OER Nebula and Galaxies

Preparing for my out-of-body presentation in Taiwan this week (I’m at home sick – grrr), I kept thinking about the OER space until I actually started visualizing it as a kind of outer space, with little OER bits floating around aimlessly. It was pretty fun to think about until I realized that the primoridal OER soup, the “OER Nebula” is actually being pulled in several directions by several different sources of gravity:

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It kind of depressed me thinking the biggest centers of gravity in this space might be licenses. If nothing changes in the space, then billions of internet years from now (in 18 Earth months or so), the space might end up looking like this:

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As long as these licenses stay incompatible, interstellar travel between the different worlds will be about the best we can hope for in terms of our remixes. Is this really what we’re doomed to? I think counting on the different licensing bodies to come to harmonization is all but a lost cause (please prove me wrong!). Is it possible to create a stronger center of gravity than the licenses, something that could pull the OERs toward a common place where remixing and sharing the results could be simple and legal?

3 thoughts on “OER Nebula and Galaxies”

  1. Nice formulation.

    If you had used countries rather than galaxies, then the licenses are actually passports for content to travel.

    All passports serve the same function, it is just the place that you may want to go to that have different requirements. For some you need a visa, for others you need a biometric passport and so on.

    We may never get a borderless world but travel could become easier for both people and content.

    I like you thinking on this. May be we are striving for a borderless world for content!


  2. I like your pictures!

    In response to your final question about “a stronger center of gravity than the licenses”, have you heard of the Open Knowledge Definition (OKD)?

    It lives at:


    Here is an explanatory snippet:

    “The Open Knowledge Definition (OKD) provides an answer to the question: what is open knowledge? It puts forward, in a simple and clear manner, principles that define open knowledge and which open knowledge licenses must satisfy.

    The concept of openness has already started to spread rapidly beyond its original roots in academia and software. We already have ‘open access’ journals, open genetics, open geodata, open content etc. As the concept spreads so we are seeing a proliferation of licenses and a potential blurring of what is open and what is not.

    In such circumstances it is important to preserve compatibility, guard against dilution of the concept, and provide a common thread to this multitude of activities across a variety of disciplines. The definition, by providing clear set of criteria for openness, is an essential tool in achieving these ends.”



  3. “a borderless world”, in China, we called “communist societyâ€?. It is an ideal society but hardly to realize. For example, Hong Kong is a part of China, people from Mainland need a special entry permission to get to Hong Kong; instead, Hong Kong citizen can come to Mainland China freely. Borderless World….er,tuff:(! But we expect!

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