Doing socio-material research

I am currently developing a paper on innovative research methods that discusses the operationalisation of socio-material assemblage theory. This is the summary of the paper so far:

This paper presents an innovative research approach to examining learning in open online digital environments: in this case, professional learning communities on Twitter. The research approach draws on a socio-material ontology and on assemblage theory (Law 2004) to engage with the complex social and material entanglements of digital learning without positioning one component as determining the other or seeking to reduce the complexities of these assemblages. For this particular research project, assemblage theory is an approach to making sense of the processes that promote particular definitions of the professional domain while suppressing others and that promote certain practices of learning while ignoring others. Assemblage theory does not treat these privileged realities as fixed and consensual but, rather, as contested and dynamic, involving continual making and unmaking of realities and of alternative (and better) realities. To operationalise this socio-material ontology, I discuss the development of a repertoire of research methods involving: descriptive statistics; social network analysis; content analysis and Critical Discourse Analysis. These different methods generate multiple ‘grids of analysis’ (Nespor, 1994) that are applied to identify and amplify different elements and effects of the research data. I discuss how the ‘grids of analysis’ facilitate changes of focus between the whole network and specific intra-actional components of the network-assemblages of these chat events. This approach has produced an original research framework for analysis of the emerging assemblages of learning practices in the digital domain and I discuss its potential for application to different learning contexts.

This paper will build on some of my PhD work which I presented on here.

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