OER20…by Stacy Katz

The OER20 conference is a little over a month away and as of February 12th, the OER20 conference has fewer than fifty tickets left, so register now if you would like to attend in person.  The programme of over 100 sessions should be released shortly.  The opportunities for participation extend beyond attending the conference in person, as there’s opportunity for virtually participating by watching a streaming session, or presenting remotely (with an in-person co-presenter), and also view the FemEdTech Quilt of Care and Justice contributions and their stories. The opportunities for involvement are numerous and easily accessed, which maybe should be expected of a conference that asks, “Who can afford to care and who can afford not to care about openness? Why should we care? or How can we care?” Despite the many, many ways that the conference organizers have lowered barriers to participation, being involved and contributing authentically requires vulnerability.

In the “Welcome from the Organizers,” Daniel, Jonathan, and Mia discuss the visual representation of the conference, the can of soup designed by Bryan Mathers.  The soup represents nourishment which makes us feel better and cared for, but it also has been commodified and mass marketed. This tension is also present between participating and being vulnerable.  Being in community with others means being known to others. As Claire McAvinia discusses in her post, last year she moved from peripheral participation to wanting full participation, by presenting and making herself known.  Doing so made her nervous as it meant moving into a different mode of participation. My own feelings echo so many that Claire expressed in her post, as I attended last year and did not present.  OER19 provided such a tremendous learning opportunity. Unlike many conferences, it felt inclusive, honest, and sparked my curiosity so much that I felt compelled to join the conference committee and try to contribute.

Conferences, arguably, should function as learning spaces.  Back in 1983, Parker Palmer argued that three dimensions are essential for a learning space: openness, boundaries, and an air of hospitality.  In his work, openness meant a sense of discovery, which the boundaries create structure for the open learning. Hospitality refers to spaces that are “inviting as well as open, safe and trustworthy as well as free.” How might we consider how to create these spaces online? How do we participate and be in community and known to each other while we also know of data surveillance and significant risk on the open web?  As Autumm Caines and Sundi Richard outline in their post, surveillance and networked education includes “third parties who are capitalizing on data collection.”  How do we reconcile being vulnerable, not just to others online, but to those commercializing and mining content, while trying to participate and be known in community with each other?

In writing this blog post, I have felt a vulnerability that I don’t feel in my research and academic writing,  which has also been published openly. As Catherine Cronin writes, openness is complex, personal, contextual, as well as continually negotiated.  Knowing that I was writing this piece that would be open, I continually negotiated how to contribute authentically.  The web is not particularly bounded, nor hospitable, but posting and contributing is part of being known. The care of the OER20 community mitigates risking the vulnerability of posting openly.