Jane Austen and the Belly of the Beast: OERs and Neoliberalism
From Ewan McAndrew
Others have expressed similar unease about how OERs are situated in current economic and political developments; with Weller (1) observing the growing links to corporate business interests and Daniels (2) making the comparisons to a form of neo-colonialism.
This talk situates OERs in the context of present day neoliberalism and asks what’s going on here? To do so we (briefly!) describe neoliberalism from Harvey’s (3) perspective as the reimposition of economic and political control by the ‘ruling class’. We explain what we understand to be OER’s, taking the more inclusive definition from the Hewlett Foundation (4) and ask how our work with OERs may avoid being co-opted into neoliberal strategies of austerity, control and legitimization.
Jane Austen’s novels are widely admired as insightful accounts of human character set in the style of an entertaining ‘comedy of manners’ that lampoons the pretensions of polite society. Less widely appreciated in Austen’s writing is her great attention to financial detail, reflecting the tumultuous social and economic uncertainty that the rural gentry were facing as a result of the agrarian and industrial revolutions – the first bloom of liberal economics. We see parallels with this in in present day discourse about technology in education. Guided by Cicero’s dictum of ‘cui bono?’ (“who benefits?”) we argue for the need to examine how our work with OERs fits into the wider changes that are going on in society. To do this we need to adopt a systems approach to identify the political ‘feedback loops’ described by Apple (5) that may be operating to gain a better understanding of how we manage our work. We don’t have all the answers – but we do have some of the questions!
(1) Weller, M. The Battle for Open: How openness won and why it doesn’t feel like victory, Ubiquity Press: London, 2014.
(2) Daniel, J., (2012). Making Sense of MOOCs: Musings in a Maze of Myth, Paradox and Possibility. Journal of Interactive Media in Education. 2012(3), p.Art. 18. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/2012-18
(3) Harvey, H. (2007). A Brief History of Neoliberalism, Oxford University Press, U.S.A
(4) OER Defined (2016). The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. http://www.hewlett.org/strategy/open-educational-resources/
(5) Apple, M. Ideology and Curriculum, 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 1990