by Stephen Downes
Feb 16, 2016
The Pathology of Platforms
This dense and needlessly obscure prose hides a line of thought that is of some interest. The concept of 'making' has become trendy in recent years. But what is the purpose of 'making' something? Matt Ratto argues that it should not be defined in purely utilitarian terms, nor from the perspective of exhibition. These both deflect our attention from what is being expressed by the act of making. Such a perspective makes it difficult to reflect critically on 'making'. For example, what does one say about the 3D printing of a working gun? The suggestion is that it is an attempt to 'naturalize' the printed gun - "to turn them into 'matters of fact' rather than 'matters for concern.'"But the mere creation of technological artifacts does not give the related ideas any special voice. That's nothing but technological determinism. But what does it mean? That's where the idea of the 'platform' comes in. It's like a shared environment, like a workbench, where we can try things out. We don't have to agree on what it means, but we can use it to ask about what is normative (what ought to be the case) what what is problematic. And the printing of a 3D gun is an "attempt to redefine what is normal and what is pathological in society." It's a move in a conversation, not the creation of a new fact.
Boys play with dolls, and girls play with spaceships. Someone tell the toy makers.
I think of this as an education issue, not a toy issue. Games and toys are among the most important educational devices we build. And so I wonder why it is so important for toy builders in the United States to create completely separate lines of toys for boys and girls. They may as well be taught in separate schools, not interacting with each other at all! It is arguable that this separation is responsible in part for the skew toward boys in the sciences, and for some of the blatant misogyny we see in the technical community. Because, after all, education does have an effect on behaviour. I agree with Dan Nessell, who has lobbied to end the boy and girl awards for toy manufacturers. We should end 'boy and girl' toys altogether. When we address these issues in our own society, we will be on firmer ground when we address them in others.
Coursera Pilots Mentor-Guided Courses
In its ongoing effort to make MOOCs more and more like traditional education, Coursera has launched 'mentor-guided courses' for the cost of $US 248. As Class Central comments, "Udacity had launched coaching way back in September 2013, but that program later morphed into Nanodegrees. For the last two years, Udacity has focused on scaling 1:1 feedback and coaching while Coursera has focused on scaling content. Now, in 2016, it looks like their positions are reversed."
Shaping the Future of the Internet
Set in the context of the Winter 2016 issue of the arts journal Dædalus (only the editorial is open access) dedicated to the internet, this article explores the changing future of the internet, and specifically, notes its not-so-subtle drift from being an open platform for innovation to a closed platform dominated by a few huge players. As Yochai Benkler and David D. Clark write in their introduction, "Understanding the design challenges these changes pose, subjecting them to continuous critical reflection informed by real-world analysis of the rapidly changing character of the Internet, and insisting on open, rational, democratic debate over the implications of our choices is perhaps the most important role of academic reflection about the past and future Internet." Image: YouTube, Benkler, The idea of the Commons and the Future of Capitalism.
Proceedings of the European Stakeholder Summit on experiences and best practices in and around MOOCs (EMOOCS 2016)
Mohammad Khalil, Martin Ebner, Michael Kopp, Anja Lorenz, Marco Kalz,
This is the full collection of papers from the European MOOCs Stakeholders Summit. If it had been up to me, I probably wouldn't have crammed all these papers into one single PDF, since you're faced with an all-or-nothing download (as I with an all-or-nothing decision about linking). I wouldn't have put it on ResearchGate either. And I would have used an open license (CC by-NC-SA would have been sufficient for me to repost it on my site to let readers bypass ResearchGate's algorithms). I wouldn't have put all the references in the text in ALL CAPS. And I wouldn't have encrypted the PDF copy/paste function (which also breaks the search function). Ah, but despite all these user-hostile features, it's still a free download, it's still a good read, and you might want to take some time to skim it. But as a research text it's currently useless.
Slow or Sophisticated? Squandered or Sustainable?
iterating toward openness,
David Wiley takes publishers to task for not comprehending the threat of open educational resources. And with $3 billion of financial aid money in the U.S. spent on textbooks and proprietary learning materials, publishers have a lot to worry about. But I'm not sure I agree with his exact argument. Wiley writes, "OER are not a threat to publishers simply because they’re free. OER are a threat to publishers because the 'open' in OER means free plus permissions." The permissions Wiley refers to are the five Rs - retain, revise, reuse, remix, redistribute. Now it's true I think that these are a deeper threat to publishers. But I think that publishers are threatened by free content in and of itself. Moreover, I think that once content is free, there is very little that stops it from becoming open in the sense of the five Rs - after all, if it's all free, where's the harm in retaining it or sharing it? So when Wiley says "Free isn’t the threat to publishers, open is," I think he's only half right. I think they're both threats to publishers.
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