A Diagram of Opens
Figure 1: A Diagram of Opens

A Story of (O)pen

Valentine’s Day this year was the tenth anniversary of the Budapest Open Access Initiative. It’s amazing how far the academic community has come in unlocking access to scholarly works. JISC has led significant development to bring this vision to life (http://www.jisc.ac.uk/openaccess ) and the launch of ALT-J as an open journal is timely evidence than the growth of open access is building steam.  Meanwhile, March 2012 sees the first ever international Open Education Week, open source methods and software are part of the fabric of the web, and open licences such as Creative Commons are becoming widely supported.

But what do all these open approaches have in common? What is the central Story of (O)pen?

Open makes things visible.

The everyday sense of “open” is open rather than closed – letting people see what is there, what is happening.

The web enables you to:

  • do some of your processes/practices online, visible to others
  • share some of your products/outputs online, visible to others

Open makes access easy.

This is where open–as-in-open-access comes in: open without needing to log in, and open without payment.


Open is social.

The “many eyes” principle of sharing open data and the open innovation model encourage others not only to view but to comment, to feed back, to engage. This speeds up the process in hand and improves the quality of the resulting work.


Open makes things usable by others.

Open standards exist to encourage as many developers as possible to adopt them.

This is where open licensing comes in: granting others explicit and generous permissions to use your content.


Open can be a way of working.

Doing open working and openly releasing outputs can make a person feel differently about what they do. Researchers might call this collection of activities open scholarship, technologists might call their activities open development, project teams might call it open innovation. Each of these types of open practice has elements in common and elements specific to the sorts of activities the practice involves.


Open is not exclusive

Open source can mean both the open development process and the open source software. They are not always found together: open development processes can produce non-open software, and closed development processes can produce open source software.


Opens are mutually beneficial

There is a virtuous cycle when open process and open products combine. In open scholarship, both creating and using open content and using open ways of working, the content feeds the practice and the practice feeds the content.

A Diagram of Opens

A Diagram of Opens
Figure 1: A Diagram of Opens

It’s important to note that Figure 1 is an abstracted diagram: open is not always a replacement for the  way things currently work. There is not ever going to be a total transformation to open. The reality is a mixed economy. Business models matter. Practice models matter.

Open can be good for business, open can be good for practice but it exists in a bigger ecosystem of technologies and behaviours. Good is not enough, it needs to be useful. That’s what JISC and other advocates of openness are working hard to surface. Ultimately perhaps open is good because it is a good way of working.

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My Story of O(pen) by Amber Thomas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
Based on infteam.jiscinvolve.org.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.jisc.ac.uk/contactus

Amber Thomas

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

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