Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Open tribute.

I still have the moon-landing celebratory plate.

I still have the Life magazine special edition.

I still remember the grainy black and white images on the TV and  feeling both excited and mystified.

I still remember really liking the stars and stripes flag on the spacesuits.

I still remember watching the Apollo take-off with awe.

"It will free man from the remaining chains, the chains of gravity which still tie him to this planet."

Wernher Von Braun.

As a historian I was for ever fascinated in stories of the people behind the dates.

Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun (March 23, 1912 – June 16, 1977) was a German, later American, aerospace engineer[3] and space architect credited with inventing the V-2 rocket for Nazi Germany and the Saturn V for the United States.[4][5] He was one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany, where he was a member of the Nazi Party and the SS.
Following World War II, he was secretly moved to the United States, along with about 1,500 other scientists, engineers, and technicians, as part of Operation Paperclip, where he developed the rockets that launched the United States' first space satellite Explorer 1, and the Apollo program manned lunar landings.
In his twenties and early thirties, von Braun worked in Germany's rocket development program, where he helped design and develop the V-2 rocket at Peenemünde during World War II. Following the war, von Braun worked for the United States Army on an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) program before his group was assimilated into NASA. Under NASA, he served as director of the newly formed Marshall Space Flight Center and as the chief architect of the Saturn V launch vehicle, the superbooster that propelled the Apollo spacecraft to the Moon.[6] In 1975, he received the National Medal of Science. He continued insisting on the human mission to Mars throughout his life.

As I learnt more about the men behind the space program, with its origins in ballistic missile technology and dreams of intercontinental domination, my feelings about "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." were muddied.

How often have I thought that ignorance is bliss?

I was never an easy-living believer, I asked too many questions, damn it.

I still remember the enthusiasm I felt for the internet and its promise. 

I learnt later how it emerged from military programs related to the atomic bomb.

My feelings about "One small click for man, one giant open enclyopaedia for mankind." have been muddied.

I have mixed feelings about "Open Education", I would like to pay tribute to friends, to fellow thinkers and doers from around the world who have become co-learners and kindred spirits to me.

I would like to celebrate the warmth, intelligence, goodwill and generosity of people that I have met in the "Open Education" movement.

I would like to celebrate the desire for questioning and openness of people such as those at the OER17 conference.

I would like to celebrate people's undying enthusiasm for working towards a more equitable world.

When I read what I write at times, I feel that I am seeing things too darkly.

I don't think that that is the case.

I feel things darkly.

I feel things brightly.

I think things over.

So with this in mind.

I shall remain ever pragmatist, idealistic but critical.

I shall note down a few a pistes for future reflection.

Here are one or two from Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz's presentation:

First a Martin Weller quoted here:

Critical pragmatism, yes, I would agree with that.

I am not sure about the "Keeping calm" sentiment.

I feel that we can remain critically pragmatic even if we are not calm.

Some things, some people don't keep me calm.

In fact, I refuse to keep calm.

I find a compromise: I shall remain emotionally (not necessarily calmy), critically pragmatic.

These conclusions, I find OK to work with:

I was please to see Jim Groom's post about "Counter (Data) Surveillance".

I would like to hear more from others about how they are dealing with this messy terrain.

Martin Weller's post "The open gift" post resonated:

"I wondered whether this was applicable to openness in general – we give the gift of open to people, in the assumption they will want it, or it will do them good." 

Certainly, an "open door" policy doesn't mean that everybody has to walk through the door, or that we should encourage them to do so uncritically.

An open dog policy is clearly doomed to fail. 

For me, being open is also being open to people's desire for nonopenness.

As a historian, I am forever fascinated in stories of people behind the data.


  1. Simon. I'm a historian, too. I've been aggregating links to articles about poverty, injustice, etc. as well as articles about collaboration and innovation since going on the internet in 1998. Many of these links break over time and I need to search the internet to find the articles, or discard them from my library.

    I wrote a couple of articles in the past few days about how Adobe Flash is no longer being supported, meaning projects done by interns in the late 2000s, using flash animation, are no longer viewable. I found a work-around, by downloading a swfplayer. And I found a way to record the presentations, using my phone camera, and post them to YouTube. Thus, I've preserved that bit of history. I wrote about this at and posted my video at

    If we don't preserve the past, how can the future learn from our experiences (good and bad).

  2. Hi Daniel. I spent hours on flash stuff. I've written it off. I don't think people learn very easily. People keep making the same mistakes. That's why writers like the Greeks or Shakespeare are still relevant today.