We recently had some feedback on Twitter from Kate Bowles and Maha Bali about our recent call for papers for a special issue of Learning, Media, and Technology on digital education and marginalized voices. The basic gist of the feedback was the fact that our reference list in the call lacked the very diversity we are trying to get at in the issues itself. It was well received (as it is always is from this group) so many thanks to Kate and Maha. The thread can be read below in the tweet itself and I linked to the call later in this post for easier reading.
@mseangallagher I'm sorry, I thought this would have gone to you. Just looping back to ask your thoughts about the reference list you drew up for this CFP (see thread). @Bali_Maha @Czernie https://t.co/GCZYlThSoK
— Kate Bowles (@KateMfD) February 10, 2018
In particular, Kate emphasises, rightly, that “we could all learn from this: it takes work to think about diversity in your own sources.” I couldn’t agree more. Those sources were largely chosen precisely because they were insular: largely Western authors critiquing a largely Silicon Valley narrative of what digital education is. That was essentially the problem we were trying to surface. The critiques in them are largely valid, but the scope of the overall inquiry in the research needs to broaden. We want to provoke this discussion about what diversity means in this digital education context by treading out (and hopefully moving past) the largely Western bias in much of the literature, to really begin to draw some attention to local practices and digital education systems that make an attempt, at least, to some sort of cultural fidelity.
Difficult in the age of platform imperialism, where the code base of many national MOOC initiatives (my area of focus is Asia-Pacific so my apologies for this narrow take) is largely an American one: XuetangX in China, K-MOOC in Korea, IndonesiaX and many more all using an Open edX instance and the functionality and expected social practices contained therein. Granted, MOOCs aren’t the whole story (nor even much of it) but so many of these tensions between globalisation (really the Silicon Valley version of it) and diverse, local, largely non-Western practices are playing out in these spaces of hybridisation.
We know this isn’t representative (the sources in our issue rationale) and indeed want to suggest that this is part of the problem; a lot of this literature isn’t fully surfaced yet. Nevertheless, to create a representative reference list would seem to mask the very problem we wanted to surface. The prominent voices are not as diverse as they could/should be, and that should be acknowledged…although probably in a better way than we attempted.
Perhaps we were a bit too opaque about this problem in the call; we will need to work on that! But we want to stimulate the creation of more of this research, not less of it, and without being too prescriptive. We are looking for a multitude of perspectives here that challenge the Silicon Valley narrative of digital education. We don’t fully know what all of these are (some we do) so we kept the rationale intentionally non-specific.
But we are open about this process so please do chime in with representative sources. We have our own but are always looking for more. I am collecting what I learn through projects in digital education in diverse regions (largely through ICT4D and mlearning projects) and will share as we go through this process. Didn’t want to steal their thunder as many colleagues in these projects might be considering submissions themselves. We can adjust the call as needed. We are working hard to ensure this issue has impact; I’m not really that interested, nor is LMT, on simply going through the motions.
Many thanks for the feedback Kate and Maha!