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The degree to which everyday social and professional practice is technologically mediated is not often recognized in the literature (e.g. Latour, 2007). The university provides a striking case of this, as academic subjectivities and entities such as ‘the discipline’ are constituted primarily via textual practices - many of which are invisible and technologically-mediated . Students’ digital practices have started to be examined at a fine-grained level, revealing complexity in terms of spatial and temporal domains, and devices (Jones 2010). However, there is less work focusing on how digitally-mediated practices intersect with the everyday practices and identity work of academics. Research tends to focus on the observable - with fields such as ‘digital scholarship’ and ‘e-learning’, implicitly separating these from ‘normal’ practice, which is sidelined and rendered invisible (Price & Oliver 2007). This raises questions about power, identity and practice. How does the constant re-making of academic self through complex, networked and digitally mediated practices take place? What entanglements between people, documents and technologies are needed to produce practices and curricula?
This work addresses these processes on a day-to-day level, exploring how institutional policies, technologies and practices play out in the university as a workplace. We argue that established frameworks such as Communities of Practice are inadequate, failing to adequately theorise the implicit, emergent and private nature of these practices (Lea, 2005) and the agentive role of technologies. We adopt a sociomaterial perspective, drawing on concepts from Actor Network Theory to provide a more nuanced analysis of this complex area of practice in the academic workplace.
We will describe a JISC-funded multimodal journaling study exploring academics’ engagements with technologies around the production of curricula in terms of design, production, audit and identity, drawing on a methodology deployed to study students’ production of digitally-mediated academic texts (Gourlay & Oliver forthcoming). Through this, we will explore the operation of power in the translation and enrolment of technologies and dominant discourses of design, openness and ‘quality’. We will show how struggles around the production of professional identities take place via practices which are highly complex, largely invisible and implicated in the operation of power.
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