Open Access and Social Media: Networking around a scholarly article

(The short version is in the last paragraph if you want to skip to there).

Many places
Many places

Heterotopic communication

In writing about heterotopic communication (see Foucault’s Heterotopia ), the prescient Leah Lievrouw showed that public and private can relate to strategies for engagement behaviours rather than being properties of spaces (Lievrouw 1998 ).  As we communicate apparently within one space, we are simultaneously performing across multiple physical and digital channels and spaces with others who have related but different sets of spaces.  Communicating across spaces around the publication of an open access paper that I co-authored has been a long learning ‘moment’ for me over the last week, and I wanted to capture and share my reflections before I forget them.

OA Publishing and Social Media

I have been thinking about the links between Open Access scholarly publishing and social media for some time, inspired by my privileged involvement in two ventures. The first was Cristina Costa’s PhD entitled Participatory Web in the Context of Academic Research: Landscapes of Change and Conflicts. I learned so much from listening and talking to Cristina as she planned, conducted and wrote up her research. The second venture was my involvement as (then) co-editor in the move of the ALT journal Research in Learning Technology to Open Access publishing (including the entire archive). In the editorial of the first open access issue, we said

By attending to, and even influencing, the emergent practices of our members (as well as authors and other researchers) as ALT introduces innovations, we can continue to exploit the opportunities presented by the openness and web presence of articles in Research in Learning Technology. The read/write web, as represented by blogs and social networking services such as Twitter and Google+, offers the potential to develop conversation and interest around our articles, and thereby promoting their use.

That seems very relevant to my current reflections, since I find my own practices to be emergent, with rapid change having occurred in the last week.

Encouraging engagement via Social Media

On 13 Feb 2015, Jenny Mackness and I had a paper published in Open Praxis  an open access journal. Conscious that we wanted to maximise the impact of the fruits of our labour and that of the participants who supplied such rich data, we considered briefly how best to share it . We shared the (open) link to the paper on Twitter, including the hash tags for rhizo14 and rhizo15. Open Praxis use Twitter to market their activity. They stream their own tweets on their web page, and have some means of picking up occurrence of their links in Twitter that they then helpfully retweet including authors’ handles where they know them. On reflection, it occurs to me that it would be really helpful for connectivity purposes for (willing) authors to include their Twitter handles within the paper, and for a share button to be next to the paper that could include author twitter handles when the link to the paper is shared. I don’t know of any journals do this. I have checked out a few publishers and whilst some enable creation of post that links to paper, the twitter post often exceeds 140 characters and included publisher rather than authors’ handles. These look like devices for marketing rather than scholarly engagement.
We decided to blog the publication of the article at Frances’ blog and later at Jenny’s blog and the comment streams are evidence of rich engagement with the paper. We have used the posts to link to activity on Twitter and elsewhere. For example, the very wonderful Laura Goglia decided, on the spur of the moment, to live tweet her reading of our paper (we recorded this via storify) and she blogged the experience too.
Twitter was a very useful way of sharing and commenting around the paper. One less positive (for me) use of Twitter was a reader who used Direct Messages to quiz me about aspects behind the paper ( 17 messages in less than 30 minutes). I suggested redirection to the blog.
During the live tweet there was a playful suggestion that what the paper needed was a hashtag but perhaps this turns out to be something worth deciding at the start (possibly even including within the article as a keyword). We used Storify to capture the chat around Laura’s live tweet of the blog post.

Rhizo14’s most active space is the semi-permeable Facebook group that has a membership of 320 of whom a small proportion are active.  Typically, longer threads will engage ten or more people but one has a sense of not so much an invisible audience, but rather an unnoticed audience. We had not directly posted our paper to the Facebook group but two threads emerged around a link to the paper. The first was started by a positive comment and fizzled out fairly quickly. The second thread was introduced by a comment raising doubts about the extent of ethical obligation of the leader of a voluntary extra-institutional cMOOC like Rhizo14, and ran on to include some other concerns about the paper. post by Rebecca Hogue that was actually about her planned blogging course but I mistakenly thought was about the rhizo14 cMOOC.  I engaged in both threads, trying to respond to points about the paper as they were made. It was strange – I had been active (less so in recent months) on this Facebook group for over a year but I came to feel that my presence as author (particularly in the second thread) wasn’t helping the discussion that people wanted to have (see my comments on cognitive dissonance). Eventually one participant expressed that they felt that I was categorising them and lecturing them. I was mystified by the first point but reread the thread and could see that my contributions could be seen as having ‘lecture-like’ attributes. I was speaking about collaborative work with Jenny on which I had spent many hours, and unsurprisingly my contributions were in an authoritative register that was probably out of place in the context of this particular Facebook group, for some participants at least.

So what are the outcomes of my reflection?

  • there are positive links between open access and social media
  • open access publishers can and do support the dissemination of articles using social media and this can increase the readership of articles
  • publishers and authors could investigate the possibilities of using social media to create engagement with the article that could more easily include authors themselves (if that is what authors want)
    consider creating a hashtag for an article that can be used to tag it and aggregate discussion around it
  • it can be useful for authors to blog the publication of an article, enabling dialogue and using this as a hub to link to other direct and curated interactions around the article
  • Twitter has many affordances for supporting sharing and commenting around articles but DM was less useful from my point of view
  • in future I would not directly engage with discussion of our work in the Rhizo14 Facebook group as my engagement seemed to be of little use to the group participants or to me

Cyberbullying film as a resource

Cyber BullyMariana Funes pointed me towards this Channel 4 film and I watched it mesmerised.  If you are in UK you will be able to watch it on catch up at rammes/ukip-the-first-100-days/on-demand/58485-001 .

It’s a story of a young woman who is pursued online by someone who wants to expose to her the cyberbullying that she has conducted.  As Filipa Jodelka says in her review “Cleverly, it’s never totally clear whether Casey is the victim or the perpetrator”. And Channel 4 made a good choice as Filipa Jodelka says “The first and biggest thing they’ve got right is casting Maisie Williams – Game Of Thrones’s Arya Stark – as protagonist Casey Jacobs. ”

So by all means, just watch this film and enjoy it, let it make you think, but if you are an educator, then also consider how the film might provide a prompt for productive conversation with young people who will be experiencing all of the ambiguities that the film reveals.  Of course facilitating such a conversation would require an outstanding teacher/educator but I know that everyone who reads my blog is such a person or knows one.

Its life on Channel 4 catch up might be limited but perhaps we should lobby Channel 4 to release it for educational licensing.

For those of you who can’t see the film there is an account of it on Wikipedia (second best).




Cycling between private and public in researching Rhizo14

Howling at the moon
Howling at the moon, Sculpture Park, Aalborg

Our first paper Rhizo14: A Rhizomatic Learning cMOOC in Sunlight and in Shade from the research we conducted at Rhizo14 was published last week at Open Praxis.  We would love you to read it and respond.

One of the themes that has engaged us in the research process is the delicate dance between the private and the public.  Public and private can relate to strategies for engagement behaviours rather than being properties of spaces (Lievrouw 1998). We found that offering privacy in data collection was a good strategy in that we are able to reveal some things that were not apparent on the surface of Rhizo14, adding to our partial, provisional understanding.

On the other hand, we are pledged to publish only in open access journals, and shared our data collection approach with Rhizo14 participants who helped us to shape it. Dave Cormier, the convener of the MOOC kindly agreed to a private conversation reflecting on Rhizo14.  We have spent a long time (a year) reading and analysing the data, reading other writers, and writing, alone or together.

We have also presented interim findings at a conference at University College London, blogged over several posts and we have blogged our ideas before, during and after Rhizo14.  It was great to get feedback at the conference and on our blogs.

And now we have published an article that was private while it was being written, reviewed and edited, and we look forward to getting your feedback on what we have said. Of course this apparently fixed article is only a snapshot of ideas. Our ideas have moved on even in the relatively short period since we completed this article (November 2014), and it would be different if we wrote it today.  We have, this month, submitted a second article on the rhizome as metaphor and concept, and we are currently working on an article about community formation.  But the cycling between private and public – reflecting, reading, thinking, writing – that’s so important. If our paper motivates you to respond, we would be thrilled to hear your ideas.  We don’t want to howl at the moon.

Lievrouw, L.A., 1998. Our Own Devices: Heterotopic Communication, Discourse and Culture in the Information Society. The Information Society, 14, pp.83–96. Available at:

Jenny Mackness @jennymackness

Frances Bell @francesbell

ALT Annual Conference 2015: Shaping the future of learning together – submission deadline approaching

Snapshots of ALT-C
Snapshots of ALT-C

The ALT-C 2015 Conference is at the University of Manchester 8-10 September, and will be hugely enjoyable if my experience of previous conferences is anything to go by.  Two excellent keynote speakers have been announced: Laura Czerniewycz who does great work in Open Education and Steve Wheeler , a prolific and popular blogger and tweeter.

The programme will reflect the theme of shaping and sharing learning through breaking down the traditional divisions between stakeholders and between their roles, with a focus on:

Harnessing the power of the crowd – collaboration and connectivist learning;

Social media in learning and teaching;

Open educational practice;

Learners as agents of change;

Participatory approaches to the development of learning technologies.

This has encouraged me to prepare a submission – we have until Friday 13 March.  But what has really excited me is a change to the organisation of the sessions, and to what they might lead to.  Instead of categorising them as workshops, presentations or research papers they are just sessions with clear criteria for audience engagement.  I think that can offer opportunities for creativity for presenters and audience.

There is also an open and flexible concept of education that is dear to my own heart

Here education is considered broadly and includes formal and informal learning settings in schools, colleges, universities, the workplace, homes and communities, at any stage in learners’ lives.

I recommend you to visit the web site and read the Call for Papers. I am a former editor of Research in Learning Technology, and I really welcome the shift of focus from inviting Research Papers for the Conference to supporting authors to develop the work that they present at the conference into a paper for Research in Learning Technology.  As the Call says,

This is a new opportunity we are offering this year with the intention of increasing the work showcased at the conference being published.

This is a wonderful opportunity to increase the relevance of the conference and the journal to each other. I am imagining more conference attenders writing and reading papers from RiLT and elsewhere, and exciting topics, articles and multimedia making their way from the conference to the journal.

One of the aspects that really excites me is the potential for collaboration all through the process – co-authoring the abstract, getting feedback from reviewers, presenting the session and interacting with participants, getting feedback there and via social media, co-writing a research paper, getting feedback from editor and reviewers, rewriting and finally publication, then getting feedback via social media, since RiLT is open access.  I could even recommending blogging as part of the development process – see the rich discussion around this blog post

So go on – submit a session abstract and hopefully I will see you in Manchester in September.

The Flexible concept of the Terrible Sea lion

I saw this cartoon again a week ago and it reminded me of my first reaction to it so I went off to see what some others thought.

The Terrible Sealion
David Hopkins gave the following response to the Terrible Sea lion cartoon

“I don’t tweet, but I’ve found the Sea Lion strip quite thought-provoking. The most interesting thing about it to me is that it’s quite ambiguous to me which of the parties is supposed to be “in the wrong”. The general reception of the strip seems to be “oh yes, I recognise that archetype, sea-lioning is an obviously terrible thing to do”. But that’s not at all how I read it originally.

If the person in the car was saying “I don’t mind most queer people, but transgenders? I could do without transgenders”, the sea-lion character would be a heroic person standing up against off-hand degrading comments of a bigot. The sea-lion character is, in fact, unfailingly civil, just as they claim. There are no ad-hominems, no doxxing, no abuse or threats. The woman never justifies her initial comment, or apologises for it either. The sea-lion’s following around of the people and invasion of their private space isn’t really a great metaphor for Twitter or Facebook, considering that those are explicitly public spaces where users can disengage freely at any time (and/or switch to a more private mode of communication). If tweets or status comments are bothering you at breakfast or in bed… maybe just put your dang phone away?

I dunno. Maybe my objection is based on not having experienced such an interaction myself. Like I said, I’ve never chosen to engage in the Twitter-sphere, so I don’t get random internet strangers challenging me on my assertions much. I’m aware of my “privilege” in this domain.”

When I first saw the cartoon, I found it to be ambiguous too and perhaps that’s its value. Apparently, sea-lioning has been adopted as a verb making it more negative but just as ambiguous. So I can imagine that some would want to argue the toss about the ‘real meaning’ of the Terrible Sea lion but claiming of terms is an unedifying but common practice on the social web as far as I can tell. I would want nothing to do with that.

My default explanation for tetchy disagreement on the social web is misunderstanding exacerbated by assumptions and reduced social cues. In relatively closed groups, there may be shared language and customs, an understanding of ‘what we do around here’ and even explicit or implicit figures of authority who pronounce on who is in the wrong. And groups can implode – as Clay Shirky says ‘you have to find a way to spare the group from scale’
What we see on Twitter is people doing a lot of different things without always realising what others in our network are doing. There can be tight groups socialising, acquaintances chatting, people looking for ideas or people new to them, or people organising campaigns to bring down the wrong sort of person (in their shared view) who has poked their head too far above the parapet. My default explanation does not work for this latter group but I think that most people on the web don’t have evil plans. The asymmetry of relations on Twitter (that you can follow someone without them following you) can work for and against a happy Twitter experience. Unfortunately, when people engage in group behaviours on an open network like Twitter problems can occur. I think that the best possible solution to that involves (and this advice is aimed first and foremost to myself):
increased tolerance – if someone questions us, why not assume good faith (to start with at least) and just answer them politely? If you were referring to them inappropriately, why not apologise and take it from there?
decreased sensitivity - when problems occur, why not consider the possibility that you may be at least partially to blame? they may even return the favour – and remember that if you follow someone solely to monitor their behaviour, don’t be surprised if they don’t like it
ignoring the sealion – if none of that works then ignore the offended or offending person by power of will, muting or blocking

Here are the collective nouns for a group of sea lions
A bob of sea lions, A colony of sea lions, A crash of sea lions, A flock of sea lions, A harem of sea lions ………….. a group of females, A herd of sea lions, A hurdle of sea lions, A pod of sea lions, A raft of sea lions, A rookery of sea lions, A team of sea lions.

One last thing – if you are going to be a sea lion in the positive or negative sense, it’s probably a good idea to fly solo where possible – noone wants a crash of sealions.

Revealing and celebrating learning beyond education

Note: this blog post is written to accompany a Twitter chat 8-9p.m. GMT, Wednesday 11 February 2015, follow #LTHEchat

peeking out from under the invisibility cloak

Figure 1 What am I thinking? Dave Young CC BY 2.0

Learning often wears an invisibility cloak.  It’s not even that we think it’s magic, but rather that it happens in the course of other everyday things like a parent playing with their baby, or someone taking up a hobby.  Our attention is focused on the activity: the learning is often a by-product of enjoyment or making or doing something new.  The learning is situated in its context , in the people and artefacts, and the knowledge may be tacit for the learner, and partially in the artefacts.

Of course, informal learning can be risky as this language learning clip shows

Much discussion about learning assumes a formal educational context, say what is learned in a school or a university ,and though attention may be paid to learning in the workplace or through external activities, such as volunteering, the starting point tends to be institutional.  Some of the learning within institutions is informal, we may ask students to reflect on group work processes.  University courses may include work with external clients, internships, or placements and these provide valuable learning experiences and the stuff of later discussions and reflections. Many universities foster volunteering schemes of mutual benefit to students and the local community.

But what about learning that is experienced outside of formal educations or institutions? Research in music education on how young people learned to become band members has informed music pedagogy.

Can learners draw on their informal learning experiences in their education? What can consideration of informal learning bring to discussions and practice within the academy? For example, I would contend that learning technologists and teachers could learn a lot from experiencing/ studying Ravelry’s use of digital technologies in their community (last few paragraphs of this post). If only VLEs were more like Ravelry!

Nobody asked you, sir she said

My first ever memory of a ‘feminist’ reaction was to this nursery rhyme

“WHERE are you going, my pretty maid?”
“I am going a-milking, sir,” she said.
“May I go with you, my pretty maid?”
“You ’re kindly welcome, sir,” she said.
“What is your father, my pretty maid?”         5
“My father ’s a farmer, sir,” she said.
“What is your fortune, my pretty maid?”
“My face is my fortune, sir,” she said.
“Then I won’t marry you, my pretty maid.”
“Nobody asked you, sir,” she said.

On the one hand I liked the attitude displayed in the last line, but on the other hand I reacted badly to the thought that my face was my fortune. The memory of my reaction was submerged and only revived by coming across the rhyme when I bought a book of nursery rhymes to sing and say to my own children. I remember the rhyme being sung but I don’t think it was sung to me by my parents – the cultural conditioning that wealth counts and women’s bodies are part of a socio-economic market was broader and embedded in school and media.

I had heard of bell hooks but never read her so Teaching to Transgress is a revelation to me. I couldn’t and wouldn’t claim to identify with her experience of education as a black woman: white privilege is a big difference between our experiences. When she spoke of the contrast between segregated and desegregated education, it reminded me of the re-evaluation I made of my single-sex secondary school education after starting to teach in a co-educational secondary school about ten years later. There were more safe spaces for women to learn in my schooling than I could ensure for the women I was teaching.

So going back to the rhyme, this got me wondering  what others had made of the rhyme and its messages. So I googled it.

There were quite a few painful videos of people using the rhyme for learning of the English language but also a couple of gems that I will share with you.

This article links women’s social and economic valuation to what they have done to their bodies. Laurie Essig’s  research into cosmetic surgery helped her to identify what she called “the subprime mortgage crisis of the body”.  Cosmetic surgery as a business in USA grew by 465% in the first decade of the 21st Century and 85% of its costs are financed by borrowing.  Business was not damaged by the financial downturn.  Essig found that some women were opting for cosmetic surgery in an effort to become more employable or more lovable, and financing  it by remortgaging their homes.

Another site uses an 18th century example “There is long tradition of suffusing the female countenance with the woman’s moral record”  that links forward to what bell hooks and Anita Sarkeesian have to say.

Anita Sarkeesian’s videos made for interesting if slightly chilling viewing. I played with Lego in the late 50s/ early 60s and it never occurred to me that Lego was just for boys. The difference that I noticed when my own children started playing with it was the trend towards sets that were a bit like airfoil kits with ‘instructions’.  Viewing the videos has made me think about the links with marketing – maybe product development is tending towards identifiable products that can be marketed in place of components like the original Lego bricks that had to serve as roof tiles, furniture, whatever was in the child’s imagination.  Every generation inscribes the ‘place’ of men, of women, of black and brown and white people in its cultural practices and artefacts but in an age of mass and connected media, the technology that enables Anita Sarkeesian to create and share her ideas also enables the vicious push back she experiences from those whose blindfolds are threatened.  It also enabled Lori Day to track down the girl from the 1981 ad.

Then and now


Laurie Essig, American Plastic: Boob Jobs, Credit Cards, and Our Quest for Perfection, Beacon Press, Boston, 2011.