Performativity and collapse of context in an educational space. Week 2

Performativity and collapse of context. Source: Pinterest

I have been watching with interest how open, educational spaces might affect those working within them. As I’m sure many teachers do, when a student on a course, I always think about how I could apply the content, methodology and theory I am learning to my practice. It was while I was working through the blogs posted on Education and Digital Culture that Judith Butler’s concept of ‘performativity’ became increasingly pertinent to me. She discusses how we perform our identity with the world around us largely in relation to each other. She talks about identity being fluid because one performs different identities in different contexts and how identities are constructed around those respective contexts (Ruitenburg 2007).

Unsurprisingly, there is a high usage of social media on this course. What is surprising to me is that many are using personal and professional social media accounts in an educational context. It’s been interesting to watch how this plays out and how there is a collapse of context (boyd 2002) of our class on multiple, open, online platforms. We are exposed to parts of each other we wouldn’t normally see in a face-to-face class. We are each performing parts of ourselves online with identities that are already established (for example our political/social identities) and then contributing to our ‘digital culture’ identities which are works in progress. Thereby creating new identities together because performativity is not a single action but a series of actions or ‘the cumulative  power of repeated speech’ (Ruitenburg 2007, p 263).

The mixing of some participants’ personal, public and educational identities has been both intriguing and uncomfortable to watch. There are clearly participants who are much more comfortable sharing of themselves. I am one of those who find it difficult to share myself online, not only because I like to compartmentalise my interaction but also because I worry how different parts will relate to each other.

At the beginning of week 1, I posted a design by Dominique Falla from Instagram saying “We are all part of the same thing”. Indeed this is what I thought, that naïvely we would be discussing education, digital culture and other such related topics. We are discussing relevant content, but at the same time the collapse of context where the personal becomes the educational makes me realise that perhaps we are all part of the same thing and perhaps our discourse outside of the educational supports our performativity within it.

boyd, d. (2013). how “context collapse” was coined: my recollection. Retrieved: 20 January 2017.

Ruitenburg, C. (2007). Discourse, Theatrical Performance, Agency: The Analytic Force of “Performativity” in Education. Philosophy of Education: pp. 260-268


A life held in common: What is digital culture? Week 1

Image by Lily*Anna

Over the week I grappled with many questions about culture and digital culture. What is culture? Does it evolve or is it made? How does it influence digital culture? Where does digital culture come from? As there is a single web, is there a mono-cultural aspect to the Internet? How do sub-cultures influence that which is considered to be mainstream? I don’t know if in the next few weeks I’ll be able to answer any of these but they certainly have me thinking.

The English Oxford Living Dictionaries states that culture originates from the Latin word cultura meaning growing or cultivation. It goes on to define culture as the ‘arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively’ or as the ‘ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society’. In these definitions people seem to have much control. I wonder why this definition sought to clarify that it was ‘human intellectual achievement’, is there another kind? Are they making a subversive reference to artificial intelligence?

Culture also relates to the biological, such as the cultivation of bacteria, tissue cells and cultivation of plants. Similarly online, objects, artefacts, media and sites are cultivated or curated. They are maintained. This gives us the imagery of something living but at the same time conserved. Is digital culture manageable in the same way? Can we maintain it? Who does this responsibility fall to? Is its potential for growth is endless? What will the impact of endless growth be?

The most favourable definition of culture I’ve found so far is one put forward by Paul James et al (2015); ‘[c]ulture is defined as a social domain that emphasizes the practices, discourses and material expressions, which, over time, express the continuities and discontinuities of social meaning of a life held in common’ (p 53). Even though James is not speaking about digital culture in particular, I like the fact that he has included a ‘life held in common’ because we so often share our lives, not only with one another but also with inanimate objects. How often do we consider our living space as an extension of ourselves, the things that we collect as part of us? Are our machines not the same? Don’t we share our lives with them too?

I think what I’ll be looking at throughout the course is that while living our lives in online spaces we are creating meaning from a ‘life held in common’ with both other people and machines. How we influence each other, how machines influence us and ultimately what we create together?

(James, P.,  Magee, L., Scerri, A., and Steger, M. B. (2015). Urban Sustainability in Theory and Practice: Circles of Sustainability. (London, Routledge).