#OER20: Caring for the Open Web As The Higher Ed Territory Par Excellence

Hey, welcome to my presentation for the 2020 edition of OER Conference. Session description and all is here (https://oer20.oerconf.org/sessions/o-137/).

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It’s the economy

The long pronounced mantra of current economies is that to survive in the disruptive digital world, one would need to

  1. Lower the number of workers
  2. Increase the content they produce.

Or, maximize per-worker productivity.

Which has a few corollaries: cut costs & cut number of workers (layover). By so doing, however, workers’ conditions and quality of life worsen, perhaps the quality of their work decreases, and so does their end productivity, inevitably.

It seems to me such discourse has been applied also to higher education (at least in North America), with bad results. The number of colleges and faculty (especially tenured faculty) shrunk; tasks and load increased; and the number of different and new courses/programs often increased.

However, it seems this trend is perhaps being questioned with good results. For instance, in the newspaper industry, things have gone more or less as described above, in a trial-and-error strategy that ended up shutting down many smaller venues and linked ever more news outlets to publicity income, thus kneeling effectively to Google and Facebook’s power. Oh, and paywalls.

Not so with Le Monde, one of France most important newspapers. Says its director:

Effectively, in two years, Le Monde has cut down not the number of journalists, but the number of articles published. Instead, it has increased the number of journalists and likely enhanced the articles they write (thus showing that they believe in journalists–the people, not the bots). Probably (Monsieur Bronner does not say in his tweet), it has even bettered journalists working conditions, who knows, more advanced equipment, more and better typewriters?

Interestingly, the move has produced an increase in the newspaper’s diffusion and number of Web readers.

I wonder, would such moves be practical and useful in other domains, including education? I bet they sure would. The rhetoric of always diminishing human resources (or their time or their space, or both) because it’s supposedly the only way to combat the digital disruption (the economy must always increase–why?) must not necessarily be. In the case of Le Monde, I just wonder whether they’re employing more full-time or part-time people. But I think I know the answer.

[Featured image: “Periódicos” by Gonmi is licensed under CC BY 2.0]

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Brexit: A Melancholic Goodbye

I was 17 and for the first time out of my own city and country. I was in London, summer 1976. I do remember Trafalgar and Soho from that stay. A month-long stay that my parents had planned to have me practice and better my English. Mind you, I didn’t practice much English. Public toilets in central London had signs in Italian. The waiters at the restaurant where I worked for two weeks–just in front of Harrod’s–spoke Spanish or other tongues but English.

I was most proud that I could move and work liberally and easily in London as I pleased, without my asking permission to anybody. That was the time when I began understanding the beauty of some kind of Union among countries. So, goodbye, UK. It is sad.

I enjoyed Scotland immensely when I visited many years later, and I still have may places to go in my bucket list: I’d love going to the Shetland islands, for instance, and going back to enjoy some distillery in the Highlands, now that I like Whisky.

The Guardian published a moving “Goodbye message” in 27 languages. Ain’t it great to have 27 tongues to mess with?

Italian film director Francesca Archibugi says:

My first reaction was like, ok, people, you wanted this. Now live with it! But my initial childish reaction (fully similar to the rage I had when the current president of the US was elected–and the same one, now he is being acquitted from impeachment) has evolved into some acceptance and the conscience that perhaps we were never that much together in Europe. Sure, political manipulation apart (the same unnamed president is responsible up to some extent of this Brexit), the EU will be weaker, and with it the dream of a federal union of states. Who knows, that dream every year seems farther away. But ok, perhaps #rejoinEU will be possible. Or having Scotland back as an independent state. I’d love it.

The New York Times published that Brexit is like some US State, say Texas, left the Union. Well, no. It’s actually very different. For a US State leaving the Union would in fact be quite more dramatic, give that the US is a federal republic; while the EU is not, and every member state is just that, a member with huge sovereignty.

Anyhow, I can’t but add that I do love the Isles, starting from their languages, cultures and yes, Fleabag.

[Featured image: Screenshot from The Guardian.

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Learning and Discovering: From Paper onto the Web

I love wandering through the Web. And I have a pretty standard routine reading every day the mainstream press online. It’s basically four titles: El Nuevo Día (elnuevodia.com), Puerto Rico’s main newspaper; La Repubblica (repubblica.it), Italy’s most important (together with Il Corriere della Sera); Spain’s El País (elpais.com, fabulous for its TV Series and Cinema coverage and maths & science); The NYT (nytimes.com, of which I read everything from recipes to films to book reviews); and The Guardian (theguardian.com). So, every week I have completed a pretty indulgent reading of all of them. [There are the RSS feeds too, through the friendly Feedly, and that’s another story.]

But I also love reading paper newspapers and stuff. When in Italy I indulge every Saturday with three fantastic complements to main papers: Robinson with La Repubblica, La Lettura with Corriere della Sera, and Tutto Libri with La Stampa. The former two have Twitter and Instagram accounts, and all have a wonderful paper version (online version comes at a cost and Robinson’s is not the same as the printed one). I love both, and I spend interminable time reading them. I brought with me a couple of issues of each, so this new year’s beginnings has seen a few discoveries started from paper. Which then go to the Web, and sometimes finish up again on paper or some other stuff. The fact is, I have often bits of information I conserve, archive or annotate that stem from the analogue world. This seems also a nice way to discuss and share them.

What Have I Learned So Far? Here come the annotations. Most of all regarding the figurative arts, which is fine, given in one week I’ll begin my stellar New Media course!

Volto di donna (1900). Ritratto di Paolina Biondi
Image: Public Domain
  • The short story The Lottery, by Shirley Jackson is a classic of American Literature. A sort of horror tale it tells a story about a weird lottery, whereby every resident of a village plays and only one gets awarded. But there’s more… When originally published, on the New Yorker in 1948, it received a record number of protest letters. Read it here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1948/06/26/the-lottery?verso=true
  • Then, there is Tanino Liberatore, a cartoonist, illustrator and mad genius. This is what Guillermo del Toro thinks:

Fact is, I have never read his comics. But I appreciate his dark, hard boiled style.

This guy is RanXerox

Last, and certainly not least, Hyperallergic reports that it’s Public Domain time for Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue! By chance I had just named this most beloved music in my previous post on Manhattan (the film). So, starting now, we can remix the Rhap.

[Feat. image: “Ranx & Mast” by Dr Case is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0]

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Manhattan (the film) and 2020

Well, it’s a new year. I’ve been watching a few Woody Allen films, lately (on the home screen), and I shot photos at some frames worth remembering. Thanks to subtitles, I got a scene’s context and dialog.

I thought these two sequences were perfect as a new year’s best wishes. Both are from his movie “Manhattan” from 1979, which I enjoyed again very much, albeit perhaps a little less that when I watched it for the first few times. Yes, I’ve seen it a few times, which is a rare thing, in that I usually don’t read things twice nor watch films twice–except a few.

The black-and-white quality of the photography, the opening and closing with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, the Hemingway girl, a splendid Meryl Streep and a spectacular Diane Keaton give this film a unique feel.

BTW, I also watched the wonderful Interiors, for the first time, and I loved it. In fact, some scenes (particularly the sisters watching out of the window) seem to correlate with the beautiful Greta Gerwig’s Little Women of today.

Anyhow, the two sequences are self-explanatory, and come without comment.

From “Manhattan” 1979
Happy 2020, explaining stuff!!

And here comes the second sequence. This time, it’s the silhouettes of Woody and Diane Keaton in the Natural Sciences Museum.

From “Manhattan”, 1979.

And with this deep truth I leave you, reader. Happy 2020 to all.

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