Archives for the month of: September, 2011

On wednesday this week I was in the "Open Country" symposium at ALT-C that I trailed in a previous post. I think video will be available of the whole session, including the much more articulate and evidence-informed colleagues Dave White and Helen Beetham. And of course, David Kernohan preachin and playing the banjo 😉

But I can't wait for the video before I share my career-limiting escapade.

Below are the words I delivered in the character of a Sheriff. Picture a third rate Reese Witherspoon who's eaten too many pies. There's a rough audio recording here too, thanks to Lou McGill, who also supplied the banjo. My character's speech comes first and is about 3 minutes long, after which I seem to have stepped back from the mic!

James Clay recorded an ALT-C beta interview with us afterwards.

David Kernohan's reflections are here (including a photo, yes). I'm still chewing over a better way to articulate my thoughts that sustainable infrastructure comes out of compromises, that the interactivity of the content is not really what's important to OER: its more about a trading balance between what people want to produce and what people want to use. One thing I feel strongly about is that its important for purists to preach their vision, but the real adoption of new practices is the story of the pragmatists. Unlike some, I don't find that depressing at all. I see it as social history vs the great men theory of history. Deep change takes time and its worth waiting for, but it also requires lots of compromises along the way.


Sheriff's Story

Howdy folks.

I’m the sheriff of this town. The keeper of law‘n’order. The boss.

There are two surprising things about me one is that I'm a lady sheriff the other is that my accent wonders all around the Americas like a stray dawg so I'll try to keep it a o k.

Anyhows, I'm here to tell y'all a bit about life in the wild west All you’ll mainly hear about are the outlaws and the cowboys. The heroes, the explorers, the ones who head off on their horses into the mountains armed only with a rifle. They come back with their stories, their reputations. They get the glory. I was a pioneer once. I shared their dreams. I’ve seen a lot of people lose their way, I’ve seen ambushes, I’ve seen in-fighting.

What I want now is stability and sustainability. You can’t build a community without compromise.

Stability. A stable town means somewhere people can live and work. We came here, following the promises of the gold rush, the oil prospectors, the preachers, in search of a better life And we find ourselves thousands of miles from home, from anything familiar. We create communities, we nurture our children, we raise oir cattle. We can’t all chase the gold rush. Only the strong and the brave have the appetite for adventure. Where would we be without our elders advising caution or our women keeping the children safe?

Sustainability. They head off into the open, seeking riches. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, who ensures the gloryboys families don’t starve over the winter? Who’s left to till the fields and mill the flour? The novelty wears off after the first failed harvest. The townspeople, that’s who. we learn again how to plant and harvest and cook in this barren land. There is a world to be built, and I’m here to keep the peace, to keep our fragile community safe within these foreign hills.

So, what do we need to keep Law n order?

I have to have a notion of the public good. Individuals will often want more than our little community can give them. There will be conflict, there will be deserters. Sometimes they will take people with them, I will let them go.

The goldrush is over. I have to manage the community. Their fighting. Their stealing. And I have to be thinking towards the future. I have to think about food production, trade and railroads.

I'll leave the outlaws and preachers to their work.

I have my own problems to deal with.



Tomorrow I head up into Open Country. Well, Yorkshire. Leeds to be precise. It's ALT-C – the time of year that learning technology types meet up and share ideas and experiences.

People that know me on twitter as @ambrouk will know that I am very interested in "open": open educational resources, open access, open scholarship, open source … all the opens. What I'm finding the most interesting is the tensions that take place between the idea of change and the mainstream adoption/adaption to it. It involves struggles between purism and pragmatism, a balance between innovation and implementation.

So I am really looking forward to speaking at a symposium on Wednesday with Helen Beetham, David Kernohan, and Dave White, where we will be asking "Are we in Open Country?"

Trailer, courtesy of David Kernohan

As part of my preparation I'm also planning to join the Paradox of Openness: the High Costs of Giving Online symposium on Tuesday, as I suspect there will be strong links between what they are exploring and what we want to look at.

If you're wondering what what my excuse is for The Hat (thank you Smiffys!) … lets just say I'm going to step in the spurred leather boots of a sheriff to explore how to move beyond the occasional expedition into Open Country into how to make life in the wild west stable and sustainable.