At a recent GO-GN drop in webinar in which I had the opportunity to visit with others working toward their PhD, Martin Weller advised using blog posts to work through messy thoughts and unclog the writing pipeline. So, today's messy thought.
I am wondering if the diffusion pro-innovation bias might help make meaning of some of the challenges (opportunities?) which have arisen in the wake of OpenEd19. Rogers (2003) discusses a study published by Belasco in 1989 in which water practices for villagers in an Egyptian delta were explored. To clumsily summarize, the villagers either did not use or misused a government source of pure water which was provided as an alternative to canals filled with contaminated water. Many of the reasons Belasco found for the villagers' misuse or failure to take up the innovation had to do with their perception of the change (Rogers, 2003). Those implementing the technological innovation failed to take into account the fact that perceptions matter. Rogers' apt description of the work can be found on pages 107-109 of the book cited below.
My advisor was on the OpenEd19 planning committee, and was puzzled by the outcry regarding the proposed keynote panel including commercial publishers. He is a diffusion scholar, and has a well-informed multi-disciplinary perspective of open practices. I am a librarian, and have found myself in many conversations with students, instructors, and faculty regarding their experiences with commercial textbooks and their publishers. In addition, I am familiar with the role commercial publishers have played in helping construct the very challenging budget environment in which academic libraries function as they work to support the research and other creative endeavors of their communities. My advisor and I have had some interesting conversations this fall.
It seems fair to say introduction of commercial publishers as a keynote panel representing the future of publishing in open represented an innovation (whether technological or ideological) which failed to effectively diffuse into the OpenEd19 population. "Perceptions count" (Rogers, 2003, p. 109) and at least a portion of the OpenEd19 community perceived a low level of compatibility with open practices and commercial publishing practices. Why does continuing to ponder this even matter?
This matters because the community matters. Not just in a warm and fuzzy way, but also according to theory. Rogers (2003) uses the diffusion of prescription of an antibiotic as an example of the role interpersonal communication beyond the local network plays in diffusing innovations. Medical specialists who traveled to conferences were quicker to incorporate prescription of an innovative, effective antibiotic. The opportunity to personally interact with a community beyond the local network enhances the diffusion of innovations.
My advisor's opportunity for personal interaction beyond his local network will stay intact even without a large conference, in part because of the relationships he was able to build through the conference planning process. Mine will as well, to a degree, and hopefully I will use that access to broaden opportunities for others to join in that interpersonal communication. I am helping plan an OER conference scheduled to take place Fall 2020. Applying the lens of diffusion of innovations theory to make meaning of the events of OpenEd19 can inform choices we make in considering the perceptions of those collaborating in open as we plan.
Future messy thoughts will work through how to implement Belasco's findings and suggestions in how to incorporate this understanding that perceptions matter (it has to do with thought leaders) and the importance of interpersonal connection beyond the local network in identifying and establishing values guiding re-invention of the innovation as it diffuses beyond the local (this has to do with kindergarten!). But now I think I have gotten enough of the messy thought off my plate to go back to the important business of the day, which is getting some less messy thoughts on paper for my advisor. Thank you for listening! ~Kathy
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations, Fifth edition. New York: Free Press.