Thursday, April 6, 2017

Non-adjoining rooms.

Where were they all?

I was beginning to feel distinctly alone.

I looked at the link in the mail.

I looked at the link in the hangout.

They were not the same.

The others were in another room altogether.

I sent a tweet to Martin Weller over in London with the new link.

I sent a mail to the others.

Martin arrived,

"The others are waiting in a different room;" he said.

"We don't have much time." he said.

I quickly went to find Mark in the other room and called him over from Oakland.

Dinah arrived from her library from somewhere in Ghana.

Graham Steele arrived from somewhere in Glasgow.

By the time everyone was together, we didn't have much time.

I fluffed through the introductions.


Open in transit.

I got a tweet from Nadine.

Could she join too?

Nadine arrived in transit at a London airport.

Lucy Crompton-Reid, Lisa Taner, Maren Deepwell, Martin Weller gave us their generally positive impression from OER17.

All of them remarked on a growing internationalisation of the voices and the participants at the conference.

That was all very positive.

Then, Martin briefly mentioned a session from the first day:

Perspectives on Open Education in a World of Brexit & Trump [1559]
Type: Discussion
Authors: Maha BaliLorna CampbellJames Luke, and Martin Weller

I asked them their impressions about Brexit from their perspective.

As representative for Wikimedia, Lucy couldn't really get involved in the politics of it but she noted with Maren and Martin a generalised feeling of dismay.

Martin said something to the effect that it was too complex a question for the time they had.

Indeed, they didn't have much time, they had to leave to the afternoon sessions.

We continued an "after-conversation" with Nadine, Mark, and Dinah who was typing in the chat.

Nadine, travelling from Egypt was already having to travel/work around the laptop ban.

The battle of open.

I shared a story of how I fell upon a Twitter trolling of the Scottish first minister.

I looked at the tweet.

He was calling Nicole Sturgeon a traitor.

And what do we do to traitors he asked?

They hang.

I saw an avatar with an English flag.

I looked at the name.

With horror, I thought to myself: this is someone I know.

I checked.

It was a childhood friend.

I thought of how our lives had taken such different paths.

I, to safe middle-class higher education and ex-expatriation in France.

He, to work in a factory from the age of 16, and premature unemployment.

I, increasingly internationally connected, with a growing intercultural "awareness" of how little I am aware.

He, increasingly internationally connected, locally disconnected, with a growing frustration at intercultural exploitation and a clear awareness of what he has lost.

I fear for the future.

He has no future.

Shrinking privileges

I thought of how a few years earlier I had travelled to London for a conference.

This would now be impossible for me due to current economic constraints.

Privileges are shrinking.

Pressure on people is rising.

Mark spoke of similar experiences with old school friends who were now unemployed Trump supporters.

Platforms which carried such promise a few years earlier are being used to squeeze the life out of people around the world.

Californian dreams.

I remembered a Microsoft ad with images of Woodstock.

I remembered the free iPad I got at a London conference a few years back.

Those were the days...of being a roaming autodidact.

Now I roam mostly virtually.

Imagined communities.

I remembered the feeling of being European.

I had a British passport but I was European.

I think now of learning to sing the Marseillaise with my daughter.

I have to be French to be European now...for how much longer?

Shall we go back to singing old battle songs.

Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!
Allons enfants de la Patrie
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!
Contre nous de la tyrannie
L'étendard sanglant est levé
L'étendard sanglant est levé
Entendez-vous dans les campagnes
Mugir ces féroces soldats?
Ils viennent jusque dans vos bras
Égorger vos fils, vos compagnes!
Aux armes, citoyens
Formez vos bataillons
Marchons, marchons!
Qu'un sang impur
Abreuve nos sillons!

There are those who are winners in an increasingly polarised system.

There are those who are now losing and will look for others to blame.

There are those who were always losing and who say to us now:  "This is how it feels guys."

There are those who will continue to be winners.

They will share their smiling photos from conferences in far away places.

Shall we applaud their openness?

Making a moocery of us all?

I heard about exciting new ventures at OER17

I am sorry if I am not always able to find cheer.

There are those who are refugees and who are offered a MOOC.


I know that I should be crediting the photographer.

Who will credit the refugees on the beach?

A MOOC financed with European funding while kids are drowning in the Mediterranean.

What will it be?

Swimming lessons?

I don't go and learn more about the project, I fear upsetting people, knowing one of the authors.

I simply write how my ignorance makes me feel.

I am sorry.

I heard about a Wikimedia scheme to help kids identify fake news.

Are we going to get European funding to help students see what is fake?

I think of my childhood friend and the promises made to him by successive governments.

I wonder what lies I am living?

Do we need bloody hours to work out a simple equation?

People are being screwed.

I heard John Casey talk about educational technology.

What was Alek Tarkowski talking about in an earlier virtually connecting session?

That he wanted to theme OER17 an open learning party or some such?

The party is over.

For many there never was a party...ever.

They paid for our party.

Non-adjoining rooms?

For a few moments sitting in that empty hangout room, I felt panic.

I felt fear that I wouldn't be re-invited to be a virtual buddy.

It was my anxiety to do well which was at the origin of my technical downfall.

I get anxious.

I remembe what it feels to be given your cards.

I remember the boss calling me over for a chat.

I remember how it feels to be excluded.

There are some of us who share hope and happiness.

There are some of us who have only anger and despair to share.

There are some of us who have only anger and despair but no means to share.

I find myself caught between feelings of  hope and despair, between belonging and longing.

Those feelings are in adjoining rooms, perhaps in the same room.

Virtually connecting


  1. Hey Simon. What a beautiful and heartbreaking post. First of all, showing an overwhelming amount of empathy and awareness for those different from you (the childhood friends trolling Sturgeon, the refugees for whom a MOOC is not the gift they need). The #trexit panel is periscoped and the provocations on Jim Luke's blog - i posted all links here

    But one important thing I need to respond to urgently tho it is the least important thing in your post. The part about anxiety re never being invited to buddy again. It never occurred to me (but is now glaringly obvious) how anxious you must have felt. I understand your anxiety in the moment, but not your worries re VC. Google changes things on us all the time and the whole link expiration thing is pretty new. So even though we must have written somewhere that VBs should send fresh links, it is completely understandable that you somehow didn't realize that. And it's on the rest of us who know that, our responsibility, to let you know. I played a small part in letting Martin know he must be in the wrong room. It all worked out in the end, it seems, and the onsite folks seem to have had fun.
    The rest of what you say is all VERY important and needs much more thinking to respond. I do want to say I don't think Alek meant "party" as in balloons and dancing ; i think he meant party as in politics. I could be wrong. I plan to return to this post later! Thanks! Keep on feeling this pain and sharing it when you can because numbness ain't good and our openness shouldn't be a numbing thing we do to make ourselves feel good about ourselves

    1. Thanks Maha. I think it is important to write with feeling however uncomfortable. I don't really know how to do otherwise. Actually, that is not true. I do. I choose to work with my vulnerability because if I can't do it on Touches of Sense where can I? I go from feelings of feeling at ease and confident to feelings total incompetence - I just work with it. I know I am not alone.

      I think one of the problems of virtually connecting is that we are not carried by the warmth of building story in place with others. I find that difficult.

      There is such a contrast with the context in which I work (I am sure this is true of many) - I can't really have the conversations which I can have at something like OER.

      I am working on getting my competences recognised (often I think this is hopeless because I don't want to just flit from Cape Town to London and be recognised, a part of something that makes little me feel good when others are suffering) I can't avoid the hypocrisy so I reckon I actually have a responsibility to enable my voice to be heard.

      I do think Vconnecting is important.

      I do think it is important to remain feeling uncomfortable even if I am technically, academically, socially assured.

    2. Ah yes the link thing. I already had problems with that - you just confirmed to me that Google changed it as before I never had that problem :-) oh well you live and learn.

  2. I've been burned too from that expired link, and remember the smell. There is always large pressure to not only be a cordial, but also an able host, especially when people volunteer time to spend with you.

    Yet, in a way, the dead ink, being in "the wrong room" prompted the metaphot for this most Simon-etic post, which pulls hard at the placid truths. Much appreciation for keeping your sense of touch / voice here.

    I find myself tempted to comment with one sentence per paragraph.

    Maybe I will do that.

    If anybody suggests you should be be VC host (and I've not heard anything like that), I will punch their neoliberal attack dog in the face.

  3. Thank you Alan. Much appreciated. I remember so many moments like this one and I have learnt to become confident in my own incompetence and bloody-minded enough to share my own feelings of what it is to have human flailings.

    PS. You are not a virtual buddy.

  4. Hi Simon. Much of what you shared here resonates with me.

    I wander the hallways of the virtual universe daily.
    I know there are conversations that would interest me.
    I feel that I have ideas and experiences to offer.
    I know that these conversations and connections are essential.

    I can't find the doors.
    I can't open many of the doors I do find.
    If I do get in, I often find that we're separated
    by different experiences and expectations.

    The conversations are not on-going in ways that we might build relationships, trust, shared goals.

    I live in a huge city with many problems related to inequality and injustice.
    As I've devoted growing amounts of time to building virtual connections, which I feel can lead to deeper understanding and longer focus on issues, I have fewer and fewer face-to-face connections with people in my own back yard.

    If those people are part of the virtual world, I can't find the doors to rooms where they are sharing ideas and looking for solutions to problems.

    I made a trade-off. I can touch hundreds of people a day with a web site or blog post. I might meet with one or two people a day with face-to-face meetings.

    I might sit in conferences or similar events, among a crowd of hundreds, yet not engage in an on-going conversation with any of these, or with the event speakers and organizers, in ways that are possible on-line, which you and others demonstrate by your own work.

    Not sure if the roads I chose to travel are right. Can't go back and start over.

    Thanks for keeping your door open to me and others.

  5. Let us keep these conversations ongoing. Replied in tweet.