In which Abject Learning completes the transition to becoming a David Wiley re:blog

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Peace, Love, and Linux, originally uploaded by kino-eye.

I probably should put up a post about Seven Second Delay, or something, anything to interrupt this string of three consecutive posts that just recycle something David Wiley has posted… But for reasons I only dimly comprehend I receive a fairly steady stream of inquiries along the lines of “what’s the deal with [keeping/getting rid of] the NC clause?” and this post captures both positions in a remarkably accessible exchange.

First, this quite clever spoof of the Cape Town Declaration on Open Education:

Swansea, January 23rd, 2008—A coalition of edutainers, foundations, free-market capitalists, adult-entertainment providers, corporates and internet “pioneers” today urged governments and publishers to make publicly-funded educational materials available freely over the internet so that it could be sucked up into huge corporate-funded databases.

The Swansea Open Edutainment Declaration, launched today, is part of a dynamic effort to make learning and teaching materials available to everyone online, regardless of income or geographic location. Providing resources for bundling, advertising, service-based income and free-market exchange it encourages teachers and students around the world to join a growing movement and pay to use the web to share, remix and translate classroom materials to make educators’ labour cheaper more pliable, and more easily replaced if they happen to disagree.

…Open edutainment is of particular relevance in developing and emerging economies, creating the potential for the swamping them with US influenced “affordable” textbooks and learning materials supplied on One Laptop per Child (OLPC), expensive gadgets and the Internet. It opens the door to a small elite class to use the labour of local content producers likely to create more diverse offerings than large multinational publishing houses. Of course, then the large multinational publishing houses are freely able to use it.

The Declaration has already been translated into over one language and the growing list of signatories includes: lots of rich people, some people you have never heard of, the usual suspects and, of course, our dear leader Lawrence Lessig.

The cutting nature of this jab has prodded David into responding with perhaps the sharpest, certainly the most passionate, defense of the model that I’ve read from him:

Though it’s dangerous and often wrong to analogize open education with open source, this is one case in which we may safely do so. Try to imagine the current state of Linux if the GPL contained a noncommercial clause… That is, try to imagine a Linux without Ubuntu. Try to imagine Linux without Transmeta supporting Linus. Try to imagine Linux without RedHat supporting Alan Cox. Try to imagine universities or governments deploying Linux if technical support weren’t commercially available from RedHat. Try to imagine Linux without hardware vendor support from Penguin Computing, VA, IBM, or Dell.

If in your mind you’re already asking “who cares whether or not universities or governments deploy? We’re trying to empower the people, not multinational corporations. And who calls tech support?” then you can stop reading right here. You seem comfortable living in the elitist world where only the uber-geeks need the benefits of open source. And since they already have them, congratulations – mission accomplished!

If you’re having trouble imagining what Linux would look like without the involvement and support of these companies, let me help you out – just think about where open education is today.

Great reading all round. But my inner perverse imp cannot help but ask if with this post Dr. Wiley might have fallen off the wagon (scroll to the bottom)?

This is likely my last post for while, at least until David posts something again…

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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