Bringing a sociomaterial sensibility built on actor-network theory to this study positions me in a particular way. This eschews the notion of a pre-existent reality ‘out-there’ waiting for the knowing subject to discover and explain it. Nor is reality constructed by the distant researcher through a set of discursive practices. Instead, reality is performative, brought into being as a result of the relationships which form and reform when actors, both human and nonhuman, intra-act. As a researcher of and with teachers using Twitter then, I am entangled with a heterogenous mix of educators, software platforms, digital devices, terms of service, time zones, screens, hashtags and notifications. What emerges from the study depends on the knowledge practices which are brought to bear, but these do not solely involve a researcher, research participants and standard qualitative methods, but also an eclectic mix of other nonhuman actors. Together their relational performances constitute ‘methods assemblage’ (Law, 2004), where different realities become enacted depending on the actors which participate. One implication might be that this should not be statement of my positionality, but of ours.
Jonathan Bethony is one of the leading artisanal bakers in America, but he goes further than most, milling his own flour and baking everything with a hundred percent of the whole grain. He’s also going beyond wheat, incorporating other cereals such as millet and sorghum in the goodies Seylou is producing. I happened to be in Washington DC just a couple of weeks after his new bakery had opened, and despite all the work that goes into getting a new bakery up and running, Jonathan graciously agreed to sit down and chat.
Twitter’s algorithms might indeed make following a hashtag easier for us, but what is it doing for Twitter? When tens of people like an educational tweet for example, how did that happen, what are the consequences and for whom?
Describe how the object or thing appeared, showed up, or was given in professional practice. What happened?
Following the actors
Consider the main practice you are interested in. What micro-practices are at work?
Who-what is acting? What are they doing? Who-what is excluded?
How have particular assemblages come together? What is related to what and how? What work do they do?> > Choose an object of interest. What is the sociality/materiality around it?
Listening for the invitational quality of things
What is a technology inviting (or encouraging, inciting, or even insisting) its user to do?
What is a technology discouraging?
Studying breakdowns, accidents and anomalies
What happens if an object breaks or is unexpectedly missing? What practices then become more visible?
Applying the Laws of Media
This heuristic draws on the tetrad of McLuhan and McLuhan (1988) and poses the questions they proposed.
What does a technology/medium enhance?
What does it render obsolete?
What does it retrieve that was previously obsolesced?
What does it become when pressed to an extreme?
How have particular gatherings come to be and how do they maintain their connections?
What unintended realities come into being as everyday practices unfold?
What is entrenched? Who-what is excluded?
If methods compose reality, then we should select our methods based on what kind of reality we would like to see composed. This smacks a little of the extreme epistemological view that we can create whatever reality we want simply by imagining it to be so, but tied to the concept of the hinterland there are two significant differences. First of all, we have to start from where we are – the reality that is already composed – which provides the materials (literally and metaphorically) from which we can compose a new reality. And, second, composing a new reality will take work.