Where am I heading with the thesis?April 21, 2008
In my PhD research, I’m trying to study e-learning and ICTs in everyday living, and at the same time I’ve become engaged in reconfiguration of the field of research called e-learning. I didn’t start out with the latter ambition, however my research interest “studying learning movements across virtual and physical context of activity in everyday living” (today, of course, I understand all the words and their implications and entanglements differently) led me to a makeup of empirical materials and analyses that became entangled with the accomplishments of not only e-learning in relation to education but also the field of e-learning research.
In my effort to write about these ‘things’, I’ve recently found great inspiration in ANT (Actor-Network-Theory). ICTs and E-learning in Denmark (and many other places, I believe) is mostly understood as matters of simply human/organizational/institutional bodies applying and using technical ‘bodies’/entities (represented as ICTs understood as carrying learning potentials) for educational purposes. Therefore, when the different ‘bodies’ are in place, all we need to do is make e-learning take place and thus realize its inherent learning potentials (squarely put). This is what the recent Danish National E-learning Strategy claims. However, I suggest, that ICTs and e-learning may be understood as the result off rather than the beginning of socio-material (dis-)engagements, movements and relations(hips) (which are also to be viewed as continuously on the move – altering and being altered) enacted through everyday livings. In other words I try to move ICTs and e-learning from some ‘things’ in themselves causing things to happen (having effects/impact) to something being and becoming as the result of a lot of sociomaterial engagements and workings.
Inspired by especially Marilyn Strathern’s work and Bruno Latour’s work, I analyze, explore, and enact the forms and matters of ICTs and e-learning in everyday living in different (from ‘conventional’ e-learning research literature) ways that shed light on some of the ways in which both ICTs, learning, and their relations; as well as the spaces, times, and agencies, that become involved with and related to ICTs and learning, may be viewed as continuously on the move through everyday translations.
In education there seems to be a quest for educating towards the Knowledge Age society and its inherent demand for future competencies, knowledge worker skills etc. Often this quest in e-learning literature becomes depicted through a paradigm shift, imagined as an educational movement of progression from instructivism towards (social) constructivism with each ism’s having their own naturally related learning/development theories (representing worldviews) and belonging educational instructional practices.
In other words, e-learning research and education in the 21st century in Denmark (as well as in many other Euro-American societies) is taken for granted as the natural pursuit of a particular imaginary of the 21st century Knowledge Age society and its inherent educational practices. This imaginary (existing in many different variations) with its background assumptions becomes the background (I argue) against which educations and their ‘e-learning readiness’ is evaluated, and many educations become depicted as in a state of non-development. I call this (inspired by R. P. McDermott) the acquisition of educations by an e-learning disability. I suggest that in order to see the daily movements and entanglements, we need to understand the contexts of research as well as its forms and matters – times, spaces and agencies – differently. Part of this involves engaging with an analytic strategy that emphasizes uncertainty and questions the taken-for-granted-institutions and identities of everyday livings (including times, spaces and agencies of everyday living).
Through the concept of everyday living (which I understand as also on the move and realized through sociomaterial relationships, engagements and movements), and with great inspiration from Marilyn Strathern’s ideas presented in her book “Partial Connections”, the imaginary of the living world as fractal, ANT as symmetrical research (to begin with), Latour’s metaphor of phantom publics, and emphasis on ‘things’ as sociomaterially engaged and engaging actor-networks – events – complicated assemblages of assemblies (actors) that dissemble – I have found great sources of inspiration that have fundamentally taken part in reworking my previous engagements, imaginaries, relationships and movements with ‘the’ research field and practices of e-learning.
One of Marilyn Strathern’s arguments is that research should maybe be much less about knowledge and much more about variations of engagements and relationships. The same (I believe) can be said about learning. Coming from the Danish University School of Education, it seems quite persuasive that ‘suddenly’ the whole world becomes matters of learning. Matters of learning, is what everything seems to be all about. I think that Strathern’s argument about engagements and relationships is extremely important. When studying everyday engagements and relationships it becomes quite obvious that not everything is about learning and knowledge. Everyday living is about being and becoming. And, especially, it becomes clear that the ‘packages’ of knowledge and learning in which observations of learning and knowledge often come, take part in producing the makeup of rather than simply describing the everyday movements and entanglements that we seek to study and become more knowledgeable about.
The thesis will be written in English.
Please feel free to comment the above. I’m still in the process of formulating ‘things’, and maybe I need to reconsider my ways of explaining my research. Any comment (in Danish as well as English) will be gratefully accepted. Regarding content, disagreements, misunderstandings, misinterpretations, unclear formulations, things to reconsider, to be added etc. Thanks 🙂
• you should observe the conventions of academic citation in a version of the following form:
e.g. Hansbøl, Mikala: “Where am I heading with the thesis”, published at Mikala’s Klumme – A researcher’s blog: https://mikalasklumme.wordpress.com/2008/04/21/where-am-i-heading-with-the-thesis/ Version April 21, 2008.