Category Archives: Author Posts

Articles written by OBP authors on their books. Accessible and interesting these posts are well worth a read for those wishing to understand more about the great range of subjects we work with.

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Enabling lifelong learning through open education

Broadly speaking, open education (OE) is the widening of access to high quality educational resources in order to promote lifelong learning and greater participation in higher learning and training. One of the driving principles of OE is that lifelong learning is a human right.

Thus, at its heart, OE is an educational philosophy about how knowledge should be created, shared, and accessed, and it is this philosophy that drives OE principles, policies, processes, and practices. These ideas are further explained in the research-based book I published with OBP, Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education. Continue reading

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The Role of the Well-Timed Question

My chapter in Information and Empire is something that I never really expected to write. It came about because of a simple question from Katia Bowers about what I might have to contribute to the conference where the volume began. Did I have anything about newspapers or periodicals? she asked.

It’s funny how things happen. I was in the process of going through the copy editing for my book on social estate, and if I’d been prompted just to suggest something for a conference on information technology, I would perhaps have come up with something about the very many registers of townspeople and merchants or manumission forms that were produced during the tsarist era. But then again, I might not, since I rather felt like I’d written everything I could on those, between a recent conference paper and, well, the book (I still cherish hearing a colleague call my description of such documents “archival pornography”).
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Expect the Unexpected

Underlying my contributions to Information and Empire is academic work extending back several decades over much of my academic career (with many breaks for other projects). I have had the satisfaction of seeing conclusions based on imperfect evidence confirmed by the work of colleagues (notably Ingrid Maier and Stepan Shamin), who have taken the analysis to new levels. The process also has taught me to expect the unexpected and to confront complexities whose resolution may never be within our grasp.

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Of Roots and Scrolls

Or,
How the Bible, Witchcraft, and Botany Were Brought Together By Bureaucracy In A Completely Everyday Fashion That Was Totally Normal At The Time, No, Really, Stay With Me On This One You Guys.

Because I can explain. This is the story of an institution both entirely unique and completely typical, and of its documents, which were also weird and wonderful whilst being simultaneously humdrum and mundane. This is the story of the Apothecary Chancery. Across the seventeenth century, an official institution housed in an unassuming building next to the Moscow Kremlin was home to a small group of foreign medical practitioners (immigrants – they get the job done), and a smaller group of Russian bureaucrats, who did various things with their day, among which was to read things, talk about things, and write things down. That last part happened in a normal way for their surroundings, that is to say they were written in Russian, and on scrolls. This was how all official documents were created, circulated, and joined together into long threads around the entire empire, whether about the rise and fall of nations, or the delivery of firewood.
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How do people know things?

 

“How do people know things?” – the title of this blog post – seems like a simple question, but as our new publication, Information and Empire: Mechanisms of Communication in Russia, 1600-1850 demonstrates, the answer is complex. The volume focuses on how people knew things in pre-modern Russia, from the official information collected and used by the imperial government or created and circulated through bureaucratic institutions to the ways in which information was circulated publicly and privately through newspapers, the post, and experienced through the visual “graphosphere”. In addressing the broader question of the empire’s knowledge, the book brings together a history of information and its communication in Russia through case studies written by specialists. Continue reading

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Why Open Access? OBP Author’s Perspectives

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‘I am committed to egalitarian education and breaking down any barriers that would get in the way to learning. In short I champion access to material for all.’
-Andrew Fisher

 

 

 

 

‘I really wanted The Idea of Europe to be widely available, to as many people as possible. I wanted to be sure that no one would be stopped from reading it for reasons of cost.’
-Catriona Seth

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‘Liaising with schools is an important part of what I do as a director-of-studies at King’s College and lecturer in the Faculty of Classics here at Cambridge. And anyone involved in this kind of work quickly realizes that the quality of the teaching provisions in our field varies widely – in terms of contact hours, available resources, and the training of the teachers. I would like to believe that my open-access commentaries help a bit to level the playing field.

But this is only one of the reasons why I publish with OBP, two others being flexibility and speed: these commentaries are rather quirky and experimental (some would probably say undisciplined) in ways a more conventional publishing house would hardly tolerate; and since they are designed to provide help with authors who move on and off the syllabus very quickly, they have to be written (and published) at breakneck speed. You show me another press that generates proofs within a week of submission of the ms. and has the final product available within a fortnight!’
-Ingo Gildenhard

 

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Open Textbook Network: The Power of Community

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Open education means providing greater access to knowledge and learning. It also means significant institutional change, something that takes time and concerted effort to be successful.

The Open Textbook Network (OTN) is a community of higher education leaders dedicated to advancing open education best practices on their college campuses. Together, we build and share resources, data and expertise focused on open textbooks.

In the U.S., OTN membership now includes 15% of higher education. In the UK, the OTN has recently started working with the UK Open Textbooks project on their research into the viability of importing open academic textbooks into UK colleges and universities.

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Tolerance: Student Perspectives

“We produced translations for Tolerance in a small group, made up of the 2nd year students in my college. We were given the French copies of two texts, produced our own translations, and then all met with our tutor to … Continue reading

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Open Access Week 2017: Tolerance

It has been exciting to see how much interest our Tolerance volume has provoked since its publication. We initially took up the project in order to show support for our colleagues in France and to help the anthology of searing Enlightenment texts they’d put together on tolerance, equality, and free speech reach an Anglophone audience. We were upset by the Charlie Hebdo assassinations, and because we all wanted to be able to do something, however small, we rushed to translate a text that spoke to the concerns of our present moment. We had no idea that our work would come to impact so many people.

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Warlike and Peaceful Societies: The Interaction of Genes and Culture

Why has Afghanistan changed in a few decades from being a relatively relaxed and tolerant society to one of the most authoritarian and fanatical societies in the world? And why were women allowed to wear miniskirts in Afghanistan in the 1960s while they were forced to wear burqas under the Taliban? This dramatic social change is just one of many examples of social developments that my new book Warlike and Peaceful Societies tries to answer by applying a combination of biological and cultural theories.

This new book is the result of many years of research on the mechanisms that drive different societies in different directions – from the most peaceful and tolerant to the most warlike and imperialistic. Continue reading