Yr Motivational (?) Post on Applied Free Culture & OER

It seems like I keep gifting myself with (volunteering for?) the responsibility of blogging about Larry Lessig, the Creative Commons, copyright/left, open access, and their ilk. And try as I might, I still feel ill-informed about this confusing legal terrain. So, I invite you to join me in my vast confusion.

Some questions & thoughts on CC:

  • While CC licenses are ostensibly more flexible than standard copyright, they are not spared criticism. Are critiques of CC fair? Do CC licenses encourage more creative output, as Lessig argues?
  • I did not know about the Commons site for Open Educational Resources, which uses a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license according to its website. When I taught middle school, I scoured the web for free resources, but when free wasn’t available, I occasionally purchased items from other teachers via sites like Teachers Pay Teachers. Has anyone utilized the OER commons?

Some questions & thoughts on Ashley Dawson’s piece:

Dawson proposes that, with support from their institutions and/or not-for-profit foundations, scholars publish in digital open access archives and bypass academic presses with closed access to information systems. He notes, however, that traditional presses fulfill important curatorial roles, ensure peer review, and utilize networks and social capital. Additionally, he stresses that “digitization is not necessarily emancipatory” (267). The conclusion he reaches is to resist any privileging of theorists’ labor in imagining the revolution. What is needed, instead, is a “‘recomposition’ of the workforce…the elaboration of praxis that recognizes the strategic importance of the networked commons while refusing to subordinate struggles over other instances of the commons to the perspectives and tactical orientations of the cognitariat” (269). What I take away from this is larger than any debate on open/closed access: it speaks to a vision of the university as a vehicle for social justice not only in word, but also in deed. It reminds me of the POOC’s mission to enable opportunities for graduate students to conduct critical and participatory research with communities (not *on* communities). The larger project is redefining knowledge as an ecology of knowledge, or linking academic knowledge with the knowledge of the people. What are some of the challenges in this proposal? Is this linkage an easy feat in your discipline?

Michael Mandiberg recently organized a roundtable on “Experiments in Extra-Institutional Education” at GC, bringing in twenty folks to discuss their DIY approach to education. While not all of the showcased organizations offer programs that are free to the public (some charge fees/tuition), they all seemed to share a common punk-esque ethos. The link to Social Text above lists the participants’ affiliations, which ranged from the Brooklyn Brainery to Occupy University. What has been your experience with education outside of the traditional classroom? I’m now going to blatantly steal Mandiberg’s guiding questions and post them here for your intellectual curiosity:

  • How is learning different in this model?
  • What kinds of social and cultural formations are possible in a DIY model that are not possible in a traditional classroom?
  • Can non-accredited, unofficial, and transitory programs replace the cultural capital aggregation and discursive community building that lies at the core of the contemporary school?
  • What is the importance of some form of traditional or non-traditional accreditation in this process?

The COGNITARIAT: Amazingly, this construct to describe immaterial laborers (that’s you and me, comrades) is also an open access journal of contingent labor. It appears to be very fresh off the digital presses and edited by Masood Ashraf Raja, Assistant Professor at the University of North Texas, who explains that he is not in a precarious work situation, but has experienced “moments when I had to weigh my words for fear of some form of consequences. We all have experienced this feeling: and this feeling, this anxiety is the very narrative of current state of capital” (Raja, 2013). He continues by stating how alarming is the state of the neoliberal university and how the system depends on the largely unacknowledged labor of teaching assistants, lecturers, and adjuncts. The advised action is to voice the humiliations of the insecure workforce and stand in solidarity with them. I haven’t read the whole journal, but I wonder about its audience. There are a number of radical publications that address the plight of the precarious worker (Socialist WorkerJacobin, etc.), but that are newsletters or magazines that follow journalistic rather than academic structures. I’m wondering how we reconcile refereed journals with the call to develop an ecology of knowledge…in order to ensure that a journal doesn’t become another mouthpiece for academia to talk to itself in a mirror, should reviewers be explicitly invited from outside of academia?

Dawson, Ashley. (2012). DIY academy? Cognitive capitalism, humanist scholarship, and the digital transformation. In Michael Mandiberg (ed.) The Social Media Reader (257-274). New York: New York University Press.
Raja, Masood Ashraf. (2013). The cognitariat and the precarity of speaking. Cognitariat 1. Retrieved from http://oaworld.org/index.php/cognitariat/article/view/1/1

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