Openness as a Privilege Multiplier

…was the name of the presentation Jim Groom and I originally submitted to ELI 2011. It was going to investigate the tendency of “undirected and unregulated openness to exacerbate inequality both in and out of the classroom” and suggest that this tendency “undermined the social justice claims of openness”. 

Jim’s remedy was going to be corporate regulation (and a rant on corporate skimming of open development), and my remedy was going to be a rethinking of the current approach to OER, which is overly focused on self-study materials — stuff which is great for people that are, frankly, already doing quite well. 

(The proposal was rejected, and we got exiled to the Herman Miller room session we eventually did). 

So I’m happy to find (via Downes) that Justin Reich has been looking into this and adding some data to the mix. And guess what? Openness is a privilege multiplier

(To sum up Reich’s article, the world looks a lot like scenario #2)

This is not a small problem; it’s not a bug we can program out of the system with a single tweak. If openness is a privilege multiplier, we can no longer sprinkle openness magic dust on problems and expect them to go away — more openness means more inequality, more centralized power, and the perpetuation of a permanent underclass. If openness is a privilege multiplier it means that every open project has to design in solutions to that issue on day one, and assess the impact on equality on day one hundred and one.

I think this has particularly profound implications in the area of OER, but I’ll save that post for another day.

9 thoughts on “Openness as a Privilege Multiplier

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