Porting learning

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					                                            Rudy Nadler-Nir

       Porting learning from a local ‘case’ to global ‘cause’
                 Case Study of learning practices
              In a Civil Society Organisation (CSO)
                                   By Rudy Nadler-Nir

Rudy Nadler-Nir is studying for his Intercontinental Master’s Degree in Adult Learning
 and Global Change at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.
 Current research involves Communities of Practice, Situated Learning and the use of
                     narratives and “war stories” in Call Centres.

 This work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 licence
              See for full licence details

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                                            Rudy Nadler-Nir

Porting learning from a local ‘case’ to global ‘cause’


‘Local’ and ‘global’ as an optical illusion

The “local” and “global” learning couplet may occasionally appear as an optical illusion:
for a short while we grasp an element as local, pertaining to the very community within
which it operates, then – at a flicker of an eye – the very same element is foreground as a
global concept.

The local-global optical illusion is further evident as Ismail (2003) describes the Victoria
Mxenge Housing Development Association project. When the women involved in the
project decide to put on a display and invite relevant stakeholders, “The stakeholders in
this case are the local councilor, the mayor, the chairperson from the all-white residents'
association, the local and provincial administrative authorities from the housing board
and land committees, national and regional Federation members, and local and national
savings group members.” (p.4) -- while the community affected is local, the list of
stakeholders is placing it within a larger, global, picture.

This issue is highlighted further in Ismail’s consideration of women and poverty – “The
development literature (Sen and Grown 1987; Rowbotham and Mitter 1994) that locates
gender in the present era of globalisation and postmodernism argues that if the goals of
development include improved living standards and the removal of poverty, then it is
quite natural to start with the poor and therefore with women.” (p.7) here the process is
reversed, as a global view of poverty alleviation is applied locally to poor women.

Walters and Manicom (1996) grapple with the local – global issue of “how to move from
the starting-points of women’s immediate concerns to a broader analysis and to political
action aimed at transforming oppressive relations.” (p.10). It appears that socio-
economical events can be part of the learning process through a point of concern that is

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close in proximity to the people affected, as well as through a larger prism. Nadeau
(1996) epitomises this prism-changing concept when describing how “[a]n understanding
of the centrality of our bodies to our daily lives, in other words, an understanding of what
              the                            ,
I have called ' political economy of the body'allows us to find concrete starting-points
for women to develop a gender analysis of global restructuring.” (p.15).

Freire (1974) argues that the expansion of human’s term of reference (as it stands, from
their local focus to a global consideration) adds to their critical awareness “As men
entered a larger sphere of relationships and received a greater number of suggestions and
challenges to their circumstances, their consciousness automatically became more
transitive.” (p.12)

What, then, does this transitive process consist of? What learning is derived from socio-
economic factors, viewed through a transitive system of lenses, as they move from local
to global considerations?

Reviewing the Popular Education Process, Kerka (1997) argues that “the process usually
follows a pattern or cycle described as action/reflection/action (Arnold and Burke 1983)
or practice/theory/practice (Mackenzie 1993)” (p.1)

In his discussion of study circles, Larsson (2001) describes the process in terms such as
diversity, variety, and lack of uniformity, one in which neutrality (‘fairness’) is not an
obligation – “It is simple to introduce new types of contents which work in the same
direction - it will support the creation of new identities by providing learning space.”

Analysing learning in Brazilian women’s organisations, Foley (1999) associates diversity
-and the move from local to global considerations - with the issue of emmancipatory
learning – “There was … a growing recognition of the diversity of women’s experiences
… There were also increasing complexities and difficulties as women’s energies were
drawn into electoral politics and struggles around state-sponsored policies.” (p.14)

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There is a detectable, incremental, process by which those involved – and affected -
escalate their involvement, helping their case to become a cause by shifting their
consideration from the local to the global or, as Freire (1974) sees it, answering the “need
to progress from naive rebellion to critical intervention.” (p.16)

‘Porting’ case to cause

As soon as the struggle expands its horizon of activities, from the local sphere to larger
arenas, the agenda shifts from the case of the individual within her local community to
the cause of a host of communities within a global context.

This paper maintains that, central to this transitive process, from local to global, case to
cause, is a process where an existing solution is moved on to another environment.
Creative Commons, the Civil Society Organisation discussed here, uses the term
“porting” to describe this process. The online version of the Webster' Revised
Unabridged Dictionary (1913, in online dictionary, 2004) defines porting as “To
carry; to bear; to transport.”

In a modern context, ported elements are seen to change and transform, while
maintaining a robust link to their origins. This definition is akin to the process of
translation – as used in Information Technology 1. In the framework of this paper, porting
involves the process by which learning that proved to be successful for certain
communities, and their stakeholders, is implemented in other localities.

The concept of porting is also echoed in terms, such as “transformation”, “transition” and
“adaptation”, used to describe the flow from local to global contexts elsewhere (my bold

        Nadeau (1996) narrates “I have learned a slogan in Mexico which women use in
                 Women struggling transform the world'“(p.1). Freire (1974) argues
        marches: '                                   .

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       that “This shock between a yesterday which is losing relevance but still seeking to
       survive, and a tomorrow which is gaining substance, characterizes the phase of
       transition as a time of announcement and a time of decision” (p.4)

       According to Larsson (2001), “It is obvious that this kind of transformation was
       often the case in the movements - what you learned in a study circle was applied
       to activities in an association or on the board of a union or in a conglomerate of
       organisations that the participant was a member of.” (p.14)

       “Dewey... states, that democracy is a matter of habits that result in the mutual
       adaptation of social groups to each other when they meet in different situations”
       (Dewey 1966, cited in Larsson 2001, p.6).

       Walters and Manicom (1996) argue that “feminist popular education …valorizes
       local knowledge, working collectively towards producing knowledge, the
       principle of starting from where people are situated, and working to develop a
       broader understanding of structures and how these can be transformed. “ (p.5)

The case study presented here traces the way a civil society organisation, initially
occupied with local cases, moves to mobilise international communities-in-need around a
cause by offering a compelling, ported, solution.

Case Study: Creative Commons South Africa

Most of us would be inclined to look for Civil Society Organisations (CSO) in areas
where such groupings form a power base meant to help the needy, disadvantaged and

Ismail (2003) describes such an assertive, powerful model -- "The daily collectors are
like social workers. They see the situation of every house and then we hear who is sick

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and who is in need of work. It is in the groups where all the problems are heard and can
be potentially solved." (p.4)

We might make the mistake of assuming that CSO are a new form of progressive social
work (consider the aphorism about giving someone a rod to fish with rather then a fish to
eat), ignoring CSO that address a different type of neediness, one that helps developed,
professional communities. Creative Commons is such an organisation.

Creative Commons is an international non profit organisation offering an innovative
licensing process, under which Intellectual Property copyright holders invite users to
avail themselves of creative work, royalty free. While conditions of usage still exist, the
Creative Commons licensing model imposes less restrictive limitations on users.

The ‘local’ case

Creative Commons was set up in 2001 by Stanford Law School Professor Lawrence
Lessig in order to challenge the American copyright system. It sought to answer the
needs of those affected by the high pricing philosophy imposed - under existing licensing
policies - by worldwide owners of rights to Intellectual Property. It set out to oppose
“restrictive publishing regimes” enabling access largely to sections of society who can
afford the high costs imposed by Intellectual Property licensing.” (Creative Commons SA
website, 2004)

Opposition to price restrictive practices meant that creators need to offer at least a section
of their work for free, as well as to allow their work to be used in the creation of other
(‘derivative’) works. This is made possible through four generic types of Creative
Commons licenses:

The Attribution license allows users to copy, distribute, display, and perform the
copyrighted work – as long as the rights-owner gets credited for it. The Noncommercial
license makes the work available only for noncommercial uses. If users want to use the

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work in its exact original form, they would opt for the No Derivative works license.
Lastly, the Share alike license allows users to distribute derivative works – as long as
they are bound by the same conditions that bind the rights-owner.

The iCommons initiative

Creative Commons came to operate in south – and southern - Africa as part of its
iCommons initiative, a project aiming to adapt US-based Creative Commons licenses to
the national jurisdiction of countries around the world.

For Creative Commons creator, Lawrence Lessig, the drive to port Creative Commons
licenses globally emanated from personal, social and economical needs worldwide.
Initiatives such as iCommons allow, "for the first time, any copyright holder in the world
to participate first-hand in reforming global information policy" (Cinsa website, 2004)
the motivation to participate in Creative Commons initiatives emanates from the fact that
"most of the world' population is simply priced out of developed nations'publishing
output. To authors, that means an untapped readership. To economists, it means
deadweight loss.' human rights advocates and educators, it is a tragedy." (ibid)
'                To

In the case of implementing Creative Commons licenses in South Africa, ‘porting’
consisted of the creation of locally useful, legally solid and user-friendly licenses,
designed to “enable creators to share their work under certain conditions. By tagging
works as free to copy and share” In addition, Creative Commons is setting up a central
repository of free information and artifacts. (Creative Commons SA website, 2004)

Initially, work involved volunteers from South Africa’s legal sector who agreed to
engage interested parties in discussions aimed to encourage the development of a locally
relevant license.

                                     community building'
Parallel to discussing legal issues, '                  volunteers invited local creative,
academic, media and educational sectors to get involved in the project and make use of

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the licenses. Local users were also encouraged to participate in collaborative projects
with other iCommons countries.

According to Walters and Manicom (1996), “Popular education involves an inherently
self-reflective, reflexive and non-dogmatic approach. It works to make space for the
collective, participatory production of knowledge and insight, and builds on what
emerges from the experiences of those actively participating.” (p.2)

The Creative Commons reflective approach consisted of both a creative platform and
public identity for “creators, educators and administrators” seeking to use or distribute
“ideas and creative expressions” (Creative Commons SA website, 2004). The
participatory element of the operation involved assisting owners and holders of content to
access users directly and offer them “a pool of royalty-free content that they can freely
reuse.” Content holders and creators used Creative Commons to gain “access to a larger
market for their works.” (ibid)

As far as experiential learning is concerned, Creative Commons aimed to help South
Africans to “become involved in the production and dissemination of meaning and
context” (ibid) using the local Internet and other available Information and
Communication Technology (ICT) channels. Creative Commons licenses are available
directly, online, on the creator’s websites or in communal repositories held by rights

Creative Commons sharing as Ubuntu

Heather Ford, Leader of Creative Commons South Africa (email correspondence, 16 and
17 October, 2004) argues that the constant, dynamic, sharing collective knowledge is an
integral part of the creative process. Furthermore – it echoes the South African concept of
Ubuntu – meaning "a person is a person through other people". It follows that the fruits
of creativity – in terms of its outcomes and by-products -- should not be prevented from
benefiting the very communities who supply the background for its existence. (ibid.)

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According to Ford, local Creative Commons licenses have been designed to demystify
“legalese”. They do not “hide behind complex legal terms. The licenses are linked to the
specific work, as it exists online. Users can access the creator’s work and – if they want
to license it – they only need to click on a button.” (ibid.)

South African rights-owners flag a willingness to offer their work under the Creative
Commons licensing by placing a "Some Rights Reserved" button on their website, next to
the licensed work. Ford stresses that Creative Commons licensing breaches are dealt with
as any copyrights infringement. (ibid.)

Creative Commons furthering the ‘cause’ of South African licensees

Example 01: Wired Magazine music CD

In November 2004 a new music CD will be launched worldwide (including South Africa)
by Wired Magazine. The new CD will be offered under the Creative Commons license,
meaning that the music it caries may be used by South African artists to create new -
‘derivative’ - work. Using technologies known as ‘sampling’ and ‘mashups’, the music
can be taken off the CD and re-worked into artists’ own music tracks with impunity – as
long as they adhere to certain license requirements.

Thomas Goetz, Wired articles editor, sees Creative Commons licenses as something that
“the music industry needs to shake out of this stalemate between extreme restrictions and
all out anarchy. “ Intellectual property is “an issue of global significance, from pirating in
the music and film industries to the patenting of seeds in India or Brazil.” (Creative
Commons SA website, 2004)

Goetz is cognizant that it is necessary to balance between the need to protect “the
interests of intellectual property holders - in this case, record labels” in order to make

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sure they keep creating new work, and the ability to provide “enough latitude for the
culture at large to appreciate and use that product without onerous restrictions.” (ibid.)

Example 02: the online repository

The Creative Commons new approach to the licensing of intellectual property has
inspired the creation of online music repositories such as, an online
music site using Creative Commons licensing to host over 170 artists - many of whom
are South Africans.

The diversity imbued in sites such as Magnatune is evident when one observes the variety
-- in style, taste and target audience – of artists hosted on the site. These include, for
example, Indidginus, a South African musician who mixes musical vignettes made of
organic Australian didgeridoo and electronic voodoo, and the Johannesburg Philharmonic
Orchestra’s Violin Concerto by Czech composer Antonin Dvo ák. (Creative Commons
SA website, 2004)

Magnatune denotes the culmination of the process that started with local cases in the
United States and was ported to become a global cause made of a multiplicity of, yet
again, local cases, in developing countries such as South Africa. Each artist displaying
work on makes up a local case of her own. The site, as a whole, serves
the cause of artists, users and the industry as a whole. This local-case / global-cause /
local-case progression follows the action/reflection/action or practice/theory/practice
pattern discussed in Kerka (1997).

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Creative Commons -- operating within the nexus of case (local) & cause (global)

This paper considered local-to-global-to-local dynamic movement within the relationship
involving aspects of socio-economic issues, events and practices. It is asserted that Civil
Society Organisations are not limited to dealing with developing communities, but may
also deal with developed communities, addressing issues of professionalism and fair
access to means-of-earning.

The Creative Commons case study shows that CSO operations appear to follow similar
patterns, whether they address housing development (Ismail, 2003) study circles
(Larsson, 2001) feminist popular learning (Walters and Manicom, 1996; Nadeau, 1996)
or human terms of critical-reference (Freire, 1974). The patterns involves porting the
issue from its local context as a case to global domain, as a cause.

Personal learnings: Local / Global, meaning and usefulness

Foley (1999) sums up his discussion of learning and education by arguing that “notions
of context and conflict have been central, as has the juxtaposition of micro and macro
analysis” (p.9) Context and conflict, micro vs. macro are central themes in the way I
observed the manner in which local learning cases become global learning causes.

The most powerful learning I derived from this assignment is the notion of the dialectic
relationship between the micro and the macro contexts of learning. Foley says “For me,
convincing theorizing is inductive and dialectical” (p.8) and Freire (1974) concurs - “By
predisposing men to …perceive themselves in dialectical relationship with their social
reality … education could help men to assume an increasingly critical attitude toward the
world and so to transform it.” (p.15)

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The dialectic porting of “social reality” from one community to another denotes both
meaning and usefulness in a view of the world that acknowledges both local and global
aspects of learning. As a local, American, SCO that globalised its case, ‘porting’ it to a
cause, Creative Commons epitomised this dialectic process by, firstly, rejecting existing
licensing practices, secondly, through the formulation of alternatives and – finally -
mobilising support through adoption of the new licenses by those most affected by the
shortcomings of the current system.

As a South African education practitioner, preparing this helped me to put my own
learning, as well as that of students and colleagues with whom I share the need to locate
local cases within larger, global, contexts and meaning. The system is crucially reliant on
the affected communities and the stakeholders as they engage in dialectic struggles
against what Muller (2001) describes as “a world of amoral narcissists, policed by an
ever more complex global human rights code unleavened by any sustaining shared
cultural ethos." (p5).

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        “A portable operating system is one that can be ported (translated) easily from
        one hardware platform to another.” “Using Windows NT Server 4”
        website, available on, last accessed 22
        October 2004.

        “The Image is an entity; it can be ported, translated and reproduced in different
        ways without loss of its form.” Rincón ,Juan Felipe, 1996. Artistic Interaction and
        Computer Interactivity: Cooperative art on the Internet. Available online at last accessed, 22 October

Administrator (2004), Developing Nations Copyright License Frees Creativity Across the
      Digital Divide, Cinsa Community Information Network for Southern Africa,
      available online at
      mid=2 Last accessed on 22 October 2004

Creative Commons South Africa website
       Last accessed on 16 October 2004

                             Introduction' Chapter 6: '
Foley, Griff 1999 Chapter 1: '            and          Learning in Brazilian
                s              ,
       Women' Organisations'in Foley, G Learning in Social Action: A Contribution
       to Understanding Informal Education. Zed Books.

Freire, Paulo 1974 Education for Critical Consciousness, London: Sheed and Ward.

Ismail, Salma 2003 The Poor Women’s Pedagogy, Women’s Studies Quarterly,
        Vol. 3+4, pp 94 – 112.

                   Popular Education: Adult Education for Social Change'
Kerka, Sandra 1997 '                                                   .
       ERIC Digest No. 185. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career and Vocational
       Education, Columbus, OH.

                      Study Circles as Democratic Utopia: A Swedish Perspective'in
Larsson, Staffan 2001 '                                                        ,
       Bron, Agnieszka and Michael Schemmann (eds) 2001 Civil Society, Citizenship
       and Learning. Bochum Studies in International Adult Education, vol. 2.
       Transaction Publishers, USA/UK.

                   Lifelong Learning and Citizenship: A Response to Ove Korsgaard
Muller, Johan 2001 '
       and John Wallis'In Journal of World Education.

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                                          Rudy Nadler-Nir

Nadeau, Denise 1996 Chapter Two: 'Embodying Feminist Popular Education in Global
      Restructuring'in Gender in Popular Education: Methods for Empowerment, Cape
      Town: CACE Publications and Zed Books

                                              Introduction'in Gender in Popular
Walters, Shirley and Linzi Manicom (eds) 1996 '           ,
       Education: Methods for Empowerment, Cape Town: CACE Publications and Zed

Webster' Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) quoted in online dictionary,
      available at last accesses 20 October 2004.

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