This is the abstract of a paper I have submitted to present at the BERA conference in September. It may or may not be accepted. The abstract for now is a broad sketch and a leap of faith since I have not yet done the work, but it helps to be tied into something and work towards it. Though of course, I may find my direct changes dramatically between now and then.
This paper contributes towards the ethnographic understanding of educational blogging. I explore two particular blogs – one associated with a Further Education college in the UK, the other associated with teaching a particular curricular area – adult literacy in Canada. Blog posts, images, hyperlinks, comments, and exchanges that took over a 12 month period are firstly re-situated within the global research imagination, and analysed as data. I suggest these blogging spaces are important spaces of dissent, that is spaces within and through which global communities of affect and affinity coalesce.
While blogs are by definition ‘online’, the paper resists the digital dualism implied by the notion of ‘virtual’ (as oppose to real) spaces. Instead I suggest that the only distinction that ‘virtual’ requires in this instance is that communication is digitally mediated – and as such is subject to a specific set of changing constraints and affordances. My analysis is grounded in social and cultural geography, drawing particular inspiration from the work of critical cartography. I argue blogging as a form of map making. The spatial territories they create are simultaneously physical, social and psychological. They are also performances that transform socio-spatial relations and invoke alternative educational futures.
Frequently presented as authentic, factual or meticulous representations of the realities they represent, maps are inherently political. They are territorial markers of ownership and control over resources and commodities; boundaries, identities and subjectivities are defined by their inscriptions; they contribute towards the ideological formation of communities. The mapping undertaken by both blogs is deeply implicated with a project that recasts ‘pedagogy as politics’ by other means.
The performativity of these blogging spaces is elaborated through concepts of affect and affinity.
That is – each blog is a community of affect. As a global space they enable dissenting voices to be platformed and educational passions to be articulated. Commentators who coalesce around these global spaces of dissent precipitate the hopes, dreams, aspirations, and passions of those who participate within them.
Each blog is also a community of affinity. Affinities take shape around radical alternatives and social purposes for education. As such, these blogging communities resist hierarchies, systems, structures or rigid rules of engagement. The spaces establish relationships that are mutually engaged and supportive. They embody a Utopian commitment, a commitment to create an alternative social-spatial environment around post compulsory education.