This section will explore a variety of concepts, actions and attributes of the open ecosystem.
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  • Read and watch videos on this topic, and explore the open as an activity.

Have read the README


Pencil and paper or a computer– a way of recording notes.

‘Open’ is not one dimensional, nor is it something you can point to specifically - rather it is a rich and innovative ecosystem enabled by a variety of actions and attributes.

Watch this light introduction to open source, using recipe to represent software, licensing and collaboration.

Endless Possibilities

Watch the video

Open is a Verb

Open is truly a decision, and purposeful action - one that invites others in to collaborate, innovate and build together.

» Access

Open access refers to the practice of making peer-reviewed scholarly research and literature freely available online to anyone interested in reading it. Open access has two different versions–gratis and libre. The difference is the choice of copyright - with Gratis being ‘read only’, and Libre allowing distributing and reuse. [1]

Imagine the potential for scientific breakthroughs as more research is made openly available.

» Use

..if a work is open, then the right of use is assumed. The fact that definitions of openness must explicitly spell out restricted uses makes it clear that if a work is open, then any and all of the things that it may be possible to do with it are allowed, unless explicitly disallowed.

Consider your assumptions about use, and what explicit restrictions you have seen in licensed software or content.

Open is an Adjective

Open is how we describe *the way we work, and create.

» Transparent

Working in the open can mean many things, primarily it means ‘making your work visible’, and how people interact with that work will actually begin your journey of open. Working more openly is also about making decision-making processes and governance open for others to co-design.

The main value of working open is reducing transaction cost, administration, and collaborative friction with smart communities of peers. That’s different than over-relying on the casually offered opinions of whoever shows up, or waiting for the crowd to do your work or solve your problems for you.” - Matt Thompson [4].

What ways can you be more transparent in your development workflow? How might you hold yourself accountable for being open?

» Participatory

Working openly, you might assume, enables project participation - but engaging diverse perspectives, ways of working and enabling a successful project - endeavor requires purposeful engagement.

The 2009 “Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government” emphasizes transparency, participation, and collaboration. Much of the emphasis of open government is on transparency, but information about what the government is doing is meaningless without the ability for citizens to then act on that information to exert influence on the government. This, of course, is almost a definition of participatory democracy.[1]

  • What ways might a project deter participation even if their work is openly shared?*

Open is a Noun

» Source

The term “open source” refers to something people can modify and share because its design is publicly accessible.5

Watch ‘What is Open Source’

Watch the video

»Speech, Beer, Puppies

‘Free’ has a few meanings in the context of open source. ‘Free as in Beer refers to the cost of software, while ‘Free as in Speech’ refers to what you can do with the software. ‘Free as in puppies’ is also used to describe the cost of maintaining software.

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) found it necessary to define what it means for software to be free. According to the Free Software Definition, four essential freedoms must exist for users of free software:

  • Freedom 0: The freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose.
  • Freedom 1: The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish.
  • Freedom 2: The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor.
  • Freedom 3: The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others. [1]

Can you think of free beer, speech and puppy examples in your life?

Open is an Attitude

For all else, Open is an attitude - where innovation meets human determination to free ideas, and invite in diverse perspectives for the benefit of humanity: health, science, research, technology to name only a few.

» Enabling

Creative Commons does not develop the Free Software Definition or the Open Source Definition, or indeed any definition of what it means for particular types of resources to be open. Instead, Creative Commons developed a set of licenses and an online tool to help with using these licenses.

In so doing, Creative Commons became a very powerful enabler of openness. This content contains CC licensed material, attributed at the end of this page.


Being an enabler of openness is another meaning of the term “open,” and one that is somewhat more oblique than those that have been discussed so far. “Open” in this sense does not, like open source or open access, refer to a specific type of resource. Rather, it refers to a set of affordances (Gibson, 2014), either technical or legal, for a specific type of resource, of which a user may make use [1].

How have you seen Creative Commons licenses enabling open work (hint, you can find it in this page :D)

» Working

Watch Kristie describe how working open, launched an her project’s success.

A Working Open Example - STEMM Role Models, Kirstie Whitaker

Working open can be described as having:

  • participation. rocket fuel for smart collaboration.
  • agility. speed. flexibility. getting stuff done.
  • momentum. communities want to push boulders that are already rolling.
  • testing and rapid prototyping. iterating and refining as we go.
  • leverage. getting greater bang from limited resources. punching above our weight.[4]

How might you convince someone who feels protective of their idea/and or software project to begin working openly?

Open is Not


Photo via Internet Archive Book Images, no known restrictions.

Open has also become a buzzword for industry, individuals, and corporations looking to exploit (purposely or otherwise) the popularity and uptake of open source software in recent years.

» Exploitation Creating appearances of being open to engage people for free labour, fake consultation or as a way to draw attention to oneself are all ways people exploit ‘Open’.

Open is not:

  • public performance. creating the fake appearance of consultation.
  • endless opinion-sharing. never-ending “feedback.” bike-shedding.
  • magic “crowd-sourcing.” crowds aren’t smart – communities of peers are. [4] Matt Thompson>

How would you recognize exploitation of open? Can you think of any examples?

» Open Washing

Open Washing is a term given to a specific type of exploitation whereby a product or resource is marketed as being ‘open’, but without evidence that this is entirely true.

Openwashing: to spin a product or company as open, although it is not. Derived from ‘greenwashing.’ Michelle Thorn

Openwashing: n., having an appearance of open-source and open-licensing for marketing purposes, while continuing proprietary practices. Audrey Watters

Assignment: - Explore the Open

Navigate the web looking for examples of:

  • People working openly
  • The use of Creative Commons licenses
  • Open Source code
  • Open Washing
  • Open Access


next: The History and Future of Open Source  

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