Skip to content
 

Blog post

Teachers should pay more attention to the essence of materiality

Sara Sintonen, University of Helsinki

I love the fact that there is a wide range of technological media and various material to choose from for learning arts creation and for supporting creative learning. The rise of technology in arts provides an interesting widening of the pedagogical landscape as it is certainly a good time to put creativity back on the map (see Chappell, 2020).

In many countries, education development has been focussing on change and moving towards digitality and digital ecologies (OECD, 2015; European Commission, 2016). Discussions and speculations dealing with analogue versus digital contain the idea of the digital replacement of education environments and materials. Researchers have evidenced the potential differences for learners between reading, writing and touching on paper versus on screen from the material characteristics of the presentation medium viewpoint (see for example, Crescenzi, Jewitt, & Price 2014; Hou, Rashid, & Lee, 2017).

I wanted to raise consideration of posthuman new materialism (Barad, 2003, 2007) as part of this discussion. Rather than seeing the digital and analogue as separate facets of the same world, we should start to consider how the essence of materiality is implicated with the digital, intangible, physical and material processes in which they are also inextricably entangled. The key question will be how we articulate dialogue within materiality, material intra-actions and new materialism in educational practice. This will hopefully lead pedagogy to be continually created through the relationalities of materialism: What is matter (or a material object) capable of and for? As Karen Barad (2007, p. 170) formulated: ‘Matter’s dynamism is generative not merely in the sense of bringing new things into the world but in the sense of bringing forth of new worlds, of engaging in an ongoing reconfiguration of the world.’

‘The key question will be how we articulate dialogue within materiality, material intra-actions and new materialism in educational practice. This will hopefully lead pedagogy to be continually created through the relationalities of materialism: What is matter (or a material object) capable of and for?’

My learner and user experiences in the field of painting on paper with acrylic paint and painting with a digital application on a mobile phone screen, provided the autoethnographic platform for developing a notion of ‘experimental paper and playful screen’ (Sintonen, 2020). This I have described through analytical self-reflection, to characterise the processes and to illustrate the essence. ‘Sense’ refers to making meaning with things through sign-making representation (see Wohlwend, Peppler, Keune, & Thompson, 2017), while ‘essence’ turns the view to the materials’ demeanour and echo referring to ‘the intrinsic nature or indispensable quality of something, especially something abstract, which determines its character’.1

From the material point of view, analogue and digital creation represent various things, have their own characteristic essences and act differently in intra-action (see Barad, 2003, 2007); materiality has an active, agentic role. Materiality is not a limitation but sets the certain frames for the interplay between technologies and learners – as material invitation and intra-action differed, giving various, influential impulses to a learner. Analogue seemed to invite an embodied, sensory and experimental orientation and digital proposed experimental playfulness – although these elements strongly overlapped.

What kind of implications does consideration of the essence of materials in modulating learning processes then cause for education? Both analogue and digital invite different echoes and form their unique, smooth intra-active spaces, through emergent processes. Still, it is evident that in many cases analogue and digital creation processes cannot be separated, as one supports the other. As a teacher and a learner, how can we be open to the various material invitations and intra-actions? If matter is promiscuous, inventive and imaginative in its agential wanderings, as Barad (2015) taught us, unforeseen smooth spaces and material invitations will then be the key pedagogical premise and focus. This leads us to new, interesting educational technology perspectives. For example, virtual reality and augmented art, and interactive and collaborative online installations, will open up many doors for pedagogical development. In addition, such inextricably entangled material intra-actions will have an influence on wider pedagogical, posthuman perspectives beyond the arts.


This blog is based on the article ‘From an experimental paper to a playful screen: How the essence of materiality modulates the process of creation’ by Sara Sintonen, published on an open access basis in the British Journal of Educational Technology.


Footnote

1. Definition of ‘essence’ in English from Lexico website. See https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/essence


References

Barad, K. (2003). Posthumanist performativity. Toward an understanding of how matter comes to matter. Signs, 40(1), 801–831.

Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physics and the entanglement of matter and meaning. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Barad, K. (2015). Transmaterialities. Trans*/matter/realities and queer political imaginings. GLQ: Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 21(2–3), 387–422.

Chappell, K. (2020, February 6). Creativity is back on the map. But how do we navigate from here? [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.bera.ac.uk/blog/creativity-is-back-on-the-map-but-how-do-we-navigate-from-here

Crescenzi, L., Jewitt, C., & Price, S. (2014). The role of touch in pre-school children’s learning using iPad versus paper interaction. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 27(2), 86–95.

European Commission. (2016). The importance of the digital economy. Retrieved from http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/digital-economy/importance/index_en.htm

Hou, J., Rashid, J. & Lee, K. W. (2017). Cognitive map or medium materiality? Reading on paper and screen. Computers in Human Behavior, 67, 84–94. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.10.014

Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD]. (2015). OECD Digital Economy Outlook 2015. Paris: OECD Publishing. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264232440-en

Sintonen, S. (2020). From an experimental paper to a playful screen: How the essence of materiality modulates the process of creation. British Journal of Educational Technology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.12906

Wohlwend, K. E., Peppler, K. A., Keune, A., & Thompson, N. (2017). Making sense and nonsense: Comparing mediated discourse and agential realist approaches to materiality in a preschool makerspace. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 17(3), 444–462. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798417712066