Movement of Ideas Project: Following trails

In ‘Reassembling the Social: an Introduction to Actor-Network Theory’, Bruno Latour (2005) described the acronym ANT as ‘perfectly fit for a blind, myopic, workaholic, trail-sniffing, and collective traveler’. Perhaps an apposite description for adopting a sociomaterial sensibility in the way I approach exploring how ideas move … although hopefully with a more perceptive sense of vision. I proposed in my thesis the notion of flânography which is conducted:

… at a casual leisurely pace involving strolling or wandering, though not aimlessly in the way of flâneurs of old, but with purpose. Careful scrolling through a timeline and following leads which arise, similar to the way a flâneur might turn down a side-street or into an arcade.

Adopting a sociomaterial sensibility conceives the field of study:

… as assemblage where the field becomes performed as I begin scrolling through my timeline, when I open Tweetdeck to monitor the search columns, when I join a #chat, follow a link to a blog site and ask a question, or capture a tweet exchange with Treeverse. Together they produce the field as a shifting, shimmering, expanding cloud in continual flux, where connections are continually made, broken and remade.

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Movement of Ideas Project: Approach

As a pilot project, the scope for a deep exploration is rather limited. In order to track and analyse how ideas about practice move and change, two approaches were chosen. The first involves exploring social media – mainly Twitter – in a similar way to how I conducted my PhD research. Secondly, any interesting lines of enquiry can be developed more fully by inviting primary school teachers to participate in semi-structured, in-depth interviews. Where the latter has a typical and well-understood format, the former is far from common and may need setting out in more detail. The reason for this post then is to make more explicit the steps I take when ‘exploring social media’.Read More »

Movement of Ideas Project: Introduction

I’ve been away from the blog for awhile. Perhaps that’s not surprising when my blogging was one of the ways I used to think, to reflect, to analyse, to experiment. Although I’ve been involved in a couple of research projects since graduating, I’ve not needed to expose myself to the mental turmoil required to come to better understanding in the same way I did whilst studying. One of the projects on which I’m currently engaged has changed that somewhat. It’s only a small project requiring about ten working days of my time spread over a couple of months and is a pilot to inform a much more significant grant application. And yet here I am back at the blog. I suspect that might be because this project has taken me back to Twitter.

The project – ‘The movement of ‘ideas for practice’ to literacy teachers in lockdown’.

This project will explore the ‘ideas for practice’ in literacy teaching that are gaining traction in the current crisis, and how these ideas move during a period of lockdown. We use ‘ideas for practice’ to refer to a broad range of inspiration and guidance. We are interested in: the literacy topics that surface (e.g. spelling, critical reading); the form support takes (e.g. tips, lesson plans, resources for children); and the assumptions about literacy that underpin the focus topic and/or recommended approaches.

My background and the methods and approach I brought to bear previously, position me to assist in:

  • Tracking and analysing how ideas about practice in literacy move to teachers, with a focus on social media.
  • Describing what happens to ideas as they move, e.g. (How) do meanings change when synthesised in blogs or summarised in tweets?
  • Identifying the topics, forms and assumptions that gain traction.
  • Identifying how/whether ideas build on research.

I’ve already made a start, but now need to start processing some of what has been emerging. Given my somewhat less conventional approach, I also need to think about how that might be better articulated for the audience who might need to engage with the research output. The next few posts will help me wrestle with some of those ideas.