My Story of O(pen)

Here at JISC we think a lot about openness: what it means, how to support it, where it takes us.

This is my contribution to that thinking. It is very much my individual views, but informed by the work we do at JISC, and by the Open Knowledge Foundation, amongst others.

My open narrative

Open makes things visible.

The everyday sense of “open” is open rather than closed – letting people see what is there, what is happening.

The web enables you to;

Open makes access easy.

This is where open–as-in-open-access comes in: open without needing to log in, and open without payment.


Open is social.

The “many eyes” principle of sharing open data and the open innovation model encourage others not only to view but to comment, to feed back, to engage. This speeds up the process in hand and improves the quality of the resulting work.


Open makes things usable by others.

Open standards exist to encourage as many developers as possible to adopt them.

This is where open licensing comes in: granting others explicit and generous permissions to use your content.


Open can be a way of working.

Doing open working and openly releasing outputs can make a person feel differently about what they do. Researchers might call this collection of activities open scholarship, technologists might call their activities open development, project teams might call it open innovation. Each of these types of open practice has elements in common and elements specific to the sorts of activities the practice involves.


Open is not exclusive

Open source can mean both the open development process and the open source software. They are not always found together: open development processes can produce non-open software, and closed development processes can produce open source software.


Opens are mutually beneficial

There is a virtuous cycle when open process and open products combine. In open scholarship, both creating and using open content and using open ways of working, the content feeds the practice feeds the content.

I’m watching the Openness in Education course with interest and I expect this whole meta open concept to deepen in 2012.

A Diagram of Opens

Its important to note that is is an abstracted diagram: in my view, open is not a replacement for the  way things currently work. There is not ever going to be a total transformation to open. The reality is a mixed economy. Business models matter. Practice models matter.

Open can be good for business, open can be good for practice but it exists in a bigger ecosystem of technologies and behaviours. Good is not enough, it needs to be useful. That’s what JISC and other advocates of openness are working hard to surface.

Ultimately I think open is good because it is a good way of working.

Amber Thomas

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4 Responses to “My Story of O(pen)”

  1. Lorna M. Campbell on January 17th, 2012 3:39 pm

    Hi Amber, I like your way of thinking! A few random thinky thoughts in response…

    Open makes access easy
    Yes. This is fundamental. There is little point in making something “open” if it is not easily accessible. I also think there is a continuum, or sliding scale of openness.

    Doing open working and openly releasing outputs can make a person feel differently about what they do.
    Another important point. I think we undervalue the potentially catalytic nature of “openness” in all its forms. Perhaps I see the JISC / HEA OER programmes as being as much about facilitating change as facilitating openness. The two go hand in hand.

    open development processes can produce non-open software, and closed development processes can produce open source software.
    Ditto for standards and content.

    open is not a replacement for the way things currently work… The reality is a mixed economy.
    Yes! Open may be catalytic but I don’t necessarily see it as being apocalyptic. Open will not instantly disrupt / transform education as we know it but it will certainly help to contribute to and perhaps even accelerate the rate of transformation.

  2. Digital Infrastructure for Learning Content Update February 2012 : Digital Infrastructure Team on February 2nd, 2012 7:41 pm

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  3. Why I blog « fragments of amber on April 2nd, 2012 10:10 pm

    […] My Story of O(pen) will help give a sense of what "open practice" means. Its a phrase that me and some of […]

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