Blurring Lines, Breaking Rules: a #digped Discussion

This Friday, September 14 from 1:00 – 2:00pm Eastern (10:00 – 11:00am Pacific), Hybrid Pedagogy will host a Twitter discussion under the hashtag #digped to consider the promises and pitfalls of open source and open access learning resources. The work of students and pedagogues alike depends upon our ability to access, use, remix, and transform the texts and technologies we study. In her recent post, “Doing DH versus Doing Digital,” Lee Bessette writes, “I might not know much about coding (and only slightly more about encoding and mark-up languages) but I am getting tired of being at the mercy of the software that I use (she says while typing this in her least-favorite program ever, Word).” Bessette continues by observing how she is drawn to Digital Humanities as a discipline because it offers us “the possibility we might create interfaces and software that give us environments that critically engage with and produce what we want, rather than limit ourselves to what we’re told we can do.”

In April of this year, the Harvard Library Faculty Advisory Council drafted an open memorandum to “all Faculty Members in all Schools, Faculties, and Units” regarding the “untenable situation facing the Harvard Library” due to the fact that “large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive.” The letter describes how the “situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called ‘providers’) to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals,” and concludes “major periodical subscriptions, especially to electronic journals published by historically key providers, cannot be sustained,” without “seriously eroding collection efforts in many other areas, already compromised.”

At Hybrid Pedagogy, I recently considered how we might use an ethical compass to guide us through the legal minefield pedagogues must navigate, often blindly, when we decide whether to copy or not to copy materials for our students. As Valerie Robin points out in the comments, however, the copyright holder’s monopoly includes the right to discontinue publication, thereby rendering key texts essentially unavailable for pedagogical use. Ethics and pedagogy can only take us so far.

Many, many scholars, myself included, have suggested the open source and open access movements might help us to resolve not only the problems identified here, but others as well. The pseudonymous author of “Terrors of a True Believer: MOOCs and the Precarity Problem,” which provoked the last #digped discussion, cautions us, though, to be extremely wary of anything promising to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Predatory publishers use open access as cover for extorting exorbitant “page fees” from unsuspecting scholars. And patchwork and uneven implementation of open access policies has the potential to severely disadvantage new-minted PhDs in the race to tenure-track jobs and tenure. If your dissertation is already available to anyone with a web connection, why should good old university presses be interested in publishing even an extensively revised version as a monograph?

During Friday’s #digped discussion, we will explore what open source technologies and open access publication processes have to offer critical pedagogues. We will also examine where they go awry or fail to deliver.

Here are some questions to consider in advance of the #digped conversation:

  • Does your institution or workplace encourage (or perhaps require) the use of open access or open source technologies and resources?
  • Do you see a place for open access or open source production in your work?
  • What is the potential economic impact of moving to open access resources and open source technologies?
  • Should we be doing more to foster open access or open source production? If so, how do we do it?

If you are interested in these and other related questions, please join us on September 14 at 1:00pm EST (10:00am PST). For those unable to join the conversation this week, Hybrid Pedagogy’s #digped will be moving to a once-a-month format, on the first Friday of every month. So our next #digped conversation will occur on Friday, October 5, same time, same place. If you have suggestions for future topics, feel free to add them to the comments on this entry or tweet them to @slamteacher.

[Photo by visualpanic]

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