Whose piper and whose tune? Discursive practices in informal learning events on Twitter

A session at Twitter and Microblogging: Political, Professional and Personal Practices

Thursday 11th April, 2013

10:10am to 10:40am

This paper investigates the discursive social practices and community-forming activities associated with professional development activities in Twitter chat events. The sample of events selected were targeted for a specific professional grouping: professionals working in the field of learning and development in organisations. While claims are made for the non-hierarchical nature of these social media and informal learning environments, as with any social practice, they also include clear relations of power. This study focuses on exploring how these relations emerge and evolve. The study explores how competing projections of power are assembled and “processed” in open Twitter chat, in terms of ‘community’ creation through collective meaning-making actions.

The research is framed by an Actor Network Theory (ANT) approach operationalised using Discourse Analysis. A practice-based approach focused on the interrelations between people, artefacts and language in terms of collaboration and control was appropriate here.

A sample of discursive events were analysed in terms of their discourse structure involving attempts to capture conversational ‘floors’ and so initiating processes of translation and enrolment over the course of the events. Networks evolved as actors enrolled others through the translations of specific professional practices, such as what constituted workplace learning and what was classified as something ‘other’. The assembly of discourse communities through the reinforcement of particular discursive stances could clearly be identified. However, such processes were highly unstable through dynamic processes of enrolment and translation but also through the role of the non-human agents in these events. The study draws on the notion of symmetry in ANT to explore how technology actively participates in the shaping of the discussion event. For example, Twitter applications like Tweetdeck aggregate, organise and present Twitter ‘streams’, and hence shape the ‘consumption’ of Twitter chats, contributing to the formation? of the discussion exchanges and sequences.

About the speaker

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Peter Evans

University of Edinburgh

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Time 10:10am10:40am GMT

Date Thu 11th April 2013

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