153 paper

Spatial imaginings: Learning and identity in online environments

Reem Al-Mahmood
Faculty of Education
The University of Melbourne

“I have been thinking about space for a long time” are Doreen Massey’s (2005, p.3) words that have captured my imagination to explore online learning spaces and places as experienced and used by learners. This paper opens up a space to explore the intersections of spatiality, identity and online learning, drawing on concepts from geography and actor-network-theory (ANT) originating in science and technology studies, using a relational socio-material perspective. I argue for ‘spatial imaginings’ that are more generative if space/place is conceptualised relationally. Through three vignette snapshots as part of a larger ethnographic study within an Australian university, I explore issues of learner identities and their learning practices in relation to pedagogical, physical and online spaces/places. These socio-material explorations can enrich our understanding to challenge existing views of space, time and place as bounded, fixed and stable. The emergent conceptual insights can inform the work of educational designers, online educators and educational theorists to better understand online learners and their diversity and the socio-material complexities and hybridities of pedagogical, physical and online learning spaces/places.

Keywords: spatiality, learning spaces, online learning spaces, metaphors, qualitative methods, Actor-Network-Theory, ANT, hybridity, space/place, flows, identity, learning