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Thursday, November 3 • 11:35am - 12:00pm
The Content Paradox: The Open Ethos in the Abyss of Access

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The Open movement has enjoyed unprecedented mainstream successes over the past several years, such as the United States Department of Education's #GoOpen campaign, the UNESCO Open Education Resource platform, and more popular references to free or low-cost textbooks by celebrities such as Kanye West. Such successes are indicative of the resiliency of the movement, but a growing conflation of openness and access or even openness as textbooks hinders further growth of a movement founded in creation and development for social justice (Worth, 2015). Now that the licensing arguments for OER are more widely accepted, the space of Open in further discourse and the success of further OER development and policies requires a larger scope from which Open cannot be viewed as omnibenevolent or just.

Building upon a growing body of critical research (Bayne, 2015; Moe, 2015a; Moe, 2015b), this paper identifies the fallacies in the Open definition where Open is stratified on a copyright spectrum. Taking Wiley's rethinking of his Reusability Paradox and subsequent escape hatch (Wiley, 2015), the paper uses critical theory and the philosophical work of poststructuralist Roland Barthes (1980) to identify a subsequent content paradox: "When we open the escape hatch from the reusability paradox and let the content out into a world unencumbered by copyright, we leave the safety of discussing open as a copyright problem and enter into a larger and more problematic space where open cannot be a use-value product nor a universal value. By opening the escape hatch and leaving the reusability paradox, we make open less absolute than when the hatch was closed" (Moe, 2015b).

The Open community must face the reality of Open in a sociocultural setting much larger than its genesis of 13 years ago, where warranted criticism will go beyond the contention of Open as an absolute to the contention that there are contexts where it is plain wrong (Worth, 2015). Moreover, unwarranted or debatable criticisms will go much further. By engaging recent literature pushing back on the universality of openness, this paper identifies that for openness to continue to grow as a movement rather than a political arm for materials production, the adoption of open as a principle must engage both users and creators on a personal and transformative level rather than bureaucratized and passive. The ease of conversations about copyright, if continuing as the pre-eminent manner to discuss Open, will render the OER movement conflated into textbooks, unable to realize further gains in process, implementation and ideology. The struggles of the Open concept in a space greater than copyright offer opportunity if we allow ourselves to embrace the paradoxes inherent in the movement.

avatar for Rolin Moe

Rolin Moe

truth is not capitalized =)

Thursday November 3, 2016 11:35am - 12:00pm EDT