When Rebecca Hogue @rjhogue writes in her blog “I did not leave the conference feeling that I was part of the community” (referring to the MOOC Research Initiative conference in Arlington Texas #mri13) she is not alone. And perhaps this feeling of isolation is not because of her position, experience, connections or degree; I think it is because the MOOC movement, especially the one circulating around the Twitter tribe, indirectly promotes isolation and disconnection. It takes a lot of time and patience to generate connections in Twitter. This platform is ruled by a dynamic of neoliberal and postmodern characteristics in which the vision of success is attached to the number of followers and not to the number of people the user follows. (I was thinking about this part in her post: “I wonder, did I miss that session, or was that session part of the private party that happened before the formal MOOC conference?”) This routine, in which performance and unidirectional communication are a predominant factor, cannot be a platform for academic discussion or even pedagogical production, especially for outsiders or people not familiar with these dynamics. Many of these superstars in Twitter virtually exist under these implied premises with cases in which the user has thousands of followers and at the same time the user is following no one. I do not blame them at all, since the format in Twitter aims towards self-glorification and superfluous communication. Twitter is the quintessential platform of this era of performance, lack of content and pseudo-inversion of power. MOOCs (and the MOOC movement) sometimes follow this dynamic, proving the idea that massive communication is not communication at all.
This type of interaction here took me to a further and perhaps radical position of, not only, not applying to the initiative, but also, not going to the conference. Who would want to go to a conference in which the idea of openness has a registration price of $500 (the $495 was a great touch) and was founded by the Gates Foundation (le coup de grace). I assume this price was prohibitive for many people around the globe. Openness for me is something else, completely outside of these dynamics and performances. Openness is active inclusion, lack of hierarchies, distrust of preconceptions (including colonial ideas like the euro-centralist model of academia), and, of course, multi-directional and horizontal communication. Who wants to go to a conference to hear keynote speakers?