Openness is in fashion. Openness is also big business.

Surely openness is a good idea, isn’t it? Think of the many ways I had benefited from the generosity of colleagues, and strangers even, who were so willing to share. Let me count the ways. Each and every “original thought” I thought I had probably arose out of some encounter or other. Not to forget, right on this ONL module itself – where I have come to learn a litany of concepts, tools and perspectives about open learning and more – just because everyone seems so willing to put their little wisdoms out there for all to partake. Well … yes, I suppose, but I am not disputing these at all. I am in fact grateful – and waiting to find enough time to try many of the ideas they have shared.

My reservation isn’t about openness imagined as a public good, of which I gladly support. Rather, my reservation is a reaction to the often uncritical acceptance of openness as necessarily a good thing. I will put it another way. Openness as an abstract concept comes loaded with a presupposed quality of selfless, democratic and emancipatory potentialities – which makes it hard to argue against or to be seriously critical about. But if we imagine openness as a set of situated practices, then the picture becomes a little murkier. It opens up a can of worms. Like whose concept of openness are we talking about? Is openness a universal truth or can some forms of openness in fact be oppressive? How do contemporary forms, institutions, and centres of open learning map onto global and local inequalities of access and literacy? Is everyone equally valued as an open educator, for example? The questions can go on. And they should.

I return to my epigraph about openness being in fashion and as big business. I keep in mind the social forces that have made it possible for me to benefit tremendously from the openness of everyone in this ONL course. Totally collaborative, totally open process. Open learning is undeniably good – when you happen to be privileged.

Topic 2: Openness as Public Good .. but also Privilege