#CCSummit 2018 Toronto

photo of a person weaving
Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo on Unsplash

This year marks my second CC Summit. I attended in 2017 as a brand new employee of eCampusOntario (I work as a Program Manager on government funded post-secondary education projects and building open community in Ontario). I had been involved in the open community for several years, and certainly knew the basics of CC licenses in a post-secondary education context, but it was a great experience and exposure to the CC community, a community that goes beyond education resources in great ways. The 2017 and 2018 conferences were in Toronto, Ontario, about 90 minutes from my current home, which is pretty convenient.

At this year’s 2018 Summit I had multiple perspectives. My spouse, Terry Williams, worked for CC as a key player in the event coordination for Summit and we had many conversations about the various actors and issues that emerged leading up to the conference. No conference is ever easy, and it is not magic unicorns that make it happen. I know and admire many on the CC team and it was fun for my non-education partner to get a glimpse of my community in this way. I got an insider view as well. We actually didn’t see each other at the conference very much, which carries its own irony.

Summit is a weekend conference, a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, which makes it somewhat unique in the spectrum of academic-oriented conferences. I wouldn’t say that it’s an academic conference, although many community members are involved in research and education. Summit is more of a creator, policy, copyright professionals conference, which is interesting and informative for me as a researcher and educator. Here are some of my experiences and thoughts about it all.

First the keynotes:

Katherine Maher’s keynote resonated with me in a challenging way, I will admit. She is the Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation and she focused on an issue that has been on my mind a lot this year. It’s the issue of what some global actors choose to do with CC BY (or BY SA) licensed content that may be contrary to the creator’s intent. In my case, this issue bubbles up because of publisher appropriation and promotion of OER in their digital, for-profit products. Katherine described the possibility of activism against misappropriation, profit-making, and other controversial deeds that are legal according to the current license. For me this issue seems simple (although the global context of Wikipedia’s work is certainly more complex than I can know). If I don’t like what happens to my work when I license it CC BY, I will change my license choice. The spectrum of CC licenses exist for a reason, and it seems simple to move to a CC BY NC choice. Yes, this begins to limit what for-profit others can do with my work, and might even take away one or two of the 5Rs, but it’s my work, and my choice. If the work is publicly funded, and intended to benefit the public, there are still choices. The primary issue of openness for me is access – can users find it and view it (including viewing according to accessibility guidelines), and adapt for their own learning? Contribute and improve it for others’ learning? If yes, I’m licensing according to my values. Tricky to know what to do in a global-scale co-creation community. Extensive consultation is probably required, but if it were me, I’d shift to a CC BY NC SA license going forward. It might help prevent some of the undesired behaviour that Katherine highlighted.

The second keynote of the Summit was from Chris Bourg, Director of Libraries at MIT. She’s in a key position in the academic and copyright scheme of things, and she is a fantastic speaker. Her topic, Open as in dangerous, really resonated with me. I support and contribute (what I can so far) to Open Access work. I had recently watched The Internet’s Own Boy, so I was familiar with the chain of events around the suicide of Aaron Swartz, and MIT administrators’ decisions not to act. Even though she was not in her role at MIT at the time, you could hear the pain in her voice about it. I imagine it would be difficult to work within an organization that hid behind policy and non-intervention in this case. I am very certain she does a lot to be a change-maker at MIT. Chris touched on other examples of the dangers of open, particularly the “increasing tension between the ethos of open, and the value of privacy.” She provided several great examples of the disproportionate danger for marginalized voices out in the open.

The third keynote (also a woman!) was Ruth Okediji, a Professor of Law at Harvard and a global expert on IP. Ruth is also a CC board member. She schooled me on various copyright treaties, how long they take, and the kind of work that goes into them. I also learned a great deal about exceptions (such as the need for open access to copyright works for people with accommodation needs). I found it very interesting that the law treats these issues as exceptions to copyright, rather than baked in assumptions. I was bowled over by her capacity to shrug off a technology challenge, she went with “no slides,” didn’t blink, and delivered an exceptionally engaging message.

If I walk through all of the great sessions of this conference that I attended, this post will be far too long. These are additional highlights:

First, my collaborative experience working with Werner Westernmann on our co-presentation, SDGs, OER, and OEP: A World of Acronyms for Open Global Education. Werner is involved in every good way at UNESCO level advocacy and practice for open education from his home base in Santiago, Chile. Once I finish my Ed.D work (December 2018!!!) I look forward to pursuing this line of research and practice in partnership with Werner and interested others. Considering our 9am Sunday morning time slot, I felt we did very well with participants and their energy.

The Global Digital Library project, led by Christer Gundersen, is a fantastic initiative leading to mother-tongue early reader resources in underserved languages. Christer is one of a group of open badass Norwegians that attended the conference leading the way on several fronts. See also Cecilie and Knut Inge under open Norwegian badasses in the dictionary. Their NDLA and h5P.org projects are world class examples of open. Knut Inge puts it simply, “Wordpress plus h5P is all you need for an open ed platform at almost no cost.” He laments funding awards of millions of dollars as they almost always lead to someone claiming open global projects need a new technology solution. Redundant waste of money and effort, he’s absolutely right. Collaborate and use what’s already out there, improve it.

Penny Andrews, a PhD student and critical thinker on topics infrastructural delivered an awesome critical session on infrastructure, governance, and inclusion.

I was invited to speak as part of a dialogue session around the Cape Town Declaration 10th Anniversary Plus led by Alek Tarkowsi, Melissa Hagemann, and selected others. It was a good breakfast conversation at 8:30am on Saturday. I encourage you to consider the directions you might want to move on open in the next 10 year time frame.

Leading by Example: Large-Scale OER Initiatives Across SUNY (State University of New York) was a great presentation by our neighbours to the very near south. Led by Alexis Clifton, this session focused on the educator perspective of the open ed and OER work funded by the State of New York. Great information about the benefits and challenges of building awareness and increasing use of OER among educators with and for learners. Love their work, would love to see the pedagogic side of open ed discussed more broadly with this team, and the presence of learners at their next presentation.

I was really pleased to participate in the Humans of the Commons research project by completing an interview with the team. The audio quality is mixed, and I’d like to revise my words, but it is a fantastic qualitative research project with massive talent behind it.

As part of my work as an open community member, I was a virtually connecting buddy for a session with Chris Bourg (lucky me!) and some of the CC Summit scholarship recipients, a terrific combination of speakers! Here’s a link to the full CC Summit 2018 VC sessions page.

Placing my eCampusOntario hat back on for a moment, I was a collaborative leader for two additional sessions at the conference. Common Connections – Finding a Home on the Open Range which involved encouraging groups of participants to tell stories about their open work, and finding common ground with others. I joined Rajiv Jhangiani @thatpsychprof in his session on “How might we break open” the third or fourth in a series of critical reflection on what we are (or are not) doing to effectively nurture a successful open movement. The notes (linked to the title above) are a great artifact of that session.

The most challenging part of CC Summit for me (and I do like to be challenged) was the Hot Topic Panel included at the end of the CC Open Education Platform meeting. The panel consisted of representatives from four publishers currently providing paid learner services using OER as a basis. Here are the notes from the Open Ed Platform session, the details of the panel are included at the bottom of the document. What didn’t make it into the notes, was the tension in the room around the dichotomy of enclosing CC BY content in for-profit platforms. It’s an issue that is going to require many, many more sessions and conversations, and evidence and examples of positive and negative practices to determine what role for-profit publishers might play in the sustainability of OER. Long road here.

This post doesn’t really scratch the surface of the rich face-to-face, privileged opportunities of attending CC Summit for me. I love networking with people I know digitally but have never met face-to-face, I love reunions with people I have met, and serendipity, attending sessions by people whose work is completely new for me. I experienced all of that, and the rest. Thank you to eCampusOntario (my employer and sponsor of my attendance), the full CC team, volunteers, presenters, and attendees for a wonderful conference.

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