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CUC2022: Otvaranje u zatvorenom svijetu - postdigitalna znanost i obrazovanje / CUC2022: Opening up in a closed world - postdigital science and education

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Sociomateriality, Learning Spaces and the Postdigital Sensibility

In recent times, and certainly accelerated by the conditions of the Covid-19 pandemic, a growing body of work has seen the conceptual principles of the postdigital being deployed alongside theories of sociomateriality, as researchers have sought to understand the complex and changing nature of our educational surroundings (see Lamb et al. 2021). Drawing on this and other scholarship, this presentation will consider the possibility of ‘postdigital research’ by exploring the complementarity and conceptual common ground between postdigital and sociomaterial thinking within the study of learning spaces. I will argue that postdigital research exists as a sensibility that is especially sensitive to the presence, absence and influence of digital resources within those settings where educational activity is performed. This presentation will begin by discussing the central assumptions of ‘the postdigital’ and of sociomateriality. This will highlight important conceptual common ground between these ways of thinking, while at the same time offering an accessible introduction for those coming new to these areas of work. Postdigital and sociomaterial thinking are united in recognising that the complexity of our educational environments depends on more than human interest and action. For Jandric et al. (2018), the postdigital is, among other things, at once biological, informational, technological and digital. The complexity and contingency captured within this definition of postdigital resonates closely with notions of sociomateriality, for instance where Fenwick et al. (2011) refer to the connections and dynamics between a multitude of human and non-human actors that enact educational events. Sociomaterial and postdigital thinking are also similar in that they offer conceptual propositions that inform other theoretical and methodological work, rather than themselves being a single theory or discrete set of methods. In common with the ethnographic work from where it emerged, sociomateriality represents a ‘sensibility’ (Thompson 2012) that provides the researcher with a way of critically seeing their surroundings. Meanwhile the cornerstones of postdigital thinking combine to provide their own particular researcher sensibility. That is, postdigital research begins from the position that the presence of machines and the digitisation of information are a feature of modern society (Peperell & Punt 200), but they have imbricated with pre-existing objects and practices (Feenberg 2019), rather than abruptly replacing them. This raises the question of exactly what a postdigital perspective enables us to see that is not already visible through a sociomaterial lens? This is answered by considering the particular conceptual starting points of postdigital thinking, compared with the broader interests of sociomateriality. Where sociomateriality is characterized by an openness to the full range of human and non-human actors that shape educational practices and spaces, a postdigital perspective is more resolute in recognising that digital resources and practices have become woven into the fabric of everyday educational practices and surroundings. The researcher undertaking fieldwork in the lecture theatre or library will find that a sociomaterial outlook allows them to attend to the wide range of human and non-human actors at play. With a postdigital sensibility, however, they are also able to recognise and interrogate the presence of digital resources and practices within this setting.

References Feenberg, A. (2019). Postdigital or Predigital? Postdigital Science and Education, 1(1), 8-9. doi:10.1007/s42438-018-0027-2 Fenwick, T., Edwards, R., & Sawchuk, P. (2011). Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Sociomaterial. London: Routledge. 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. Lamb, J., Carvalho, L., Gallagher, M. & Knox, J. (2021). The Postdigital Learning Spaces of Higher Education. Postdigit Sci Educ. Pepperell, R., & Punt, M. (2000). The postdigital membrane: Imagination, technology and desire. Bristol: Intellect. Thompson, T. L. (2012). I’m deleting as fast as I can: negotiating learning practices in cyberspace. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 20(1), 93-112. doi: 10.1080/14681366.2012.649417

James Lamb
Centre for Research in Digital Education, University of Edinburgh

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