Let me start by saying I think that for the most part, the OER movement is a general good. To want to make educational materials accessible, free, usable, and reusable in different contexts is a commendable goal. What I appreciate most about many of my friends and other folks involved in OER, is the expectation and encouragement to engage in some critical pushback. After all, we want to try and get this right!
There are many ways to examine the implications and effects of OER in different contexts, and I want to think about it from the perspective of labour and colonialism. Two lenses that might not be directly related, but important to consider.
As I sat down to write this provocation, I wondered:
Who does the labour? For what? For whom?
Who can’t do the labour?
What kind of capital does this help to amass? Economic? Social? How does that capital relate to power?
Does anyone get paid? How?
Does anyone lose a livelihood or some source of income because of OER?
In our push to adopt and create and encourage OER, are we denying a fair wage – indirectly or directly – to those who might need it?
Are we imposing particular approaches to education and “open” that recreate colonial forms of imposition?
The last question has been on my mind as I just moved to Canada and have learned more about the extent and recency of violence that has been enacted upon indigenous communities here.
To be honest, OER sometimes feels weirdly colonial. Does it create a power differential because of those who have the ability to creating things and make them available to those who do not have, instead of empowering those who do not have to create for themselves and their own contexts, while also being able to support that work, and those doing it, monetarily?
So, in this colonial capitalistic free market era that we are forced to live in, I wonder if when something is “free” and “open”, is someone losing income? Is someone’s labour being undercut? Are those in the global south being forced to accept a vision of OER that continues the pattern of colonialism?
I love how Maha, Catherine, and others involved push us to be reflexive in our practice to really embody the underlying principles of OER, and while I bring more questions than answers, I do hope that this adds to the larger conversation on how ethics, epistemology, equity, and power intersect with OER, while also looking at the intersections of gender, race, colonialism, and economic security.