Openness in Academia

Openness in Academia

The spirit of openness is gaining traction in academia, both with faculty who are coming to embrace openness in their teaching, research, and publications and with administrators who work to introduce openness in institutional policies. More than a dozen major universities now offer some of their course content to the general public through the use of OpenCourseWare or similar tools; hundreds of universities have committed to making research available through open access policies; and more than 5000 open-access journals are publishing scholarly work.

Lido bridge at low tide

Yet this progress -- and for the HASTAC community, there can be no doubt that this must be considered progress --can obscure or restrict important conversations about the significant challenges to embracing openness in academia. For one thing, the stakes vary depending on an academics career stage and trajectory. A tenured faculty member with an established reputation has little to lose by making research, publications, developing theories, and pedagogy open and accessible. The risks are higher for newer or pre tenure academics, whose careers depend on accumulating peer-reviewed publications, protecting and nurturing unique contributions to a field or discipline, and limiting failures in research, teaching, and collaboration.  


Further, many academics are faced with difficult decisions about managing multiple professional and personal identities at a time when digital footprints are deep, wide, and difficult to rub out. Non-professional activities and affiliations now co-mingle with an academics record of scholarly pursuits, and academics who embrace openness and transparency are nonetheless finding themselves struggling with how to keep aspects of their private lives separate from their professional identities. Some academics choose to develop anonymous or pseudonymous identities online in order to manage their digital footprint; others make conscious decisions not to participate in certain communities or in certain ways. 

sorry Finally, the ivory tower -- an social institution whose very survival depends on scarcity of knowledge and expertise -- continues to struggle with conflicting impulses: universities strive to make knowledge available to the public, for the public good; at the same time, universities can only remain profitable insofar as they offer something unique that people are willing to pay to access. What would it look like all universities embraced the OpenCourseWare model?  How would that affect enrollments? How would this change the value of the college degree? 

Please join us in a conversation about openness in academia, focusing on the following interlocking categories:

Openness in research and publishing: How can new academics gain prominence in their field while still embracing openness? How can academics and scholars who are committed to openness negotiate this in their interactions with institutions that rely on scarcity and closed access? 

Openness in professional and personal identities: To what extent is privacy at odds with openness? How can academics make decisions about how public to make their engagement with non-academic communities and networks? What is the value of or drawback to developing anonymous or pseudonymous identities, and do these conflict with the spirit of openness? 

Openness in teaching and learning: How can we engage openly and transparently with our colleagues about what happens in the classroom? How would this affect our students?

Openness in policy: Is openness a threat to the university model? How can institutions embrace openness and still remain necessary?

If you're interested in these questions, HASTAC is hosting a collaborative tent called Storming the Academy at the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona from November 3-5. Our group attending the conference will be blogging and joining in this conversation!

Invited Guests:
  • Edward Maloney (Georgetown)
  • Joshua Danish (Indiana University)
  • Clay Whipkey (OpenCourseWare)
  • Mark Sample (George Mason University)

This Forum is hosted by:


My take on the topic of openness in academia is a fairly personal one. For many years I had a strong (but pseudonymous) online identity---a fact that I didn't reveal to my colleagues in academia. About five years ago I decided to ‘own’ my online self and shifted to blogging under my own name, and slowly began to incorporate my academic work into my online identity. In many ways it’s been a challenge to do this--primarily because of he ways I'd partitioned my life to be a different person in different contexts. However, I am now integrating all of my various ‘selves’ into one online space through a portfolio that features most of my 10 years of blog material as well as my academic career trajectory. It's not yet an easy fit--it's difficulty for me to even design a space that incorporates such wide-ranging content.

Sometimes I wonder what future hiring committees might think about my wide-ranging online presence. However, I've decided not to let that be the driving force behind my online presence.



As I've written about before for HASTAC, I've had a very large online footprint since long before I ever considered coming to grad school; if you look hard enough you can still find Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy fan fiction I wrote when I was in 8th grade with, unbelievably, my real name attached. (I was so young.) At the time I applied to Duke I was actively publishing at a blog for a (now defunct) literary journal and decided that there was already much too much under my name to even try to cover up -- five years and several thousand blog posts later, well, here we are.

I'm very glad I kept the blog, but all the same I still worry about what hiring committees will make of it. My hope is that the many positive aspects of my online life drive out whatever they perceive to be the drawbacks. In particular I firmly believe that student blogging is a wonderful alternative to traditional papers that fosters an open atmosphere of discussion and debate -- and my own online history necessarily informs the way I use blogs in the classroom. (It's how I got Cory Doctorow to talk to my class, for starters.)

I'll let you know next year whether that argument sells on the market...


Gerry, You bring up an excellent point about student blogging in the classroom -- not only is it a viable, creative alternative to traditional papers it could also spark a writing habit to be continued beyond the classroom. If students see that their professors have such an online presence, I wonder how that would affect their writing while in school and beyond.  Or even that this writing opens doors and opens your viewpoint to other people, particularly Cory Doctorow in your case. 

Good luck in your future search!


Gerry, in your post you bring up the topic of hiring committees and "openness" online, worried about what hiring committees will make of your blog posts. This is an issue i've been thinking about recently as I watch my peers and friends go on the job market. One friend's experience in particular has made me rethink my own fear of being open online and doing what Jana mentioned, merging my online and my academic identity.

My friend has a very strong online presence. She has a personal website and an academic blog, both of which are very professional and academic.  She also has a personal twitter account which, although she does write under a "non de plume" still her personal information is easy to figure out. On the twitter account she freely posts both academic and sometimes very personal tweets.  Interestingly enough, it is her twitter account and not her professional website that has led to two potential job offers.

Whereas I still have a fear of "saying the wrong thing" online that might be found by a hiring committee when I go on the market next year, through my peer's experience I am seriously rethinking my own reticene of being"open" and of merging my academic and personal online identites


My perspective on openness in academia comes from the professional development sphere where I have witnessed many conversations about teaching and learning among academics.

Within these interdisciplinary conversations in a national grant project, faculty stated that talking about what happens in the classroom or even researching what happens in their own classroom does not occur within their own contexts.  Talking, sharing, researching, experimenting, taking risks ... all of these actions represented the collaborative, positive aspects of scholarship and those of us working in this group wondered what this would look like on a larger scale.

As Mark Sample (a fellow member of this grant project) writes, “... the ideal result is the open source professor, a teacher and scholar who applies the tenets of the open source software community to his or her own professional life. This means sharing, conversation, collaboration, and reflection at every step in the teaching and research process, not just with the final product.”  What impact could this type of open source, transparent scholarship have on universities?  How could this type of scholarship affect future students?



without a doubt, i really like the term of the "open source professor." i think this is the model that i would personally like to pursue even though i am aware that this won't be a perfect model. as for your question about the impact of this type of scholarship on universities, the simple answer that came up to my mind is that it will provide more choices of scholarship just like the open source software provides more choices for computer users. it is not so much as trying to overthrow the old model of scholarship as to "show" (i put an emphasis on this word) that the other model can work just as well.

relating this answer to the notion of risk for tenured or non-tenured faculty members, i think this phenomenon mimics what happens in the computer software development itself. at first only big companies like IBM who was willing to adopt the open source model, because they have less risk. but, as soon as people understand the strength of the open source software, it becomes less of a matter whether it is a start-up or a big company that uses open source software, the risk is still the same. i think we are in a similar stage right now, where academic institutions are still trying to find the right model to adopt open source principles while still maintaining their status as a threshold of knowledge. as i browse through the posts in this forum, i see some models of adoption being proposed. as long as they are put into practices, then i have an optimistic view that we won't have to worry about the legitimacy of the "open source professor" model anymore. i remember what Manuel Delanda, Christopher Kelty, and Gabriella Coleman say about the open source movement, in that no matter how different the backgrounds of their communities are, no matter how divided they are in the open source and free software ethics/philosophies, there remains one same activity that they agree upon and that seems to work, sharing their code.

just my two cents,




In my field, there's a listserv you can subscribe to called XMCA: extended Mind, Culture, and Activity. It’'s a listserv where, right now, some of the most prominent academics in my field are having a conversation about openness. It started because the people running a project called Change Lab have decided to copyrighted the name; the heads of another project of approximately the same level of prominence, 5th Dimension, have chosen not to copyright their name (or their work). Here's what Michael Cole, a founder of 5th Dimension (based at UC-San Diego's Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition, or LCHC) and a prominent educational researcher, has to say:

The words, 5th Dimension, were not first employed by LCHC, although we used them in a somewhat unusual way. Remember the band? Probably their name is trademarked and we are infringing... except that we are too insignificant to bother with.

My own position, having been raised in California, completed a public university when it was a public university (now about 80 % privatized), is that I am bound by my contract as a faculty member to give away my ideas. The University makes me sign some document these days that says if I invent something, they get a cut. (Back when i attended UCLA professors had to sign a loyalty oath... those times may be coming back in addition to privatization, unfortunately).

I think a really productive discussion could focus on the differences between what is possible in terms of research in different socio-political-economic circumstances. The US has gone hyper neoliberal capitalist, as if everyone was reading Das Kapital. Finland has moved in the same direction, but perhaps retains some of its past. Brazil has its restrictions, etc. How does this affect the potentials for developing CHAT research as a public good? What public?

Meantime, we'll keep trying to give it away. It's all I know how to do, or care to do.

Nice, huh?

This email points to something we don't talk much about: that a person's attitude toward openness can be defined in part by geography, in part by comparison to general public attitudes toward openness, and in part by institutional affiliation. There's something else implied beneath this email, too: That a person's attitude toward openness is also determined, in large part, by career stage.

Because here’s the thing: In general, ‘giving it away’ means something different for early-career academics than it does for well advanced scholars who have already made their reputations. Prominent scholars give away an idea and it comes back to them, like a boomerang. I'm an early-career academic. I don't yet have an established reputation to bank on; I haven't yet carved off a piece of the pie for myself. I toss out a good idea, and there's every chance in the world that someone else will find my boomerang on the ground, figure nobody's using it, and run off with it to play their own game.

We've all heard of young scholars getting their work co-opted by their more advanced colleagues and peers. We've heard about academics in a tight job market losing out because of red flags in their online identities.  And we know that the ideas we have when we're 20 may not be the ideas we have at 30, or 40, or 50.

So for me, if the question is: “Openness?” my preferred response is: “Yes, openness. But at what cost?” I've been posting my coursework online because I think it may be useful for others to see what doctoral students in the Learning Sciences are up to. I write about my struggles with gender and gender performance in academia, because I think it's important to challenge people to think more, and better, about those issues. I also write about social and political issues that are only tangentially related to my research focus, in the hopes that others may find it useful to see how an academic approaches living, working, and feeling in the world. I'll be posting sections of my dissertation, when it comes to that, online. And I'll do what I can to make my intellectual grapplings available to anyone who cares to engage with them. Because trying to give it away is all I know how to do.


These are excellent points. I wonder how much these relate to the tenure system, which, though it obviously promotes openness for tenured academics, may have the perverse side effect of encouraging highly risk-averse behavior in younger academics, who, given the job market, are not likely to want to do anything that may reduce their chances of finding a tenure track position. That includes sharing really good ideas when it means someone else might, as you put it, find that boomerang on the ground. What's even more perverse, of course, is that young academics are exactly the ones who are most likely to publish extremely challenging, controversial, innovative work--i.e., the kind that's most in need of the protection of tenure. I wonder if there is any way to fix these problems while still maintaining the benefits of the tenure system for older academics?


What are the benefits of the tenure system for older academics, other than a job guarantee? Put another way, what are the benefits of the tenure system for academia? I ask not to be a jerk but because I know there are benefits that I can't see from my position on the outside of the tenure system.


The classic argument is that they can make controversial claims without fear of losing their jobs, and also that it supports research which may take many years to bear fruit.


It's difficult to talk about tenure without making generalizations. It's also difficult to talk about tenure without raising the stress level of every pre-tenure faculty within earshot. But let me do both, briefly, here.

I don't think there's enough evidence yet to say that tenure promotes openness for tenured faculty. Tenure can make it less risky, but open-access journals still have enough stigma attached to them that many faculty would rather go with an "established" brand than an upstart open-access journal (even if it is clearly peer-reviewed). It'd be worth looking into whether any studies have been done on this.

As for pre-tenure faculty, it's hard for me to say whether it's tenure that discourages risk or something much broader than tenure. Academia itself is risk-averse. It's not as if a professor gets tenure and then he or she suddenly starts taking more risks. In most cases, the professor's post-tenure research proceeds at the same plodding pace, in roughly the same direction as the pre-tenure research. Tenure is not a system that encourages innovation. It is a system that rewards familiar work with the opportunity to produce similar familiar work.


I forgot to say in my above comment that my perspective is a strictly humanities perspective. I'm not qualified to generalize about the sciences or social sciences (and frankly, I'm not qualified to generalize about the humanities either).


I've repeatedly heard tenured faculty talk about their innovative projects and then say something along the lines of "I'd never advise a junior scholar to do this, it has to wait until after tenure."  I'm really tired of hearing that, because I'm cynical enough to think that I will probably never get tenure, or I might be so old by the time I get it that it won't be worth much to me at that point.  But I'm a non-traditional student and I've never done things the way I'm "supposed to,"  so perhaps my approach is unusual.


Jana,  I know that you and I are both historians,  and I wonder how disciplinary context affects various people's opinions on the utility of openness for pre-–tenure scholars.  I tell people in other disciplines that history is well–reputed to have conservative methods; we rely much more on documents than on theory.  When we're lucky, that reliance on conservative methods makes our claims stick, at least as well as any argument based on empiricism can.

At least to hear senior scholars tell it, working with non–US archives sometimes involves a good deal of, shall we say, personal relationship–building to get the materials one is interested in. I think some historians have, perhaps reasonably, jealously guarded their own materials and research interests in the interest of competitive advantage on the job or tenure market. Certainly in the past, adopting a closed attitude with people who are not well–known seems to have made sense, at least in some fields of history. But I think that those attitudes trickle down to junior scholars in the process of our training, especially as regards tenure.

These days, given that early–career scholars have such vanishing hopes of landing a tenure–track job anyway, I'm not sure many of us have much to lose.  If we're going to try to continue researching while working outside the tenure track, we might as well have fun doing it.

I recently had a conversation with someone important in my field about whether it's professionally risky to post my conference papers on my website, as I do. This person was concerned that someone else would "steal" my work and publish it before I do.  Here's the core of the issue, for me: I want to be part of a profession that values talking publicly about our work, even (or especially) to non-historians. I want to be able to read about what other people are working on before they publish it in a journal or in a book,  and so it's incumbent on me to act the same way.

The only way I think the discipline will change its norms is by individuals changing how we practice;  I don't think it's something that the disciplinary associations are going to encourage, at least not any more than they have encouraged other methodological innovations (at first).  (Think of the suspicion with which women's historians were greeted when they started to use diaries and personal letters to write the history of mothers and children.  Those methods have become fairly standard over the years.  This may be a poor comparison, but then again it may not. We won't know unless we try.)


Hi Shane - I really like your comparison in the last paragraph, about the different ways that a discipline can change, indeed the only way it changes: not just by replacing one object with another, but through substantial shifts in content, methodology, and most importantly, mindset. I remember reading Landscape for a Good Woman and I think that's often used as an example of that change in the way that disciplinary History can be done.

At a recent conference, part of my paper referenced that I'd dug up an old document and had it translated, and would be posting it online or would send anyone a PDF of the English translation. Almost everyone reacted in the same way that you've experienced: don't put it out there before you've published, why would you make public your private work before you get credit, etc. But I also got amazing reactions: some folks invited me to present the work at another set of conferences (way outside of my own expertise, but we share interest in the same document and historical period), someone else suggested it might be a great component in an upcoming collection, and someone else volunteered to double-check the translation since they had some experience in that genre of French writing.

All of which is to say: being open about the document and understanding its place as inherently public and shared was far more beneficial to my own work and ideas! Sharing of work and ideas to me doesn't seem only about some vague notion of 'charity', or an understanding of collective interest and abilities, or a refusal of private property (though it can be all of those things too) but it's also about making my own work even stronger. 


Fantastic topic--great way to kick off the year!

From this morning's Chronicle, "Finding an Editor - or Lots of Them - in the Crowd" is right up this forum's alley.  By shifting and expanding our editing resources to the crowd, cloud, or whatever, we not only receive feedback from a variety of voices, but the "ivory tower" can benefit from these inclusive impulses.  (And on the cheap, too!)  Even though that article pertains to a novel, it seems very likely and attractive to run similar operations among the academic presses.  Should we upload our research for comments? Don't many of us do that already when we blog, or ask questions on Facebook or Twitter? Academia should embrace the noosphere head-on by opening up our audience and inviting more access to maturing ideas. 


Certaintly the post is correct in that tenured, established faculty have little to lose being open about their work.

From this summer, for example, Jason Mittlell posted his essay for an upcoming anthology on why he doesn't like Mad Men. This generated a ton of comments for him to factor into revising the essay, clarifying points, etc. But it also spurred a response from  Ian Bogost on the merits of aca-fandom, a topic Mittell addressed in his essay. This response generated even more comments and expanded the scope of the original article significantly. All of which led to Henry Jenkins chiming in with a post of his own on the subject.

In these discussions, particularly Mittell's piece, people from a variety of perspectives, academic and non-academic weigh in and provide feedback. They supply a model for openness, but one that (as Jason acknowledges in another post), comes from their position within the academy. The upside to this that they, along with other well-known, tenured academics, also get to start setting the tone for how openness is accepted as an academic practice. I hate saying the words "trickle down openness" but that seems to be a possible model.

But to the managing identities issue. I'm (too) active on Twitter, run 2 blogs (not including my HASTAC one), and maintain an Academia profile. All of this, for me, is a way of not only branding, but networking. Through Twitter, I've developed a considerable network of people (many of whom I recently had the pleasure of meeting at conference earlier this month) who I can go to with questions, get feedback from, and the like. But they also know me, so we're able to help one another, both grad students and tenured and non-tenured faculty alike.

I am careful not to share too much about my personal life there, however, since it is recognizably me, and I don't use Twitter for on-line venting of serious matters (i.e., death in the family, combative issues within a department).

I'm not important enought to really influence openness in the academic directly, which is part of the reason I applied for HASTAC and why I work for MediaCommons: In Media Res. I can at least exert some influence in how openness is practiced through these institutions while I try and establish myself at the same time.


Another nice aspect about the conversation you reference, Noel, is that people who weren't directly involved in the conversation could still follow along. What's awesome about this is that we get insights into not only how ideas are developed and refined, but also how theories are the project of collaborative knowledge-building.


There's something weird about our impulse to use public channels for professional expression and not personal issues. This is true even though everybody knows that academics are people too and that they need to find ways to balance professional ambitions with personal needs and concerns. Why do we try to keep these areas of our lives separate? I struggle with the same issue you point to in your next to last paragraph, though I can't help but share tons of personal details on twitter and other networks. I don't know how this colors people's assumptions about me, and I'm not sure how I could go about finding out.



Thanks for the reply! :)

Yes, I agree that the Mittell-Bogost-Jenkins conversation totally engages in that collaborative knowledging building scape, and how it ended up travelling across the blogs of scholars in three different fields, exposing different folks to the overall scope of the argument. Imagine if someone worked backwards from Jenkins' post only to discover all of this started by Mittell not enjoying Mad Men (especially with Bogost's very theory heavy post and comments in the middle?). It helps put people into conversations with one

But I want to latch onto your last paragraph. I feel like I share enough of my overall personality through my on-line presence that I don't feel I need to share my life with the folks who follow me. I do to certain degrees, but I'm aware of a self-imposed line that I'm very cautious not to cross.

Part of this, for me, is that I've spent years blogging about my personal life and am kind of burnt out on the personal disclosure aspect of the Interwebs. We are people, too, I agree (goodness knows we are -- negative comments on a journal submission can send us into week-long tailspins!), but I feel that if I wanted to share my personal life, I'd set up a locked account of some sort, be it blog or Twitter, and invite those interested, or those I consider close, to follow along.

In the long run, it gets to a degree that I want to personalize my presence, but not so much that it seems confessional, if that makes sense. And, like you, I don't know how people feel about my tweets, which I think is why I've developed certain behaviors so it's clear who I am based on what I do share without sharing too much...

Any sense at all (I did just get out of a long meeting, so this may all be nonsense)?



I think Jenna raises a really interesting and complex point in her second paragraph. Obviously, I know Jenna quite well from several classes that she has taken with me, so I can't really speak to my impressions of her via other online forums since my opinions are already well established.

However, a few thoughts.

First, one piece of advice I received when I went on the job market was that one key thing was to make sure that everyone I met saw me as a professor and not as a graduate student who wanted to be a professor. There were many ways that this might manifest, and I think it was great advice. So, I have tried to apply this advice to checking my own lens on students' (over) sharing via social networking tools, and I think it fits. There are some who come off as serious academics who also have a personal life. Others come off as childish to be perfectly honest. There are even a few that I stopped "following" simply because I couldn't bear to see one more whiny or profanity-filled tweet or facebook status update. And don't get me wrong - I'm not easily bothered by complaints or profanities on social media platforms, but there is a point when there just doesn't appear to be anything else in the feed. If those students were to apply for a job at my institution, I would do my best to look at their package with fresh eyes, but I'd be dishonest if I claimed I wouldn't be going into it with a negative impression.

I think another part of the issue isn't just that students share personal details, but the ones who know I am following them and then over-share ideas that maybe a professor shouldn't know. For example, if one of my students follows me on twitter and then I respond by following them in kind, I assume we are both aware that we are seeing each other's tweets. If that student then tweets a complaint about a professor, or tweets about how they are shirking their duties, I'm surprised that it didn't occur to them to at least momentarily reflect upon the fact that I'm seeing that tweet (along with several other professors - this isn't all about me after all). Then, I am more effected by the bad judgement it shows to not be thoughtful about who knows these things then the actual claims themselves. Again, though, this is typically only one little piece of information for me. Students who have already repeatedly earned my respect only get a moment of surprise out of me in these cases. Those who haven't yet or do this a lot are slowly losing my respect. I can only imagine it is the same for other professionals.  




I've had the good luck to know you in real life, so I've also had the good luck to hear you offer this really helpful advice before. I've used this to think about how I use social media platforms and about what information I include about myself there.

However, my concern is that "acting like a professor" seems to contain a very narrow set of behaviors. For example, knowing that Joshua follows me on twitter, I sometimes vent about my struggles with professors (omitting their names and keeping details vague), fully intending for Joshua to see those tweets--he's our faculty-student relations chair. Though I generally behave in a 'professorly' manner on Facebook, I have Facebook friends who aren't academics and only use Facebook for personal, and not professional networking. This means that I'm regularly attached to 'non-professorial' conversations, photo albums, and so on. And if I want to continue connecting with these friends via Facebook, then I can't avoid this part of my digital footprint.

Moreover, I don't necessarily want to avoid this part of my digital footprint. My decision to use social media platforms to develop an open, academic online persona shouldn't have to mean that I have to separate out my professional relationships and my personal ones. One of the biggest selling points of many of these networks, after all, is that we get to throw all of our friends and acquaintances together and see what happens.

I swear this is related to openness in academia.

Because full participation in networks like Facebook, twitter, and whatever comes next means giving up total control over how others see us. In online spaces where I have full control over my self-presentation (as in my personal blog), I can--and do--present myself as a professional, serius academic who engages in serius threds. In the other networks, and on the internet in general, I don't have or want control (until someone tells the world that I vandalize hybrid cars and throw kittens off of bridges, of course).



You raise some really good points.

I'd like to clarify my translation of "act like a professor" to first be "act professional" which is, I think, a broader category. Beyond that, though, I would hope as you've noted above that being a professor / professional does not stop one from being a human, a friend, and in many cases a goof ball. So I don't see it as implying that some forms of behavior should never happen.

Also, while I know there are people who do google students, or check their facebook status, I have never done so unless they put something in their application that piqued my interest (e.g., they mention a project they worked on, so I google the project). For those people who are looking at everything, I'm not sure what the solution is since there are major challenges to all of them. The ones I am curious about are the sub-set of folks who go out of their way to make sure I have access to their feeds (e.g., they have a public twitter feed and follow mine, or they add me as a facebook friend). Then, having done that, having invited me in as it were, they do things that I shouldn't see.

A different way of thinking about this, though, which I think is valuable is to suggest that increasingly, to be an academic or open academic, we need to be marketing savvy. Increasingly, we are producing, sharing, and vetting our own materials (websites, blogs, course descriptions, research project descriptions, etc.) in ways that do have an impact upon those who see them. Period. People see our professional websites, personal websites, etc. And it makes a difference. Although I also I think this is really just an extension of the kinds of issues that used to arise (and continue to) when going to a conference. Future colleagues, collaborators, and hiring committees see you there and form opinions. Sometimes with very little information, though hopefully those are easier to change. Now there are a lot more venues where that happens.


The larger issue seems to be whether or not we want to live in an open society and initiatives like OpenCourseWare are one instance of a larger debate. Since I've been in computer-land for years, I'll start there.

I'm reminded of Eric S Raymond and Richard Stallman's Open-Source and Free Software Federation movements. In a lot of ways, when I first encountered their arguments the debate seemed largely an academic exercise, that is, Apache, Mozilla Firefox and GNU Linux are great, but haven't really changed the way end users view software. Now, I am much less certain. Just in the past year, one could compare the effects of the Citizen's United decision with Wikileaks' release of Afghanistan war docs.

By now, it's clear this US midterm election is being bought part and parcel by anonymous contributors with deep pockets. I don't understand how we've allowed this to happen... What intrigues me is that, at least for now, we seem to have given up on preventing campaign contributions from companies. Instead, we just want to know who these companies and individuals are that are dumping mass amounts of money into political advertising!

I don't even know what to think about Wikileaks. In principle I'm very much in favor of the idea that we need a protected refuge for whistleblowers and others who put their lives at risk to reveal information but the debate in the media seems very much like a circus to me at the moment.

I think I'll end by asking (and hopefully this doesn't seem like a non sequitur): if you don't have openness how can you have accountability?


Peter, I'm going to respond only to your second paragraph; your move to the "larger issue" of whether we want to live in an "open society" (and thence to campaign finance reform and wikileaks) is understandable, and is one with which I feel some sympathy. But I think it can be helpful, if we are to be at all serious about the topic of "openness in academia" to resist the temptation (perhaps even, provisionally, resist the obligation) to moving the larger abstractions.

That said, I want to press on a division you gloss over, because of the implications it may have for our understanding of what "openness" in academia might mean. I think that you're right to identify open source software as being one of main reasons that the term "open" now has so much, and so appealing, a rhetorical force. The term "open" seems to have acquired the force of virtue; to be open is a virtue in and of itself (without predicating exactly what that openness means, or to what ends it operates). Yet in bringing together Eric S. Raymond and Richard Stallman you yoke together two very different positions. "Open source" itself was a tactical move on the part of certain people to make certain ideas about software development more friendly to industry and commerical software developers. Raymond's argument in The Cathedral and the Bazaar is largely an argument about free and open markets; this sort of "freedom" (free, we might say, not "as in beer" or "as in speech" but "as in laissez faire") leads to better products. Doing so requires that the source code be openly available for collaboration. The counter-intuitive point which Raymond makes in 1997, years before "the wisdom of the crowd" was a similarly bandied slogan, is that decentralization and lack of structure can self-organize and produce better outcomes in certain fields (like software development).

Stallman, also, of course, wants source code to be available to end users to tinker with, alter, recompile, and so on. But while Raymond's argument is fundamentally a pro-market argument, grounded in ensuring a certain outcome (i.e. better software) Stallman's is based (to a degree some find fanatical) on a principle: that software should be "free" (and here I think it is safe to say, "free as in speech, not as in beer"). Stallman makes the point succinctly in Why Open Source misses the point of Free Software: "Open source is a development methodology; free software is a social movement. For the free software movement, free software is an ethical imperative, because only free software respects the users' freedom."

Rather than accountability, therefore, I would want to ask a question in the spirit of Richard Stallman; when we talk about "openness" are we talking about freedom? Is this distinction, which Stallman stresses, relevant when we talk about "openness" in the academy. Is openness a way of improving scholarship? Is it a way of making the work of scholars more available to a wider public? Is it simply a matter of principle?

The idealist will immediately decry my alternatives as false: "It is all those things! And many more!" And maybe that is right. But I think the tensions between figures within the "open source" movement (between Stallman and Raymond; or the emerging tension between OpenOffice and LibreOffice— note once again, one product declaring itself "open," another "free") illustrate, the choice is not always between "open" and "closed," but between different meanings of open or different types of "free."


Now we have two options to choose from: When we talk about 'openness' are we talking about freedom? And: if you don't have openness how can you have accountability?

It seems to me that both of these questions consider the significance of a general cultural embrace of openness; the scenario gets much more tricky when, as in academia, the embrace of openness--whatever its meaning--is varied at best.

Additionally, openness doesn't automatically equate to accountability, especially in situations where there is no 'person' or 'group' to hold accountable. Wikipedia is an example, though perhaps a bad one: If someone creates a wikipedia page that lists me as the founder of a group that vandalizes hybrid automobiles and throws kittens off of bridges, who should I sue to set the record straight? I could remove the information (because, FYI, I don't vandalize hybrid automobiles or throw kittens off of bridges), but if someone was really determined they could keep reposting the information indefinitely. And of course, the wikileaks example challenges the notion that openness equates to freedom: whose notion of freedom? freedom from what? or to do what? at the expense of whom?

More to the point of the issues we're discussing here, academics who embrace openness may do so in the interest of freedom, accountability, or a host of other admirable values. But in many respects, academia itself remains fairly closed and therefore weighted, to greater or lesser extent, against open scholarship.

That seems to me to be where the tension comes in. Otherwise, academics wouldn't worry so about being open and transparent--openness would be the default mode and therefore nothing worth talking much about.


While I've participated on other HASTAC blogs and discussions, this is my first time as an "invited guest." I'm of course honored to be such a guest, but I also want to explicitly question what we mean by "invited" and what we mean by "guest"---and then what this might tell us about openness in the academy.

Let me begin with the noun: guest. It can be rhetorical suicide to turn to etymology as the basis for a sound argument, but I'll make an exception in this case, because the root of the word "guest" is, curiously, also the root of the word "host." Both words are derived from the Latin "hostis," meaning "stranger," or more precisely, "enemy." In medieval Latin, "hostis" came to mean "army" or "warlike expedition." This is similar to the original meaning of "host" in English---"an armed company or multitude of men."

What does this tell us?

That every meeting between a host and a guest is a possible enemy encounter. At least historically speaking. But also that there is ultimately little distinction between a host and a guest. Especially here in this forum, what it means is that the distinction between hosts and guests can blur, or fade entirely.

This blurring appears to be at odds with the tricky modifier "invited." This word, invited, elevates me somehow, to a place of honor, a place of responsibility, a privileged perspective. And why was I invited? Presumably because I have something worthwhile to contribute to a discussion about openness in academia. But I'm not sure I do. I'm not sure I have anything to add. Because (and I'm tempted to say "ironically enough" here, though it's the opposite of irony)---because everything I have to say about opennness in the academy is already open. It's already out there. I've already written about open teaching, open research, and open publishing.

But my reaction to my status as both "guest" and "invited" reminds me that there is another kind of openness I'd like to highlight, one that's not strictly accounted for in the four categories the hosts outline in their opening prompt. Like Aristotle's description of a fifth essential element to complement earth, air, water, and fire, this is a quintessential element, something that should be everywhere and undergird every effort toward openness. And this is the idea of an open community. This is the true meaning of openness in the academy: a community in which there is no distinction between invited guests and uninvited guests, let alone a distinction between guests and hosts.

This idea of an open community has been on my mind lately, because of an ongoing concern, shared by many who align themselves with the digital humanities. And the concern is this: that the digital humanities is already closed, that there already in-groups, an in-crowd of people who know each other both personally and professionally, who are collaborating, building, theorizing, publicly, while everyone else looks on.

Twitter can exaggerate this perception of exclusivity. You can now read in real-time conversations about scholarship, teaching, and publishing that once took place privately, or at best only semi-publicly. And it's not unusual, in the days leading up to an important conference, to find a hashtag conversation already in progress. Bethany Nowviskie has written eloquently about the ways Twitter can both reinforce the perception of cliquishness and disrupt invite-only conferences in a powerful way.

For my part, I've likened preconference hashtagging to an orchestra warming up in the pit. It's cacophony---perhaps even off-putting---up until the concert begins, and then it resolves beautifully into a vigorous and mostly coherent exchange of ideas. Likewise, the public conversations that occur on high profile blogs (Noel gives several good examples) should not be understood as attempts to foreclose participation in the digital humanities---or the humanities in general. Do not mistake openness for exclusivity.

Let me say that again: Do not mistake openness for exclusivity.

What looks an exclusive club, complete with invited guests, is neither a club nor is it exclusive. These are your humanities, your conversations. They're wide open for anyone to listen to, and for anyone to participate in. We are neither guests nor hosts, but an open community. You are all welcome here.


Recently, I've seen (and heard about) syllabi that politely request students to refrain from tweeting about the content of class lectures and discussions. To ask students not to tweet during a lecture or discussion seems consistent with policies that discourage internet use but I don't think the policy is about distraction. My guess is that teachers are more concerned that student tweets might circulate out of their control like unauthorized micro-publications; little off-hand quips floating around the net without their knowledge or consent.

With this anecdote in mind, I wonder, for how many of our colleagues is openness more about control than access, accountability, or transparency?

In my experience, the benefits of openness frequently outweigh a loss of control but I know that this is not universal. Perhaps there is a connection here to the problem that Mark highlights in which openness is mistaken for exclusivity. It is an unfortunate fact that colleagues who are less comfortable with a loss of control will be excluded from certain conversations happening online.

As we experiment with increasing openness, can we avoid creating a gap between scholars willing to give up some control and those who prefer holding on?


I've been working with Joshua Danish, a faculty member at my institution who is committed to openness in his teaching. Several students in his classes tweet regularly during class, and as far as I can remember he has never set a specific policy to regulate this. He has made it clear, in class discussion and individual conversations, that what matters to him is that students are able to contribute productively to conversation--and as long as they're doing that, he's not going to try to control how they direct their energies.


But he's also written about the challenges of openness in teaching, and I think that this issue is far more nuanced from his perspective than it is from students'. I'd love to hear his thoughts on this issue.


About a year ago a student asked me sheepishly after class how I felt about some students using their laptops to tweet, email, or surf during class.  I presume from his demeanor that he had witnessed exactly that.  My response, as Jenna has pointed out, is that I'm fine with it so long as they are still professional, respectful contributors in the class itself.  I use the those terms not to imply that I am holding them up to a specific high standard, but to note that this is their entrée to the profession, and that I believe their peers deserve respect as much as I do.

In any case, the second part of response went something like this: hey, students have always been able to zone out.  I am a doodler.  Sometimes I doodle in meetings because it helps me focus when I am thinking really deeply about what is being said. Sometimes because I am bored to tears and can barely muster the energy necessary to listen to what is being said. The point being that there have always been and may always be ways for people to check out during a class. Whether they do or not is up to them. So, I'd rather focus on making a hospitable, energizing class environment to keep everyone engaged. Also, sometimes those tweets are really powerful. Other students chime in during or after class, and conversations get extended. Sometimes they lead to a smile and a laugh and let us continue the work we are about feeling more like a community. I think those are some pretty great upsides. If it becomes too distracting for people to continue with their work, then I'll rethink my stance. Haven't hit that point yet, though.

Now to the bottom of the thread to introduce myself...


One other thing I think worth mentioning is that while I've never asked a student to avoid posting course content, I have asked two things: 1) If you get ideas from that posting, please be mindful of the appropriate ways to acknowledge or cite the sources. 2) If you are going to share something that reflects one of your peers, then please make sure that they are equally comfortable. Just because I am pretty ok with things being open doesn't mean everyone in my classes is, and I want to respect that.


Where have you seen comments on syllabi about not tweeting the content of courses and discussions?  I've never seen that & think if I wre a student in such a class it would immediately inspire me to start tweeting course content (I'm rather rogue like that).

I have heard of professors asking their students to leave their laptops and cellphones at home during lecture.  But I don't really get that, either (primiarly because I can't imagine such a request to be honored _and_ I think we do a disservice to our students when we try to control the classroom in this way).


I've also encouraged students to live tweet during class. What I've found is that students often use Twitter to be snarky---and while this may sound like a bad thing to most people, it's something I highly value. As I wrote on my own blog, snark is "a legitimate way to engage culture. It’s involved, it’s witty, and most importantly, it takes an oppositional stance---a welcome reprieve from the majority of student writing, which avoids taking any stance at all."

I'm particularly incensed when faculty who talk about openness in terms of their research refuse to let their own classrooms or teaching be open. I understand that sensitive issues may be discussed in class, and that students may reserve their right to privacy, but to prevent the students who do want to write publicly about their classroom experience from doing such writing is an anathema to the spirit of academia. Teaching should not be something that happens behind closed doors, cut off from the rest of the world. Academics should think in public. We should teach in public too. And more importantly, we should teach our students to think in public as well.


This is purely tangential to the topic at hand, but hey, it's the internet. I've always found that economy of language is a really important skill for writers, and one that's neither easy to teach nor particularly common. The snarky twitter post seems like it could actually help teach this really well. After all, with only 140 characters, it certainly makes one get to the point quickly.


I hadn't thought yet of actually *encouraging* them to write snarky tweets during class, but it could definitely work for a particular sort of writing instruction. I may steal that! Duke's own Negar Mottahedeh <a href="">famously uses Twitter during film screenings</a> and it seems to work quite well for fostering discussion during a film without being disruptive.



I agree that snark can work as a way of encouraging students to find their own voice in a discussion; but, since we're talking about openness, nothing closes a public discussion faster than snarky repartee. I've watched many twitter conversations that were open to contributions across the community turn into all-caps wit brawls between two individuals. Sometimes it's fun, and with the right topic, sometimes it's necessary. It's an important part of twitter that I wouldn't want to see go away. But snark is a literacy. Those engaging in it should be aware that how they deploy it often strengthens connections between witty individuals while closing down what perhaps could be an engaging conversation with the broader community. In a classroom, this line is very fine. 



There's no doubt that snark can close down a conversation on Twitter, or at least foreclose the possibility of other people joining in. I've seen the Twitter conversations you describe, and mostly---mostly!---they end with the sense that the participants were performing the nip that signifies the bite rather than the bite itself. I think social-media savvy graduate students and post-grads grok this. And if they don't (or if we're talking undergraduates), then I think part of our goal in using Twitter in our teaching is figuring out how to teach the performative aspects of social media.


I wonder, also, if this is any different from snark in small-group or whole-class discussions?  If the classroom culture is right and the participants are savvy, it adds some nice flavor. When the snark lands wrong, it causes problems regardless of the medium, and if everyone is flexible / forgiving enough the inevitable mis-steps are short-lived. Does anyone engage in a "how to tweet well" conversation in their classes?  I've never bothered since my students seem to roll with it just fine, but maybe some aren't and I'm just not seeing it... 


Like Jenna, I had been posting my coursework to my blog while in grad school. Part of the reasoning behind this is to let newbie grad students get a sense of what kind of work is involved, and, as such, for a couple of my projects, I posted various drafts of papers and posters so people could see how the work is built up over time and that it is normal for ideas to mature, evolve, be discarded, be taken up later, etc. I don't imagine many people have actually taken a look at much of it, but I have received a handful of emails over the years thanking me for attempting to make (just a tiny bit of) academia transparent. 

Beyond other grad students as an audience, though, one of the responsibilities of being public intellectuals is to make available our work to the public for the public good. I'm in a lucky position where my work isn't really steal-able since it is so situated and specific to a group that only I have access to, but, even so, I think we have a duty to make as much of our work as openly accessible as possible.

Being open is also my way of competing in an attention economy. Being at a university that doesn't have very many scholars who do similar work (ethnography of gamers as learners), I needed to make myself as visible as possible to the outside world so that I could make social connections and network. My choices were to either go to conferences, which when I started was cost prohibitive, or to make sure I was googleable.

Ultimately, being an academic is like being in a massively huge room with a ton of people all sharing a conversation about a particular topic. The conversation spans decades and generations of researchers, and there are so many people and ideas involved that we used peer reviewed journals as a filter, placing our trust in reviewers. But with the rise of new media and technologies, individuals can start to take control of their own filtering systems and/or massive amounts of people can start to collectively filter and sort, but this only works if they have access to everything out there on a particular topic.


I began a wiki a few months ago to organize/maintain notes and to scrapbook interesting tidbits for projects I'm working on. Like Mark and Jenna, I've found it useful -- and in surprising ways. I've gotten reading recommendations and even found potential future collaborators, who can get a quick idea of my research interests by browsing my current reading lists. In fact, although I began the wiki in the spirit of OCW-style openness (and out of frustration -- my favorite notetaking programs kept dying, trapping my notes in soon-to-be unreadable files; a wiki is much more sustainable), I'm quite sure I've benefited far more from the world being open to me than the world has from me being open to it.

Conversations about openness in academia often veer towards the public intellectual model that you bring up, Mark. I find this dissatisfying, though, in that it maintains a one-to-many broadcast model of scholarship. In other words -- to put it more polemically -- it assumes that any wisdom we produce in the ivory towers of academia will benefit the masses it trickles down to, and that this is inherently good. Aside from the fact that I'm still not convinced that anything I've done as a scholar is as big-picture "important" as the things I've done in other (non-paid) areas of my life, seeing ourselves as public intellectuals perhaps inadvertently maintains the very barriers it intends to break down.

My wiki isn't dispatching messenger pigeons from the ivory tower but helping to form a very small node in a network of individuals -- both scholars and not -- who geek out about similar things. Which is to say: when we make our ideas open, we're not public intellectuals; we're community organizers. Sticking with the noun role prevents us from seeing the verb action that's really happening.

* Closing the circle: my colleague Ashon Crawley first got me thinking about the the downsides of "public intellectualism" in, of all things, a twitter rant


Good point, re the public intellectual frame. I agree more with your image, and if the label of that isn't a public intellectual then that's okay with me, though being open in both directions is necessary in my def of a pub int (which I didn't fully articulate since it would take way too much space as it includes things like Said's creed of being the voice of those who have none). Part of my view is a belief that everyone can play the role of a public intellectual, though, again maybe the label isn't the best fit and what I mean is more like critical, responsible citizens or something.


I understand your hesitation toward the public intellectual model, and quite honestly, I recoil at the notion of the public intellectual, for all the reasons you explain. I myself never used that phrase---either to describe myself or the kind of openness I aspire to.

What I *have* said is that we should think in public. In the back of my mind I have Ian Bogost's talk We Think in Public (in which Ian exorciates, in typical fashion, public intellectualism as "a name for authoring articles moderately less obtuse than journal papers for venues moderately less obscure than journals."). But I'm not entirely satisfied with Ian's model of "We Think in Public" either. And the reason is that "we think in public" often translates to "I perform in public"---again positioning us in academia as enlightened sages who occasionally step onto the public stage to perform for the masses, only to retreat back into our private sanctuaries.

The thought makes me nauseous.

What I really mean by "we think in public" is that we should *share* in public. Our conversations---about teaching, about research, about politics and culture, about the academy itself---should be shared, open to all. This takes me back to my original post on this forum, in which I call for an end to invited guests, an end to hosts, an end to exclusivity. In my mind, this call is the exact opposite of what most people mean by "public intellectual."

We need public empathectuals: writers and thinkers sharing their intellectual struggles and passions with each other, and with the world, motivated by sincere efforts to affectively understand all those things about this world we don't understand, or misunderstand.


Thanks for bringing Ian Bogost's talk "We Think in Public" into the discussion, Mark (Sample), and Edward Said, Mark (Danger Chen). [By the way, in my earlier post, "Mark" was directed at "mcdanger," Mark Danger Chen -- so I wasn't accusing you, Mark Sample, of using the term "public intellectual" specifically -- just in case that wasn't clear. I know conversational direction is hard to trace on forums of this structure, especially with multiple Marks!] I like the idea of the public empathectual because, as both Marks target, it isn't "public" that's the problem so much as the word "intellectual," and all the baggage that comes with it.

I think the idea we're hovering around is "responsibility" -- and the paternalism it implies. I'm reminded of some thoughts Alan Lightman shared on being a public intellectual, particularly as it relates to the sciences. Drawing on Said, he argues for responsible scholars, using the term to mean "morally accountable"; I would prefer the much older, more basic definition of responsible as in "responsive to others" (from the Latin "re", back + "spondere", to pledge -- you return something given to you, toss the ball to another; again, we're back to community building). In this vein, Stanley Cavell's notion of acknowledging others through empathetic projection might be an interesting (and less paternalistic) way of re-framing public intellectualism.


Reading your post and agreeing with its critiques, I realized that in thinking about the concept of "public intellectual" I have been conflating it with Gramsci's idea of the organic intellectual––thinkers who emerge from and work within contexts other than (though possibly in addition to) academic institutions. Of course that can set up an opposition between organic and inorganic intellectuals that is problematic; but, still, I'm nervous of thinking about intellectual labor as community organizing. I definitely see myself as a node in the network (a node connecting several networks, maybe), but I think it's worth distinguishing the labor of making things happen from the work––and sometimes play––of analysis and criticism. Even when we do, and should do, both.


This debate between public intellectuals and community organizers as a conceptual model raises in my minds some debates swirling in my field, library and information science, on the roles of librarians, archivists and museum curators in the Digital Age. In the past, these cultural heritage professionals have been seen as gatekeepers, as part of the necessary work to preserve to ability to provide access to that material over time. However, some, for example my colleague here at Illinois Richard Urban,, have argued that these individuals are now, or should be, community organizers. In other words, organizing and facilitating the use, sharing and production of cultural heritage through such projects as trying to get people to take pictures of all graffiti in Brooklyn and post it to Flickr. How does this discussion translate to humanities research? Perhaps we can take a cue from some of the more creative citizen science projects out there and begin to conceptualize how we can take advantage of, incorporate and organize into our work the grassroots energy swirling around the subjects of our interest. For example a few years ago I researched the history of African American coal miners in Illinois and began a lively back and forth with an African American genealogist who took it upon himself to create an African American Coal Miner Information Page, I have been thinking a lot abot these issues after attending in December the International Digital Curation Conference in Chicago where researchers in chemistry, astronomy and a variety of mostly hard scientific fields shared the enormous success they have had in citizen science projects. I think part of being a community organizer has to involve thinking in this direction. As another example, Family Search of the Mormon Church, one can't neglect the genealogists, now has more than 100000 volunteers indexing names around the world daily! This is a scale and a level of productivity we have to take seriously I think, and should be part of the conversation regarding openness and community organizing.


The question of openness in academia is an important one for many reasons. Not the least of which is the growing potential of mass collaboration to enable new modes of design and construction of shared resources. This commons-based model is a kind of democratic revolution that gains its strength from continued adavancements in network technologies. Along with my adviser, Michael Peters, I've tried to explore this new terrain in an edited volume called 'Education in the Creative Economy'. It is, in my opinion, one of the most interesting topics to research these days.

Our book:

The key question I'm interested to answer in my dissertation research is: How does networked collaboration change the way we construct education systems? Or put differently: How can we construct education systems differently using mass collaboration?


I'm struggling with the issue of open access and publishing right now. 

I have just completed work on the fieldwork for my dissertation on food systems and disaster.  I'm fortunate enough to be a doctroal student at a university that is very engaged with media driven dissertations and open access.  It's a requirement for us to publish our dissertations in an open access forum for graduation (there are no "delays" allowed). 

My quandry comes because I am publishing a chapter in a new Sage encyclopedia on some of that fieldwork, and actively looking to publish the work.  Open access becomes problematic here because some publishers consider open access publication as pre-publication.  Sherpa Romeo ( is a useful tool for guaging where publishers fall in this realm, but it leaves me paranoied.

I've come to accept there is a dance between issues of ownership.  In the field scholars negotiate ownership of data with participants.  For me to write about my fieldwork required a lengthy negotiation process with the groups I work with as well as the IRB process as my school.  As the relationships in the field advance I've found myself increasingly engaged with a sense of ownership in my "assets"- aka fieldnotes, interviews, photographs, etc.  Even the remotest thought that a publisher would retain or constrain my ability to use that material in the future leaves me awake at night.

Jenna McWilliams post above on "giving it away" also resonates with me.  I believe in sharing data to enrich the overall scholarly pursuit in any field.  In my own field of food studies I've come up against this a lot.  There is very much a "don't touch my cheese" mentality about material, and I find that to be restricting to the overall advancement of the field.  The data is not the property of the researcher... the real creative act comes in how they apply theory and interpretation to the data to create new and original scholarship.  For me it is critical to remember that in ethnography (what i do), the stories and observations belong to the particpants that allow me to share in them... not me.  What I "own" is my ability to apply theory and evolve the thought.  My fear comes when that is threatened by academic poaching or overly stringent copyright application by publishers.

I believe firmly in open access... but my fear is that it impacts my ability to publish, gain tenure, and use the material gathered in the field.  Everything is a negotiation, open access included.


This is such a wise comment:  "Everything is in negotiation."  Yes.  We cannot change the conditions of scholarly open-access publishing without also changing the conditions of (a) how we subsidize publishing (b) how we, as users, support what others in our field and in other fields publish and (c) how we evaluate what we publish for tenure and promotion. MLA allowed me to republish my piece "Research Is Teaching" here as open access.  I address some of these issues and the way they are intertwined and the way, now, we have not the best of worlds that might be threatened by open access but quite literally a lose-lose proposition, a culture of the WORST of all possible worlds. 

If those of us who are senior want the profession to endure, we have to organize to fix this for the next generation because the current situation is untenable at every level.  There is not a presumed good place from which open access will lead to a devolution that will hurt future generations.  it is the opposite.  All the conditions of contemporary scholarly publishing, especially in the humanities, contribute to our being outmoded, outdated, nonsensical, unresponsive to our OWN needs, and therefore, as part of the massive cutbacks to all higher education, the single most vulnerable units.   

In other words, by not addressing how we MUST change, we are being changed by those who have the power to wield the axe.   We have to be proactive in our own future or that future will be determined for us, not because humanities is disrespected (it well may be, but that is another issue) but because so much in our PRESENT is untenable and is not being addressed responsibly by those with the power to address it.  


Junior scholars should not fear an open access future.  They should fear the intransigence of the closed minded present.     That is another reason why we created HASTAC, as a forum to show that many, many of us in the academy champion reform and welcome it and believe that, if we are going to make any case that we deserve to be stronger than ever to help guide society through the ruptures and cataclysms of the Information Age (or whatever else you want to call this time of socio-technological change), then we have to begin by transforming ourselves for the requirements of this age. 


Here's where you can read this very, very pragmatic "in the moment" assessment of open access and close mindedness in the present humanistic academy, in this case directed specifically towards literary scholars:


There is a growing trend to publish student papers, projects and discussions online (as a required part of course participation). Does this ever inhibit experimentation among young scholars who are still "positioning" themselves? Might it endanger those who are trying on ideas? Is there any benefit in a lack-of-transparency for young scholars--to shelter student's academic identities-in-development? The web is praised in various ways for a "lack of heirachy" but would teired systems be helpful?

Also, what does web publishing do to sources? Are scholars, students and teachers cautious enough when posting information to the internet about the effects these often immediately accessible postings will have on the communities, situations, activities, objects, etc. they discuss--especially since media can so easily be spread and re-appropriated on the web?

Finally, are "New Media" personas that blur individuals' identities w/institutions or ideologies forms of flexible accumulation of which we should be wary?  in late capitalism, according to my weak understandings of Harvey (Postmodernity), there is an increase in 'flexible accumulation' - people working and accumulating more frequently, and having to perpetually identify with their employment. Is there, then, a way in which "transparency on the web" negatively fosters a "work all the time"/panopticon mindset where "professionalization" while becoming less hard edged, expands further into people's private lives and personalities in a dehumanizing way?

Is there a "real" "transparent" you online? Are there many digital registers and personas which begin to take on a tone and etiquette appropriate to your career? Other ideas?


Hi all!  I am really excited to be participating in what is already a very exciting discussion as one of the "invited guests". Fortunately, I also stalled long enough (well, OK, I was busy teaching) that I don't need to examine the meaning of that term because Mark has already done so. So, I'll dive right in.

Openness and me

First, my stance on openness.  Generally, I am a huge fan. I strive to be quite open about my teaching and research practices and processes, and certainly open up my thinking to my students whenever possible. I also am a huge fan of many open source software tools / solutions (Wordpress and related plugins are powering a dozen sites for me right now). The software that I developed as part of my dissertation is sitting on my website for anyone who wants to to use in their classrooms.

However, I also have a background as a professional software developer who, at times, struggled with all of the hidden costs that free and open source software introduced into the development environment. Finally, it may surprise people / my students to know that I am a relatively private person. I never update my status in Facebook. Not because I'm worried about who will see it (though that would occur to me) but simply because I feel no need to share unless I am actually having a conversation with someone. In my professional identity, though, I've worked hard to do the opposite. I set up two twitter accounts, even when I still thought the whole thing was somewhat silly, and experimented. Now I tweet semi-regularly about my work, teaching, etc. I find it interesting, and I'm pretty sure it is doing some interesting things for my professional relationships.  So far, so good.

Shifting perspective

What I'd really like to see us do is shift the conversation away from whether openness is good or bad, or has hidden costs, and recognize the fact that in many cases an "open" approach fundamentally changes the game. Period. That means re-thinking the entire perspective. Thinking about Don Norman's famous descriptions of the user v/ system perspective, this speaks to me of fundamentally changing the system. When I choose to make something open, it's not just that more people can see it, it is often that we are now engaged in very different kinds of work.

Take the issue of open courseware as an example. In principal, this is a really great idea. Sure, the idea of having whatever I say off-the-cuff living on the internet forever frightens me a little. But more importantly is the simple fact that I just don't lecture! The learning theories that I use and develop often suggest that lecture is the worst possible way to present information. Many of my students are actually quite shocked to see me talk for more than 10 minutes straight. Rather, I present a little, ask questions, organize students into groups, throw my opinion in the mix or ask an annoying question, let them run with it, etc. What would it mean to make that open?  Let's say all my students agree and we publish it and avoid the image that is coming to my mind of a very (fortunately) unsuccessful reality show. Does anyone watching it get the same out of it as the students living it?  I doubt it. I'm about to transition one of my classes online. To do it "right", I believe requires fundamentally re-thinking my approach, not just recording the lectures. So, all questions of cost and tenure aside, I think there are far bigger questions about how it changes the entire dynamic both in and out of the classroom.

Or, let's look at the question of software ownership since I often find myself in the role of software designer. I've got some ideas that I think might make money. So I've considered what that would mean. Here's the most important sticking point for me: if I am making a profit off of these ideas, I don't think I can ethically continue to research them in the same way (or at all). Ouch. Big change there, and much bigger cost to me than the profit. Let's be honest: if it was all about the $$, I'd still be a software engineer.

Or, let's take an example that I think is particularly interesting. What about editing a public wiki such as wikipedia? Well, here's the thing: once a class has edited it, it should become that much harder to re-edit it in a future year. Tweaking last year's edits anew and trying to expand them may be an incredibly valuable exercise. But it is a very different exercise than writing a fresh new wiki post. Engaging really thoughtfully in how openness impacts one's teaching, I think, necessitates exploring these implications. We have seen some really great examples of all the feedback that folks can get from the cloud. I agree. But that's also a lot of information to filter, and some of it may be crap or spam or both. This doesn't mean we should avoid asking the cloud, and I certainly do on occasion. But it's not just a cost-benefit analysis. It is, I would argue, a shift in what the activity is. (Incidentally, I hope all of the students in my theorizing class are now nodding their heads at how these ideas link to our course concepts).

On that note

I feel like this is running long, and I want to save some of my ideas for responding to everyone else. But I want to make one last point. I am pre-tenure, and I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't often thinking about tenure. But here is the other bit: I love what I do. I enjoy teaching. I enjoy sharing my ideas. I want to empower teachers and other professionals to do new and exciting things. Otherwise I wouldn't be here. Also, I think there are all sorts of indirect benefits just as there are indirect costs. For example, spending the time to share all of these ideas does take time away from other things I might do. However, it also helps me connect with more scholars, scholars who might take up my work or might influence my work. That has all sorts of benefits for me both professionally and personally. I guess the point being that I think there are some really important and fantastic other issues balancing the scales that I'd hate for us to lose sight of in a cost-benefit analysis.


I cannot encourage you enough to consider becoming a public researcher, in other words a researcher who develops their ideas in public. However, you may want to wait till you're confident enough to make mistakes (and typos) in public, too.  There are many examples of grad students who've developed fascinating blogs that have helped establish their reputation.  Dave Parry and Julie Meloni come to mind to name just two.

Mark Chen writes,

Part of the reasoning behind this is to let newbie grad students get a sense of what kind of work is involved, and, as such, for a couple of my projects, I posted various drafts of papers and posters so people could see how the work is built up over time and that it is normal for ideas to mature, evolve, be discarded, be taken up later, etc. I don't imagine many people have actually taken a look at much of it, but I have received a handful of emails over the years thanking me for attempting to make (just a tiny bit of) academia transparent.

I'd especially like to echo this notion that blogging might help you develop a kind of informal seminar or reading group that is always presenting its discussions to the public, always inviting more members. Often we are one of only a few people working in an area at our institution, and even when there are other students, their interests may be attracted by very different fish.  Blogging, especially collaborative blogging, offers an alternative.

Back when I was a graduate student, I found myself at the end of a thread on a popular academic blog (started when many of its members were graduate students, I believe), commenting about something that was important to me but had become less important to the bloggers.  There I met Christy Dena, a fabulous Australian transmedia researcher who already had a vibrant web presence, and we decided that rather than stay chatting at the end of a long lost thread, we'd start our own ball of strings and place our shared interests at the center of the site.  Another friend, Jeremy Douglass, had also been working on related issues and had a backlog of posts for a blog he had never published.  Thus was born Writer Response Theory.  You can read more about our origins here.

At various times, one or more of us would act as primary blogger while the others disappeared into the background. Soon we drew the attention of the academics we hoped to engage.

Later, and sort of naturally, we came to collaborate on projects, culminating in a 2005 Digital Arts and Culture paper,  Benchmark Fiction.  This grew out of watching and responding to each other's posts.

In my own work, WRT has served as the proving ground for many of the ideas I'd later write papers on, including Critical Code Studies, which would go on to be an article or two, a working group, and a blog of its own.

This all came full circle, when we ran the Critical Code Studies Working Group, facilitated by HASTAC Scholar Max Feinstein, who was taking an independent study with me on the subject. Perhaps curiously, we made that a particular online community a closed group, requiring an application email.  At that time in the development of CCS, I felt the need for the slight seclusion of an application process to provide a little privacy for developing methodologies and a wall around the exposition hall to give those committed enough to join some exclusive swag for their effort.  However, the goal was not to close off the discussions. Not at all.  In fact, the weekly discussion threads are being published in electronic book review (see an introduction and Week 1 here).  Incidentally, I believe it was the potential publishing credit in ebr that helped the academics to justify their time spent in the woring group.  (Hmm, perhaps that example complicates this discussion a bit.)

Anyway, that is just one academic's story of the role open blogging has played in his life -- though it's really the story of how he became part of a network, just as you are all doing.

Perhaps I can let Max tell about his experience bringing his scholarship to a fairly broad networked audience early on in his academic career.


I feel particularly qualified to take up questions in the Openness in Teaching and Learning category, thanks to the work I've been doing with my advisor, mentor, and faculty sponsor Mark C. Marino. Here's my story:

As Prof. Marino (or Coach, as his students call him :) explained in his Oct 22. reply to this thread, much of his work on Critical Code Studies began in the form of some blog or another. Not coincidentally, my scholarship in digital media started in his undergraduate humanities Writing course, where my peers and I used public blogs as outlets for our creative work. Coach encouraged us to blog our way into a discipline of our choosing by engaging other blogging scholars in conversation, and regularly posting new content to our own websites. It was this course that got me hooked on learning by way of public, online academic communities.

My next few steps have all been covered in Coach's post -- I began to follow the Writer Response Theory blog, electronic book review, and the Critical Code Studies blog (Coach even allowed me to make contributions to it).

The big leap that I took in my academic career started with Coach's suggestion to make an online working group for Critical Code Studies (the first discussion was just published in electronic book review). This is where I had my first serious encounter with the critical theory approaches that provided the cornerstone for my own research. Although the discussions were closed to the public (for the reasons that Coach explained above), the working group led to the first ever Critical Code Studies Conference, which was open and available to anyone.

The Critical Code Studies Conference, which took place over the summer of 2010 at the University of Southern California, has really been the highlight of my undergraduate education (the proceedings will be published soon, and I'll be sure to alert the HASTAC community when they're online). It was there I met and conversed with an all-star group of scholars whose work has inspired my research (among the presenters was fellow HASTAC blogger Dave Shepard). I see the Critical Code Studies Conference as one of the most important milestones for both the field and for my own academic work.

Despite the fact that I paid for my ticket to the USC tower, so to speak, nearly all of my CCS experience has taken place in public arenas. I'm grateful that my teacher has encouraged his students and colleagues to keep research and discussion publicly available, for otherwise I probably wouldn't have had such a wonderful start in digital scholarship.


Hi Max - definitely let us know when the Conference proceedings will be available. We'd love to highlight them in some way and have you introduce the project to the community here! Thanks to you and Mark for posting about the development of this conference and working group - they're two excellent models for future inspiration!


I'm joining the discussion late, so my apologies.  The conversation so far has been fascinating, enlightening, and provocative. 

I'm struck in particular by the parallels to the software industry and open source development in particular.  As someone who has a love/hate relationship with open source code, I shudder at the thought of education following that model, and then think, well, maybe it already does to some degree.  At its worst, open source projects, despite being "open" to community development, are more often than not likely to be championed by an individual or small, self-selected group of coders with investment in a particular project.  The projects often reflect the idiosyncrasies of the developers more than the needs of the users.  And users who have no technical skills are often left feeling like they are on the outside of an exclusive company of people in the know, a clique they can join if they develop the necessary skills.  The projects move at their own pace and rarely feel pressure to be inclusive.  It seems arguable that this isn't all that different than our current academic model. On the other hand, unlike the expectations of education, it's also the case that many open source projects can fail without any significant consequences, commercial open source projects notwithstanding.  Not exactly a comforting thought.  Again, I think these are the worst parts of open source, but I do believe these parts are a significant element in the movement.  Sometimes openness is not necessarily a good thing.

This said, I'm still left wondering a bit by what we all mean when we think about openness.  Clearly, there are a number of different models that we can look to and emulate (in publishing, in courseware, in software development, in research, and so on) but are these are each different enough that I wonder at the value in using the term openness in the academy, despite its potential rhetorical power.  We all want everything to be open, right?  I'm sure we all agree in principle with this sentiment (most of the time?), but I'm still not exactly sure what that means. I wonder if it is worth trying to formulate some principles of Openness that can ultimately become our own model for openness in academia.  To return to the software model again for a moment, the former CIO at Georgetown University, Dave Lambert, suggested that good technology practice needed to include at least two of the following three principles: open source, open standards, or open collaboration.  Maybe an approach to openness in the academy needs to recognize a broad set of possibilities and offer a range of opens.  What would openness look like in these terms, I wonder?

Eddie Maloney, Georgetown University


Maybe an approach to openness in the academy needs to recognize a broad set of possibilities and offer a range of opens.  What would openness look like in these terms, I wonder?

One example from the open source software movement that shows a broader vision of openness is described in this speech by Kirrily Roberts: Standing Out in the Crowd. It's about the mostly-female coding communities at two projects driven by fan communities, Dreamwidth and Archive of Our Own. Both have focused on teaching people who wouldn't have thought of themselves as able to participate in software development how to do it, and I think they offer really interesting examples for the conversations here. They're trying to set up models of openness where inclusivity is central, as are teaching and learning, without either formal or informal credentials being necessary. I'm not party to how the internal politics of either one plays out, but I find the idea very inspiring.


I agree with Joshua and others that digital footprints are sort of an extension of the kind of stuff that happens at conferences and other public academic-y events, but with two extra interlocking caveats: The digital is persistent and persistently searchable; and the digital makes it easier than ever before to get a 'full picture' of an academic.

The first has been discussed in this forum. The second is the one I'm thinking about right at this moment.

I've written on my blog about my gender politics and my queerness. I've written about experimenting with gender performance, and I expect to write more about this in the future. At a conference or job talk, I can set that part of myself aside and dress conservatively (i.e., 'feminine'-ishly) to avoid having people judge me unfairly. Once upon a time, that would have been sufficient for me to keep that aspect of my life separate from my professional identity, or at least to give me the chance to get the gorram job before I start showing up to faculty meetings in a shirt and tie.

So: Let's say I choose to perform gender more conservatively in higher stakes situations (conferences, job talks). That doesn't stop people from finding out that I'm not generally conservative in thinking and talking about gender. In general, I think this is a good thing--hence my decision to be open about this issue. More openness on issues like this can lead to more, and better, and perhaps faster, progress.

But academia continues to be led by a conservative vanguard, as the Chronicle of Higher Ed consistently reminds us. Which means that there are real risks to openness that get higher the farther you fall from the 'mainstream.'



Jenna, thanks for linking to that Chronicle article; I hadn't read it before and it reminds me of my own campus interview. I had four or five earrings, and I asked a friend if he thought I should remove them before the interview. My friend is gay, a Log Cabin Republican. He said take them out. I told him I'd take his suggestion under advisement, though up until the day of my interview I still wasn't sure if I would actually remove them.

As it happened though, just before I arrived on campus, I bent down to tie my shoes, and the crotch of my suit pants split all along the seam. I spent the next eight hours so intent on hiding the gaping hole in my pants from possible future colleagues that I forgot all about the earrings. I left them in. And in a big win for double-openness, I got the job.


Now, I am a person who is naturally hesitant to post in public spaces, but this is such a great discussion, that it has motivated me to work on overcoming (a little) that inclination...

From the discussion here, it’s clear that there are many ways of defining “openness”.

Jenna McWilliams's post, "giving it away" quite nicely shows how openness may be defined by the stage of our career, arguing that the tenured professor has nothing to lose while the tenure-seeking professor has everything to lose by "giving it away."

And many  other posts seem to define openness as having no control. In particular, these tend to depict the academy as trying to maintain control by means of scarcity of information; that is, they are not “open”. And though I think it's a fairly accurate depiction, I think that the negative reaction to such a depiction tends to obscure other reasons that are less of a preserving power sort.

And then there are posts describing openness as publicness. For instance, Mark Sample states, "Teaching should not be something that happens behind closed doors, cut off from the rest of the world. Academics should think in public. We should teach in public too. And more importantly, we should teach our students to think in public as well.”

I have to admit that this depiction makes me nervous because I am typically not a public person. You can almost always count on me to sit to the back and to the left side of any room. I also dry my laundry inside, rather than hanging it out on the clothesline for all the world to see. However, I think my colleagues, students and friends know how supportive I am and more than willing to share information and ideas. Yet, that depiction of openness makes me feel like I’m somehow in league with the Information Spigot Squad.  However, it’s just that I don’t want to do all that sharing and exchanging in such a public way.

Mark Chen’s post, "openness of what and for whom?" points to a similar way that openness is being used. He says that "Being open is also my way of competing in an attention economy", which seems to suggest that what’s being open is one’s performance of sharing the information rather than just the sharing itself.

So my question for everyone is this:  is there a way to define “open” that does not necessarily entail, for lack of a better term, public performance? I’m guessing folks will suggest that anonymous or multiple online personalities might be the key; but that really doesn’t avoid the entailment issue; rather, those solutions are more about making the performance more comfortable.



I wonder if there are any situations that are truly not performances whether "open" or not?  As someone who employs discourse analysis / studies people's interactions, I can't help but point out that whenever we "speak", the hearer is playing a role in our production. Certainly in my teaching I have my students in mind as an audience even when I am not planning on "opening" a specific set of conversations more broadly. And when I do, I shift accordingly. One question of interest for me then becomes what makes certain kinds of performances in "open" spaces different, or are they even different, and if they are, how does that relate to outcomes? (e.g., success, learning, etc.)


Oh, I completely agree with you about people's performing all the time open or not. Mary Louise Pratt has written how even literary discourse can be thought of in performative terms

Your question on types of performances is interesting and I think gets at why I've asked my question. For instance, there seems to me to be a difference between a politician (to generically pick on someone) who only shakes hands and kisses babies in front of a camera vs. one who only does so off-camera vs one who does so both on and off-camera. But this example  opens up a whole other discussion on which I'm am not qualified to talk.  However, the on and off-camera metaphor works well to illustrate what I "hear" when equating "openness" with "being public."

Let me use an example that seems to be more in line with the topic of openness in  acadamia. There's a professor here at my university who has a book sale each semester in order to help fund visiting speakers. The books come from donations by students and faculty. The process is simple: she has boxes outside her office where we drop off books. But what if this professor's call for book donations made it seem as if donations were only "true" donations if a person drops off the books only while on-camera. I know, I know; this is a silly example. However, such a suggestion would then imply that a person who, say, tosses a book into the box from a place beyond the camera's line of sight (out of the public's view), really isn't helping out the cause (bringing in visiting speakers). It seems to me that in this example, there might be a lack of books for sale as a result, but if the situation were something that many people thought was critical for, say, the continuation of our graduate program, it might actually do really well. But even if such a call for donations wildly succeeded, it seems to me that by defining the term in such a on-camera (public performance act) limits the effectiveness of the appeal by limiting the number of people who might otherwise be more than happy to paticipate. But really, Im not talking about the call for actions (how can having an internet discussion about how to open up the academy not be public?). What I'm asking about is how we define (and therefore measure) the openness itself. Is there a way to be academically open that does not entail being on-camera?

To take a stab at answering my own question: "I think so." I can't help but think of the creators of Zotero--when I show my students how to use it for their own work or how to work collaboratively online, I'm thinking of and using the tool itself; I'm not thinking about the programmers or the company (sorry y'all!). I guess what I'm wondering about is, is there a way to define openness in the academy that  doesn't seem to suggest, as the word "public" seems to in my ears, a requirment that the creator,participant, consumer etc to be on-camera?


These are some really interesting questions regarding the very nature of openness.  I wonder if part of the answer is to think of it in part as a series of spectrums. One spectrum might be how public one is, another how transparent one is, and yet another how much input one accepts from the public.  Zotero is a great example because it represents a tool that is made freely and publicly available, where they accept (to my knowledge) contributions regarding direction from outsiders, and where the main participants who use it can then be as public or private as they choose.

In my own teaching, I feel that I aim to be transparent much of the time, have some components which are publicly available (on my website and twitter) others that are not (only participants of my class can see them) and many situations where I solicit, accept, and respond to student requests and recommendations regarding what and how to include in the course itself. Each of those components could, in theory, exist independently of the others. I also think they each contribute in different ways to what does (and sometimes does not) work well in my classes.  What do you think?


As editor of On the Horizon, and as a practicing futurist, I would point out that this area is a subset of calls for two special issues which are parallel to the same topics of an Education Summit for the World Future Society in 2011 in Vancouver, BC. The two titles are "Complexity and the Future of Education and Education and the New Normal which embrace PreK->gray. (copies on the emerald web site or from

The question, as framed, is basically, "how do we preserve our system or our industry if we give all away. I would first point out that Clayton Christensen has written several books on "innovation" where he shows how new, challenging businesses start out and overtake old line businesses. What is happening in the domain of The Academy, particularly in the arena of teaching and certification of students fits Christensen's model to a "T" in all areas, and, particularly in basic undergraduate education and a subset, teacher education. Extant institutions are responding to the newer, less fully developed, but developing, the same way that the industrial models did in the face of competition. And this is actually a global phenomenon. The one piece that the traditional institutions retain is their reputation, niche area and certification.

Faculty worrying about protecting individual courses that they created are six decimal places out from the larger, global issues facing education at the baccalaureate level. In both teaching and research, institutions are finding that financially they can not remain self-contained, complete, one of everything programs and are reacting in interesting ways from collaboration, to links abroad, sharing faculty, etc. Public universities are accepting credits from "for profit" institutions and the list expands in the face of new models.

A graduate student in Australia informed me that a poly-sci professor was basically condemning the turn of society to neo-liberal economics. And if one goes to wikipedia and looks up neo-liberalism, one does find the interesting section speciifially on Australian universities. The China/India complex and Europe under Bologna as well as the shift of the income from government pay to student pay in the US are impacting institutions like a shovel striking an underground ant nest.



What happened when the Bible was printed in the vernacular? What happened when the secretes of professional guilds became part of public education? And what will happen now that, separate from OCW, OER and Open Access Journals for research knowledge has and is leaking like a cut artery?  Several persons on this list and others that we know have stepped through the breach and opened up intellectual shops in all areas from art to hard science. Neo-liberal models have driven institutionally supported academics to seek funds from outside sources including moon lighting as faculty and contracting with outside funding sources, few with no strings attached (well not very visible), even in the humanities- a form of professional patrons as with Kings and the wealthy in some cases and business, industry and government in other areas. Remember that academic robes have pockets which, in the past were used to collect from pupils.

The rivers of knowledge are NOT locked in the Ivory Tower, nor are the towers necessarily the protector or only source of knowledge. Castle's yielded to military advances, Armor failed the knights of the round table and the world changed.


The questions are not how to respond to the ululation of a world passing, The sun has set on Camelot and the knights need to look to the future.


I think that Wikipedia is a fairly interesting test case for many kinds of openness--it is free, it is publicly accessible, and its controls are much less "top down" and rigorous than the academy (it has safe guards like obvious vandalism reverting programs and policies which demand sources for information). 

This "wiki" model of accumulating information has been largely successful. There are, of course, errors and omissions in Wikipedia, but the "first order" of information is generally solid (I would actually like to get funding to study the rate of errors and omissions in the humanities articles--such studies have already been done of the science articles). Interestingly, in some ways one could argue that part of the wiki model looks like academia--editors on Wikipedia tend to specialize--some are vandal fighters, some are copyeditors, and some are article writers. 

How would such a "wiki" model of scholarship work, I wonder? What if scholars pooled all of their knowledge together about a single field rather than keeping it isolated? I have dreams of a giant 18th-century wiki (my chosen field), where all knowledge about the 18th century could be gathered--well, perhaps not all! Also, would scholars be willing to allow non-scholars into such spaces? Can we envision a future in which some of what we do as scholars is taken over by the public? Would such a wiki show some of the weaknesses of Wikipedia, such as the bulk of the content is written by a fraction of the population? 

I'm curious what a "wikified" scholarly community, which puts its ideas out into the open and allows others to mix and match them, would look like. Obviously, this is a bit utopian, because, as previous posters have noted, tenure decisions rest upon publication, which, in turn, rests upon intellectual property over ideas. However, would it be better to think of ideas as being in the commons as well? Would it be better for scholarship to find a new way to award tenure? Nothing hard about that!


Hi, everyone, This is a fantastic conversation.  I've been a lurker and I'm learning so much.  Thank you!


I'm also very busy getting ready for HASTAC's community partnering of the upcoming Mozilla Drumbeat Festival in Barcelona, Nov 3-5, on "Learning,  Freedom and the Open Web."   We are so honored and excited that Drumbeat invited us to be a partner. Our tent is called "Storming the Academy" and we'll be brainstorming all the ways we are using the lessons of the Open Web to transform traditional higher education---and how we can step that up and do it even more.  


About seven members of HASTAC that I know of (moi, Mandy Dailey, Nancy Kimberly, Anne Balsamo, Trebor Scholz, Maureen Engel, Caitlin Fisher) plus my peer-run, open principle tutorial FutureClass (three grad students from two universities in two fields, two undergrads in different fields, and one recent alum with degrees in humanities, science, and an MBA).   At Drumbeat, we will be hosting brainstorming activities for how to transform traditional higher education, we'll be previewing some apps and web tools we've developed, and we'll be looking for assistance from the Mozilla open source developer community to finish building out some apps.   I've been asked to give an overview of all the activities at our Storming the Academy tent on the Main Stage on Thursday.   So, I thought I'd put a draft here of that two-minute "pitch" about our Storming the Academy tent (it is literally a tent in the middle of the glorious Plaza de Angelis in Raval.   The Festival will happen in the Plaça dels Angels  as well as in the Museum of Modern Art and in the FAD (a medieval nunnery, now a design expo space). 

We are each allowed three slides for our barker pitch from the Main Stage.   Any suggestions?


My draft pitch at Mozilla Drumbeat's Festival, "Learning, Freedom, and the Open Web," Barcelona, Nov 3-5:




(1) HASTAC Uses Lessons from the Open Web and Open Education to Storm/Inform/Transform Traditional Higher Education
(2) Traditional Higher Education Is a Great Platform for Teaching Why We Must All Fight Together to Keep the Web Open




We will . . .

Storm the Cloud/Crowd

Storm the Syllabus

Storm the Gradebook

Storm Publishing and Peer Review

And then have a little Calm After All that Storming: A Yoga for Hacktivists session each day by a certified HASTAC Hacktavist and Yoga Instructor



You. Join us for some serious brainstorming. Storming the Academy is for anyone who has ever been frustrated by traditional higher education and wants to make change happen in the institutions that govern so much of our lives and our children’s lives.

Pick up a schedule or drop by at any time and you will find something exciting happening. Stay an hour or stay two days.

No matter when you come, no matter what your level of technical expertise, no matter how little or how much you know about traditional higher education and from what perspective: help us BRAINSTORM the academy.

We are planning activities, performances, happenings, demos, brainstorming activities—and we need developers to help us build out tools that will help us Storm!


And FutureClass, a peer-to-peer self-organizing class at Duke (graduates and undergrads plus one recent alum) are proof positive that traditional higher education can change and is changing NOW.
FutureClass is key to Storming the Academy tent. They prove the future of higher education is right now. FutureClass will be running activities, demoing learning and collaboration and attention tools they’ve already built. And they are looking for partners to help them finish developing tools they are building now for new ways of learning, collaborating, publishing together.  


FutureClass is also creating an ethnographic performance of the whole Drumbeat Festival community that we will publish on the Web after the Festival is over.

And the HASTAC Scholars  (198 students from over 70 institutions) are currently running an online forum on ”Openness in Academia” (


With your help, we will continue to Storm the Academy long after the tents come down!



FAD - Art & Culture - Barcelona



This is the questions I am currently thinking on, and having the hardest time having meaningful discussions around.  Regardless to our personal thoughts on openness, the world has changed and is still changing.  People are questioning the industrial models of education all over the place.  This has been my favorite one so far:

RSA Animate - Changing Education Paradigms

People are also questioning the value of degrees and if they are still the surefire way to ensure gainful employment.  I don't know that the idea that information and knowledge is scarce and at University we are the keepers of that information and knowledge in a time that is still referred to as "the information age" makes sense.  Just as people are rethinking a the degree, we should be rethinking what we offer that open education cannot.

I had a wonderful conversation with my dear Friend Tressie Cottom-McMillan who is a PhD student in Educational Studies at Emory. So far she has been the only person to move beyond credentialing as the worth of the University.  Her thought was that, University is really great for teaching people what they didn't know they didn't know.  As academics, we have a lot of information that others have.

Regardless to how much we blog, or write, or publish and how much of that shows up on a search we should still have more knowledge to share, more dialogues to have.  I think having the online conversation component is the beginning part of a dialogue that can continue in a classroom or other academic setting.  It might even happen online with people who will give you a perspective that may be completely different but very useful.  if we have enough time to be open and publish information on our thoughts to the point that we have no more knowledge to spread, I think we might need to explore a different problem.

As for the separation of public/private I think it is a personal choice, but everyone is becoming more and more public and searchable if they want to be or not.  The benefit of doing some of it yourself is at least you have control over some of it.

Anyway, there seems to be something inherently wrong with openness being wrong to me personally.  It makes me feel bad.


I completely agree that there is and should be a great deal of value to the University beyond simple credentialing. However, I'd like to suggest that even when we think about credentialing, we should think about it in 2 directions. Often in discussions of openness the focus is on how the University credentials the students. However, the reverse is also true in that the Universities have a "brand" which the students can buy into.  In theory. I think there are certainly many situations that don't live up to this promise, but the point is that with increasing amounts of information, teaching, collaboration, conversations etc. all available online, it is necessary to have a way of discovering which ones are worthwhile. If I had to guess, then even in the absence of Universities as they currently exist, there would be a serious branding issue either of the deliverers of content, or of aggregators / raters of content (or both). Otherwise, how would anyone ever sift through the infinite possibilities out there with any degree of confidence? As an Educational researcher, this is of particular concern to me because in many cases the brands that people are most likely to know are not necessarily those that are most likely to result in learning. To be frank, that is why I left the educational software industry: it was all too often about marketing products that would appeal to parents at the expense of spending the time to make ones that actually worked. I fear that the same might happen / is happening with online learning. Furthermore, even great content doesn't necessarily imply great learning. For example, I've poked around in the MIT open courses and while some seem like a great opportunity to dive into content, others seem like they wouldn't work without someone to look over my problem sets, provide feedback, bounce ideas off of, etc. Where would I find that? And once I find it, how would I know it was decent feedback?


I wrote this after reading the comments that were up yesterday morning, and now much of what I say has been addressed in later posts; I'm going to go ahead and post, though.

I've been nodding along, recognizing many of the concerns I have about my own work and status in academia: the tension between pseudonymity and creating a 'brand' for oneself (since my name is a unique search term on Google, I am very conscious that anything I put out under it becomes part of my online identity; I have a pseudonymous online presence whose content is not very different to my official one, but within which I feel much freer to use an informal register); the difficulty of having open-access work count for credentials (I worked on the open-access fan studies journal Transformative Works and Cultures, whose insistence on openness in terms of accessibility of ideas as well as material access makes it a great journal, but one that many scholars are nervous about sending their work to lest it not count for their tenure reviews); and the matter of thinking in public (for me this has played out oddly, as I have written a lot in public about vidding and the politics of fan remix while keeping most of my dissertation material on queer futurity close--largely because I've needed time to work through the complex theoretical ideas in my diss, but I suppose I could have done more of that in public).

But what I keep coming back to is the last of the questions that opened the discussion: the tension between what we would like our intellectual work to do and what the institutions in which we do it (in which we hope to get paid to do it) require it to be for. Fred Moten and Stefano Harney write in "The University and the Undercommons: Seven Theses" that "the only possible relationship to the university is a criminal one." There's so much to say about that essay, but I'm presuming most people here will have read it. In terms of openness, though, I thought of it now because I was wondering how much the idea of "openness" works against the idea of "the academy" itself at a fundamental level. If the academy were really open, would it be an academy at all? Wouldn't everyone just be a public intellectual or a participant in publicly intellectual communities?

Jenna's comment about gender expression above made me think about how the areas that bring the academy closer to public intellectualism in content and form, including politicized scholarship in gender and ethnic studies and the methods of making academic thought public as in open access journals, are the ones that are most threatening to conservative ideas about what the academy is for. If the university's about getting credentials, and if it is sustained because people are willing to pay for those credentials then to give away the content that offers those credentials is to steal in some sense.  But if the university is public, then we shouldn't have to steal knowledge from it because it belongs to us anyway, and making research accessible to a wider audience is just fulfilling that mission. As my home country, the UK, desperately disinvests in the model of public education, this is on my mind.

I am also thinking a lot about the meaning and value of credentials. I think about the nonacademic communities I am part of where intellectual labor gets done, and I ask myself what I got from my academic credentialing process that I didn't get from them, and a big part of it is very personal--professionalization, access to a particular world and the social and class status that go along with it. I can understand why people react negatively to academia. But so much would be lost with that realm of full time knowledge work that so many find unnecessary... I'd like to think that taking down some of the walls could make what goes on in the academy seem less elitist and irrelevant, but that may be a utopian dream!



Hi Alexis,

How much do I heart that you included Moten and Harney's essay in your post! I think we were writing at the same time and as soon as I finished mine and went back to the forum, I just read your post! I love how the posts psychically flow together in regards to content! Moten and Harney's essay are just one of my favorites, such beautiful language and important ideas for academic to grapple with! Thanks for posting, and look forward to engaging with you here on HASTAC! I think these forums exemplifies the amazingness of openness! 




Hi Folks!

Thanks for such a thoughtful topic of "Openness" especially as the first HASTAC Scholars Forum! As many HASTAC scholars are graduate students and/or emergent future faculty, this question of "openness" seems very important to grapple with. I have a couple of thoughts from the very well written and provoking prompt! 

I am very interested in the changing gradations in the space between public   private, especially with the advent of social networking sites. Specifically, I am interested in what we can “steal” (as Fred Moten and Stefano Harney quote in their beautiful essay The University and the Undercommons: 7 Thesesand as I just finished writing this, Alexis cites Moten and Harney above as well! :)

As in some of the previous posts, our notions of public and private are changing drastically, and the question seems how to manage it, given our complicated and multiples lives.  Additionally, when I write the space between public   private, I am reminded that the blank space, the “and” or the / can and does have meaning.  Could we “use” and “steal” what remains in the space between public/private, to blur the boundaries that create dichotomies? Especially in open source writing “genres.” (Even this term “opens” up so many other questions, alas another post in the near future!)

This question came to me, explicitly when a few weeks ago, I was asked to write a blog post for the English dept. at my home campus of UC Berkeley.  While I am a grad student in Ethnic Studies and new media, I am also a poet and have been currently taking English dept. seminars in poetics.  I was thrilled for a chance to write about one of my favorite feminist Black arts avant garde writers Harryette Mullen.  It seemed exciting to write for a blog post in which not only academics, but the community of Berkeley at large, and anyone in our “new” cyber world could learn about her innovative work, and how much she’s meant to me, as an emerging poet.

I was struck by the sense of place in Mullen’s poetry, and at her reading—I was reminded of how the last time I heard Mullen read was in Los Angeles, years ago, as a newly minted undergraduate in creative writing. It was nostalgic and beautiful to hear Mullen read, someone whose poetry had inspired and healed me, throughout the years. Thus, how to explain what Mullen means to not only academics, but also poets (or those that are both!) who are writing today. 

While I was writing my blog post, I remembered that I had posted about going to Mullen’s reading on campus in my facebook, and a immediate like, 2 second response from my friend Noel in Wiscousin, was “JEALOUS.” I love Noel’s facebook humor, and at the time, I found it simply funny but also demonstrated what Mullen means to poets, and how lucky I really was, for a chance to hear her read, in the flesh, in the city where I now live.

So while I was writing the blog post, I wondered how I could fit the status update in. Since the English dept blog was public, I realized I needed to check in with Noel to see if it’s okay, and got a quick reply that it was.   Thus the intro of my blog post was set, and it felt great to include a snippet of a facebook status interaction, which can tell so much.

Some questions are: have people felt their writing (academic, blog posts, or otherwise) has transformed because of “openness?” And if you are so inclined, I’ve included the link to the named blog post below! (Sorry my facebook is private and closed, so I can't post the link! :) 

In addition my interests in the space between public and private, that can be stolen for other kinds of writing… I am also struck by the questions around tenureship and the university as an industry closed off to marginalized communities.  The openness seems so important, especially when we are discussing marginalized community who do not have ready access to the university and resources of learning.   In addition, the university is closed off to the community as well. How could we break this space between university/community through “openness” Could these very concerns of the inability for younger faculty to be “open” as stated on the introduction framing provoke questions about the academy as a place to build up a professionalization based on non-access, and not for the love and sharing of learning to make our world a better place?  

I feel very grateful for a space like HASTAC which fosters the love of learning, shared learning, and reimagining learning across platforms, communities, and boundaries.  The potential of blurring within the space between,  is what I find most inspiring, motivating, and possible as an emerging scholar in New Media and Ethnic Studies. 




Harryette Mullen Reads in the Holloway Series or



I love the gestalt of the simultaneous citation! I'm really invested in this question of what we can steal and what it means to steal, as well--which (to connect to some of Moten's other work) might also involve stealing away, escaping from overly enclosed forms of knowledge.

I think we're obviously coming from the same place with regard to the accessibility of the university and the kind of commons it promotes to marginalized communities, too. I'm really excited to see this coming up in the first HASTAC forum of this year, as it's a concern I've often thought about when reading digital humanities discussions about the viability of open scholarship for tenure reviews.

I have participated in various open forums about issues that relate my academic work to other communities (one example is Pattern Recognition: a Dialogue on Racism and Fandom), and I feel uncomfortable about their relationship to my credentialing in the academy. But not uncomfortable enough that I don't want them to count! I just think that, especially when it comes to writing about practitioners and artists who are embedded in different communities (like the fan communities I've worked with and belong to) it's so important to recognize the different investments that go into creative and critical work. But I think engagements like yours with Mullen's work also show how so much more than credentialing -- so much political and emotional transformation along with intellectual labor -- goes on within academic spaces.


The title is also the link,  In my words: In the late 60's the students in economics began to question the neo-classical teaching of their faculty. Basically they were told to do their math and those who then became graduate students would start to understand. When these students became graduate students (students here take note!), the grad students then questioned the models of neo-classical economics and made such a ruckus that the staid professors were asked to testify before the French legislature and had to agree that their models were not working but...   Out of that has grown the sub-discipline of what is termed Heterodox economics which has created problems within the academic community wedded to old models.

There are a lot of graduate students, doctoral students and post docs who now realize that the current publish/perish/promotion/tenure model, particularly in the humanities is not working for those whose path is hopefully pointed to a position at a university with a graduate program (or maybe, initially, a spot lower). There have been ululations in the MLA and other concerns raised not only by students but faculty at various levels.

A number of faculty have published and presented "scholarly" pieces lamenting the demise of the monograph as publishing houses can no longer subsidize small circulation volumes. One of the main reasons for such ululations is that with the reduction of published volumes by respected houses faculty have no way or substantively lesser tools for evaluating their colleagues for promotion/tenure. What is more interesting is how these are used to avoid having to take time/energy to seriously consider their colleague in the office next door.

Yet, as the proposition has been framed here and the focus of much of this discussion has been framed, there seems to be little stomach to examine the patient. It reminds one of Poe's The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemer. There is a sense of fear that if the fingers are snapped and the spell broken that the system will collapse and be rendered out of control and perhaps into the hands of the administration with their fiscal carving knives.

As pointed out above, much of what has been locked inside the walls of Camelot is now available elsewhere. In the United States, where most on this list are located, a lot of graduate education is paid for out of the pockets of the students (unlike Europe, for example). Should a movement develop, the old guard controls the path to the degree and thus is able to head off serious questioning of the system. Revolution contained by fiscal measures. This also holds for faculty who are increasingly adjuncts and others who hold onto possible tenure by a thin thread of accommodation.

As I have pointed out elsewhere on this list, the lights have gone out in Camelot and the knights are seeking noble deeds elsewhere while others are hanging up their spurs. Rise up yee in the bowels of the Castle. As they say here in Guatemala, vinceremos.


Poe's other tale of relevance here is The Masque of the Red Death where the elite locked themselves in the Castle and felt that they could ignore the world outside while they danced their old dances and planned to wait out the Plague. Unfortunately, as with Poe's Castle, the walls are not impervious to that which is swirling outside. Yet, most of this discussion is dancing the old dance. It is as if the problems with pub/perish/OER/etc can be solved internally, and that when the air outside clears, all will be well.

Like towns that are dying because the Interstate went around without an exit, similar alternatives are being or have been constructed around The Academy. The questions that are being framed are about the dance inside the walls of Poe's Castle.


Academics love hard problems. In fact, philosophers often say that they pick the problems that interest them and not problems that need solving for practical needs. The issues in the arena of open sources/access/etc are framed within the current academic environment. I's like trying to connect a nine dot square w/4 lines. You need to think outside the box.

These problems only exist within an extant frame. Unfortunately, reframing will indeed change the university which is what those living within the status quo fear.


I don't know about everyone else, but sometimes I Google myself. I don't know why, nothing ever comes up, but after reading this post I decided to see if there really was a seperation between my created online identity and my personal self, and I was very surprised. Upon Googling my online pseudonym, pages come up from everything that I've ever done, even things that I wrote about in middle school. On the opposite side, when I type in my real name and nothing comes up except for my private Twitter account. I definitely feel like when it comes to the internet, it's important to seperate the two selves a bit, so that you can have some semblance of a personal life that you can invite the people you want into. Even when using blogs in academic classes, our proffesor gave us the option of having pseudonyms or using our real names, and everyone in the class chose to use pseudonyms. With the incredibly public nature of the Internet, it's easier to seperate your real life from who you are when blogging or working in a more proffesional or academic realm. To me, this creation of an online identity doesn't make for a lack of openness, it's just a way to protect your identity, I know for myself personally, there's nothing academically intersting or viable about my private, personal online accounts, therefore, If someone was interesting in knowing about my academic interests or work, like a professor or an organization, it makes more sense to lead them to the pseudonym. They still know it's my work, but it's seperated from the ramblings of my daily life.


I have just returned from a fantastic conference--Editing Modernism in Canada's Conference on Editorial problems at the University of Toronto--where the subjects of openness and sustainability, especially as they connect to new forms of scholarship, were a recurring point of conversation.

First, a note on the form of the conference. This was a two-day all-plenary conference with organized group meals, as many round tables as panels, and a strong presence of emerging as well as established scholars. Everything about the conference promoted openness in the simple sense of free dialogue in a stimulating and accepting space between like-minded (but not too like-minded) academic folk. In many ways it reflected the ethos of EMiC itself, which focuses on collaboration between emerging and established scholars, experiential learning pedagogies, and the new possibilities for editorial practice embodied in the digital.

At the same time, my work with Susan Brown on Sustaining Digital Scholarship for Sustainable Culture (a project funded by SSHRC's President’s Fund for Knowledge Synthesis Grants on the Digital Economy) has made sustainability a word that I can't stop noticing cropping up all over the place. This conference was no exception.

The trend among the different digital editorial projects discussed this weekend was definitely towards the open: open-access, crowd-sourcing research, bridging the gaps between academic and public sectors, radically expanding the possibilities for engaging with modernist texts in a digital environment. But in the midst of all this excitement, practical questions did arise. Of particular concern to me were Pericles Lewis' question about the sustainability of digital editions and archives, and Dean Irvine's question to a panel of emerging scholars about the professional repercussions of working on "unfinishable" projects in an academic environment that privileges a very different mode of knowledge production.

It seems to me, having had a little time to reflect at this point, that the answers to both questions ultimately touched on the same theme, a theme that was carried through in the form of the conference itself: the importance of institutional support for new forms of scholarship. Digital editors such as Tanya Clement and Sophie Marcotte are able to push the boundaries with their digital editions because they have the institutional support of libraries and/or archives that agree to house their projects. Emerging scholars are able to spend their limited time and energy on unsual and often unfinishable projects because they have the institutional support of a large project that supports and encourages such work both by pairing emerging scholars with more experienced mentors and by providing them with stipends, RAships and internships. My own ongoing collaborative work with a group of scholars at the University of Alberta is sustained by the university's willingness to support what we're doing through resources and infrastructure.

I did not begin my graduate studies as a digital humanist (or as an editor or a modernist, for that matter). My work has been pushed to become more daring, more experimental, and much more open through the support of established academics and the institutions that fund their research. This includes Paul Hjartarson's and Dean Irvine's support through EMiC (which has included sending me to the DHSI twice now) and Susan Brown's ongoing belief in drawing emerging scholars into her work, both through our ongoing Knowledge Synthesis project and, on a larger scale, in the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory.

What I wonder, then, is how we can help to sustain these sorts of funding initiatives, how we can encourage institutions and granting agencies to support openness, experimentation, and unfinishedness as qualities of value, and how we can push academia further in this direction, by showing that interesting and valuable scholarship happens in environments that privilege this sort of work.



The question you end with is an important but frustrating one. I hate that openness and collaboration rely on fundability--because this means that typically, the most innovative collaborations aren't the ones that will get funding. I wonder what others thing about this.


One needs to realize that the "scholar" has always struggled for funding. Those that hung out at the Libraries of Alexandria sought compensation. Academic robes have pockets so that they could receive payment from pupils.

There is no guarantee that the best ideas will get funding. Artists are often not "discovered" until they are long dead. The same for all disciplines, even in science where "crack pot" ideas often prove right or valuable. Patrons have backed many crazy ideas like perpetual motion and alchemy. Medicine is filled with wacky inventions. Good ideas have risen, only to die and then be reborn.

How many have gone to Broadway or Hollywood only to never get beyond the chorus lines and a walk across in a movie.

How many old guards of "truth" hoard the wealth as we see often in academia where it's not the great ideas that decide but who controls the gold, tenure or who gets admitted to the guild. Heterodox economics in neo-classical economic departments are paradigmatic but we see the same, even moreso in the humanities where the lack of large grants and similar rewards lead to territoriality of ideas and schools of thought in order to create a reward hierarchy. And fights over fonts, how stone aged flint is chipped and similar issues can come close to drawing blood in meetings, breaking departments apart and founding of another of the 20K+ "academic" journals.

In fact, the issues raised at MLA from grad students about being lead down the path with an academic appointment like the carrot before the milk horse, only for them to find that sweating as TA's and RA's to support the departments has lead to what we see today, small hopes for a large number still hoping.

Great ideas, best ideas, innovative ideas in academia are no different from musicians, painters or plastic artist, etc, in all areas of creative endeavor. Talent and luck are strange mixes of opportunity.


To dream, that's the rub.


We've all seen or heard of good academics gone bad, just by dint of choosing to follow the money. Yet without money, even mediocre research is impossible--and isn't mediocre research on issues of merit better than no research at all?

The openness movement in academia aims, at least to some extent, to shatter money's iron grip. Ideas can be made available for widespread use; datasets can be made public; knowledge building activities can be made accessible to all.

Right? Right?


at one time grade 6 was the norm for work. that was raised to grade 12 and today grade 16. In other words the undergrad pgm has become commodified. Today that final range, grade 13-16 is being met by high schools/high school teachers, graduate TA's and adjuncts and being provided through sources such as companies like advanced academics, insight and straighter line and accepted by many traditional and non-traditional post secondary institutions. The prices are dropping to a point that would make retailer, Walmart, squirm, and doing so on the backs of a new underclass of service workers.

Postgraduate programs are the "new" equivalent of the Western universities as described in many publications. What this is doing is decoupling the commodity from the "idea". And it essentially means that the young scholar or the aspiring scholar will, like the hopeful pianist, teaching scales to newbies, and hoping for that break to a position in The Academy, may find that The Academy will shrink and the post secondary options will become, defact, the career, extending the roles of the traditional secondary school to the post secondary institution.

For the new "Normal", the "scholar" in the new Academy, will no longer have access to the revenues generated by the aspiring as RA's and TA's and need to truly see who is able to support themselves on merit. The concerns raised by the grad students at MLA where they confronted a lack of jobs may be ascerbated by programs designed to raise expectations of a post in The Academy. This holds particularly for the humanities but also for the STEM areas, science technology engineering and mathematics.

As has been pointed out, the growth area for academics rest in the growing BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, particularly in Asia, but, again, as they "grow their own", this may be faint hope only for the near term.

It's not much different from any creative or scholarly endeavor as well as in athletics where hopes and encouragement are not met by follow through support on the same scale. Darwin may have been right.



Hey Tom,Thoughtful series! I'd like to know your opinion on the BRIC's emerging academies. In terms of Asian education, do you suggest that the education circles are more closed compared with academia else where? At least in China, Singapore and South Korea, I would say the social endeavor in education is almost a tradition in history. Confucius has been very liberal when he articular his ideal of teacher as a unique, talkative, and causal person. Of course, same with Aristotle, he integrates schooling, the means with his core courses, humanity and love. On the institutional level, I think the paradigm may need empirical study in terms of public finance, disciplinary categorization, and also innovation policy.The decoupling within an institution could be really troublesome when certain practice goes too far or too open. For instance, the recent decommissioned Public Economy Management And Research Center in Peking Univ. was shut down because one researcher, Jinyong Yu, wellknown as alumni of Jun Tang, has been, say, a professional social entrepreneur rather than a credible in-house scholar. It's a sad thing to say. There might be a value-adding curve in this kind of convergence when international education corporation becomes more profitable but less scholarly.


I am very lucky to be working with Dr. Maurizio Forte, director of the World Heritage program at UC Merced who perfectly exemplifies the most positive aspects of the need of openness in academia. My decision to work with Dr. Forte stems from the multi-disciplinary method of the World Heritage program. As a theoretical approach of analyzing the past, the focus of World Heritage stems from the perspective that we a as humanity recognize the importance of a common Heritage, a past that most be documented, analyzed and preserved. The past as archeologist of the World Heritage program interpret it, analyses the material culture left behind by past societies.  Nonetheless, World Heritage also encompasses nature and the living cultures. As a trained archeologist from Italy specializing in the new technologies used for archeological research and data collection and sharing, Dr. Forte is a perfect example of how important the idea of openness in Academia is.

Through five weeks of the summer 2010 I was honored to join Dr. Forte and the multidisciplinary team of the UC Merced World Heritage Lab excavating at Catal Huyuk a Neolithic town located in Turkey. Catal Huyuk is located in Central Turkey in what is known as the Konya Plains. Since it was first discovered and excavated in the late 1950 by archeologist James Mellaart, it quickly became famous due to its antiquity, to its dense population and most remarkably for its wall paintings. Dr. Ian Hodder from Stanford University has been directing the Catal Huyuk Archeological Project since 1993. Its occupational dates suggest that people lived there from 7500 BCE to 5700 BCE making it so far, the best well know Neolithic site in the world. In the last decades his team has been shedding light on the peoples that inhabited this ancient town.

The World Heritage program is a relatively new phenomenon in the multidisciplinary approach to knowledge. UC Merced is at the vanguard of providing this type of approach to students who want to utilize the theoretical concepts of the humanities, the methodological approaches of History, Archeology and Ethnography with a strong technological orientation. As part of this team, my specialty is on Visual and Socio-Cultural Anthropology. My main task was to document the excavation and the social interpretative aspect of the dig with the 3D reconstruction efforts of our UC Merced World Heritage team. An essential part of the objective of this documentation was the specific instruction by Dr. Forte that this information should be open source. That way the data collected can be used for other scholars for the interpretation. An open attitude when it comes to the sharing of information and data to create knowledge. A strikingly significant epistemological idea. I was very happy to be working in a team whose objective was to share the data. Because archeology is a very destructive activity, when we digitalize the data we preserve it for posterity. So, instead of digging and destroying, as it is the usual method, we scan, then we dig, that way we really preserve a great amount of data that would have been lost otherwise forever. And even though this technology is still very hard to attain due to its cost, it is yet more positive that Dr. Forte has the attitude of sharing this information.




We had an issue about academic openness a few years ago at UCLA. There was a right-leaning alumnus who published a list of professors at UCLA who he thought were too liberal. He put up a website with accusations about specific faculty's leanings, which were based on their non-academic publications, misinterpretations of their published research, and the like. To bolster his case, he offered students $100 if they would bring their course notes to him so he could have more evidence of just how left-leaning UCLA was. UCLA threatened him with copyright infringement lawsuits if he posted the notes, and this effectively cut him off from using that information.


Now, I understand that openness (and even the very fact of publication) entails being quoted by people whose viewpoints I disagree with to support arguments I oppose. I would never argue against suppressing information or dissent. But this issue raised a bit of concern about openness at UCLA. Some faculty were worried about posting publicly-accessible course material. I don't think that seeing any actual notes would have changed his mind; he was probably so dead-set on seeing UCLA as radical that he would have read very selectively to support his point of view. In fact, a lack of evidence did not prevent him from speculating about the political inclinations of one professor based mostly on the views of that professor's father.


But what I am arguing is that perhaps there wasn't much that access to notes would have changed in this case. It would have allowed him to quote them as he saw fit, but he would have probably selectively quoted to make his point of view. I think it would have been doubtful that he would have changed his mind—someone who goes to the trouble of creating a website like that isn't likely to shut it down based on lack of evidence. The presence or absence of actual evidence has never prevented those who are determined to misread us from doing so. This seems like it could have been a nightmare scenarios of openness: someone's publicly-available research could have been taken out of context as evidence of a particular point of view.


So is this an argument for or against openness? I think this is an argument against is fearing abuse of our research. The storm over that website blew over; the website's still up but it's mostly an echo chamber for people who are predisposed toward his political leanings and interpretation of the situation. Admittedly, this is only one tiny part of the question of openness, but I wonder if we worry too much about having our publications reused in ways we don't support when we make things public.



Hi David


thoughtful response. While the UCLA incident focuses on campus issues which pop up from time-to-time through FIRE, the National Association of Scholars or individuals like David Horowitz, all of whom argue for a rebalancing of the the left of center political sentiments of most campuses, the larger issue facing humanities scholars and others in disciplines  is the freedom which surrounds the profession of the academic when faced with publishing/perishing in the appropriate journals for promotion and tenure. In actuality the majority of the "arguments" on this list has been devoid of "context". In the wide-open workd of web 2.0++, private publishing through sites such as LuLu for books, every individual on this list has a venue for their ideas and publications.


In actuality, those hoping for a poition in The Academy, though, still have such but are bound several times over by what appears on Facebook or what is needed to be accepted in journals controlled by academics who hold the fate of authors in their decisions and affect whether the materials are vetted for whatever post one wishes to achieve. For aspiring and extant academics in all arenas, from economics to anthropology, the "open source/access" issue is more than the issue of protecting one's creative works, but rather whether those works are acceptable by others.

The actual issues of open access/open source and protection of intellectual properties and creative works has been hard fought for many years-long before this conversation was even thought about, much less opened up for discussion under HASTAC. David's remarks starts to open the issue up.

More important is the issue of the survival of the humanities as discussed in today's issue of Inside Higher Education,  and the question of how many on this list will even have to concern themselves about the creative commons within academia. The final question on the list of questions for discussion as to whether the university survives open source/access and free flow of knowledge is particularly relevant here given that the external funding for this discussion and others is not "forever".




My own work and rather strange background has got me thinking as to how really flexible and open academia is, from the process of admissions to particular grad programs up to the point of being hired into programs. Having moved across very different fields from the time I was an undergraduate (in physics) all the way to being in Duke's (interdisciplinary) literature program (mediated by an MA in English Literature), I always wonder what sort of intellectual capital that I have, and if I have sufficient intellectual depth in any one area to fit into particular academic positions.

On a different scale, I wonder about the practice of writing academic papers, and how, in most cases, they just disappear into oblivion because we think mainly about writing them for 'class' rather than possibly sharing them or making them useful for exercises beyond the classroom. I wonder how many of us are willing to explore the possibilities of having students (grad and undergrad) produce useful pieces that can appear in different places (including blogs or forums that can later be shared and be the basis of future collaboration) rather than just writing papers without thinking beyond fulfilling class requirements. Or, how about publishing e-journals or something along that line, based on the pieces we work so hard on for classes (this may need a radical change of our current academic and publishing culture). We all know that writing something that you have a vision of sharing in whatever way or platform could make for a more fulfilling intellectual exercise, notwitstanding the fact that some people feel insufficiently confident to one their work to go public early in their academic career (but that is a different issue to be dealt with). But to even seriously consider our options, we need the commitment to rethink from across a broader spectrum of faculty and administrators.

To bring in again the motif of openness and interdisciplinarity, I thought I'll just share a little post I did at my blog based on my musings as an interdisciplinary grad student.






I've written on my blog before (here and here, among others) about the tension I face, personally, with openess as an academic. On the one hand, my research has become better, because I am myself instead whoever I think hiring committees want me to be. On the other hand, I am still in a tenuous position (and in a small town where my actions could also impact my husband's quest for tenure) so must watch what I say online.

I just returned from a conference where I was chairing a panel on Canadian Literature. Almost all of the people on the panel were either PhD students, or newly minted PhDs. And each of them was involved in the creation of a Federally-funded open access online journal. Part of me rejoiced; here was some forward-thinking funding on the part of SSHRC. And part of me got very, very worried; here was yet another thing that grad students are expected to have on their C.V. if they hope to get a job. And with the proliferation of open-access journals, will we also be expected to publish even more than we already are?

I wonder, however, if maybe, by some miracle, open-access could lead to us being required to publish less. If you can find an outlet for just about anything that you write, then hiring, tenure, and promotion committees will have to actual read and evaluate the scholarship.

I love the idea of open-access. My problem has always been that I am a terrible actor, have always worn my heart on my sleave, and have never tried to hide the fact that I have a life outside of the Ivory Tower. But the only reason I have been able to be this open is because I've concluded that a tenure-track job is just never going to be in the cards for me, so why bother hiding anymore? It was inspiring to me to meet a new generation of scholars who are challenging the status quo, hopefully for the better.


Can we have openness with such a profit-driven conceptualization of most universities today?  I highlight a recent decision by Cornell to eliminate its Education department; a department with neither a well-known or well-respected program nor a large number of students.  Its reason: Cornell is enacting a 5-year strategic plan which involves certain cost cutting measures to things that are not 'efficient' for a university to continue to run.  Rather than attempting to reform, increase funding for, or enhance a program that is struggle, the school decided to eliminate it, much to the dismay of many students who view an Education Department at a university as pretty much a no-brainer. 

As written above, universities are only so valuable as long as they provide something people are willing to pay for--and today, paying for that commodity can bankrupt a family.  How is openness seen in respect to the overarching shift of focus from public access to private profit?  Is this shift, something which I see has become entrenched in the last few years, a fundamental one and, as a result, will it hamper the effort to institute openness?

Lastly, does embracing openness in curricula and research differ from introducing it as a means to fully access one's entire post-secondary education?  In my experience, often open or online courses and content are open in order to solicit more students without having to fully provide them with materials that you would ideally provide to students receiving in-class instruction. 



First, there are now alternatives to education departments for getting quality teachers licensed. Many of these undergraduate programs have essentially moved to the graduate level under different rubrics. In the past, the undergraduate education curriculum has attracted students which were not at the top of their class. Teach for America's highly selective teachers from the top of their academic classes have been fighting for alternatives that are more realistic, meeting the needs of TFA and the schools instead of programs aimed at a different market.

The open course ware is a horse of a different color and maybe not even a horse. There are a growing number of alternatives for obtaining the credits needed for a bachelor's degree. One can argue about the alternatives, but when cost and time are significant barriers, alternatives, often innovative, become prominent. HASTAC has opened this issue here and others have raised similar issues not only cost for the courses themselves but the other overheads which raise the tuition (sports, extracurricular programs, etc) at a time when many are struggling just to get to classes with many other obligations on their time/costs. Certain institutions, mostly private non-profits in the medallion class can attract students able to afford the 200K+ price tag but these institutions have endowments that have limited discount ability for those whose resources are not sufficient to write large checks or encounter large debt. Teachers or future teachers are in this category  And that will probably transfer to those looking to become faculty in post secondary institutions, especially in the humanities- of concern to those on this list. This is a conversation to which the HASTAC faculty might wish to respond on the list.

There are changes occuring, or as Sherlock might say, "the games afoot"




tom abeles


I've read through all the posts here, and there is a lot I want to go and think about! One thing that initially intrigues me about this topic is the question of online identity and openness. Throughout all the posts many people have raised questions about online identity and openness: professional vs personal identity, the impact the online identity we create for ourselves has on our research, our tenure, our collaboration with others, on whether or not we even get a job! The discussion seemed to cover just about every aspect of openness in academia and our online identity except one: the online identity others create for us, and the subsequent impact this has on us as (primarily) professionals and (for this conversation, secondarily) as private individuals.

What I'm thinking about is the online identity that we have little or no control over, the one our students create for us on Rate My Professor. And what about those people other than our students who post comments about us like family, friends, or friends of friends, etc, who tag us on Facebook, who reference us in tweets, etc. Not all of those tags and references are positive or professional. I'm not necessarily talking about those references that paint us as fallible human beings, or as lovable goofballs, or as the (insert-fandom-here) geek that we are. I'm talking about the potentially damaging ones, the student who didn't like a final grade, or the student who thought that learning/thinking about computers, technology and "digital stuff" wasn't appropriate in a writing class.

I've posted a more detailed descriptions of my thoughts about this on my blog because I wanted to keep my post here relatively short. So I guess my question (Concern? Fear? Interest? Fascination?) has to do with one of control. In our examination and discussion of openness in academia in regards to online identity, how to we handle/react to/take account of the online identity that we have no control over? The identity that is 'open' to everyone else except us, the identity that others create for us?


Today I went to this interesting Cisco Quad showcase workshop hosted by ISIS fellows at Duke. Initially, I got the idea of unified communication from the China’s certified Xiaoyuan Web (not the same with this one), namely Campus Web, a LAN established for file delivering, social networking, course evaluation and cross-institutional communication. As a node within National Edu Network, each qualified education institute should obtain a licence from the Ministry of Education to set up their regional community-based LANs (such as OpenCourse’s sister site known as CORE , also provide decent on-campus job position for student translators).
College and high school students started to use this platform even before the inception of SNS sites such as blog, xiaonei, and today’s micro blog. But, Same with intranet communities Blackboard and file sharing initiative like MIT’s OpenCourse, the stimuli for students and teachers to get on board is not social networking per se. In my college, thanks to the high spatial density in BNU, Socrates’ dialectic part is filled with convenient face-to-face lectures and group meetings and virtual communities on campus enjoy a primitive network that we adores as (we can have multiple avatars on this bbs-based website, but in registration we are required ID information). People use oiegg also build up another functional layer that is unified and traceable. (there is flee market, group shopping, P2P torrent exchange, virtual speed dating dashboard, lost and found, etc.)

In a word, our academic interface is not interfaced with our social/personal interfaces, although by the end of our graduation almost every faculty and staff I know has a QQ account and sina blog. In the briefings of recent 17th CERNET conference held Changsha, a collective ‘invasion’ from platform provider like Cisco is clearly in sight.Huawei, Maipu, and Cisco are major players in the battlefield of China Next Generation Internet (CNGI). Cloud computation service, architectural upgrad (CACTI), Ipv6 and even mobile libraries may first be launched in high-profile national labs based in Peking or Tshinghua Universities and then all the 211 universities. The socio-informational context also applies to the traditional ‘opaque’ area, the government and public sectors of all level, to engage seamless e- governance (most notable contractor would be Health and Medi care sector that values interoperability in the social safty net).
In the workshop today, I was particularly interested in the self-referenced autonomy and conservativeness of the end-to-end service delivery system in Quad. Whether this next generation/generative classroom could finally evolve into Rousseau’s garden or Confucius’ Xingtan, we may look into the layer and extract the logs in order to analyze the behavior of the end hosts: discourse facilitators , knowledge contributors, platform architects, and pipe providers, who used to be teachers, scholars, students, Liberians, and gatekeepers in the Edu.1's ivory tower model.


As budget cuts set in and universities make strategic decisions about what to cut and from where to cut from, Ethnic studies departments and programs seem to be at the top of the list.  This is troubling for many reasons.

As programs with curricula designed to challenge ethnocentric tenets and the organization of the humanities and social sciences that have assigned hierarchical value to knowledges according to geographic origin, race, gender, and nationality, Ethnic Studies programs along with Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies (or Women's Studies) programs were driven by student movements that challenged the limited purview of prior educational arrangments.  When these programs are not given the same credibility, and when scholars in these areas are not seem as legitimate, openness in academia is not possible.

I highlight an example from my own school, Cornell University, where the first African American/Africana Studies program to emerge as its own department and inter-college unit, which was to ensure the self-determination of the curriculum by the African American students who fought for its creation.  The creation of African American Studies departments elsewhere have followed the example of the Africana Studies and Research Center, which celebrated its 40th anniversary last year.  Abruptly, and without consulting the current director, the faculty, or any committees , it was announced that the department will be moved to another college, which will have grave implications for the Center's budget, faculty placements, and autonomy of the department as a department.  Similar decisions have been discussed and are in the process of being made for the American Indian Program.  Prior to the announcment of the move of the Africana Center, the university abruptly announced that the Education department  will be closed.

To an earlier point I made, these top-down, closed-door decisions resemble those of corporations, and harm the potential for any democratization of knowledge and curricula, or the possibility of effectively integrating multi-media, and the digital into our schools. 




All this talk of maintaining multiple but separate identities online--one professional, one personal--makes me wonder. Somewhere, someone has to be working on software which works to aggregate online identities such that  it can return for example an 85% probability that the author/user of blog X is also the owner of Y Facebook account and Z twitter account etc... The software would index all social networking sites, blogs, chat rooms etc.. and look for similarities in likes/dislikes, but also in things written on or around the same date (say, describing the same incident). In short, the software would make it increasingly difficult to maintain multiple identities online.

Has anyone heard of such a thing?