Open Source Sharing economy Social Software Wikiversity

Open education: if you can do it, do it

Some time ago the New York Times wrote about the fathers’ leave in Sweden. The articles ends with these words:

In Sweden I am on the right,” Mr. Westerberg said, “but in the United States, I’m considered a Communist.”

Some days ago David Wiley wrote that with the open content the Open Knowledge Foundation gets it wrong when claiming that share-alike licenses are open but non-commercial ones aren’t.

For those who are not that familiar with the open/free content/knowledge discussion, the share-alike (SA) license has a condition asking people who remix or build upon the content to distribute the resulting work under the same license. The license ensures that later works will be open, too — will stay in commons. Wiley wrote:

“When authors adopt a share-alike license, they are saying: we value the freedom of content over the freedom of people.”

As an author using share-alike license I see this a bit differently. I value the *freedom of mankind*, the common good, over the freedom of content or individuals.

I think that this is the way most SA people see it: When you are given, you should give back, too.

I also do not consider use of SA to be any kind of violation of individual’s rights. Individual’s rights is something I am not willing to negotiate about. In the case of content anyone is still free to release *their own stuff* under whatever license. So, as a such SA is not really communism. It is a way to contribute to the common good.

Later Wiley wrote a follow-up post with the title Openness, Radicalism, and Tolerance and asking “Why isn’t the open crowd more open-minded?”

I see here some signs of a straw man arguments.

I think we should look how the Free / Open Source Softeware movement and the Open Content movement were started. People simply started to do things. The Free software people made software and wanted to share it with their friends. Some other people started to write free encylopedia or publish University course content online. They just did it because they could.

What are people doing in the field of Open Education?

Many things. For instance, the Peer 2 Peer Univeristy and the Wikiversity are crassroot open education projects organizing self-organizing learning online. The idea is to bring people together to teach and to learn from each other. Simple.

Similar kind of initiatives are started here and there: from Indian to Brazil, From South Africa to Finland. I find these much more interesting that the discussion on content-driven “open education”. The content is there – now it is the time to use it. That is education.


3 replies on “Open education: if you can do it, do it”

Very interesting. The share alike licences are of course very reliant on people’s wish to be altruistic. As I believe in all that, I’m all for. (un)fortunately it clashes with the capitalistic standpoints of everyone making their livelihood out of others’ needs. Therefore it is of course communism 😉


I think it is problematic to see use of share-alike altruism. I think SA is not altruism. It is a contribution to the common good, where those who are “giving” are also part of the “commons”.

You can use SA from very selfish point of view, too. You give, because you will this way get something you want.

Think about the father’s leave in the Scandinavia. It naturally costs a lot of money for the government and to all the tax payers, the businesses etc. We pay high taxes to finance the father’s leaves. It is not altruism from any of the stakeholders to someone else. It is an investment to common good; to have peaceful society with (somehow in average) wellbeing children and fathers (and mothers). It is not altruism, it is selfishness if you value that kind of society high.

The question is what should be then included to the list of being “common good”? Shelter, food, water, health? These are all good for all people. What about access to knowledge (internet)? education (open education)? Parenthood? Yes, Yes, Yes.


“As an author using share-alike license I see this a bit differently. I value the *freedom of mankind*, the common good, over the freedom of content or individuals.”

This is a great point. Based on the UNESCO Forum which defined OER, the primary goal of open education is to create an education commons. It’s not about authors or content, but the freedom education can offer.

Moreover, I’ve begun to question more and more the benefit of arguing freedom or not when it comes to OER. The concept of freedom as applied to copyleft is the Free Software Movement’s construct. We could just as easily talk about copyleft and non-copyleft from an economist’s view of intellectual property as commodity or a publishing/production perspective of which achieves more and better content. This would seem more helpful for making decisions about what licensing to use than arguments of freedom that, on the other hand, have been shown to be very divisive in the history of FLOSS.


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