The call to care and the common… by Helen Crump



Yay, can you believe it, #OER20 is gearing up already. Interesting that the theme is care in openness because it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while. In fact, I blogged about it after #OER17 ‘Thinking critically about women and care relative to openness’. Basically, I noticed that openness is being shaped by a discourse of care and that there was a strong feminist thread. But, I guess that’s not news anymore 😊.

So, moving on, in terms of discourse, Foucault argued that discourses create subjects and objects; indeed, discourses call to us and ask us to take up subject positions within them. In this way, discourses specify ways of seeing and being in the world. Foucault also argued that discourses have sway over human agency. He considered discourses to bear power and that the production of knowledge cannot be separated from discourses and their practices, practices that regulate, order and administer aspects of social life.

Given this, the question is, why are we being called to care? What interests are served when we care? That’s what I’d like to know.

In the conference call, I really enjoyed reading Samuel Moore’s article in ‘The Commons and Care’, which connects matters of care to the commons. The article highlights that the commons is not just a resource, but a mode of production. That is, the commons is not just a freely accessible resource; rather, it’s a way of producing and managing shared resources. As such, a holistic understanding of the commons calls for an appreciation of not just the resource but also its users and producers and the practices and social relationships between them.

I want to reposition the commons – or ‘commoning’ specifically – as a practice of cultivating and caring for the relationships that exist around the production of shared resources (Moore, 2018, p.17). 

In a similar vein, Hardt and Negri (2009) advance the theory of ‘The Common’. Their conception also emphasises the process of production as well as the need to recognise the integrality of labour within this. However, their aim is to advance an understanding of the process of production for capital as undertaken across the whole of society – the common. They argue that we have transitioned to an era of biopolitical production in which whole areas of life previously regarded as outside of capitalist production are now productive not only for the common, but also in the interests of capital.

 Living beings as fixed capital are at the center of this transformation, and the production of forms of life is becoming the basis of added value (Hardt and Negri, 2009 p. 132).

Given that social resources and personal attributes are an increasingly important factor in contemporary forms of capitalist accumulation, Hardt and Negri highlight the role of immaterial and affective labour. Affective labour might be appreciated from an understanding of what feminist analyses call ‘labour in the bodily mode’, or caring labour.

Following these lines of thought, a passage I read recently in ‘Life put to work’ (Morini and Fumagalli, 2010, p.245) seems quite disturbing.

The highest point of contemporary capitalist profit is consequential to a proliferation of differences that are the base of the affective economy. At stake is ‘how to incorporate the maternal feminine in order to better metabolize its effects, since it has become a valuable commodity, to be spent on the market’ (Braidotti, 2008: 71).

Holy smoke! I just noticed that my #OER17 blogpost ends with a conference #Iwill pledge.

#IWill engage critically and earnestly with feminist approaches and concerns relating to openness and edtech.

Well, I’ve certainly been true to my word, probably more than I bargained for. It also looks like I might be starting to answer my own question. Anyhow, it’ll be interesting to see how others interpret the theme of openness and care and how the theme develops.

Talking of others, I’d like to briefly introduce the work of fellow committee organiser and IET PhD colleague, Jess Carr. I noticed Jess had signed up for #OER20 and was wondering what the connection was between her research and the theme of openness and care, if any, so I interviewed her. You’ll be pleased to know it’s a very heart-warming connection.

Jess’s research is in the area of citizen science. Together with the charity My Life My Choice, Jess is working with adults with learning difficulties to see what support the scientific community can provide in order to help these individuals engage with science and with citizenship, indeed, to become citizen scientists. The project involves a group undertaking their own research. I’ll let Jess tell you the details of her research, but what I found interesting when talking to her was how her participants framed citizenship. For them, a citizen is a caring individual, plain and simple. Moreover, they thought research should be relevant to real lives and should be about stopping harm and helping others.

With the theme of openness and care, #OER20 is sure to ignite some interesting discussions. The conference organisers asked Why should we care?  How can we care? I think the research I’ve highlighted might just give us a clue.

P.S. I’m including the link to Martin Oliver’s BERA keynote slides, “Educational technology: why should we care?” because it totally chimes with ‘the care in openness’.


Hardt, M. and Negri, A. (2009) Commonwealth, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Moore, S. (2018) ‘The “Care-full” Commons: Open Access and the Care of Commoning’, in Deville, J., Moore, S., and Nadim, T. (eds), The Commons and Care, Coventry, Post Office Press and Rope Press [Online]. Available at

Morini, C. and Fumagalli, A. (2010) ‘Life put to work: Towards a life theory of value.’, Ephemera: theory & politics in organization, vol. 10, no. 3/4, pp. 234–52.


Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash