For my second specialist area I will focus on feminist approaches to open practice through the creation of the femedtech Open Space.
I have already briefly introduced the Femedtech Open Space, femedtech.net , and the WordPress SPLOT theme it is based on, in section 1b. In this section I am going to focus on why I felt it was necessary to create the Open Space, to provide a platform for diverse voices in open education and education technology, and as a space where I can develop my own feminist open practice.
femedtech is an open, inclusive and voluntary network of education technology practitioners informed by feminist principles. We are an informal group with no funding, our resources are our passion, kindness, knowledge, enthusiasm and volunteer time. I have been involved in femedtech since its inception, and in 2019 I led the development of the femedtech Open Space together with Frances Bell.
I originally created the femedtech Open Space in response to the OER19 Recentering Open Conference call for proposals, as the themes and values of OER19, particularly around whose interests are being served by openness, aligned strongly with those of the existing femedtech network. The call also included a new open space format to:
“facilitate spaces for people to engage in emerging conversations. We invite experienced facilitators to offer to create a space for participants to interact and engage with issues during conference.”
The femedtech network has always been committed to creating inclusive online spaces where marginalised voices can speak and be heard, so together with Frances, and with support from Reclaim Hosting and Alan Levine, I built femedtech.net to facilitate an inclusive Open Space session at OER19 . The aim of this open space was to explore themes and conversations that had emerged from previous OER conferences around power, marginality, equality, diversity and inclusion. Through the Open Space we sought to question dominant narratives of “open”, explore whose voices are included and whose are excluded from our open spaces and open practices, whose voices we choose to amplify, and whose are silenced.
I drafted six questions for participants to consider before, during and after the OER19 session, and these were shared on the conference blog, prior to the event, on International Women’s Day .
The online femedtech Open Space was designed to facilitate these discussions and to ensure the widest participation from the community by gathering stories, thoughts, reflections, responses and reactions, in the form of written content, images, audio, and media. We welcomed reflections on all aspects and experiences of openness from feminist perspectives and we encouraged participants to raise their own questions and tell their own stories. In order to ensure that engaging with the #femedtech Open Space would be as widely accessible and inclusive as possible, participants were able to contribute to these conversations anonymously if they chose. During the conference session, we introduced the Open Space and invited delegates and virtual participants to contribute and discuss their own ideas and reflections. We summarised progress, invited feedback from session participants, outlined future plans, and encouraged participants to engage with others’ contributions. We received 21 responses to the questions we posed at OER19, some addressing these questions directly, some amplifying work of others, some reflecting on other issues . Later that year I presented a reflection on our experience of supporting the femedtech Open Space, at the PressED twitter conference, together with other members of the femedtech network .
The femedtech Open Space has been a considerable success; since launching the website in 2019 we have published 72 submissions including long-form writing, short reflections, images, gifs and audio recordings. Frances and I have continued to maintain the femedtech Open Space as a democratic online space guided by feminist principles, which provides the femedtech network with a venue to develop our values and philosophy and undertake a wide range of other projects and activities including a feminist special issue of the Learning, Media and Technology Journal, the Femedtech Values Development Activity and an open letter to editors and editorial boards to acknowledge and mitigate the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women researchers and scholars.
On a personal level my impetus for creating the femedtech Open Space was that, as a feminist open education practitioner, I felt something needed to be said about the historiography of the open movement . Who is it that writes that history? Whose voices do we choose to amplify? Whose contributions do we remember and celebrate? Whose are forgotten and silenced? How do we acknowledge the contribution of individuals whose personal ethics and politics are often at odds with our open feminist practice? In particular, how do we critically contextualize the contributions of men who have played an undeniable role in shaping concepts of openness in the domain of technology, but whose personal ethics may be wildly out of tune with many of the values we hold dear in the open education community; equality, diversity, inclusion, social justice.
It’s possible to acknowledge the importance of ideas, while purposefully “forgetting” where they came from, to retain the ideas, but write their authors out of history. However I have always been uneasy about separating the message from the messenger like this, because I think our beliefs are, to a greater or lesser degree, codified in our ideas. Our ideas are shaped by who we are, by our personal ethics and belief systems, by our view of the world around us. If we purposefully forget where some of the ideas that have shaped our concepts of openness have come from, and how they have been formed, we run the risk of a future where open education is for the few not the many, and where openness simply reinforces real world injustices and inequalities.
Following the lead of writers like Audrey Waters and Mar Hicks, we need to construct our own diverse and inclusive narrative and historiography of openness and technology. We need to understand how people’s views are reflected in their work and we need to approach them critically and reflectively. We can’t write people out of history, and nor should we attempt to do so, but we can choose whose voices we amplify, whose we listen to, whose we hear. And we also need to learn to listen to the silences, to identify whose voices have been elided and excluded from narratives of open. We need to be thoughtful and critical and open minded. We need to listen to other voices.
I believe that the femedtech Open Space has gone a small way to providing a space to amplify those other voices and to present a feminist critique and counter narrative to dominant historiographies of the openness and education technology. It was through creating the femedtech Open Space that I also came to explore issues around knowledge equity and digital labour which I will explore in my advanced area. I am constantly learning from the femedtech network and I hope that the Open Space will continue to be a living, sustainable resource for the femedtech network and a platform for other voices that are excluded from dominant narratives of openness and technology.
- femedtech.net The femedtech Open Space, which I built together with Frances Bell.
- femedtech Open Space session at OER19. The Open Space session I proposed and ran at OER19.
- femedtech Open Space on femedtech.net. The pages I set up to introduce the Open Space session and collate responses.
- Campbell, L.M., and Bell, F., (2019), Introducing the femedtech Open Space. A guest blog post written for the OER19 Conference blog on International Women’s Day 2019.
- Responses to the OER19 femedtech Open Space questions.
- Campbell, L.M., Bell, F., Deepwell, M., and MacNeill, S., (2019), Reflections on the #femedtech Open Space, 2019 PressED Conference.
- Campbell, L.M., (2018), OER18: Listening to the Voices. A blog post I wrote following the OER18 Conference reflecting on some of the voices amplified by the open education community.
- Campbell, L.M., (2019), Other Voices. A reflective blog post I wrote for femedtech.net exploring the historiography of the open education movement, whose voices are amplified and whose are silenced.