ERG SES C 13, Culture and Education
Scholars of pedagogical anthropology and history of education have always highlighted the materiality of education. In other words, the materiality takes a leading role in education and socialisation of people. In Emile (1762), Rousseau described the way he would educate an imaginary boy. This seminal work outlines that education comes to us from nature, from man, or from things. Walter Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood around 1900 (1950), is a recollection of autobiographic vignettes of Berlin in 1900 from point of view of a child. In these excerpts from his childhood, Benjamin focuses not on persons but on places and objects that shape and form human experience. According to the Montessori (1870-1952) tradition, objects have the ability to ‘materialise’ educational meanings and knowledge into concrete forms. Montessori pedagogy has therefore evolved around the precise use of distinctive concrete objects open to a variety of uses and aiming at sensory training. Steiner (1924) goes in a similar direction with his concept of early childhood education. He emphasises the importance of the environment on children’s learning by assuming that everything that surrounds young children (visible and invisible), has an impact on them. Emphasis is placed on a carefully structured learning environment. All these approaches share the idea that things are supposed to open up possibilities to unfold a child’s own capacity. Lewin (1935) spoke in this context of the Aufforderungscharacterof objects, arguing that objects are more than their physical properties; objects often afford the opportunity to perform an action. And Hurrelmann (2006) insists that socialisation takes place through interaction with the social and material environment. In view of all that, one may suppose that things play a vital role in teaching-learning processes. What is interesting here is that materiality is understood as a fundamental and multidimensional category of educational processes.
In the wake of recent digitalisation, an increasing number of people engage with different technologies. Reemphasising this growing issue, the Journal of Material Culture published a special edition issue on digital subjects and cultural objects in September 2012. This issue highlights that an increasing number of people ‘are becoming “digital subjects” - social actors whose experiences, thoughts and relationships play out through and across an ever-expanding variety of digital platforms’ (Salmond 2012, p. 213). In interacting with the digital environment, ‘digital subjects’ meet various ‘digital objects’ such as the internet, software, application, or code. Since an increasing proportion of people are becoming digital subjects—we bear witness to a transition from material to digital, which transforms the things we carry with us, and the way we relate to these things. In light of this development, it is becoming increasingly important to address the shifting entanglements between people and things. It is relevant in this context to consider the role of ‘digital objects’ in socio-cultural learning. In other words, what is the role of ‘digital objects’ within the process of socio-cultural learning and leadership?
The context of focus for this study was World of Warcraft. Upon entering a game world such as World of Warcraft, users find themselves confronted with the need to learn how to master the game. Play is complex and involves the learning of a multifaceted array of skills, rules, competencies, jargon, and knowledge in order to advance in the game. Unlike formal education, World of Warcraft provides no teachers, coaches, or curriculums that explain the game. In the end however no one fails World of Warcraft. I argue that players not only have to develop certain competencies, but also cultural values, beliefs and attitudes through a process of material engagement and appropriation.
References Benjamin, W 2006, Berlin childhood around 1900, Belknap, Cambridge Mass. u.a. Boellstorff, T, Nardi, B, Pearce, C & Taylor, TL 2012, Ethnography and virtual worlds: a handbook of method, Princeton University Press, Princeton. Boyd, W (ed.) 1965, The Emile of J.J. Rousseau, Columbia University Press, New York. Harper, D 2002, ‘Talking about pictures: A case for photo elicitation’, Visual Studies, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 13–26. Hurrelmann, K 2006, Einführung in die Sozialisationstheorie, Beltz-Studium, 9th edn, Beltz, Weinheim. Lave, J & Wenger, E 1991, Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation, Learning in doing : social, cognitive, and computational perspectives, 24th edn, Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge [u.a.]. Miller, D 2010, Stuff, Polity Press, Cambridge. Nohl, A & Wulf, C 2013, ‘Die Materialität pädagogischer Prozesse zwischen Mensch und Ding’, Zeitschrift für Erziehungswissenschaft, vol. 16, S2, pp. 1–13. Salmond, A 2012, ‘Digital subjects, cultural Objects: special issue introduction’, Journal of Material Culture, vol. 17, no. 3, pp. 211–28. Scarles, C 2010, ‘Where words fail, visuals ignite: Opportunities for Visual Autoethnography in Tourism Research’, Annals of Tourism Research, vol. 37, no. 4, pp. 905–26. Wenger, E 1999, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, Cambridge University Press.
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