Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

How Little People Can Be Invisible in the Open #cccert

| 9 Comments

This is a story of how powerful people’s voices are louder, get heard, used, perpetuated, even when they’ve been influenced by little people. And power here is relative, of course. Most people in this story are not the littlest 🙂

In Sarah Lambert’s paper where she analyzes some Open Ed texts for social justice (you should read the article) one of the texts she uses is David Wiley adopting the term OER-enabled pedagogy.

Now this is mentioned by many people and remembered and there are two main problems with how the story is told imho

A. Many people mention his new term OER-enabled pedagogy but no one ever mentions the process by which he adopted it, which was led by many people but the biggest part, imho, is when I curated different definitions of open pedagogy (not just existing ones but new reactions after he had attempted to define open pedagogy narrowly) and the hangout I facilitated where I brought in many people from different parts of the world, mostly women, sharing different perspectives on open (so my form of representational justice). How well known is this story and its impact on David’s change of mind? I saw his stubbornness and then his change right before my eyes. Even the Year of Open (OE Consortium) people who reported their Open Pedagogy week was the most popular, said it was because of David Wiley’s posts, and not because of my work in challenging the post, lobbying for others to respond to the post, and doing a hangout that was attended by at least 50 people LIVE. Look at this curation of posts and this hangout. It was phenomenal. David didn’t change his mind until AFTER this hangout. People had challenged him before in smaller ways. This curation and hangout I think turned the tide. A collective of open educators, mostly women (their work, but I brought them together to get attention for the diversity within the open movement), not David on his own.

B. Even worse: I see many people acknowledging different perspectives on open pedagogy now BUT STILL going on to use David’s “OER-enabled” after they have “recognized” the existence of the other definitons by Cronin and DeRosa/Jhangiani. Examples are the Educause Open Education 7 Things You Should Know and the Creative Commons book we are using in the CC Certificate.

This is totally lip service decontextualized listening. Epistemic injustice.

This entire process for me was a HUGE thing. To challenge anyone’s ownership of defining what open is. This was huge. And it’s as if it only exists in the memories of those who participated in it, but not in any history books. Why? Because it was not a peer-reviewed article? Because David’s was not a peer-reviewed article but his blog.

I don’t mean any disrespect towards David. David has actually gone out of his way to listen to me and I personally have nothing against him in his behavior towards me. It is not his fault that others emphasize his voice more than others.

And I am not the littlest person in the open world. When I did that hangout and curation, I had just returned from keynoting the OER17 conference. My first keynote, yes, but still. I was recognized. I had been invited to participate in Year of Open by OE Consortium alongside David and others, in putting forth articles about open pedagogy. There are like 6 or 7 people who were invited to do this. Mine explicitly mentions social justice as a dimension of open pedagogy. Everyone remembers David’s article but not the 6 others (including by high profile people like Rajiv Jhangiani).

So yeah. What’s this about????

My OER keynote was entitled “Hiding in the Open”. But now I am thinking how, there is also a story to be told about being “Invisible in the Open”. And for an Egyptian scholar living in Egypt, I am the most visible I can possibly be, with all my Virtually Connecting and blogging and writing and publishing everywhere… but clearly it’s not enough – and I am not just amplifying my own voice, but that of others around me, and then it makes an influence, an impact, but in the end… is almost invisible. Except to those in the same corner. But not the mainstream. And that sucks.

And I will say that I also recognize how my voice is louder than MANY people around me who also do good work but are less visible because they are less loud, or less known, or not public, or not obvious minorities. Or even just because they don’t have a PhD sometimes!!!

This quote from Sarah Lambert’s article is a good way to end this. With reference to open edu and open source:

I’m gonna go ahead and publish this post for now… then write a separate one about Sarah Lambert’s article. I was particularly struck by how she challenges the use of the term “empowerment” as one that is does not imply social justice if it ends up reproducing privilege and power. That is so powerful (pun intended). I will reflect more on how terms like empowerment, democratizing can be misused to imply liberation from oppression but they do not at all necessarily lead to social justice.

9 Comments

  1. You know that thing where a women puts forward an idea or a solution in a meeting and everybody kind of blinks and says nothing and then the conversation moves forward and 10 mins later a guy says the same idea with diff words and everybody cheers? Well.. some of that

  2. But honestly, how hard is it for powerful bloggers to reference others’ contributions to their developing ideas by linking to peer’s blog posts and other resources? I am sorry that this did not happen, and your work to broaden views was hidden

  3. “Epistemic injustice” — there are few things more challenging to address (yet nothing more in need of being challenged).

  4. Hi Maha – what a great post thank you. We need to keep reminding the world of these stories and inequalities. Being part of that hangout was an amazingly empowering experience for me and allowed my wee voice to be heard for a bit too. I was, an still am, grateful you gave me that opportunity, Going to read Sarah’s post now too and keep sharing all of this a much as I can

  5. Hi Maha,

    I’ve greatly appreciated and have been taking to heart your recently conversations on listening and paying attention (in all the ways that term can be understood) to other (or othered) voices. I realize (or continue to realize) the ways I do this and when I read this post, it had me going back and doing some of the slides that I’m doing for a workshop that I regularly do on open pedagogy and rethinking how I discuss it as a practice(s) and where it came from.

    Thank you for creating such a space.

  6. Your complaint is not new. Some people are not famous, but rather infamous for spending a career trying to claim they invented a new term, or were the first to introduce an idea, and so on. They’re the people you see citing themselves in academic papers, maintaining fake and misleading job titles, creating their own Wikipedia pages, and so on. Most people recognize the false modesty and find it all amusing, only the uninformed fall for it. Keep up the good work and celebrate your successes! Good arguments win in the end. Unfortunately, bad arguments often get louder and longer until they finally fade away.

    • Thanks. I am not really talking about that situation. There are legitimate academics who do legitimate work and deserve recognition but also the work of others get obscured. It’s not a malicious thing, more a systemic epistemic injustice

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