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Educational Regimes of Truth:
Blockchain, Badgechain, and
the Ethics of the Repository
Or, how ethics can help us devise b...
Ethics: An Approach
• Lack of objectivity; varying perspectives; ambiguity.
• We tend to fit in neat categories like “priv...
The Logics of Blockchain
3
Compliments of Ian O’Byrne, “What is Blockchain?”
The structural, societal, economic, and polit...
Application to Open Digital Badges
and (Larger) Education
4
Complements of Serge Ravet, “The Trustworthy BadgeChain”
Immed...
Key Ethical Questions
5
Repository: Archival Power
Pastorally-driven dignity: Should educational
records be publicly viewa...
The Genesis Block
6
Complements of Justin O’Brien & David Harding, “View the Genesis Block”
ShutterStock.com
Are we carryi...
What are we trying to do?
7
Permanence? An illusion?
http://www.fourbythreemagazine.com/issue/nihilism/12-fragments-on-nih...
Regimes of Truth: Data and Authority
8
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/297378381622203341/
http://www.azquotes.com/quote/652...
Regimes of Truth: Data and Authority
9
Do we “tap into” the badgechain, like
foam accesses an ocean, or do we
surrender co...
Unbundling Education
10
Complements of Vala Afshar, “Disruption of Higher Education”
Badgechain = New
Possibilities for Ba...
A Challenge
11
Thinking of Badgechain as a “non-narrative” (ex., Strawson, 2016).
We currently conceive of Badgechain as a...
An Idea
(because ethics shouldn’t be shrill)
12
What’s really going on here is the search for how to exact some sort of co...
Discussion
13
James E. Willis, III, Ph.D.
@Willis3James
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Educational Regimes of Truth: Blockchain, Badgechain, and the Ethics of the Repository

Presentation for Badgechain call, 8 June 2016. Topics include an ethical look at the emerging use of Bitcoin's blockchain in education, specifically open digital badges, a critical appraisal of the motives for utilizing such technology, and a set of ethical principles to guide development.

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Educational Regimes of Truth: Blockchain, Badgechain, and the Ethics of the Repository

  1. 1. Educational Regimes of Truth: Blockchain, Badgechain, and the Ethics of the Repository Or, how ethics can help us devise better digital architectures James E. Willis, III, Ph.D. Indiana University - Bloomington 1
  2. 2. Ethics: An Approach • Lack of objectivity; varying perspectives; ambiguity. • We tend to fit in neat categories like “privacy” and “legal” issues. • Ethical inquiry is inherently messy. Rightly so. • 3 messy functions: – Pastorally-driven dignity: Snappy acronyms don’t cut it. – Techniques & Analysis: Implicit utilitarianism – Checks on power & productive criticism • Interview w/ Ian O’Byrne: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xbQGDIUwDpk 2
  3. 3. The Logics of Blockchain 3 Compliments of Ian O’Byrne, “What is Blockchain?” The structural, societal, economic, and political “baggage” of Bitcoin • Distributed, de-centralized, replicated, and with lack of authority • And, some unsavory outcomes…ala the black market http://bitcoinist.net/2015-review-bitcoins- resilience-face-adversity/ http://www.cringely.com/2013/09 /30/doubts-bitcoin/
  4. 4. Application to Open Digital Badges and (Larger) Education 4 Complements of Serge Ravet, “The Trustworthy BadgeChain” Immediate Implications: (Re)Envisaging trusted sources Transparency of credentials De-centralized, earner- controlled repository for all curricular/co-/extra- curricular activities Governance issues for school registrars
  5. 5. Key Ethical Questions 5 Repository: Archival Power Pastorally-driven dignity: Should educational records be publicly viewable for the far future, even when the learner consents? Techniques & Analysis: Will increasing amounts of extra-educational data be inserted into blocks? Can emerging analyses (i.e. sentiment analysis) detect deficiencies in that data? Checks on power & productive criticism: What recourse does an individual have when the repository is inaccurate? Who oversees changes to the Genesis block? What are the limits of stored data? Who protects that data? How can we account for risk and unforeseen consequences? When do we become what the record says about us? When do we relinquish control of our narrative?
  6. 6. The Genesis Block 6 Complements of Justin O’Brien & David Harding, “View the Genesis Block” ShutterStock.com Are we carrying our biases unfairly into the future? Are we writing the future with the past? Do emerging technologies like Blockchain allow us to radically re-envision education?
  7. 7. What are we trying to do? 7 Permanence? An illusion? http://www.fourbythreemagazine.com/issue/nihilism/12-fragments-on-nihilism Verifiability? At what cost? http://www.slashgear.com/trent-reznor-working-on-music-streaming- service-expected-to-launch-early-next-year-10260188/ https://www.pinterest.com/gbbyn/trent-reznor/ Truth? http://quotes.humoropedia.com/simone-de-beauvoir-quotes/
  8. 8. Regimes of Truth: Data and Authority 8 https://www.pinterest.com/pin/297378381622203341/ http://www.azquotes.com/quote/652819 An Either / Or Solution? A repository controlled by the individual (like a digital SSN) OR (?) A repository available to, but not directly controlled by, the individual The promise of Badgechain: verifiable, distributed, permanent, independently-controlled digital toolbox to display credentials
  9. 9. Regimes of Truth: Data and Authority 9 Do we “tap into” the badgechain, like foam accesses an ocean, or do we surrender control to the data crumbs we leave behind? http://www.relatably.com/q/shirley-manson-quotes How do we design our technologies to enable dissent, challenge, and revolution, without stifling them? http://www-evasion.imag.fr/~Fabrice.Neyret/images/fluids- nuages/waves/Jonathan/catalog.html https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TInfxe7c7yA
  10. 10. Unbundling Education 10 Complements of Vala Afshar, “Disruption of Higher Education” Badgechain = New Possibilities for Badges? Internal and external verification processes? Post-Backpack repository? Is the over- compensation for online “fakes” a new narrative of truth? Is our obsession with “verifiable truth” going to create new myths?
  11. 11. A Challenge 11 Thinking of Badgechain as a “non-narrative” (ex., Strawson, 2016). We currently conceive of Badgechain as a surrogate memory-holder to capture some of our student, professional, and credentialed “self.” Yet, we are defined more in the fragments, so why not our micro- credentials, too? If we unbundle education, we essentially re-wire the logic of curricula to fit today’s needs. So-called subscription education will adopt Badgechain tech widely. Badgechain / Blockchain…like our data…cannot be neutral, detached, disinterested.
  12. 12. An Idea (because ethics shouldn’t be shrill) 12 What’s really going on here is the search for how to exact some sort of control and authority in an environment that is, by definition, uncontrollable with distributed authority. Core Process and Development Principles Dignity Techniques & Analysis Checks on power & productive criticism Make students / earners part of the collaborative and iterative processes Genesis block in Bitcoin: Necessary for it to remain static Genesis block in Badgechain: Trackable change = increased verifiability Mutability ought be rethought as a virtue, not a liability
  13. 13. Discussion 13 James E. Willis, III, Ph.D. @Willis3James

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