At Simon (Buckingham-Shum)’s valedictory lecture last week [this may have been sitting in draft for a while], John Domingue said a really nice thing, something like: In the Open University, a place built around openess, full of open people, Simon stands out. “Simon’s research has always had a strong underlying social and inclusive agenda. The OU’s publicly declared mission is to be open to people, places, methods and ideas: promoting educational opportunity and social justice. This could have been written with Simon in mind. He will be sorely missed by us all.” (last bit from the leaving blog post).
Thinking about impact, and particularly social impact – “making a difference” – is an interesting issue for academics, and (particularly when I started drafting this post) something I find myself thinking about too. For some fields the issue is perhaps a bit more moot, not to say the contribution of the research is worthless (and of course, the critical skills of academia are widely useful) but coming up with direct and obvious social impact is likely harder. For me, I’m interested in how knowledge is conceptualised (oh very concrete Simon) – including two things:
- How knowledge is assessed, which is fundamentally tied up with socio-cultural and political context
- How individuals think about knowledge, the kinds of behaviour they engage in to ‘come to know’, and the kinds of sources they regard in such activities
Both of these things are fundamentally tied up with evaluating knowledge claims. One of the things I’d love to be able to do as my career (hopefully) develops, is look at applying my interests to knowledge assessments around various important issues – from the socio-scientific, to issues around extremism and beliefs thereof. This is one of the reasons I’m interested in Wikimedia projects – thinking about how people learn to follow the guidance around neutral perspective, proportionality, notability, high quality sourcing, etc. and I’d love to extend preliminary discussions WMUK had with Demos and Bold/Digital Disruption. Anyway, interesting (and at least sometimes, important) to think about how that thread might be developed, and definitely great to be reminded how my interests parallel some of Simon’s (and I hope, how some ethical threads are drawn across our research agendas).