Space, sociomateriality, sound. The learning spaces of higher education
Lamb, James Iain
This thesis is concerned with the relationship between digital technology and the learning spaces of higher education. Across an academic year I observed and documented the learning spaces and practices that were emergent within undergraduate courses in American History and Architectural Design at a UK university. Drawing on field recordings, photographs and conversations with students and staff, and supported by theoretical work in sociomateriality, digital technologies were shown to be deeply implicated in the negotiation of learning spaces across and beyond the campus. I make three central arguments within this thesis. First, the presence and positioning of digital technologies within the classroom enacts particular epistemologies and power dynamics, although this manifests differently across courses of study. Second, the flow of data, combined with the proliferation of networked technologies, reconfigure the boundaries of the campus, as a single setting comes to accommodate a range of spatial identities. Third, digital technologies are complicit in the neoliberalisation and commodification of learning spaces, and the educational practices that are performed in those settings. In order to make these arguments I have looked to the critical and methodological value of sound, often in conjunction with images and other data. Sonic methods and materials have been largely overlooked within education research and yet, as I demonstrate, the digital reproduction of sound helps academic staff to enact authority over a classroom, and supports students as they seek to establish and configure personalised learning spaces. In giving due attention to the role of the audible within my research, this thesis is presented in richly multimodal form where argumentation is advanced through a juxtaposition of written commentary, photography and field recordings. This thesis make an original contribution to scholarship in digital education, sound studies and social science methodology. Further value is to be found in the potential to inform the thinking and practice of designers, teachers, educational technologists and institutional managers as they conceptualise and construct spaces for learning.