OER 18 Keynote

I’m absolutely delighted to have been invited by co-chairs Viv Rolfe and David Kernohan and the Association for Learning Technology to present one of the keynotes at the OER18 Conference in Bristol next year. The theme of the conference is Open for All and I’ll be talking about how we can engage students in open education, why we need policies to support OER, all wrapped up in a personal reflection of what openness means to me.

Opening OER16, CC BY SA 2.0, Anna Page.

We all have one conference which is our conference, the one event we never miss year after year, where we go to recharge and reconnect with our people. For me that conference has always been OER. I’ve never missed an OER conference and it’s been a real pleasure to see how the event has grown and developed over the years, under the careful guidance of ALT.   So it’s a real honour to be invited to present a keynote at OER 18, particularly as I’ll be following in the footsteps of so many inspirational women who have had such a profound influence on my own career as an open education practitioner; Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin, Josie Fraser, Melissa Highton, Sheila MacNeil to name just a few.

Thanks to everyone for all the enthusiastic and supportive messages on twitter yesterday, I’m on annual leave this week, so I missed the actual announcement!  As soon as I get back I’ll look for forward to talking to you all about what we as open educators can do to ensure that education really is Open for All.

 

Ada Lovelace Day – Professor Elizabeth Slater

Today is Ada Lovelace Day and unfortunately I am stuck at home waiting for a network engineer to come and fix my intermittent internet, rather than joining colleagues in Edinburgh for this year’s event celebrating Women in STEM.   Ada Lovelace Day is always one of my favourite events of the year so I’m gutted to miss it, especially as there will be periodic table cup cakes as designed by chemist Ida Freund! However I’m planning to participate remotely so that I can defend my Metadata Games crown and I am also hoping to write a Wikipedia article about a woman from this field who was an inspiration to me when I was a student.

Vulcan hammering metal at a forge watched by Thetis. Engraving by Daret after Jacques Blanchard. CC BY, Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons.

Dr Elizabeth Slater was a lecturer in archaeology when I studied at the University of Glasgow in the late 1980s and it was as a result of her lively and engaging lectures that I developed an interest in archaeological conservation.  I believe Liz started her academic career as a scientist, before developing an interest in archaeometallurgy, and from there moving into archaeology. Liz taught us material sciences, conservation, archaeometallurgy, early smelting techniques, chemical analysis, experimental archaeology and the use and abuse of statistics.  It was her lectures on archaeometallurgy that really fascinated me though and it was from Liz that I remember hearing the theory as to why smith gods in so many mythologies happen to be lame.  One of the most common native ores of copper, which was smelted before the development of bronze, is copper arsenic ore, and when it’s smelted it gives off arsenic gas.  Prolonged exposure to arsenic gas results in chronic arsenic poisoning, the symptoms of which include sensory peripheral neuropathy, or numbness of the extremities, and distal weakness of the hands and feet.  It’s not too difficult to imagine that early smiths must frequently have suffered from chronic arsenic poisoning and that, Liz suggested, was why smith gods were portrayed as being lame.  This appears to be a relatively widespread theory now and I’m not sure it can be credited to any one individual, however it’s a fascinating story and one I always associate with Liz.

Liz left Glasgow in 1991 to take up the Garstang Chair in Archaeology at the University of Liverpool.  At the time, I believe she was the only current female Professor of Archaeology in the UK, Professor Rosemary Cramp having retired from Durham University the previous year.  Liz had a long and active career at the University of Liverpool, where she also served as Dean of the Faculty of Arts.  She retired in 2007 and died in 2014 at the age of 68.   In 2015 the University of Liverpool commemorated her contribution to archaeological sciences by opening the Professor Elizabeth Slater Archaeological Research Laboratories.

Liz does not currently have a Wikipedia page, but hopefully I can do something about that this afternoon.

Mary Susan McIntosh and the Women in Red


I was chuffed to discover today that English Wikipedia’s main page features a link to sociologist, feminist, and campaigner for lesbian and gay rights Mary Susan McIntosh.  It’s always great to see women featured on Wikipedia’s main page, which is viewed by around 4 million people, but I confess to being doubly pleased because I created the article on Mary at a recent editathon to mark International Women’s Day here at the University of Edinburgh.  This editathon was facilitated by Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence here at the University, and Ewan was also instrumental in nominating Mary to appear on the main page.

Wikipedia 11 May 2017

Only last week I had been complaining on twitter about the lack of gender balance on English Wikipedia’s main page which happened to feature 18 named men but only 4 named women that particular day. The main page changes on a daily basis but you can see the edition from 4th May on archive.org here.

WikiProject Women in Read

Of course this is not particularly surprising; Wikipedia has a well known problem with gender imbalance, only 16% of biographical entries on the English Wikipedia are of women, and the main page is a pretty accurate reflection of this imbalance.  The Wikimedia Foundation and the various Wikimedia chapters around the world, including Wikimedia UK, are well aware of this problem and are attempting to address it through a range of projects and initiatives.  WikiProject Women in Red raises awareness of this issue and aims to turn red links blue, by creating new biographical articles about women who are referenced on Wikipedia but who do not have their own pages. And here at the University of Edinburgh, one of the objectives of our Wikimedian in Residence is to encourage more women to get involved with editing Wikimedia.  Ewan regularly runs editathons focused on addressing the coverage of articles about women in general and Scottish women in particular.

Before I went along to the International Women’s Day editathon, I confess knew nothing about Mary Susan McIntosh, I picked her name at random from a list of “Women in Red” because she sounded interesting.  It didn’t take me long to realise what a hugely significant and influential woman Mary was.  In addition to being one of the early members of the UK Gay Liberation Front, and sitting on the committee that lowered the homosexual age of consent in the UK from 21 to 18, Mary published important research arguing that homosexuality should be regarded as a social construct, rather than a psychiatric or clinical pathology.  Mary’s paper The Homosexual Role helped to shape the concept of social constructionism, later developed by Michel Foucault.  Mary’s contribution to shaping this important philosophical construct has of course been largely overlooked.  My Wikipedia article barely scrapes the surface of Mary’s life and academic career and her important contribution to social theory and political activism.  I hope to do a bit more work on Mary’s Wikipedia page sometime in the future but it would be great if there are any philosophers, sociologists or critical theorists out there that could help with editing to ensure that Mary gets the recognition she deserves.

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 – Shouting from the Heart

[slideshare id=74537814&doc=oer17shoutingfromtheheart01-170406111454]

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.

International Women’s Day – thanks!

I was chuffed and honoured to be name checked today as part of International Women’s Day by several colleagues who I respect and admire greatly.  Thank you so much :}

And last but not least…

Here’s to many more fearless years!

International Women’s Day 2017

Spare Rib, https://journalarchives.jisc.ac.uk/britishlibrary/sparerib

I’ve been so fortunate to work with a huge number of amazing women throughout my career in Education Technology that I’m always a bit spoilt for choice when International Women’s Way and Ada Lovelace Day come around.  In fact my first appreciation post, written for Ada Lovelace Day way back in 2009, was simply a list of the women I’d worked with in Ed Tech.

All the women I work with are amazing in their own unique ways, so it seems a bit unfair to single some out over others, but I would just like to highlight those who have been particularly supportive, influential and inspirational to me over the last year.

Javiera Atenas, OKFNEdu; Helen Beetham, helenbeetham.com; Frances Bell, francesbell.com; Lucy Crompton-Reid, Wikimedia UK CEO; Catherine Cronin, National University of Ireland, Galway; Maren Deepwell, ALT CEO ; Charlie Farley, Open Education Resources Advisor, UoE; Josie Fraser, OER17 Co-Chair & Wikimedia Board; Gill Hamilton, National Library of Scotland; Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services & Assistant Principal Online Learning, University of Edinburgh; Morna Simpson; Geek Girl Scotland; Jo Spiller, Educational Design and Engagement, UoE.

And on the Maritime History side… Joanne Begiato, Oxford Brookes University; Cathryn Pearce, University of Greenwich Maritime Centre; Heather Noel-Smith, my Indefatigable co-author.

And last but not least, an honourable mention to Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence, UoE, who has worked so hard to help redress the gender imbalance and improve the representation of women on Wikipedia.

It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to work with you all.

Open Archaeology and the Digital Cultural Commons

When I joined the Board of Wikimedia UK earlier this year I was asked if I’d like to write a blog post for the Wikimedia UK Blog, this is the result….

Eilean Dhomhnaill,  Loch Olabhat by Richard Law, CC BB SA 2.0

Eilean Dhomhnaill, Loch Olabhat by Richard Law, CC BB SA 2.0

Although I’ve worked in open education technology for almost twenty years now, my original background is actually in archaeology.  I studied archaeology at the University of Glasgow in the late 1980s and later worked there as material sciences technician for a number of years. Along the way I worked on some amazing fieldwork projects including excavating Iron Age brochs in Orkney and the Outer Hebrides, Bronze Age wetland sites at Flag Fen, a rare Neolithic settlement at Loch Olabhat in North Uist, the Roman fort of Trimontium at Newstead in the Scottish Borders and prehistoric, Nabatean and Roman sites in the South Hauran desert in Jordan.  I still have a strong interest in both history and archaeology and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m a passionate advocate of opening access to our shared cultural heritage.

Archaeological field work and post excavation analysis generates an enormous volume of data including photographs, plans, notebooks and journals, topographic data, terrain maps, archaeometric data, artefact collections, soil samples, osteoarchaeology data, archaeobotanical data, zooarchaeological data, radio carbon data, etc, etc, etc.  The majority of this data ends up in university, museum and county archives around the country or in specialist archives such as Historic Environment Scotland’s Canmore archive and the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) at the University of York.  And while there is no question that the majority of this data is being carefully curated and archived for posterity, much of it remains largely inaccessible as it is either un-digitised, or released under restrictive or ambiguous licenses.

Cadbury Castle Post Ex c. 1992

Cadbury Castle Post Ex c. 1992

This is hardly surprising for older archives which are composed primarily of analogue data.  I worked on the reanalysis of the Cadbury Castle archive in the early 1990’s and can still remember trawling through hundreds of dusty boxes and files of plans, context sheets, finds records, correspondence, notebooks, etc. That reanalysis did result in the publication of an English Heritage monograph which is now freely available from the ADS but, as far as I’m aware, little if any, of the archive has been digitised.

Digitising the archives of historic excavations may be prohibitively expensive and of debatable value, however much of the data generated by fieldwork now is born digital. Archives such as Canmore and the ADS do an invaluable job of curating this data and making it freely available online for research and educational purposes.  Which is great, but it’s not really open.  Both archives use custom licenses rather than the more widely used Creative Commons licences.  It feels a bit uncharitable to be overly critical of these services because they are at least providing free access to curated archaeological data online.  Other services restrict access to public cultural heritage archives with subscriptions and paywalls.

Several key thinkers in the field of digital humanities have warned of the dangers of enclosing our cultural heritage commons and have stressed the need for digital archives to be open, accessible and reusable.

The Journal of Open Archaeology Data is one admirable example of an Open Access scholarly journal that makes all its papers and data sets freely and openly available under Creative Commons licenses, while endorsing the Panton Principles and using open, non-proprietary standards for all of its content. Internet Archaeology is another Open Access journal that publishes all its content under Creative Commons Attribution licences.  However it’s still just a drop in the ocean when one considers the vast quantity of archaeological data generated each year.  Archaeological data is an important component of our cultural commons and if even a small portion of this material was deposited into Wikimedia Commons, Wikidata, Wikipedia etc., it would help to significantly increase the sum of open knowledge.

Wikimedia UK is already taking positive steps to engage with the Culture sector through a wide range of projects and initiatives such as residencies, editathons, and the Wiki Loves Monuments competition, an annual event that encourages both amateur and professional photographers to capture images of the world’s historic monuments.  By engaging with archaeologists and cultural heritage agencies directly, and encouraging them to contribute to our cultural commons, Wikimedia UK can play a key role in helping to ensure that our digital cultural heritage is freely and openly available to all.

This post originally appeared on the Wikimedia UK Blog

23 Things: Thing 5 Diversity

“A lot of communication online is now via the mode of emoji/emoticon images. Traditionally these have been displayed as a yellow standard, but recent releases of more diverse emoji choices have raised a number of conversations. Read the two articles on reactions to the Apple and Facebook release of diverse emoji/emoticons in 2015 and 2016. Now consider the emoji alternative Bitmoji
Thing 5 

To be honest I’m not big on avatars and emjois.  I used the same twitter avatar (a rather fetching picture of the back of my head) for nine years and only got round to changing it a couple of months ago :}  I also don’t use emojis very often so I’ve never really given much thought to who they may or may not represent.  Now I stop and think about it though, that lack of regard is a clear reflection of my own position of privilege.  I may not use emojis, but if I ever wanted to, it wouldn’t be difficult to find plenty that would broadly represent me.  So the article about the furore surrounding Apple’s multicultural icons certainly gave me pause for thought.  It also made me think of the recent news articles about Rayouf Alhumedhi, a Saudi teenager living in Germany who has submitted a proposal to the Unicode Consortium’s emoji subcommittee for the inclusion of hijab and keffiyeh wearing emojis. Motherboard Alhumedhi as saying

“Emojis can seem like a trivial topic but people use emojis to represent themselves and their lives. When the different couples and different skin tone emojis were added there was a huge buzz, and this was because people finally felt represented and acknowledged, which is the same case with the headscarf emoji.”

Rayouf Alhumedhi

Rayouf Alhumedhi

There are several things I find really inspiring about this story. Firstly it’s about choice and empowerment.  Here is a young woman who felt she lacked representation online and took it upon herself to change that.  And secondly it’s about diversity and engagement with standards bodies.  The way that Alhumedhi went about creating an icon that represented herself was by submitting a proposal directly to the formal standards body that governs unicode emojis.  That takes some doing.  I worked with technology standards bodies for many years, though admittedly not the Unicode Consortium, and to say that women are underrepresented in these bodies would be something of an understatement. I got so used to being the only woman in the room that I stopped even noticing and I don’t think I ever encountered a woman of colour in any of the standards working groups I was involved with over a period of about fifteen years.  So more power to Alhumedhi for taking her campaign for representation straight to the body that governs the standard.  If we had more people like Alhumedhi involved in the the development of standards and software perhaps the web would be a more diverse and inclusive place and companies like Apple wouldn’t find themselves in such a mess when it comes to dealing with issues of race, representation and diversity.

Links
The Hijab Emoji Project
The Unicode Consortium
Unicode Emoji Subcommittee

 

Threats, intimidation and #femfog

I follow a lot of historians on twitter and earlier in the week I stumbled across the #femfog tag at the International Medieval Congress #IMC2016.  Femfog is a term coined by the retired Mediaeval historian Allen J. Frantzen who apparently had “strong views” about his female colleagues.  In a now deleted personal blog post Frentzen wrote

“Let’s call it the femfog for short, the sour mix of victimization and privilege that makes up modern feminism and that feminists use to intimidate and exploit men … I refer to men who are shrouded in this fog as FUMs, fogged up men. I think they are also fucked up, but let’s settle for the more analytical term.”

If you want to read the whole sorry history of femfog I can highly recommend reading this post by Jo Livingston Snakes and Ladders On Allen Frantzen, misogyny, and the problem with tenure.

The #femfog session covered a wide range of issues relating to women in academia in general and in humanities in particular, including lack of diversity, misogyny, racial and sexual discrimination even “dig culture” and harassment on archaeological excavations*.  I was only able to follow snippets of the conversation as I was in the process of writing this blog post NewDLHE – personal reflections on measuring success, which ironically touched on some of the issues being discussed. You can revisit the #femfog discussions on this storify #FemFog at IMC 2016.

One tweet that did catch my eye though was this one:

I retweeted it and added

It’s true. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told I’m “intimidating”.  I’m genuinely bemused by this.  I mean I’m barely over five feet tall and I’m the kind of person who actively avoids conflict and aggressive behaviour so why do colleagues find me intimidating? Of course I’ve always had my suspicions that the kind of behaviour people find “intimidating” coming from me would be regarded as perfectly normal among older, male colleagues. For example I don’t hesitate to speak up in meetings and if I have something to contribute to the debate I’ll say it (waiting my turn first of course). I also often chair meetings, committees and events which sometimes necessitates stopping some people from monopolising the conversation in order to ensure everyone has an opportunity to speak.  Is that really such “intimidating” behaviour? Or am I missing something?

Anyway, my reblog seems to have struck a chord as several colleagues retweeted it and added their own comments.

Three days later and this thread is still going strong on twitter. Seems like we’re an intimidating bunch…

* I should add, despite working on archaeological excavations for many years, I never personally experienced any harassment though I was well aware it existed and I was certainly familiar with dig culture.