The digital scholar
The digital scholar

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The digital scholar

2.1  Resilience

The extract begins here.

In his 1973 paper on the stability of ecological systems, Holling defined resilience as ‘a measure of the persistence of systems and of their ability to absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables.’ It is a perspective that has been applied beyond the ecosystems Holling applied it to, and has found particular relevance to sustainable development and climate change (e.g. Hopkins, 2009). Hall and Winn (2010) have applied the concept of resilience to education, and open education in particular, arguing that resilience ‘develops engagement, education, empowerment and encouragement. Resilient forms of HE should have the capacity to help students, staff and wider communities to develop these attributes. As technology offers reach, usability, accessibility and timely feedback, it is a key to developing a resilient higher education.’

Walker et al. (2004) propose four aspects of resilience:

  1. Latitude: the maximum amount a system can be changed before losing its ability to recover.
  2. Resistance: the ease or difficulty of changing the system; how ‘resistant’ it is to being changed.
  3. Precariousness: how close the current state of the system is to a limit or ‘threshold’.
  4. Panarchy: the influences of external forces at scales above and below. For example, external oppressive politics, invasions, market shifts, or global climate change can trigger local surprises and regime shifts.

Applying resilience to climate change, Hopkins (2009) suggests three factors that influence a community’s resilience:

  • Diversity: not being dependent on one crop or livelihood
  • Modularity: a degree of self-reliance and protection from outside events, such as local food supplies
  • Tightness of feedbacks: making the consequences of actions apparent to everyday life
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