Open Source, Open Access, and Commons-Based Peer Production: Creating a Sustainable University Culture — Computers and Writing 2009

Chair. Charlie Lowe, Grand Valley State University

Scott Banville, University of Nevada, Reno
David Blakesley, Purdue University

can open source software, open access publishing, and commons-based
peer production (CBPP) principles help us to create a sustainable

How can they positively impact the
social and economic development of the university and expand the
resources available that sustain university culture?

What is the role of the university in the larger community in fostering such sustainable practices?

Charlie started with his history of e-mail… described how a few years ago a simple Linux machine survived when a virus took down Microsoft serers.

Scott Kopel began to develop expertise in software, due to open source.

Proprietary software offsources intellectual capital.

Unix created at UC-Berkeley by students and faculty. Blackboard at Charlie’s institituion is maintained by technicians, who don’t really understand the software or its use.

We can talk about how open source may “save money” but more important, OS technology keeps that expertise in house, adds to the intellectual capital of the university culture.

Open source textbooks. (Would Nick Carobone be working at a university doing in-house textbooks, rather than someone in a commercial publishing house?)

This is a new argument, different from simply saving money.

Scott Banville.

Blackboard is a tool; technicians know how to do the tool, they don’t know how to build tools to do the tasks.  People who know how to run Blackboard, but not OS, ended up re-creating Blackboard with OS tools.  Example — a CMS that had a podcasting tool that only allowed the instructor to upload podcasts.

Recalls days as a bike mechanic, when people tried to do repairs using the wrong tools, leading to more problems.

Inhouse tasks are more sustainable, because who understands our tasks but ourseslves? 

Publishing a dictionary of 19thc journalism. Rather than submit an article to ProQuest, instead why not get a grant to do it on a Wiki?  Only folks at Harvard, Cornell, would have access to a closed database. 

Publish your own literarture anthology.. graduate students and faculty get to write their own headnotes.  Open source is about people, not just about software.

Kids at community colleges can’t access your scholarship if you publish it in someone else’s database.

David Blakesley

Started Parlor Press 2002, in response to crisis in scholarly publishing. Already knew editing, but experience editing a journal… went through laborious process of copyediting, sent word documents to printer to do the layout… proof came back, with hundreds of new errors introduced.  The editors had to copyedit again, next time he learned Adobe Indesign in order to cut out the printing problem.  Saved money, got more control over production of the WPA intellectual capital.  Once he knew how to do a journal from scratch, was natural to go to the next step — Print On Demand.   In the interest of sustainability, began collaborating with WAC clearing house, open-access Writing Selves, Sriting Society.  Chuck Bazerman’s series was in trouble… with the skills David had crated, the series continued.  Scholarship more available to everybody, books put on the web for free actually sell more.  Parlor Press starts incubating other publishing ventures.  (Parlor Press is doing 25 books per year.)

Scott — if he had done his Victorian journalism project in a wiki, it would have generated a community interested in perpetuating the project.

Question — economic myth for open source argument.

Karl — Worried that we are using the tools but not participating fully, just using the tool in order to avoid spending money.

Blackboard may save money in the short term, but once there’s local investment, OS alternatives can be better.

[My concern — cost-conscious administrators jump on the OS bandwagon beacause of the financial argument, and the overworked local IT staff can’t meet the user’s needs, which then taints OS for all involved. Work your OS knowledge into Facutly development plans, research projects.]

Charlie — open source communities depend on being learning environments. There’s heavy discussion at every stage of development. OS means commitment. Creates service-learning projects for students, not just CS but professional writing; or promotional materials for the tools.

David notes that Drupal has the peer-peer interaction, and the ability to engage the public, that Blackboard lacks.

Question on spectrum from open source to open access.

Open source — BSD software distribution Linux, and GPL (Richard Stallman). The person who gets the software has the right to modify and redistribute it.  GPL says if you pass the software on, you have to pass along the same rights.

Open access — scientists Public Library of Science with an open letter (can be traced back further) — something has to be freely available online within a certain period after the point of publication. Knowledge needs to be shared with everyone (e.g. third-world doctors can’t afford access to databases, but can learn from free publications). 

Open textbook movement — MIT’s open courseware.  

Open Journal Systems (downloadable tool for creating journals; mentioned by suggested by Chris Werry)

Karl — what have we gained if we kick out Blackboard but bring in Moodle?  (The actual web service of Twitter is boring and awful, but the API creativity makes it worthwhile.)

Mike Palimpquist — on lilbrary IP taskforce, looking at merging services that are siloed separately.  Libraries already have a big open source movement that responds to the spiraling cost of databases.

Karl — idiotic to have that much student information protected by a faculty password, rather than an authentication/trust-based key system.

Librarians among the strongest advocates of open access to institutional repositories (also metadata).  Many libraries will record and archive just about any campus event you can invite them to (with the permission of the participants).