Identity Assemblages: An ANT-based Analysis of Educational Practices and Modes of Ordering in a University College: PhD dissertation

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Abstract

Research in identity in general and professional identity specifically has seen
an immense increase in recent years (Bauman 2004, Lawler 2014). Due to
societal and technological developments, notions of what constitutes ‘the
professional’ are subject to change. Thus, this dissertation rests on an
understanding of professional identity as a moving concept that must be
understood through its spatial and temporal contexts (Scanlon 2011).
Accepting this position necessitates a reconsideration of the role that formal
education plays in the development of professional identity of students.

Researchers within the paradigm of Computer-Supported Collaborative
Learning have explored professional identity as a potential outcome of
pedagogical efforts and designs. This perspective rests on the underlying
assumption that the careful application of Information and Communication
Technologies for facilitating student learning and peer interaction within
educational contexts can potentially close a gap between a perceived lower
level of professional identity and a desired one. A literature review suggests
that ICTs might also play a different role with regard to professional identity,
that is, as an active participant in what constitutes professional identity.

The dissertation introduces Bruno Latour’s ideas of sociology of associations
as a possible framework within which to investigate a relational approach to
identity (Latour 2005). Thereby, Actor-network theory (ANT) provides both
the philosophical, methodical, and theoretical foundation of the dissertation.
Philosophically, the research rests on the central ANT concepts of symmetry,
associations, and enactment with an inherent value of multiplicity. The
philosophical position implies that the study of identity must be understood as
the study of practices. This, in turn, defines the chosen method as
‘praxiography with the application of ethnographic techniques’.

The study aims at exploring how identity is enacted within the context of a
two-year programme in Service, Hospitality, and Tourism Management
(SHTM). This research thus investigates how students and educators go about
their daily lives in different educational contexts both on and off campus. It
describes classroom practices and follows the students as they venture into
internship positions. Based on a series of qualitative data collection techniques
such as interviews, observations, and textual analysis of blog posts, the study
attempts to reconstruct SHTM practices on and off campus. Hereby, the analysis unfolds the relational understanding of identity by introducing the
concept of ‘identity assemblages’, that is, complex actor-networks of the
human/non-human and material/immaterial. Furthermore, the analysis
describes how the enactment of identities is made possible or hindered by
organisational patterns, that is, modes of ordering (Law 1994). This is, in
essence, an argument for identities as organisational effects.

The study’s main contributions may be structured in three categories. First, it
explores the applicability of ANT to identity studies and thereby serves as a
contribution to the body of literature of ANT-based studies. Second, it
contributes to existing identity theories by exemplifying a socio-material
approach to identity issues. Third, the study enables reflections upon how
educational institutions as fundamentally identity-producing organisations
acknowledge and bridge the gap between theory and practice, student and
practitioner.
OriginalsprogEngelsk
UdgivelsesstedAalborg
ForlagAalborg Universitetsforlag
Antal sider197
ISBN (Trykt)978-87-7112-958-8
DOI
StatusUdgivet - 2017
NavnPhD Series: Faculty of Humanities, Aalborg University

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