DOKK Library

The Troubling Prevalence of Apple’s Eye of Sauron at Open Education Meetings

Authors Jonathan A. Poritz

License CC-BY-SA-4.0

                               The Troubling Prevalence of
                                  Apple’s Eye of Sauron
                               at Open Education Meetings

                                              Jonathan A. Poritz
                                        Center for Teaching and Learning and
                                       Department of Mathematics and Physics
                                          Colorado State University-Pueblo

                                              28 November 2019
                    This work is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

                             These slides can be found at

Poritz               Apple’s Eye of Sauron                        28 November 2019       1 / 22
Teach the controversy: #thatpanel

On an earlier version of the Keynote Speakers page for #OpenEd19:
  “ Future of Learning Materials Panel
    This panel brings together publishers of both OER and proprietary
    materials with a range of business models, including representa-
    tives from OpenStax, Lumen, Cengage, Macmillan, and McGraw-
    Hill. Each has accepted an invitation to answer your questions
    about how learning materials will be created, maintained, im-
    proved, licensed, sustained, and distributed in the future. ... Is
    there a topic you’d like to hear the panel discuss? Submit a ques-
    tion for the panel! ... the Program Committee will review and
    organize the questions ahead of the conference.”
Much Twitterishness ensued, after which #thatpanel was canceled.1

       Rajiv Jhangiani has written a thoughtful, nuanced piece of many issues around this panel and the twittering it brought on:
read it, and search Twitter for #thatpanel, if you are interested in that sort of thing.
Poritz                 Apple’s Eye of Sauron                        28 November 2019           2 / 22
Fallout from #thatpanel?

Open Ed was canceled, too. As Inside Higher Ed put it:
     “ Open Education... Is Closed
         This year’s Open Education Conference had more attendees than ever before.
         Why is it ending after 16 years, and what does its demise mean for the cause?
         Last weekend, at the Open Education Conference in Phoenix,
         David Wiley, chief academic officer of Lumen Learning and the
         conference’s organizer for 16 years, announced that this would be
         its last gathering...”
This is of course nonsense: there will absolutely be an Open Ed
conference next year, albeit run by different folks and perhaps looking a
little different. [Or so I have heard, from people I think should know.]

Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron          28 November 2019   3 / 22
#thatpanel echoes OSSNA’17 keynote controversy

The #thatpanel debacle was an odd echo of an event at the Open
Source Summit North America 2017 in Los Angeles:
At the opening keynote, Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux
Foundation, declared 2017 to be the year of ‘Linux on the Desktop.’
It was noticed during his keynote that he was using an Apple device
running MacOS to make this declaration.
The Linux Foundation is a non-profit which provides
a home base for Linux Torvalds, the original author
of the Linux kernel and its long-time benevolent dictator.
It is funded by its corporate members, including AT&T,
IBM, Intel, Microsoft, NEC, etc.
                                                                    Linus Torvalds and Jim Zemlin [R & L],
                                                                 by the Linux Foundation. Released under a
Much Twitterishness ensued.                               Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron                     28 November 2019             4 / 22
The prehistory of FLOSS
The School of Athens by Raffaello Sanzio

Image in the public domain: Raffaello died in 1520. Original in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican. This version: School of Athens%22 by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino.jpg.

Poritz                 Apple’s Eye of Sauron                       28 November 2019          5 / 22
Pythagoras: Keeping knowledge secret on pain of death

                   He didn’t prove or originate “his” theorem.
                   The Pythagoreans were not unlike a cult, with odd
                   dietary restrictions, belief in their leader’s magical
                   powers (talking to animals, etc.), divided as:
                   • mathematikoi [“learners”] who lived√ apart and
                   knew hidden mysteries (e.g., that 2 is irra-
                   tional2 ); and
                   • akousmatikoi [“listeners”] who lived with their
                   families and only aspired to greater secrets.
Hippasus of Metapontum, a renegade mathematikos, was tracked √       down
and executed for the crime of revealing to the public that 2 is irrational.
[Pythagoras himself was killed when unwilling to step into a bean field
despite being pursued by an angry mob.]

    2                                                                      √
         meaning that there do not exist whole numbers p and q such that       2 = p/q
Poritz               Apple’s Eye of Sauron               28 November 2019   6 / 22
Euclid’s radical openness
 He was a librarian. [in Ptolemaic Alexandria]
 His Elements of Geometry had more editions and
 influence than any other book [in the West; other
 than the Christian Bible].
 The Elements was loved by Galileo, Newton,
 Hobbes, Spinoza, Descartes, Abraham Lincoln, Al-
 bert Einstein ... and many, many others3
 For hundreds of years [in the west] it was consid-
 ered a right of passage in the education of [yes, male
 and elite] young people to master The Elements.

The Elements was so influential because it was completely open, laying
out all of its Theorems with proofs [including one that √2 ∈/ Q].
Proofs are like like the source code if a theorem were a program: Yes, Euclid was doing FLOSS [free/libre/open-source software]
more than 2K years before the invention of the computer!

       E.g., Moby Dick says that the difficulty of whales mentally putting together the two images perceived by their widely
separated eyes must be as if a human were ”simultaneously to go through the demonstrations of two distinct problems in Euclid.”
Poritz                Apple’s Eye of Sauron                       28 November 2019           7 / 22
When FLOSS became FLOSS
  Euclid’s radical openness is the foundation of mod-
  ern mathematics, science, and the whole Academy.
  E.g., a modern scientific paper has a standard
  format, including sections for Methods and Re-
  sults... that’s pretty open.
  This is what Richard Stallman describes when he
  talks about founding the GNU Project and the Free
  Software Movement in the 1980s: while at MIT,
  he wanted to improve a printer driver and he ex-
  pected the manufacturer would share it’s source
  code with him, the way scientists share methods
                        which each other. His frustration
                         when they wouldn’t lead him to
This image GNU head, by start down the GNU path. key regulator ofThis paper Yeast -arrestin Art2 is the
                                                                  ubiquitylation-dependent endocytosis
Aurelio Heckert is released
                                                                 of plasma membrane vitamin B1 transporters by Savocco
under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 License.
                                                                  et al. is released under a Creative Commons Attribution

Poritz                Apple’s Eye of Sauron                     28 November 2019          8 / 22
A structural and #metoo caveat

Yes, access to knowledge has been (and continues to be) restricted by
wealth and privilege and geography and power and etc.
But for hundreds of years the fundamental logic of the scholarly life
has been to share.
A critical approach to the structures of education is required if we are to
serve what I have been asserting is a large part of the fundamental ethic of
the scholarly life. Read Paolo Freire, bell hooks, Pierre Bourdieu, and
many others – please get back to me when you’ve figured out it all out.
                          And of course there is #metoo. Richard Stallman’s treat-
                          ment of women throughout his career has been a vile
                          contribution to the toxic culture towards women in IT.
                          “Maha Bali” from Uncommon Women 2018 colouring book by Kelsey Merkley is released under
                          a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Poritz             Apple’s Eye of Sauron                   28 November 2019           9 / 22
FLOSS on the desktop and everywhere

  RMS made GNU, and much of the machinery in the
  background of a full operating system. Then Finnish
  student Linux Torvalds wrote a kernel, and GNU/Linux4
  was born: suddenly, there was a home environment for
  the full FLOSS ecosystem.           This image is made available under the Creative Commons
                                                                              CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.

                                                  And yet Linux runs the world: the majority
                                                  of silicon CPUs on the planet run a vari-
                                                  ant of Linux: this includes the server farms
                                                  of Amazon and Google, millions of micro-
                                                  controled devices run “embedded Linux,”
                                                  etc. And open standards, implemented in
This work Cirpack LINUX tux 2.gif was             FLOSSy software, run the infrastructure of
released into the public domain by its author,
“nlebihan.”                                       the Internet.
         The better name for it than just “Linux” – at least until RMS’s #metoo moment.
Poritz               Apple’s Eye of Sauron                    28 November 2019         10 / 22
Another caveat: The Internet is a cesspool

Racism, misogyny, anti-vaxxers, global climate de-
niers, DDOS attacks on democracy), a digital
panopticon, surveillance capitalism, social media-
promoted genocide ... the Internet is a cesspool.                                     Image Big Brother in the public domain.

Maybe this should not come as a surprise: the Internet was born during
the heady days of the post-war boom, but had its difficult adolescence
during the rise of Reagan and Thatcher’s neoliberal5 revolution.
Various thinkers have suggested ways of getting this mess under control:
   • Elizabeth Warren suggests we break up and/or regulate tech giants.6
   • Cory Doctorow suggests we try “adversarial inter-operability” – open
     standards enforced by governments – and see if the open community
     can provide better tools and platforms.
         see Wendy Brown’s magnificent Undoing the demos: Neoliberalism’s stealth revolution, MIT Press, 2015
         Sasha Baron Cohen agreed in a magnificent prize-acceptance speech to the Anti-Defamation League.
Poritz              Apple’s Eye of Sauron                     28 November 2019         11 / 22
Is Linux dominating the desktop?
Who in this room runs Linux on their desktop?
How many of your colleagues or students would recognize the word Linux?
    This is what
    my desktop
    looks like:
    UL: Emacs editor

    LL: running LATEX in
        terminal window

    LR: searching files in
         terminal window

Emacs is an editor, not a word processor. LATEX is a program that turns a
plain text file in the LATEX markup language into beautifully formatted
scholarly papers and presentations. Both are FLOSS.
Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron   28 November 2019   12 / 22
CLIs vs GUIs
 Presumably part of what is terrifying
 about that image is the way those ter-
 minal windows use a Command Line
 Interface [CLI], a way of communicat-
 ing with a computer with words, un-
 like point-and-click Graphical User In-
 terfaces [GUIs].
 But would you rather teach a physics
 or political science course with words,
 or with the lovely hand gestures used
 in Italy?
 Likewise, if you are going to do any-
                                                               Popular Italian Gestures by is
 thing more serious with you computer                          released under a Creative Commons Attribution-
                                                               ShareAlike 2.0 License.
 than play a video game, why wouldn’t
 you tell it what to do with words?
Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron                  28 November 2019          13 / 22
GUIs over CLIs is like illiteracy over education

My discipline, mathematics, uses a lot of arcane symbols in obscure ways,
so that perhaps has prepared ma a little.

But I believe every discipline in the Academy values and teaches clear,
precise articulation of complex ideas. Surely we can all teach and employ
that kind of verbal precision when communicating with a computer.

To give up on interacting in the more sophisticated CLI way with your
computer is like a student who doesn’t have the self-confidence to tackle
the complexities of disciplinary rigor.

Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron   28 November 2019   14 / 22
Arguments for open ed and OER

At this conference, surely we can all articulate a host of subtle and
convincing arguments in favor of open education in general and OER in

Three reasons we’ve heard many times here at OE Global are
   • Agency [for both students and instructors!],
   • Cost, and
   • Social Justice
to which I would add
   • Openness and sharing are fundamental to the ethos of the Academy
     and of all education. [Talk to Jim Luke about the interesting things
     he was World Caffeinating yesterday about [higher] ed as being
     structured largely like a commons, in an obscure economist’s technical

Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron   28 November 2019   15 / 22
Some of the resitance these arguments meet
Many of us use those arguments against stiff resitance, saying things like
  • Why would you give up your agency as an instructor and deny your
    students the experience of agency in their own education, by using
    closed resources and pedagogy?
  • The cost (especially in some particularly benighted countries) is not a
    small thing in students’ lives, and while instructors do not set tuition,
    we do often have a very strong voice in the choice of materials and
    pedagogical strategies we use.
  • We can apply OEP to approach the UN SDGs and use OER when the
    commercial alternatives are often little more than thinly disguised
    gateways into surveillance capitalism.
to which I would add
  • When we get pushback because the open resources are perhaps not a
    highly polished as their commercial counterparts, and require more
    work for the instructor, we often say that even extra work is often
    worth it, for the agency, cost, and social justice gains.
Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron   28 November 2019   16 / 22
Same arguments for FLOSS

I’m not even going to repeat them with some small wrinkle, because
exactly the same arguments apply to FLOSS.

Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron   28 November 2019   17 / 22
Action Items

Things you can do:
   • Seize agency by using FLOSS!
   • Use FLOSS on the desktop.
   • Use FLOSSy tools and platforms (e.g., DoOO instead of an LMS).
   • Look for FLOSS tools to replace expensive, locked-down non-free
     tools (GIMP instead of Photoshop, Octave instead of Matlab, etc.

Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron   28 November 2019   18 / 22
Change of perspective: They Live

Still from John Carpenter’s film They Live ©Universal Pictures, found at SLANT magazine, used under fair use/dealing.

Poritz               Apple’s Eye of Sauron                     28 November 2019           19 / 22
The Eye of Sauron is all around us!                            1

It helps to have a constant reminder before your eyes to stir you,
eventually, I hope, to action.
So look around the room and check out the glowing Apple symbols.
Because they glow, and because big tech is so extractive and
self-interested, I tend to think of these symbols as The Eye of Sauron
from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein. If you’ve seen Peter
Jackson’s film version, you’ve seen an image of this eye.
The following is not one (Jackson
is apparently very aggressive about
his IP and I don’t want to think
through fair use/deal in all possible
jurisdictions), but it might be evoc-
ative of that image:

Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron       28 November 2019   20 / 22
The Eye of Sauron is all around us!                                           2

In the books of the LotR, the glowing eye appears when Frodo looks into
Lady Galadriel’s Mirror. But it appears much more widely as the symbol
worn by Sauron’s orcs (not Saruman’s!), on all of the shield. JRR
describes the symbol as being a lidless eye, wreathed in flame, with a pupil
like a cat’s. So imagine every around you with their Apple devices is really
an orc, sporting the Lidless Eye symbol:

 ”Fictional coat of arms of Mordor, in Tolkien’s Middle-earth.” by Rondador
 was released under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Un-
 ported license.

Poritz               Apple’s Eye of Sauron          28 November 2019   21 / 22
Contact. Getting slides [links!]

Questions? Comments?

Email (feel free!): ; Tweety-bird: @poritzj .

Get these slides at and all files for
remixing7 at .

If you don’t want to write down that full URL, just remember
  or [then click Always SHARE]
  or [then click Always SHARE]
  or scan −−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−−→
         [then click Always SHARE]

         subject to CC-BY-SA
Poritz   Apple’s Eye of Sauron   28 November 2019   22 / 22