PJ Evans

Network learning conference: ANT Double Symposium

Posted on | April 8, 2014 | No Comments

Here we go with the second day of #nlc2014 and an extended session on Actor Network Theory and network learning. We’ve been promised beer tasting!

The idea is to do some network learning: live streaming and recording the session. Quotes Guggenheim (2011) on sociology of translation fails in own claim of “truth to materials” due to its ultimate focus on text and proposes engaging more directly with the senses. So presenters here are being asked to not present the paper but to do things with the audience – the papers can be read at any time but the session is unique and bound and can involve enagaging with the materials (in this case, beer).

Starting with three short pecha kuchas:

Jeffrey Keefer: welcome to the session. I’ll be presenting and asking to Tweet on all three tags #nlc2014; #PhDchat; #ANTsymp. Talking about a researcher community on Twitter, #PhDChat. Meets regularly to support PhD students. Using ANT to look at Twitter differently and look at the # itself. Started in 2010 with a small group of PG students but quickly grew around shared interests: what is a literature review etc.. and met weekly. Growth came through asynchronous following the # and using the #. Found 52% tweets came from 10 people and reference to “following the actors” and treated the tag as the actor. The assembly was the # used for synchronous and asynchronous discussions.
What was the involvement of the tag: #phdcaht
ANT works slowly (Latour) as not seeking generalisability but looks at the network now. Is based on notion of symmetrical leveling between human and non-human actors in the network.
Translation as a theory of power through four stages of problematisation; interessment, enrolment and mobilisation. Technology can direct how people interact including via temporospaciality. Participation only possible through the # used correctly so enrolment was broad in scope as the # could be used by anyone. The tag brings us together but is problematic given people use the # differently. The # demands a mobilisation from actors. The # has a practice based focus on peoples’ research/ study practices.

Now looking at simulation based medical education project from Lancaster. Involves human, non-human, symbolic actors involving lab-based simulations and debriefing. The projects introduced online briefing prior to simulated clinical situations. The introduction of online learning introduced/ assembed wider actors and involved new translations. Faced problems around external access and password protections with inadequate IT support from the NHS Trust. The response was to employ someone to liaise between the project and IT staff. Involved the assemblage of mannequins, IT, staff, students, images, protocols, scenarios etc. Fragility of the network seen from some students lacking confidence in being observed and debriefed. But failed to enrol wider Trust including Trust IT policies and national networks to attract resources for sustainability.

Terrie-Lynn Thompson: The uncoding of ANT. How do researchers deal with coded materialiities of software, platforms, data, algorythms. The web is a process. Leads to the question of what is and how to work with digital data. How is the data is accumulated and integrated to everyday practice. ANT attends to the ‘thingly’ gatherings in the performance of practices. Data is not a thing but is relational – Ingold’s critique of ANT argues for a shift of focus from objects to processes and relations. Savage (2012) on the dynamics of data and is fragments and entangled in flow and circularity. Need to think more critically on the mobility of digital data both small and big. But often data capture involved freezing practices that looses the dynamic nature of that data. Data can be frozen as immutible and retranslated to new purposes, situations and contexts. How to work with the liveliness of digital data and rethink research practices for the sociomaterial examination of digital data.

Q. On the problematisation of the #
A. Often # used in the context of a synchronous event but is used in different ways including as if someone owns the # or using the wrong #, not using the #.

Q. Could you expand more on your thoughts on use of digital data and work of Savage etc. on dynamic nature of data and method?
A. Network learning field there is great variety of methods and data. Handling volumes of data from lots of different sources and formats and so our data management is increasingly sophisticated.

Q. Question on the methodological interest around zombie data of actors being both present and unpresent.
A. I think this links to what I called freezing practices and raising the questions of how we might return data ‘to the wild’. Actors in networks engage in translation that keeps that data lively.

John Hannon, Matthew Riddle and Thomas Ryberg on assembling the university and connecting the institution and social networks. Showing a map of Australia from 1827 that materialises a particular agenda around land appropriation while we’d now recognise the map as wrong, it was not wrong then and for that agenda.
Looking at two networks of social networking and institutional learning and the assumptions of misalignments, disruptions and tensions (Ravenscroft 2012, Czemiewicz and Brown 2010). Re-examining this assumption through Callon’s (1998) notion of framing and asking when social networking overflows the framing of institutional learning. Results in an effort of keeping the frame in place. Also addressing a weakness of ANT by also looking at the values and trajectories in a network.
Looking at data from a project involved students using mobile devices on a business foundation course. Some students used devices and SNS for group work in their studies and connect socially while other students who knew eachother better did not use these devices for social networking and prefered to interact face-to-face. Other data found students acting as gardeners gathering resources and posting them to dropbox and facebook in parallel to the ‘official’ LMS (Moodle). So this reduces the need for students to avoid going into Moodle so no evidence of student presence in Moodle. This illustrates the gap between student digital ecologies and institutional systems with occassional overflows where the ‘underground work’ becomes visible, eg, in coordinating action that is then presented through official systems as concerted action. So students use social media for scholarly activities but this rarely overlaps with institutional technology use.

Q. What were the student motivations and goals and what might that mean for the development of the networks
A. prefer to think in terms fo practices rather than individual motivations and can perceive values emerging through the practices of the networks.

Ailsa Haxell on exploring textuality and textually transmitted disease. Particularly interested in shifting data from context to new context it is in some way betrayed and the data is altered unavoidably – how data is retranslated by using technology and by people retranslating text.
Example of texting as a ubiquitous practice but is academic literature has a dominant discourse presenting texting as a practice of young people involving emotional avoidance. Very few messages on positive aspects of SMS. This links to issues of whose voices are heard and not heard and who is excluded but also that networks are harder to mobilise to support/ fund, eg, counselling work delivered through text.
Academic or any practice is not neutral (Law & Singleton 2000) and processes of ‘othering’ (Harraway 1992) so academic practice is involved in making particular realities.

Now for a coffee break.

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