Tag: universities

What (some) people think about ‘radical participation’

Yesterday I was in Durham presenting on Radical Participation. At the start of the session each participant was given a couple of index cards. During my keynote I stopped and asked them to write or draw something on one of the four sides.

Today, I scanned in three of the four sides (the final one involved personal info that people may not have wanted to share more widely) and uploaded the images to this Flickr album. The header image is one person’s view of their institution’s ‘architecture of participation’. Interesting!

I did use Quicktime to record my screen during the presentation. That can be found on Vimeo. However, the audio is difficult to hear in places when I strayed away from the microphone.

1. What’s your organisation’s mission?

What's your organisation's mission?

2. What would constitute ‘radical participation’ in this session?

What would constitute 'radical participation' in this session?

3. Draw your organisation’s architecture of participation.

Draw your organisation's architecture of participation

Many thanks to Malcolm Murray and team for inviting me to take part in such a great event. Also: I got to stay in a castle! 😀

Time, innovation and funding.

I’ve worked in both schools and universities. In the former the ‘barrier’ to innovation is usually said to be time. In the latter it’s usually seen as the trials and tribulations of getting funding.

Whilst I agree that teachers work crazy hours and that both schools and universities are generally underfunded, I can’t help but think that the real reason institutional innovation is stifled is because of permission-seeking.

We all know that the worst kind of censorship is self-censorship – the fear that your actions might bring displeasure or punishment. People, I’m sad to say, don’t tend to give themselves the permission to innovate.

It might be slightly controversial to say so, but it’s easy to ask for time and money in an attempt to ensure a project is a success. And it’s also easy to say that something’s ‘not possible given current resources’. But time and money do not in and of themselves lead to successful projects.

What I think people are hankering after when they ask for money or time for innovation projects is approval. Might I suggest that truly innovative projects are unlikely to get such approval?

Some projects need huge levels of buy-in and support and funding and scoping. Most don’t.

Just get on and do it.

Image CC BY-NC Wiertz Sébastien

Beyond academic journals?

This is my third and final post in a (rather impromptu) mini-series on academic journals and their place in the 21st century landscape. You may want to read my previous two posts here and here before reading this one? 

To find a new enlightening and inspiring idea (as distinct from finding a recipe for getting safely through the peer-built barricade), browsing through thousands of journal pages is all too often called for. With my tongue in one cheek only, I’d suggest that were our Palaeolithic ancestors to discover the peer-review dredger, we would still be sitting in caves… (Zygmunt Bauman)

In my previous posts on academic journals I’ve compared them unfavourably – either explicitly or implicitly – with the kind of informal ‘peer review’ that happens through blogs and social media. Some commenters have assumed that this means that, like Bauman (see above) I’m completely against peer review. I’m not.

Peer review is valuable. In fact, it’s so important we need a (re)new(ed) academic ecosystem to protect it.

I’m all for new systems such as hypothes.is which provides an open, distributed peer review layer for the web. Although I don’t want to go into it in too much depth here, academia is one of the few unreformed areas with outdated power structures and glass ceilings.

As Stephen Thomas pointed out in the comments to my previous post, academic journals have, and still do, play an important role in both establishing precedent and providing a quality filter. This is important (most of the time).

But, as Dan Meyer pointed out in the quotation making up the bulk of my first post in this series, it’s the edifice that’s built upon the academic journal system that’s problematic:

The incentive seems strange to me… I don’t understand this brass ring I’m chasing. (Dan Meyer)

This academic edifice is built upon other perceived ‘advantages’  of academic journals, including:

  • Dissemination of work
  • Status
  • Career progression
  • Contact with others inside and outside field

Academics, unfortunately, have ended up inventing a stick with which they can be beaten. In the UK, the Research Excellence Framework (REF) is a crude instrument looking a research outputs. Career progression (and therefore status) depends upon disseminating work in journals that are, all too often, closed and paywalled.

Part of the answer, I agree, comes through academic journals becoming open access. That’s a step in the right direction (even if it does smack a little of Henry Ford’s ‘faster horses‘). Going further, something more like Alan Cann’s experiments around open peer review could work. But, realistically, we need something a bit more radical. 

How can we save peer review whilst democratising and reforming higher education?

I leave you with the words of Frances Bell, who commented on my previous post:

What I suspect is that more research needs to be done on how, for example. scholarly societies can support research, scholarship and practice in a digital age. (Frances Bell)

Amen to that.

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