Clearinghouses and a Fourth Age of Sport Institutes

I have had the good fortune to be included on the Australasian Sport Information Network (AUSPIN) mailing list for a decade. The network is hosted by the Clearinghouse for Sport (previously the National Sport Information Centre) at the Australian Sport Commission.

The Clearinghouse was established in 2012 as:

a central access point for the Australian sport sector, to serve the needs of users of a specific body of knowledge, and provide information in an audience appropriate manner to support the transfer and development of knowledge.

I received an alert this week that saddened me. It signalled a change in the work of the Clearinghouse. The email header was Discontinuation of the Clearinghouse for Sport, Daily Sports News (DSN).

The email shared this news:

DSN will not continue in 2018. The Australian Sports Commission’s new strategic direction and re-prioritisation of its existing resources were key considerations in the decision to cease the service.
I’d like to thank all who have supported and promoted DSN over the past 10 years. We’re very sad to see it go, but I know many here will not miss those early morning starts.

A colleague replied:

Very disappointed to read this news. This service has played an important role in informing the Australian sport sector of results, news and issues. There is no such service in Australia that covers the breadth of sports and issues in a consolidated way. It was also an important way of informing the Australian sport sector of very worthwhile work of the NSIC/Clearinghouse in terms of ground breaking sport research in and outside AIS/ASC, Clearinghouse portfolios and the recording and availability of seminars and SMART Talks.

In particular, it has allowed me to keep up to date with developments in sport policy which helps my extensive voluntary work in creating and updating Clearinghouse for Sport portfolios in areas such as Australian Sport Policy, Sport in Rural and Regional Communities, Role Models in Sport, Funding for Sport, Country Profiles and new AIS Sport Alumni websites.

The Australian sport sector has been very well served by the NSIC since it was established in 1982 as the AIS Information Centre. It is still a world leading sport information service and one of the few advantages has in the world of high performance sport. Access to information and research has allowed Australia to punch above its weight in world sport since the 1980’s.

Well done to the NSIC staff in their commitment to delivering service to inboxes before 7am. The culture of the NSIC/Clearinghouse has always been about prompt service.

I understand that the Australian Sports Commission is considering how to structure its digital communications. Back in 2009, in a presentation titled A Fourth Age of Sport Institutes, I tried to articulate what such a communications structure might be.

My thinking about this fourth age was profoundly affected by the practices of the then National Sport Information Centre (NSIC). I had engaged with the NSIC from the mid 1990s and had the good fortune to meet them in person when I moved to work at the AIS in 2002.

I found their modesty, diligence, enthusiasm and energy to be a wonderful, infectious guide to my own work. From them I learned the power of invisible service.

I have always thought the NSIC Clearinghouse to be a jewel in the crown of the Australian Sports Commission’s service to national and global sport.

One of my regrets is that I left the AIS in 2007 and could only be an external advocate for the NSIC thereafter. I am hopeful there will be a role for the Clearinghouse staff in Australian sport’s digital future. They have been world-leading for a long time with a modesty that prevents them from saying this. Their world-leading activities are in their practice not in the rhetoric that goes with world-leading aspirations.

I revisited my 2009 presentation following the AUSPIN announcement. I thought these slides embody my concerns. (With my apologies for the red emphases.)

I do hope that the Clearinghouse’s custos role might enable them to be part of this opportunity:

Photo Credit

View towards Bruce, ACT from AIS grounds (1982) (ACT Archives, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Technocracy and Transparency

Last weekend, I had an opportunity to listen to Radio National’s Saturday Extra program. One of the items was a conversation between the presenter, Geraldine Doouge, and Parag Khanna.

Their discussion about the characteristics of governance in Singapore and Switzerland encouraged me to think about how sport might benefit from a sensitive merging of enlightened investment in and engagement with technology with transparent discussions about decision-making and civic engagement.

Parag calls this merging ‘direct technocracy‘. He points out:

This approach combines the virtues of direct democracy with the benefits of meritocratic technocracy, which leverages data to make long-term, utilitarian decisions. Simply put, a direct technocracy marries good ideas and efficient execution.

I think the marriage of ‘good ideas and efficient execution’ is made possible by transparent discussion of the kind evident in ‘the hyper-democratic Switzerland’. Parag says of Switzerland and Singapore:

their records are impressive: both countries boast good health, ample wealth, low corruption, high employment, national military and civil services, and massive state investment in innovation. They respond efficiently to citizens’ needs and preferences, apply international experience to domestic policy making, and use data and alternative scenarios for long-term planning.

There is an interesting blend occurring here: ‘responsiveness’, ‘international experience’ and ‘long-term planning’. All of which encourage me to think about how we adapt better practice to local circumstances.

It seems to me that given the opportunities sport has to generate data, a ‘direct technocracy’ responsiveness to long-term performance should have immense appeal.  I sense that this requires us to re-imagine how we lead and follow in sport organisations.

Photo Credits

Singapore Night (Bailey Cheng, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Switzerland (KP Tripathi, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Lifelong Learning and the Imagined Worker: Hine Sight


I am fortunate to live in a beautiful house in a beautiful town in rural New South Wales. Although my access to the internet is constrained by living in a rural community, I can access the internet.

A post by Audrey Watters affirmed just how fortunate I am. Audrey used a Lewis Hine photograph as the image at the head of her post. It was this photograph:


The picture was taken at a cotton mill in North Carolina and is one of many Lewis Hine photographs held by the Library of Congress and shared on Flickr with no known copyright restrictions.

Lewis Hine’s note of the photograph is “A moment’s glimpse of the outer world, said she was 10 years old. Been working over a year”. The photograph was taken in 1908.

It was a very powerful picture for Audrey to choose to introduce her post on lifelong learning. Her writing disturbs me and challenges me. I use ‘disturb’ in a very positive sense. Audrey affects my equilibrium and I have to rethink my taken-for-granted assumptions.

… all from the comfort of a personal office space in a warm house with access to a Mac computer.

The Imagined Worker

Audrey’s post discusses the Pew Research Center’s survey on “Lifelong Learning and Technology” published last week. She suggests this survey:

provides an important counter to the sweeping pronouncements we often hear about Internet technologies and the coming democratization and de-institutionalization of education.

Her post introduced me to Tressie McMillan Cottom and her thinking about “the roaming autodidact” as:

a self-motivated, able learner that is simultaneously embedded in technocratic futures and disembedded from place, culture, history, and markets.
Audrey mentions “untethered entrepreneurial learners” too.
She discusses the mythologising of these learners in conversations about continuing learning and points out that according to the Pew survey “the majority of adults are unfamiliar with online learning platforms”.
Audrey concludes her post with her observation that education technology exacerbates existing inequalities. She notes that the Pew survey asserts that those “who are better off and better educated get more benefits from learning”. She cautions that:
when education technology and “future of work” proponents say that it’s increasingly up to the worker to become more “entrepreneurial,” to become a lifelong learner, we should interrogate exactly who that imagined worker might be.
This final sentence connected me back to the image of the ten year old spinner in North Carolina.

Good Fortune

This is another of Lewis Hine’s photographs:


The photograph was taken in 1911. Manuel had been working since the age of four at Biloxi, Mississippi. He was five when this photograph was taken by Lewis Hine.

Audrey’s post helped me think about good fortune and Lewis’s photographs are testimonies to others with different fortunes. Manuel was younger than my granddaughter, Ivy, when the picture was taken. Ivy goes to a wonderful school and is taught by a charismatic teacher.

Audrey’s disturbance took me back to my first day at school and meeting teachers there who changed my life chances. In my community, education was seen as an opportunity to ‘get on’ and move beyond the clay pits, brick works, coal mines and steel works that offered employment to young people who left school before their fourteenth birthday.

My experiences from my earliest days of schooling have made me a voracious learner. I have thought, naively, that personal learning is about intrinsic motivation and the resilient quest for opportunities to learn. I take Audrey’s argument forcefully about how my own experience leads me to assumptions about lifelong learning.

Whilst I was writing this post, my daughter, Beth, shared a link to the Australian Labor Party’s policy agenda for tackling inequality that starts to address the structural inequalities in access to learning that are at the heart of Audrey’s post.

The discussion of quality education across life in the policy document includes this quote:

many Australians lack the language, literacy and numeracy skills to participate in training and work. Only just over half of Australians aged 15 to 74 years have been assessed as having the prose literacy skills needed to meet the complex demands of everyday life and work
The document reports that 2.5 million Australians live below the poverty line.
This left me wondering about what Lewis’s record of poverty might look like in present day Australia.

Hine Sight

It is a profound regret that I only became aware of Lewis Hine today through an image shared by Audrey.

There is an outline of his life in Wikipedia. I need now to learn more about him. I like the idea that sociology was an important part of his learning journey and am keen to find out more about his move from teacher to visual ethnographer and his recording of child labour in the United States.

I need to find out more about how such a selfless person could end up in the poverty he chronicled.

His story is interwoven with Audrey’s narrative about learning. I am delighted I have found him. I think his story will help me clarify my own unequivocal commitment to supporting personal learning opportunities in a grounded way.

I am going to explore Tressie’s ideas too in the context of my work for the OERu.

Photo Credits

Rhodes Mfg. Co, Linconton, NC. Spinner (Lewis Hine, no known copyright restrictions.)

Manuel, the young shrimp-picker (Lewis Hine, no known copyright restrictions.)