I spent the last couple of days in Bristol, a city I know well: I went to University there (undergrad, PhD and post doc in physics and materials science), my wife’s parents live there. I’ll be honest, meeting my friends from the OER community in a city of which I am very fond was part of what attracted me to this conference. The theme of the conference, “open to all,” with discussions about OER in the context of colonialism, was less attractive to me. Look at the rest of this blog, you’ll see I am much more comfortable talking about technical specifications, APIs and infrastructure to support the creation and dissemination of OER.
Bristol has a dark history. Like many towns and cities in Britain, it was built on the slave trade. Bristol more directly than others. I stayed at the Merchant Venturers’ Alms houses, built with the money of Edward Colston, a Bristolian “philanthropist and slavetrader” [wikipedia]. There has been a lot debate in Bristol about whether Colston’s name should still be commemorated in cultural venues and schools. I would recommend the Almshouses to anyone who wanted to stay in an apartment in a lively part of town as an alternative to run of the mill corporate hotels.
At the conference, I did get my hoped-for catch up with old friends and chance to meet new friends, I got the chance to talk with people about technical platforms and interoperabilty of eTextBooks and infrastructure for disseminating OER. That much was expected. I share some of Lorna Campbell‘s background, and I think that she encapsulated the UK OER (#UKOER?) movement superbly in her opening keynote.
The unexpected pleasure was how much I enjoyed and learned from the contributions of Momodou Sallah (keynote), Nick Baker (paper) and Taskeen Adam (contribution to closing plenary), and Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin (& many others in a discussion session). These people are all great communicators, talking about issues (colonialism, politics of OER in the global south, ideas of openness and availability of education from non-western cultures) that are not part of my background. I could have been out of my comfort zone, but they made me feel comfortable. I wish that many involved in science communication would learn from this.
We need to talk about the role right-wing libertarian wingnuts in open
I mean that photo of Eric S. Raymond, keyboard in hand gun in the other, shown by David Wiley during his keynote. Look at what wikipedia says about Raymond’s political views. If you haven’t followed any links so far (I see the WordPress logs, I know you don’t) follow that one and come back.
If you just read the opening sentence of that section
“Raymond is a member of the Libertarian Party. He is a gun rights advocate…”
go back and read the rest. Read the bit about
Raymond accused the Ada Initiative and other women in tech groups of attempting to entrap male open source leaders and accuse them of rape…”,
and the bit about
Raymond is also known for claiming that “Gays experimented with unfettered promiscuity in the 1970s and got AIDS as a consequence…”
and so on.
I have read the Cathedral and the Bazaar, I do know Raymond’s contribution to open source software. Even coming from a background in materials science, I do understand concepts like the genetic fallacy and wrongness of ad hominem attacks. And I do not think we should be recommending this person’s work to the OER community.