Workshop: Public Domain and Creative Commons resources

A workshop I am co-facilitating next week:

Finding Alternative Resources: Public Domain and Creative Commons

Dec 12, 2011 – 1:00pm – 3:00pm

Irving K. Barber Learning Centre – Lillooet Room, 301

This session is intended to address common questions concerning “freely licensed” materials for scholarship and teaching. Some of these questions will include:

What is meant by public domain and Creative Commons?

How can you apply freely licensed materials to your own work?

How do you find useful copyright restriction-free material?

What are the key considerations in reusing and reproducing these materials?

While the historical and contextual elements of free licensing will be discussed, the emphasis will be on the practical elements of using resources. Participants are invited to bring their questions, problems and favourite resources.

Register here.

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Open Source City

Grandview Cut Construction shared CC by oliverk

I’ve had quite a run of interesting personal/professional development events this past month… Add them to my perpetually-growing “to-be-blogged” queue: a Northern Voice that achieved epic heaviosity, a Sustainable Education Across the Province (SEAP) workshop, and last week in Nelson the always enjoyable spring gathering of the province’s Educational Technology Users Group.

Grandview Cut slope after restoration shared CC by oliverk

Lots of learning, lots of laughs, made some new friends and found new appreciation for old friends. But for now, I abjectly look forward to the next event, which is a week of mornings dedicated to the concept of Open Source City: Field Study:

Site visits and urban walks will form the bulk of this week-long investigation into Vancouver’s built and living environment. Students will tour a number of urban sites where natural systems are beginning to reassert themselves either on their own or with the help of interventionist artists and community activists. We’ll compare and critique different approaches to designing the urban landscape and look at emerging notions of ‘open-source’ landscape and ‘un-planning,’ as well as social sculpture and relational aesthetic. Led by artist Oliver Kellhammer, the course will address the shifting relationships between the built and un-built environments and the surprising processes of regeneration that can bring highly disturbed places back to environmental and social functionality.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by oliverk

The course is led by Oliver Kellhammer, self-described “Canadian land artist, permaculture teacher, activist and writer.” I’ll use that, because he is someone who defies the usual tags. I met him via Laura Trippi at an event on open source technology and learning back in 2002 or 2003… I think we called it “Plonefest”. I’ve been spending a lot of time mulling the connections between my ongoing work in new media with sustainability education, and am hopeful this week will push some good thinking. Some hints to what Oliver might be cooking up can be found in this piece for the Vancouver Observer:

Open source landscape has already happened in the few places where it’s been allowed to evolve. Initially spearheaded by squatters, Vancouver’s thriving community garden scene is now an international showcase for grassroots planning and neighborhood scale sustainability. My own involvement over the past 20 years with the founding of East Van’s Cottonwood Community Gardens and the Means of Production Project have convinced me of the profound potential of community-based land stewardship. These projects thrive because they are adaptive and generative. They constantly evolve as a function of the people who participate in them; every season of human energy and plant growth becomes another layer in a rich palimpsest of place.

And why stop at gardens and parks? Why not ‘open source’ some of our greatest urban challenges – like housing? Some European cities already allow people to construct small, seasonal dwellings next to their community garden plots, making it possible to spend nights sleeping close to nature, right in town. These are real opportunities for community-building, not to mention the reductions in carbon emissions and traffic congestion we might see when people start spending their spare time closer to home.

How many other ‘open-source’ solutions might Vancouverites come up with if they just had more access to vacant land to try out new ideas? The city’s interstitial spaces are ripe with possibility, if only we enforced some by-laws a little less stringently and waited to see what emerged. An open source city needs to reinvent itself continuously. Open source landscapes let people and nature come together in interesting new combinations. Surely we should be encouraging more of that to happen.

The course runs mornings the week of June 20-24… There’s still time to register if this sounds as fascinating to you as it does to me…

* On another plane of thinking about higher education, political economy, sustainability and high-grade doom mongering, Joss Winn continues to amaze. Yet another on the “to-be-blogged” pile.

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Why go open?

A View Out of the Front Door of my Kharkov Apartment shared CC by Stuck in Customs

It’s been an ungodly amount of time since I updated my blogs. I thought I might reproduce an email I just sent off to a faculty member at UBC that I am trying to convince of the value of opening up a course reader. I do this because…

* as Jon Udell might say, I am conserving keystrokes

* it’s possible somebody else might find this useful

* it’s more likely that somebody can suggest how I improve such communications in the future

The questions posed by the faculty member are in bold text.

Hello [name redacted],

Please forgive how long it has taken me to respond to your questions. [It’s amazing how many of my emails start out this way.]

Can you please let me know what the UBC Wiki is or its purpose?

The UBC Wiki is meant to be a platform for the simplest possible content creation and sharing, for the UBC community and beyond.

It is used for course administration, communication and content sharing:

It’s used for documenting all sorts of tutorials and resources created by the university’s service units: – scroll down for examples.

And it’s used for all sorts of other uses that benefit from easy collaboration and the free flow of information:

It also allows you to re-purpose information that is published there in multiple places. For example, this wiki page…

…can be republished on any number sites, such as here:

Any content can be quickly converted into custom PDFs via a nifty “Wiki book feature”.

And any wiki content can be republished anywhere, even WebCT. So this…

… is syndicated here:

The republished content adopts the look of the new site automatically. And any time you update the wiki, those updates are reflected on all the sites where it is syndicated.

What will be the advantages of having [course name redacted] “out there” as a source of information?

I would suggest:

1) Students who take the course will be able to access the materials anywhere. They will also be able to access these materials after they have completed the course.

2) This open framework will make it easier, and cheaper, to maintain course materials. Future migrations (such as the one planned for next year) will be much easier.

3) This content will likely be useful to others at UBC, other universities, and the wider world.

4) There is little evidence that open content (such as that practised for “virtually all MIT course content”) harms the sharer. After all, if a student wants feedback, discussion, and accreditation, they still need to take a course. There are some new studies that suggest that open content courses see a slight increase in enrollments.

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Once was relevant

So Michael Wesch has a new snazzy video out, presumably about to go viral… it’s got that Wesch video vibe:

Ever alert, D’Arcy noticed a disreputable source on the web-browser bookmark-bar… snapped by Dean:

Pretty sure this item is to a post in which I linked to a wonderful 2006 John Willinsky lecture that features prominently in the video.

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There is abject blogging happening…

C12_manifiestoBOBESPONJA_02 shared CC by AMASTÉ

…just not here, not so much.

In part due to a push on the Digital Storytelling Open Course front, I staked out a domain and installed a blog at

It was the first time doing so in nearly two years, certainly the first time since WordPress 3 was released, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much easier it has gotten to set up and tweak a site – the new plugin management flow is especially welcome. I got the basic array in place last night in just a couple hours, and without any real frustrating moments.

Over the next couple weeks I will make some decisions where I will do what blogging. There have been a few episodes (not all of them involving me) that have me thinking that blogging on a university domain involves certain responsibilities to my employer. That’s especially true in my case, since as a blogger I like to… um… exercise a rigorous interpretation of IP fair use, and to use… umm… strong language in expressing myself at times.

That said, I am very, very proud to be associated with UBC Blogs, and part of the reason I have blogged here in recent years is that I know I could never match the skills and dedication of the CTLT tech team on my own. So I’m sure some sort of presence will be maintained in this space, likely one more focused on the UBC community.

So far, so fun on the #ds106 front… Last night I whipped off a quickie video introduction with help from Harry and Dexter, but the #ds106 intro vid I most want you to see is from Grant Potter. His wonderful ninety second video is a must-see.

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Ashamed to say…

That this is the first animated .gif I have ever created. Does anyone recognise this essence-capturing scene from one of my favorite movies?

That was done with the help of Jabiz Raisdana’s post. Now, if only I can figure out the instructions here to do something as lovely as this…

Like Michael Feldstein, I know I risk looking like an idiot by putting myself through the paces of Jim Groom’s open, online course on Digital Storytelling. To be frank, I’ve allowed myself to be too much of a spectator in the recent carnival of digital expression advances, especially for visuals. But what better way to learn than be put through the paces by a true Mad Man? Why not sup on the MOOC of human kindness?

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

We’re in Jim’s house now!

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“You can have information, or you can have a life. But you can’t have both”

From Douglas Coupland’s latest novel, Player One:

“Information overload triggered a crisis in the way people saw their lives. It sped up the we locate, cross-reference, and focus the questions that define our essence, our roles – our stories. The crux seems to be our lives stopped being stories. And if we are no longer to have lives that are stories, what will our lives have become?”

I plan to be hitting this theme during my brief session at the ¿El Paréntesis de Gutenberg? seminar later this week…

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¿El Paréntesis de Gutenberg?

PG from marabales on Vimeo.

I can’t express how excited I am to be heading to Buenos Aires for this week’s seminar ¿El Paréntesis de Gutenberg?, which is essentially a week-long investigation into how digital media is transforming communication and culture. (I’m depending somewhat on my shaky knowledge of Spanish there…)

I was invited by Alejandro Piscitelli, who I had the pleasure of meeting three years ago at a wild meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was a visit that inspired my favorite Abject Learning blog post, and it appears that Dr. Piscitelli has set the stage for something even more provocative. He has assembled a group of energetic and creative media thinkers and doers (and me) for a series of mini-presentations (fifteen minutes, max), discussions, and work sessions taking place at the city’s prime cultural centre (as well as some pretty fantastic restaurants), with the goal of engaging the public (the seminar is open and free), and creating a book.

I happen to know some of the other guests, and it just makes me more exited, (in order of sidebar list): Mara Balestrini, who I met earlier this year in Barcelona and who blog Transmedia is essential reading, especially for those interested in mobile media; Òscar Ciuró from the magnificent Trànsit Projectes; Sofía Coca and Pedro Jimenez from ZEMOS98 who you may recall have profoundly blown my mind on a number of occasions; Juan Freire, who introduced me to the concept of “expanded education”; and Juan Insúa, who hosted me earlier this year at a wonderful event as Director of CCCBLab in Barcelona. I can’t wait to get to know the rest of these people!

A number of videos for these guests have been made (the one at the top of this post was made by Mara Balestrini, something all us invited guests were to do. Because of the activity in Barcelona this past week (and my ineptitude as a video worker), I never did mine… but somehow this appeared:

If you are wondering, that image of me is drawn from this movie made in my back alley by Sharon Kravitz (guest appearances by Harry and Dexter):

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Abierto o cerrado?

Photo by Novak Rogic – click image for more awesome pics from the week

Coming off of an intense and mind-spinning week in my favorite city of Barcelona, which I barely saw this time due to the full-on doubled-down conference action at Open Ed 2010 and the Mozilla Drumbeat Festival.

A few of my highlights:

* the program at Open Ed was strong overall. I’d like to thank Julià Minguillón, R. John Robertson, Pieter Kleymeer and Molly Kleinman, Rory McGreal, Timothy Vollmer, Pedro Pernias Peco for getting the conference off to a good start for me in sessions I moderated. Later on, I also enjoyed moderating sessions with Paul Stacey, Markus Deimann, Llorenç Valverde, Eva de Lera and Eva Loste, Virginie Aimard, and catching a good session by Diego Leal. (Sorry for the lack of links.)

* the session on open platforms I did with Novak and Scott seemed to go over OK. We shared a slot with Tom Caswell’s great work on TwHistory, and Hans Põldoja’s EduFeedr (which may be close as anyone has come to the EduGlu I’ve long dreamed of) it was an honour to be side by side with that fantastic work.

Richard and Joss

* I’m feeling a little disgruntled on the current orientation of mainstream OER these days (more on that below), so I was grateful to see some strong critique from Mike Neary and Joss Winn via the University of Utopia, and Joss and Richard Hall’s session on The relationships between technology and open education in the development of a resilient higher education .

* It was wonderful to see David Wiley (one of my oldest and dearest friends in the field), and Martin Weller (who I finally met after years of trying), and they both showed why they are considered among the smartest and most engaging voices doing this work.

* I gave my first ever public talk in Spanish at a parallel event. Less said about my performance the better, but I survived it thanks to a friendly and forgiving group. And I got to spend time with some wonderful friends from Barcelona.

* I met a number of people who I think will be great partners in the future on my new beat of sustainability education.

That said, I would be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the Open Ed conference was a bittersweet experience. I do not want to seem critical of our hosts, who did their best given the hand they were played (and were incredibly hospitable and creative), but there were technical problems that seemed to sap energy from the conference (as opposed to the way that live-streaming and Twitter from remote participants seemed to energize the event in Vancouver). Making a conference truly open means depending on the networks as more than an afterthought, and in retrospect I wish I had done my part to make that happen.

Which speaks to a more important problem. Great ‘content’ is one thing — and the ‘content’ of this conference was great — but in isolation content is lifeless and does not do its part to energize something that feels like learning. More than anything, I wish I had fought harder to have a broader focus for the program than “OER: Impact and Sustainability”. Because in isolation, there is neither impact nor sustainability for Open Educational Resources.

For that reason, I was disappointed more of Open Ed’s attendees did not poke their heads into the Drumbeat Festival, which was much more focused on a broader vision of how the implications of the open web play out… I don’t know why policy-makers of OER are so uninterested in what the open web types are up to, perhaps they see it as boring and mechanical. But I saw more of a true learning orientation at Drumbeat than the Open Ed sessions I attended (Wiley and Weller excepted), I was struck by how dynamic and participatory the plans of some sessions truly were. If I am to organize another open learning conference, I want to learn from Drumbeat — kudos and huzzahs to the organizers.

Not to say Drumbeat was perfect. I found myself wishing for a wee bit more structure at times, and there was a strain of odd techno-utopianism strongly critiqued by Jon Beasley-Murray here. (Though it’s worth noting Jon was an engaged and enthusiastic participant at the MediaWiki tent in particular, leading a couple great sessions – I hope he doesn’t mind that I reveal that. It was another highlight to spend time with Jon in Barcelona, along with our mutual friend Jaume Subirana.)

That said, if this apparent division between OER policy and the reality of the open web is as strong as it appeared this week, I despair for the future. I hope I am wrong, as the work is important and I have nothing but sincere affection and respect for the passionate champions of OER I spent time with this week.

I should say more, but I type this in an airport lounge, getting ready to board. I’m on my way to an event that promises more mind-bending fun

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New free culture podcast: Grey Area

Interesting new podcast by Jason Sigal, from the Free Music Archive. Jason is spinning off the podsafe portions of his WFMU show, as well as conversations with the likes of Eric Steuer of Creative Commons talkin’ CC, NC, CBC & Superheroes, and Sam Brylawski on sound preservation in the digital age.

I have enjoyed listening, not least for this track, which turned me on the the fabulous Homemade-LoFi-Psych compilation Sound Explosions:

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