For our second topic, we were given the topic of openness and sharing in learning and teaching related areas and a scenario where we considered the impact of AI tools as well as hybrid forms of education and participation/accessibility. While the blending of in person and online teaching/learning environments seem to promise new types of accessibility in practice, they might also pose challenges to the notion of community building and socialization with colleagues as well as students. Creating an open and inclusive space often requires a stimuting and safe classroom environment and the blending of many technologies might at times be alienating or might be characterized by the lack of a stimulating and organically formed sense of community.

Additionally, the notion of openness is at times used as a buzz word in different contexts including in higher education. Without confronting the uneven structures of power and hierarchy and without a reflection of inequity, all of which determine the accessibility, opportunity, and sharing of sources at the level of different student groups as well as the general academic work culture, it is hard to talk about openness in its true sense.

We can however, talk about openness in terms of the specific case of sharing of sources in the context of digitalization and AI technologies, which is what I will reflect on a little here with reference to Maha Bhali’s talk (2023) and Anders Guadamuz’s article (2023) “Openness, AI, and the changing creative landscape”. The rapid increase in uses of AI in educational contexts and its impact of openness resulted in heated debates about its positive and negative implications. Positively inclined views on the use of AI (or those who claim that there is no escape from it so let’s find ways to adopt) often seek to underline its potentials as in the case of Guadamuz’s article. He argues that AI follows a tradition of openness and democratization, and its use of knowledge and art is “a very straightforward case of fair use”. I think Guadamuz’s case represents one of the many instances of the use of the word openness as a buzz word which he does first:

1. By easily bypassing the issue of fair use of knowledge in the AI production of new sources of knowledge: the only reason why, as Naomi Klein states in her latest article, the AI can produce a new creative landscape with new artistic and intellectual products is because of the huge amount of theft it is grounded upon: “What work are these benevolent stories doing in the culture as we encounter these strange new tools? Here is one hypothesis: they are the powerful and enticing cover stories for what may turn out to be the largest and most consequential theft in human history.”

2. The second problem with Guadamuz’s claim has to do with the uncritical and naive idea that AI is a promoter of democracy. In fact, tools such as ChatGPT for instance, as Bhali agues so brilliantly, rather than promoting democratization of knowledge, do in fact reinforce the hegemonic structures of knowledge creation compared to older forms like Wikipedia for instance where individuals are both content creators and users whereas in uses of Chat GPT, the creation of knowledge and its storage is concentrated in a single totalizing tool. “Projects that emphasize “open for all” may” in this sense “not necessarily meet the needs of those farthest from justice”

Such questions should not be easily bypassed by the celebrators of new inventions of technologies; we as academics cannot afford letting go off the critical take on such developments, a take that forms the basis of our profession.

More on this in the next topic…

Topic 2: Open Learning – Sharing and Openness