Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

No Me Without Us: Reflections After the UNIR #SelfOER #OpenTuesday Webinar

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 https://twitter.com/Bali_Maha/status/847836233720057857

That’s a tweet from April. But found myself thinking of it today. So yesterday, Tuesday May 9th, I gave a webinar on #SelfOER from an Egyptian Perspective. The recording is available here

Thanks again to Fabio for inviting me to give the webinar, and also for his insightful questions that helped take my thinking further. 

You can see the slides below, and you can see how the activity I tried pre-webinar “if you were an OER what kind would you be?” helped shape my thinking over the past week, and spurred more conversations between Suzan Koseoglu and me privately, and more publicly with others exploring related issues like Helen Crump, Sheila MacNeill and Catherine Cronin. You’ll see plenty of that in the slides and webinar.

Here are my slides from UNIR #OpenTuesday session

So Fabio asked a lot of questions and the one that remains with me is the one about how much “open” is based around volunteering models, around (most of) us carving time outside of our paid work, and the problematic nature of that, how unsustainable it is. It reminds me of a conversation across blogs, Jim Groom, Mike Caulfield, Karen Cangialosi and me. It also reminds me of one of the sticking points for Virtually Connecting. How do you maintain grassroots passion while not expecting people to work day in and day out for free, recognizing that this model is privileged and only people who have stable incomes and free time to “donate” can do this? 

I’ve been thinking about this a LOT. About the privilege to be open, about the privilege of not needing to sell our stuff in order to live. About who has the privilege of time to use for this when others are struggling to make ends meet or to meet the needs of their family members. I’m also wondering what it means for marginality and whose voice gets heard loudest. This is not at all new, and it’s not the first time I think about it, but it’s now like a broken record in my head. I even wrote an article with Chris Gilliard awhile ago about what it means when online (esp for-profit) magazines solicit articles without paying authors and how this won’t work for some people. Should those of us privileged enough REFUSE to write for those who won’t pay, so that everyone gets paid to write?

But flipping that question to openness…should (would?) people who want to make their work open not do so in order not to harm those who cannot afford to do so? Wouldn’t that be bad for everyone? Thinking of adjuncts who cannot afford to make their stuff openly available, they also can benefit from stuff others make publicly available, instead of having to pay for it.

So if the driver for open is social justice and sharing, does it mean we who can do so, continue to do so, and simply not expect reciprocity? Or is that also unfair?

But you know, partway through drafting this post I was DMing with Suzan and I realized the title of my post is “no me without us”, and that a big part of what Suzan and I have been talking about this past week is how the idea of self as OER is not so much focused on the self in an inward manner, but focused more on the self in situ, in context, as a node in a network, or individual in community or at least connection with others. There’s no, probably, open self unless that self is open to others in some useful way. And while it is important to be true to ourselves and to be ourselves, openness can never have a merely selfish or self-centered focus. It can start off that way, but Suzan and I have always been explicit about self OER not referring to broadcasting our knowledge. Instead, it is more dialectical and dialogical. It is actually about how we think of others as we practice our openness. What we find is worth sharing and how much of it to share, and also how open we are to receiving what others share and how we open our minds and hearts to what is different. It sounds romantic when I say it like this, but it is actually hard work.

And what it comes down to, when I come back to that question of equity and sustainability is this: Maslow has a hierarchy of needs, where food and shelter/safety come first, then social/love needs next, then other needs like self-actualization. I think that hierarchy isn’t necessarily how all people live their priorities and have said so before. How often do mothers forget to eat or sleep because they’re caring for their kids? How often do people sacrifice their family harmony because their ambitions of self-actualization are too strong? These things happen and they influence our happiness. And we are all so different in how we prioritize these things.

There are instances where even people who struggle to make ends meet are able and willing to make choices for social or self-actualization reasons and forego their basic needs. I mean,  they’re probably not gonna do it if they’re in complete famine or such, but you know what I mean, right? 

So I am also then wondering about this thing. A couple of women (of Muslim origin) tweeted about being self OER and the importance to them of being useful to others to be called an OER. And it made me think of something a friend once told me “may Allah make you useful to others”. But in a more secular way, Stephen Covey talks about our need to “live, love, learn and leave a legacy” and sometimes the part about leaving a legacy is a passion so strong that we will work on doing it even if our basic needs aren’t fully satisfied. That it’s not a hierarchy of needs.

Then again, I think about sustainability of openness if no model is in place to ensure it is financially sustainable, and I also think that for some of us, dissent and being on the cutting edge might also be a need, such that we will always be working on something in some way unorthodox and unfunded.

And for some of us the need to share is a drive, difficult to stop. In the same way that we need to understand that for others, there is a need to NOT share, be it a personality thing or because they risk real harm or have experienced real harm from sharing in the past. But also to ask someone NOT to share when sharing is a way of being for them? It’s really hard.

Just my messy thoughts.

But there’s no me without us. So tell me what you think!

3 Comments

  1. Thanks Maha – this issue came up in the Porous Uni. It was really powerful to have Alex from the Ragged University there as a counter balance. He is driven by our academic conceptions of open education but he is one of the best open educators, self educators, perhaps example of self as OER I have met.

  2. Well if you look at the Ragged University it is modelling open sharing https://www.raggeduniversity.co.uk/ – though they probably don’t really use our language to describe that. They just find a space and bring people together – it’s all very informal. In terms of the rest of us there who were from more formal educational establishments (mix of unis and colleges)
    I think we were going round the houses a bit. We talked a lot about the importance of modelling behaviour. For me because I work in staff development, modelling staff behaviour is important. So I like to share examples of my practice to illustrate how open-ness can actually work in our institutional context. But then there are things that I do that I know others might not, mainly because they make me happy, and validate my own worth and value. People still find it odd that I blog and tweet and don’t see the value of it to my “proper” work!

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