Open, invisible, biased, performance – some more thoughts on open space #oer19 #femedtech

It’s been great to see more posts coming through on our openspace site this week. Firstly Martin Weller reflected on the invisibility of women in society and notions of invisible labour. Lorna Campbell picked up on this in relation to aspects of open practice, and the untended consequences of open practice being exploited,

“when do the hours that we willingly devote to open education start to become unacknowledged, invisible digital labour?”

When so much of many people’s open practice is mediated through online networks, Lorna ends her post by linking it to one of the questions for the open space session at the upcoming #OER19 conference.

“If there is a performative aspect to openness, what does it achieve and how?”

Education in its traditional form, is highly performative. “Good” teaching is often compared to the traits of acting and entertainment. When so much is time is centered around presentation, performance becomes a key element. You need to engage your students for an hour so you have to be entertaining, make eye contact, keep the people with you, make ’em laugh. We all remember that great lecturer/teaching who kept us all entertained. Presenting at conferences has a performative aspect to it too. We all want to engage with our peers and our performance in sharing our research, knowledge, practice is a key part of that. Sharing with our peer group can be nerve racking process.

I remember way back in the early days of learning objects, working with school teachers and trying to engage and support them to share their resources. A really common response was, this all seems great, but no-one would be interested in what I do. The same response applies to open educational resources. However, as I and millions of others know when you share openly it is amazing just how many others are interested in what you do. But it can be daunting to put yourself out “there.” Of course, it is challenging for many to actually get “there” particularly if you are not from the Global North, are a woman or are part of any minority group – or harder still if you are all three, never mind the wider questions Lorna raises around invisibility of labour.

On reflection, I am now asking my self just how important is the performative aspect of my of open practice, through blogging, sharing OERs , presenting at conference such as OER19?

Through open practice, I have gained a level of recognition across and within communities that I can’t imagine having been able to do without access to readily accessible (sometimes open, sometimes not quite so open) online spaces and networks. I’ve connected with people who have made me change my practice, to make me more aware of diversity and the need to constantly challenge bias, and dominant forms of authority.

My open practice has been a way for me to circumvent institutionally controlled spaces. But how much control do I really have over the spaces my open practice is instantiated? My open practice is something I want to share on multiple networks but by doing that my practice, my artefacts and the data trails that they create potentially become part of multiple data assemblages that can be viewed and used in other ways. Those ways most likely being driven by AI algorithms with their inherent bias towards the dominant white, male western point of view.

I’ve been thinking about data surveillance and network control a lot, inspired by this post and the papers it cites, by Anne Marie Scot. In Bentham, Deluze and Beyond: An Overview of Surveillance Theories (2017), Galic, Timan & Koops provides an excellent overview of the main survilliance theories relating them to our networked age and notions of data assemblages. They also point out

The expanded ‘network control’ should not be perceived as a purely negative concept, but as one that also offers possibilities for entertainment, pleasure and counter-power, and moreover, one that also facilitates de-territorialised forms of resistance . . .

Allowing people see our open practice, finding spaces to can help to build on this notion of resistance. Anne Marie also pointed to another paper, Ways of being seen: surveillance art and the interpellation of viewing subjects (2018) by Torin Monahan, (another fascinating read) which considers ways to rethink our societies relationships with systems of control through art. It states

Contemporary ways of being seen undoubtedly possess objectifying and controlling valences, but they may also afford new forms of connections and ethical responsibility among strangers.

I believe that allowing my open practice to be seen has afforded me new forms of connections. Ground up networks like #femedtech are a way to extend the affordances of open, networked connections and hopefully extend collective, ethical discussions and action around feminist issues in education.

In terms of sustainability which Frances has covered so well here, I think we need to be comfortable with increasingly fluid spaces and we also need to find ways to access and build and share our own open data assemblages. That sounds great, but how we do that I really don’t know, but I suspect that someone out there just might, and yes, dear reader I am looking at you!


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