‘Exploring sociotechnical theories’ symposium, Networked Learning 2010
Along with Linda Creanor of Glasgow Caledonian, I organised a symposium ‘Exploring sociotechnical theories of learning technology’ at Networked Learning 2010 in Aalborg. The symposium also included papers by SIRG colleague Chris Bissell, Karen Kear (of the department’s Technology and Education Research Group) and Frances Bell from the Salford Business School. The papers (available at the above link) variously explored the application of social shaping, sociotechnical networks, actor networks and social presence to understanding learning technologies.
The session was very well attended. The paper presentations were followed by a lively discussion. There is a growing concern in learning technology research community about the theoretical underpinnings of research in to networked learning and learning technologies more generally (see Grainne Conole hot seat discussion paper and the plenary ‘fishbowl’ conversation between Etienne Wenger and Yrjo Engestrom videos on the conference website). In part, this stems from dissatisfaction with determinist approaches to understanding technologies. The symposium made a contribution to these debates by presenting perspectives deriving primarily from information systems and/or technology studies. This may be a particular contribution that, with colleagues from TERG, we can make a distinctive contribution to these debates based on perspectives developed in our own disciplines.
Personally, the symposium highlighted issues of process which are becoming commonplace in events like this. Part way through chairing the discussion, it dawned on me that the event was being blogged/tweeted by participants in real time, and that I had no idea what was being said. This was a first for me. Happily, when I checked afterwards, these digital comments seemed to support my own interpretation. These are still available – the twitter hashtag for the conference (including for our session) has been archived here. The session was live blogged (and commented) in cloudworks. There are even some photos, taken by Frances Bell.