow morning that engagement will continue and those voices will still be heard.

photo

George Square, Glasgow, 17/09/2014