Thoughts on open scholarship

I feel like I was at a dinner party. Or in a pub. Or with friends sitting on a bench somewhere (reference to my school years). We were loud, we were curious. We asked questions, we asked some more. The conversation put a smile on my face for sure.

This was after a Twitter conversation, stretched wide out in the open, but also enclosed with a group people that I feel connected to, that I know I can trust. We talked about threshold concepts and third spaces of learning, and Laura brought up the concept of heterotopia.

The idea of being in a space that is neither here nor there then reminded me of  an #et4buddy experience. Let me give you a little bit of background first. Et4buddy is a virtual buddy program first piloted in #et4online in April. Here is the vision of the organizers, Maha and Rebecca.

During pre-selected conference activities (such as social events), the virtual buddy program partners a few virtual conference participants with participants who are physically at the conference. The partners connect using video conferencing, allowing the physical participant to share the experience with the virtual participant. The goal of the program is to enhance the conference experience for both the virtual participant and the physical presence participant.

I thoroughly enjoyed the #et4buddy program, met some great people–both virtual and onsite–on Twitter and also on hangouts. Maha and Rebecca were fantastic–Maha even invited me to a hangout just so that we would know each other better!

The highlight of the conference for me was a #et4buddy chat with Gardner Campbell. I had some questions in mind about  “technology of emergence” vs “emergent technologies,” something Dr. C. discussed in his plenary talk “Thought Vectors in Concept Space” earlier in the morning the same day and couldn’t wait to talk to Dr. C about them. But at the same time I felt a bit shy and uneasy about being present “out in the open.” But I joined the hangout, asked my questions to Dr. C… and it was great. I just can’t describe the experience here. My experience in Turkish schools taught me to follow hierarchy and build it, even if doesn’t impose any structures on me. But here I was talking to somebody influential in the field, asking some basic questions and getting answers. A picture I saw some time after the event struck me. A picture of Gardner and Rebecca sitting together right outside a conference room–Rebecca smiling, Gardner looking carefully at the screen in front of him. Where was I? Were they really there when we had the chat?

Ahh, it’s the feeling of heterotopia, thank you Laura for helping me name my heterotopia-ish musings. I thought I was “in the zone,” but that’s not a good descriptor, is it? Reminds me of urban city zones and busy commuter trains..

I appreciate the #et4buddy opportunity… and the care… and the laugh, just like the conversation I had with my Twitter buddies tonight. I also think #et4buddy helped me normalize the feeling of being neither here or there. It’s just life, happens to many of us. It’s not a big deal.

Anyways, I tweeted:

And I mean it. Why would I go to a conference only to present a PowerPoint and listen to other PPTs? Why would I go to a conference if nobody is going to ask me any questions about my work, question it, and make suggestions to look at it from a different perspective? I’ve been to conferences where I almost begged for a discussion (in whispers). One time a friend commented that I liked asking questions (after listening to presentations). Here is my response after almost 3 years: How can you sit down for 20 to 30 min. listening to somebody talk about something and not have a single question! Is that even possible?

Need to get back to the #et4buddy experience. Maha commented on my tweet saying:

If #et4buddy is a movement, it’s certainly a postmodern one with no manifesto on how things should be like or should proceed (and I’m sure even if they had a manifesto it would be an editable Google doc.). Just a shared vision which grows organically into something larger with participation and activity. It’s the movement we all create by open and connected scholarship, by sharing, practicing, demanding, and deviating away from the rigid structures in educational research. It is part of the movement which also created and supported the Hybrid Pedagogy (peer review is a collaborative process), #eMOOCs2015 (a flipped conference), #tjc15 (a journal club open to everyone) and VCU‘s connected courses (healthy mix of formal and informal learning, caring instructors). I’m sure there are many others out there, but I can only count the ones that I’m familiar with. It’s not one thing, or a handful of things: it is the combination of hundreds of thousands of blog posts, tweets, open events, hashtags, journals, organizations… Let me also give you two very recent examples:

1. I blogged about reflection, asked to be challenged, Mariana took up on the challenge, found an article for me to read, but she didn’t have access to it, so Laura requested it through an interlibrary loan (she really did that), scanned it and sent it to me. I’m still thinking about how to respond; I asked for a challenge, I got one.

2. I started following VCU’s course CMST 691: Collaborative Curiosity: Designing Community-Engaged Research (referred to as CEnR in the course), because they are doing some really good stuff and I want to learn more about participatory approaches to research. I had a question about the method, posted it on Twitter and got a response from Valerie Holton on the same day. Valerie is the Director of Community-Engaged Research at VCU. She follows me on Twitter but we’ve never met in person. I’m not one of her students. I don’t know much about CEnR. But Valerie takes the time to respond to my question and her response encourages me to think about ways to conduct ethnography using CEnR.

Open scholarship, as many of us experience on social networking platforms, is significant and I think its meaning will be unpacked in years to come. If you are in education and if you’re not engaged with open scholarship (even if that means simply lurking) you’re missing the conversation and the opportunity to shape it in more productive and ethical ways.

Now I feel like writing more on the ethics of open scholarship, but will stop here and leave that to another post:)

On Networked Communities

Community is a puzzling term: we can talk about communities of practice, communities of inquiry, learning communities, rural communities, research communities… We can talk about so many different communities that it’s, I think, impossible to explain it in one way. But I can try describing one community that I’m familiar with.

I’m doing research on open participants’ experiences in a connected open online course. At first, I thought I could examine their activities through the communities of practice framework. I would look at how open participants went about research writing, the inquiry process. I would examine interactions among participants, find out about common norms, language, the type of knowledge that they produce as a community through shared artifacts. It soon became apparent though, what I was observing didn’t resemble a typical community of practice where “members share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.” I wasn’t observing shared practice-other than blogging about issues related to education, which I think is too general to be defined as shared practice. Open participation was so diverse and rich that I had to take a step back and re-think how I might capture open participants’ involvement in the course.

Then I read something Mimi Ito wrote almost a year ago, and everything clicked: Unlike becoming a contributor to Wikipedia or YouTube, Connected Courses is a veritable cornucopia of ways of participating with no central platform. And unlike a community of practice, there is an abundance of different forms of expertise and practices, and social norms that are colliding through a loosely orchestrated cross-network remix, immersive theater where participants are all experiencing a different narrative. Its not a funnel or even a community with coherent practices, but a hybrid network, more like a constellation that looks different based on where one stands and who one is.

This was (almost) exactly what I was observing: participants’ involvement with the course, their presence, was multifaceted and unique. Their involvement was authentic; they talked about things that mattered to them, they brought with them their existing and expanding networks, they organized the course in ways that made sense to them and that suited their busy adult lives.

This, I believe, is also exactly what Catherine Cronin, building on Kris Gutierrez’s earlier work, describes as third spaces–spaces where formal learning skills and the informal skills, networks, and identities intersect and create opportunities for authentic interaction and knowledge building. (This last part is taken from a talk that I’ll give at the Digital Pedagogies Conference 2015.)

So am I observing a community here in the first place? I think, yes, but I believe my context is unique because the course is built upon a strong foundation which encourages community building from within (for example, via faculty and staff blogs). There are multiple communities of practice operating on different levels (faculty, students, the VCU community in general). When open participants join the course and begin participating in the course activities and interact with the VCU community they become part of that community. But at the same time, they have one foot outside the community, creating unique ways of participation and diversity.

I’m struggling with the vocabulary here a little bit. I feel like there’s a lot more that I want to capture than I outlined here, but I just don’t have all frameworks in place yet. So I’ll be reading and writing about third spaces, learning communities and networks a lot this summer to be able to tell a story that is robust and rigorous– something that will make sense from where I stand. Below is an image that I find relevant to think about community in networked places: It is always changing, evolving, regenerating, but there is nonetheless a shared narrative (a series of connected events) that brings people together. Draw imaginary lines between individual leaves and add more shapes and colors to the scene: now the picture is more complete in our mind’s eye. giphy Animated gif taken from here.