Wikimedia opportunities and events at the University of Edinburgh

[Cross posted from Open Scotland]

edinburghThe University of Edinburgh recently became the first Higher Education institution in Scotland to advertise for a Wikimedian in Residence.  The post will be based within Information Services where the successful candidate will work alongside learning technologists, archivists, librarians and information literacy teams to help establish a network of Wikimedians on campus and to embed digital skills and open knowledge activities in learning and teaching across the University.  Applications for the post, which is part-time and fixed term, are open until the 29th October 2015.

The University of Edinburgh already has a strong tradition of engaging with the Wikimedia Foundation through Wikimedians in Residence at the National Library of Scotland and National Museums Scotland.  A number of editathons have already taken place at the University focused on raising the profile of women in science and Scottish history.  The hugely successful Edinburgh Seven editathon, focused on the first women to be admitted on a degree programme at any British university. The achievements of the Edinburgh Seven were also recognised when a commemorative plaque was unveiled by Fiona Hyslop, Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, at a ceremony in the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomical Museum in September.

ADA_Blog

Another Women, Science and Scottish History editathon will be taking place at the University on Tuesday 13th October to coincide with Ada Lovelace Day, the international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).  In addition to the editathon, the event will feature speakers on Lovelace, research using LEGO, programming and games, and sessions on composing music with algorithms, and building Raspberry Pi enclosures with LEGO.

Links

Can open stop the future?

wikipedia_politics_opennessLast week Catherine Cronin brought Alice Marwick’s review of Nathaniel Tkacz’s Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness, to my attention and it’s left me with a lot of food for thought.  I haven’t had a chance to read Tkacz’s book yet but there are a couple points that I’d like to pick up on from the review, and one in particular that relates to the post I wrote recently on Jisc’s announcement that it intended to “retire” Jorum and replace it with a new “App and Content store” : Retire and Refresh: Jisc, Jorum and Open Education.

I tend to shy away from socio-political discussions about the nature of openness as I find that they often become very circular, and very contentious, very quickly.  I do agree with Tkacz and Marwick that openness is inherently political but I certainly don’t believe that openness is intrinsically neoliberal. To my mind this analysis betrays a rather US centric view of the open world and fails to take into consideration many other global expressions of openness.

If I’m interpreting Marwick correctly, Tkacz also seems to be arguing that openness must necessarily be non-hierarchical, which is an interesting perspective but not one that I wholly buy into.  While I think we need to be aware of the dangers of replicating existing hierarchical power structures in open environments, I think it’s somewhat idealistic to expect open initiatives to flourish without any power structures at all. So yes, there are hierarchical power structures inherent in Wikipedia, but I think there are many more egregious examples of openwashing out there.

The point that really struck me in Marwick’s review was the reference to Jonathan Zittrain’s 2008 book The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It  in which the author charts the evolution from generative to tethered devices.

The Future of the Internet“The PC revolution was launched with PCs that invited innovation by others. So too with the Internet. Both were generative: they were designed to accept any contribution that followed a basic set of rules (either coded for a particular operating system, or respecting the protocols of the Internet). Both overwhelmed their respective proprietary, non-generative competitors, such as the makers of stand-alone word processors and proprietary online services like CompuServe and AOL. But the future unfolding right now is very different from this past. The future is not one of generative PCs attached to a generative network. It is instead one of sterile appliances tethered to a network of control.”

The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It
Jonathan Zittrain

Marwick elaborates on the this generative – tethered dichotomy and situates it in our current technology context.

“Those in the former (generative) group allow under-the-hood tinkering, or simply messing with code, are championed by the maker movement, and run on free and open-source software. Tethered devices, on the other hand, are governed by app stores and regulated by mobile carriers: this is the iPhone model….The most successful apps of today, from Uber to Airbnb to Snapchat, are participatory and open only in the sense that anyone is free to use them and generate revenue for their owners.

Most of these apps use proprietary formats, don’t play well with others, make it difficult for users to port their content from one to another, and are resolutely closed-source.”

Open Markets, Open Projects: Wikipedia and the politics of openness
Alice E. Marwick

Now, I’m not sufficiently familiar with Zittrain’s work to know if his thinking is still considered to be current and relevant, but his warnings about a future of closed technologies tethered to a network of control, rather amplified the alarm bells that have been ringing in my head since Jisc announced the creation of their App and Content store.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the idea of an App Store sits very uneasily with my conception of open education.  Also I can’t help wondering what role, if any, open standards will play in the development of the new app store to prevent lock-in to proprietary applications and formats.

Zittrain suggested that developing community ethos is one way to “stop the future” and counter technology lockdown.

“A lockdown on PCs and a corresponding rise of tethered appliances will eliminate what today we take for granted: a world where mainstream technology can be influenced, even revolutionized, out of left field. Stopping this future depends on some wisely developed and implemented locks, along with new technologies and a community ethos that secures the keys to those locks among groups with shared norms and a sense of public purpose, rather than in the hands of a single gatekeeping entity, whether public or private.”

The Future of the Internet – And How to Stop It
Jonathan Zittrain

I absolutely agree that when it comes to the development of education content and technologies we need a community ethos with shared norms and a sense of public purpose, but to my mind it’s increased openness, rather than more locks and keys that will provide this safeguard.  In the past Jisc played an important public role by fostering communities of practice, supporting the development of innovative open technologies and sharing common practice and I sincerely hope that, rather than becoming a single gatekeeper to the community’s education content and applications, it will continue to maintain this invaluable sense of public purpose.

EduWiki Conference 2014

Last Friday I went along to the EduWiki Conference in the distractingly beautiful St Leonard’s Hall at the University of Edinburgh. I have to confess to being a bit of a Wikimedia fangirl; I’m not a Wikimedian myself, but I’m a huge fan of Wikimedia’s work in the education domain and I believe Wikimedia has an important role to play, not just in disseminating open educational resources, but also in developing open education practice. This was highlighted by the recent Wikimedia Deutschland OERde14 Conference I went to in Berlin, which brought together over 300* participants from all sectors of German education. This is the first time I’ve managed to get to the EduWiki Conference in the UK and it certainly lived up to expectations.  I’m not going to attempt to summarise the entire conference, but I do want to pick out a few highlights

The Conference was opened by Peter McColl, Rector of the University of Edinburgh and editor of the progressive blog Bright Green. McColl highlighted the venerable tradition of the Commons, describing Wikipedia as a perfect example of the Commons, a resource that we come together to create and which we can all share and use.

The morning keynote was presented by Floor Koudijs, Senior Manager of the Wikipedia Education Program who introduced just a few of the 70 education projects Wikimedia funds world wide. These include Wikipedia School (Athens), which teaches Wikipedia writing to adults as part of the Greek Ministry of Education’s Education for Lifetime programme. Several countries also include Wikipedia editing skills as part of their initial teacher training programmes.

By Tflanagan (WMF), CC BY SA

Floor’s presentation provoked an interesting discussion about the potential importance of Wikipedia in engaging the public with research and demonstrating academic impact. Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh suggested that citing open access articles in Wikipedia should result in increased evidence of impact while at the same time helping to change attitudes to Wikipedia in in academia. Toni Sant, Wikimedia UK Education Organiser, added that Research Councils UK are starting to show an interest in Wikipedia and that EduWiki was mentioned positively at the 6th international Conference on Integrity and Plagiarism earlier this year.

Marc Haynes, Wikipedian in Residence at Coleg Cymraeg, spoke about Welsh Wicipedia and Porth Esboniadur, a reference resource for Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol. Training in wiki skills is provided as an ongoing part of Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol’s academic staffing programme. Marc noted that colleagues are not keen on using CC BY SA licenced content due to the perceived difficulty of mixing it with CC BY content.   This is an issue that Cable Green actually addressed on twitter recently, advising that resources that mix licences should state

“Unless otherwise noted, all content in this (content type) is under a CC BY 4.0 license”

Martin Poulter, Jisc’s former Wikimedia Ambassador gave a highly engaging talk about the benefits of “Wikimedia comprehension exercises” to educate colleagues and overcome misconceptions. He then challenged us to locate various tools and useful information, such as quality ratings and translations, around Wikimedia. Even with such a knowledgeable audience, I could hear lots of people commenting, “Ooh! I didn’t know that was there!”

One word sums up Martin Poulter’s experience of promoting the use of wikipedia in education…

Greg Singh, Lecturer in Communications, Media & Culture at the University of Stirling, also touched on Wikimedia misconceptions, telling us that his students often ask ‘Why doesn’t wikimedia act more like amazon?’ – because it’s not a social media platform and it’s not a bookseller!

Cetis’ Brian Kelly and Filip Maljković of Wikimedia Serbia gave a whistlestop tour of Wikimedia projects in the UK and Serbia which I’m not even going to attempt to summarise, but you can find their slides here.

In the afternoon I went along to the “Wiki*edia Projects in Schools” workshop led by Daria Cybulska and featuring thought provoking contributions from John Johnston, Ian Stuart, Ally Crockford and others. Several themes emerged from the workshop including the use of Wikimedia to enhance digital literacy, the possibility of working with Gaelic medium educators to develop Gaelic wikipedia entries for use by teachers and the pros and cons of integrating wikipedia resources with lesson plans. The discussion also drifted into GLAM territory, with several participants mentioning teachers’ fear that they will be caught using licensed content. At this point John Johnston suggested that what we really need is a “wee weans licence” i.e. a licence that allowed children to use content in the course of their education without fear of copyright infringement.  John also advised that we shouldn’t be too ambitious when introducing Wikimedia in schools. Don’t dive straight into editing, start off by demonstrating how to use Wikipedia as a source and how to reuse content with appropriate attribution. Iain also suggested that making Wikipedia available in a closed environment, such as a usb stick or a closed network, might encourage its use in schools. Sadly I had to leave before the workshop ended, but I left participants cheerfully discussing how to harness the power of “love and happiness and guilt-tripping” to promote use of Wikimedia in schools 🙂

I’ve put together a Storify of my tweets from EduWiki here: https://storify.com/LornaMCampbell/eduwiki and Brian Kelly has posted his Storify here: https://storify.com/briankelly/eduwiki-2014-conference

* I’m guessing. I don’t know how many people were actually there but I vaguely remember someone mentioning 300!

What I Know Is

“We are all publishers now, publishing has never been so ubiquitous”
– Padmini Ray Murray

Earlier this week I was speaking at What I Know Is an interdisciplinary research symposium on online collaborative knowledge building organised by the University of Stirling’s Division of Communications, Media and Culture, together with Wikimedia UK.  It was a completely fascinating and eclectic event that covered everything from new models of academic publishing, issues of trust and authorship, non-hierarchical networks of knowledge, extended cognition, collaborative art and the semantics of open.

ally_crockford

Allly Crockford

Trust was a recurring theme that ran through the event. Symposium chair Greg Singh touched on fundamental issues of digital literacy and trust in his opening talk and Ally Crockford, the National Library of Scotland’s Wikimeian in residence, explored these themes in a talk about tensions and anxieties that persist around Wikipedia and collaborative authoring.  Issues of trust persist around Wikipedia partially due to unfinished nature of many entries, however Ally argued that the evolving nature of Wikipedia is one of its strengths, you can see the history of everything written there.  More fundamentally, Ally argued that Wikipedia democratises knowledge and teaches the value of thinking critically.  Wikipedia is no longer a resource, it has become a structure for open access knowledge.  Ally also picked up on continued anxiety and distrust of open access policies that lingers in academia, and in the humanities in particular, a sentiment that was echoed by many in the room.

Padmini Ray Murray, University of Stirling, picked up on the theme of open access and explored new models of academic publishing including Knowledge Unlatched  and the Palgrave Pivot initiative, a novella approach to academic publishing.  However she also acknowledged that there is a real danger of an academic divide developing around open access as many authors in developing countries can not afford article processing charges. Padmini also challenged us all to contribute more to Wikipedia, arguing that it’s our responsibility as digital citizens. Contributing to Wikipedia can challenge the unassailable voice of the academic, and that is no bad thing.

cognition online

Cognition Online

The second session of the symposium focused on extending cognition and agency and we had two proper philosophy presentations from real live philosophers Mike Wheeler and Zoe Drayson.  Mike introduced the concept of cognitive niche construction; the process of building environmental structures to enable cognition.  Humans excel at creating environments that help us to think more effectively and constructively.  We embedded cognition by out sourcing tasks outside our thinking brain.  Extended cognition suggests that thinking is not bounded by the brain, it is spatially distributed across brain, body and world. Technology can be viewed as an extension of adaptive memory.  In the “Google age” the organic brain will now stores the access mechanisms of how to use technology to find information, rather than information itself.  Real-time crowd sourcing, as on Twitter or Wikipedia, means that ownership of information is challenged.  Mike suggested that one reason people are reluctant to contribute to Wikipedia is that the relation of the information you submit is unstably related to you.

Zoe expanded on the theme of knowledge and its relation to truth and belief.

Knowledge is true belief (+ something extra) = a combination of what a person believes + true information about the world

Zoe explored whether wikis challenge the standard account of knowledge because they are collaborative and online, and argued that neither the online nor the collaborative aspect of wikis conflict with the idea that information can constitute knowledge.

The third symposium session explored collaborative community initiatives.  Penny Travlou focused on networked communities, creativity and spatiality.  She talked about how collaborative art practices have been inspired by the open source computing community and introduced the Furtherfield initiative, a nurturing space where people work in non-hierarchical, network communities.

I spoke about Open Scotland as a collaborative online initiative to raise awareness of the potential benefits of open education practice within Scottish education.  I’ve given variations of this presentation several times recently and it’s always interesting to see how aware, or not, people are of open education.  In this case only two or three people in an audience of around forty had come across the UKOER Programme and Open Badges, were a similarly alien concept.  However, there was a huge amount of interest in the potential of open education and an interesting discussion after my talk about how both academics and students could explore and embed more openness in their own practice.

Greg Singh and Toni Sant

Greg Singh and Toni Sant

The day rounded off with a wide-ranging conversation between Toni Sant and Greg Singh.  Toni explored the idea of knowledge construction as bricolage, an every day process of putting things together from other things we find lying around.  (This rather made me think of the Wombles, but it was getting rather late in the day by that point!)  Toni also gave us a lightning tour of the full range of Wikimedia activities and introduced their education and outreach programmes.  The symposium was drawn to a suitably rousing conclusion with Toni challenging us to

“Be open, collaborative, flexible, global.  Don’t be afraid of the future. We can create it together. Be bold…just do it”

Speakers

  • Lorna Campbell (Cetis/ Open Scotland/ Open Knowledge Foundation)
  • Dr Zoe Drayson  (University of Stirling)
  • Dr Padmini Ray Murray  (University of Stirling)
  • Dr Toni Sant  (University of Hull / Wikimedia UK Academic Liaison)
  • Dr Greg Singh (University of Stirling, Symposium Chair)
  • Dr Penny Travlou (University of Edinburgh)
  • Professor Mike Wheeler  (University of Stirling)
  • Dr Ally Crockford (University of Edinburgh / National Library of Scotland Wikimedian in Residence)

Storify

My Cetis’ colleague Brian Kelly has collated a Storify of tweets from the symposium here.

Jisc DigiFest and “What I Know Is”

It’s been a little quiet on this blog recently, I haven’t been sitting around twiddling my thumbs though, far from it! I’ve been busy on the Open Scotland front and with another exciting project that Phil Barker and I will be announcing very shortly.

I also seem to have got myself roped into an awful lot of conferences and events over the next three or four months. I’ve got ten presentations coming up between now and the end of June, on topics ranging from open education policy and Open Scotland, to the Learning Resource Metadata Initiative, to the crew of an 18th century naval frigate (yes really!)  If you want to find out where to catch me, I’ve updated my list of Presentations & Events.

The first couple of events I”m looking forward to are the Jisc DigiFest in Birmingham on the 12th of March and “What I Know Is” – a research symposium on online collaborative knowledge building in Stirling on the 19th of March.

Jisc DigiFest

digifest-side-bar

©Jisc and Matt Lincoln
http://www.mattlincolnphoto.co.uk
CC BY-SA

David Kernohan has invited me to Jisc DigiFest to participate in the panel session he’s running called Whatever happened to the MOOC?  The session will be:

“A discussion between UK and international speakers concerning current activity around open education and open courses. Find out how cutting edge academics and institutions are taking control of their own open education offerings, and adding value to traditional courses and outreach activities.

The “MOOC” (Massive Open Online Course) dominated discussions about online education in 2013. But as the bubble of media interest begins to fade, we will look at some of the interesting open education experiments and practices that could define the next wave of open education.

David has ambitious plans to run the panel as a single seamless narrative with seven speakers.  We’ve each been given a starting point and an end point in the narrative and have five minutes to cover our topic in between.  There will be no breaks between presenters and David has threatened to be ruthless if we deviate from our allotted five minutes. It’s going to be an interesting challenge!  The panel will also feature video contributions from the incomparable triumvirate of Jim Groom, David Wiley and Audrey Watters.  David has promised us it will be

“Insane? Possibly. Risky? Certainly. Fun? Totally.”

Wish me luck!

“What I Know Is”

260px-Wikimedia_UK_logo“What I Know Is” is a research symposium hosted by the Division of Communications, Media and Culture at the University of Stirling, which focuses on Wikipedia and other wikis and “inquires as to its status as a platform for collaborative online knowledge-building.”  The symposium aims to

“…bring together speakers from a range of disciplines, with a range of interests, from within the School of Arts and Humanities, and from across the UK, to share their work addressing different dimensions of  knowledge-building activities. It is hoped that in engaging with and sharing the various philosophical and interdisciplinary strands of research included in the symposium’s speaker-respondent structure, we will gain some insights into the true value of these online collaborations.”

I’m really pleased to have been invited to contribute to this event as I’ve been hugely impressed with Wikimedia UK’s recent efforts to diversify and engage with the education community throughout the UK over the last year.  I’m particularly looking forward to this event as, due to other commitments, I haven’t had a chance to participate in any of the fascinating events run by Wikimedia UK.  (I was particularly gutted to miss the recent Anybody but Burns editathon hosted by the Scottish Poetry Library.)  I’ll be speaking about Open Scotland and the Open Knowledge Foundation in a session on “Networked Communities, Commons and Open Learning.”

For a comprehensive overview of Wikimedia UK activities in SCotland see this great post by Graeme Arnott on the Open Scotland blog: Wikimedia in Scotland 2014.