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Postdigital research in education: Vulnerable method and praxis
This presentation examines some of the challenges and opportunities involved in conducting postdigital research in education. Aware of the need to move beyond what remains a preoccupation with higher education, its starting point is those elements of postdigital theory that emphasise its concern with hybridity and uncertainty. Most important perhaps is its combination of rupture and continuation, familiar from other uses of the prefix “post” in post-structuralism or post-punk in response to parallel crises (Cramer, 2014; Jandrić et al 2018; Knox 2019). The presentation draws on these perspectives alongside the postdigital to explore what Jandrić & Knox (2021: 6) call the “messy, entangled and unpredictable nature of the socio-technical relationships that constitute education”.
How can this be reflected in the methods used? Messy is a point of contact here, reflecting Law’s (2004: 10) call for “slow method, or vulnerable method, or quiet method. Multiple method. Modest method. Uncertain method” in response to the messiness of practice, and Halbstaum’s (2011) “low theory”, which is radically open to “in-between spaces”, alternatives and counterintuitions. Thus, the potential for developing a “vulnerable method” is explored, using examples from research in pre-HE education in which the parallel concerns in postdigital and vulnerability theory with radical openness, the relational and the bioethical (Sudenkaarne, 2018) are central. This involves using methods which draw on narrative and creative approaches, for example, in order to problematise and undo disciplinary boundaries (Knox 2019) and distinctions between researcher and participant. Education’s essential hybridity makes it a prime location for this kind of work.
Crucially, postdigital research also needs to influence and reflect praxis. As Andersen et al (2014: 5) emphasise, the postdigital should function as a “framework for practice-based research that relate to material and historical conditions”. The continuing emphasis on “digitalising” schools and even universities is evidence that this kind of framework remains distant. To address this, the presentation argues that practitioners across all areas of education need to be engaged more deeply in postdigital dialogue (Jandrić et al, 2022) and that participatory and collaborative postdigital research represents a primary means of achieving this.
References Andersen, C. U., Cox, G., & Papadopoulos, G. (2014). Postdigital research: editorial. A Peer-Reviewed Journal About, 3(1), 5-7. Cramer, F. (2014) What is ‘Post-Digital’? A Peer-Reviewed Journal About, 3(1), 10-24. Halberstam, J. (2011) The Queer Art of Failure. Durham: Duke University Press. Jandrić, P., & Knox, J. (2021) The Postdigital Turn: Philosophy, Education, Research. Policy Futures in Education. Jandrić, P., Knox, J., Besley, T, Ryberg, T., Suoranta, J., & Hayes, S. (2018). Postdigital Science and Education. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 50(10), 893-899. Jandrić, P., MacKenzie, A. & Knox, J. (2022) Postdigital Research: Genealogies, Challenges, and Future Perspectives, Postdigital Science and Education. Knox, J. (2019) What does the ‘Postdigital’ mean for education? Three critical perspectives on the digital, with implications for educational research and practice. Postdigital Science and Education 1(2): 357–370. Law, J. 2004. After Method: Mess in Social Science Research. Abingdon: Routledge Sudenkaarne, T. (2018) Queering Vulnerability: A Layered Bioethical Approach, Suomen Antropologi, 43 (3): 73-90.