The Internet certainly creates the means for being ‘open.’ But other tools needed to be developed. So in 2001, Lawrence Lessig began to work on this problem and developed Creative Commons, now widely used by musicians, photographers, other artists, and scholars, as an alternative licensing system that allow intellectual and creative property to be easily shared. (The book Viral Spiral (Bollier, 2009) lays out some of this history). For example, licenses exist that require attribution, non-commerical use, or non-derrivation, all while making the material free and easy to access. Because of this innovation, authors of open educational resources – articles, curriculum, case-studies, videos, and simulations – now join these other creative professionals and relinquish their intellectual property to the commons using these clearly established parameters.
A few years ago, I wrote a scholarly article with some colleagues laying out a vision for an “Open” public affairs scholarship – one focused on using information technology and tools like Creative Commons to decrease barriers in professional education, public affairs research, and scholarly engagement in practice problems. When we built the Hubert project, we embraced the Creative Commons license, and now all authors of Hubert products choose how they want to share their materials with others.
But have been surprised that innovation in this arena is slow to evolve. Just this week, I was at a gathering of Kresge Foundation grantees focused on how to direct researchers’ attention to practice-based problems, and how to effectively share relevant research with human service managers. It has made me think that what keeps us ‘closed’ rather than ‘open’ is not the technical challenges of information sharing platforms or licensing options. Rather what keeps us ‘closed’ is a mindset that is trapped in the 20th century notions of position, expertise, and scarcity. Open education, and the knowledge commons more generally, requires that we recognize abundance and seek to build nimble networks that take advantage of the knowledge resources that exist and share them to help move forward progress to important problems. While we have a way to go to reach the potential of open education, I feel pleased to be part of the thought leadership moving the public policy and public affairs community toward that goal.