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15 October 2021
The Methodologies of Materiality in Digital Representations Of ‘Self’
Special Issue: The Methodologies of Materiality in Digital Representations Of ‘Self’
Guest Editors: Natalia Kucirkova, University of Stavanger & The Open University and Jennifer Rowsell, University of Bristol, UK
"I paint self-portraits because I am so often alone, because I am the person I know best."
- Frida Kahlo
In times of uncertainty and global urgencies, we often turn inwards, with attention paid to unique representations of ‘self’. Digital and analogue self-portraits are artifacts that provide an inside look into the lived histories of individuals (Rowsell, 2011). During the Covid19 pandemic, many scholars and academics became acutely aware of how societal shifts impact and politicise their personal and professional identities. Smart technologies and social media facilitate various identity-revealing forms, including selfies, emojis, bitmojis, videos, sounds or hypertexts. These multimodal representations of self are not neutral, they signal political and cultural legitimacy, power and social discourses (Loveless & Williamson, 2003), and they directly impact learning and teaching.
People ‘construct selves within specific institutional, organisational, discursive, and local cultural contexts’ (Chase, 2008, p.67) and these contexts are intertwined with the human and more-than-human representations of self (Barad, 2007; Kuby & Gutshall Rucker, 2016; Kuby & Rowsell, 2017) with embedded ideological meanings. While some disciplines conceptualise identity along dichotomous axes, such as agentic or communal identities (Abele, 2003) or occupational and ideological identities (Erikson, 1968), we believe that a socio-material understanding of identities as socially and materially entangled with contexts and individuality offer rich resources for mapping the ‘self’. In this Special Issue, we are interested in how learning and media studies can be pushed toward innovative perspectives on identity, particularly in the form of selfies and the even newer phenomenon of shelfie. In the wake of Covid19 and our sudden confinement at home and away from public domains, researchers are grappling with how to document learning, media and technology as a field beyond in-person contact. This special issue offers ways of researching online life creatively, ethically, and meaningfully.
Some selfies are self-less and include objects relevant to an individual, while other selfies include colourful backgrounds and signal the material worlds behind an individual. Shelfies can be both with and without a human face, typically with books and reading materials: ‘the shelfie forces more attention on the physical objects and environment being framed’ (Brandabur, 2019, p.20). As more-than-human objects, shelfies play a role in negotiating physical and online spaces we occupy as professionals and individuals, and prompt new ways of paying attention to the matter that matters in the post-Covid educational context.
We call close attention to methods and methodologies that have the potential to document, reveal and substantiate questions relating to online identities. We seek to commission papers that focus on manifestations of self in a digital medium, as a methodological tool to explore, document and conceptualise the complex entanglement of private and professional identities in learning and education. We hope to bring together papers that position the critical role of qualitative inquiry at the centre of efforts aimed at uncovering the multi-faceted nature of digitized professional and private selves, and that widen the perspective onto the popular practice of selfie/shelfies-sharing in addition to other digital materialities. In particular, we welcome papers that foreground methodological concerns and considerations regarding traditional qualitative methods (e.g., visual or narrative inquiry) and ethical issues in online identity research. For example, authors might grapple with conducting qualitative research and critical inquiries on social media that requires the presence of both professional and private selves. We are also interested in papers discussing questions regarding privacy and confidentiality of personal data in online identity research as well as the qualitative research process and its methodological challenges. Situating the key ethical questions and developing a theoretically sound language for these issues are important contributions of the anticipated Special Issue. ‘Self’ can be defined broadly, with papers focusing both on personal academic identities as well as those of others, including young children, vulnerable and marginalized groups. Authors might wish to ponder questions such as:
- What role does materiality play in relation to shelfies and selfies?
- What qualitative methods are particularly suited to human and more-than-human materiality of online identities?
- How can the manifestations of entangled private and professional selves contribute to our understanding of ‘self’?
- To what extent does an orientation toward the ethical and socially just identity research have a function in the current educational context?
Abele, A. E. (2003). The dynamics of masculine-agentic and feminine-communal traits: findings from a prospective study. Journal of personality and social psychology, 85(4), 768-776.
Barad, K. 2007. Meeting the universe halfway: Quantum physicals and the entanglement
of matter and meaning. Durham: Duke University Press.
Brandabur, C. D., "Let Me Take a #Shelfie: An Assemblage Explored Through Framing" (2019). University of New Orleans Theses and Dissertations. 2592. https://scholarworks.uno.edu/td/2592
Chase, S. E. (2008). Narrative inquiry: Multiple lenses, approaches, voices. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Collecting and interpreting qualitative materials (p. 57–94). Sage Publications, Inc.
Erikson, E. (1968). Identity: Youth and Crisis, Norton, New York.
Kuby, C. R., and Gutshall Rucker, T. 2016. Go be a writer!: Expanding the curricular
boundaries of literacy learning with children. New York: Teachers College Press.
Kuby, C. R., and Rowsell, J., eds. 2017. Early literacy and the posthuman: Pedagogies
and methodologies. Introduction to special issue. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy
17 (3): 285–296.
Loveless, A., & Williamson, B. (2013). Learning identities in a digital age: Rethinking creativity, education and technology. London: Routledge.
Rowsell, J. (2011). Carrying my family with me: Artifacts as emic perspectives. Qualitative Research, 11(3), 331-346.
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We welcome papers from diverse disciplines, including anthropology, politics, linguistics, education, social psychology, (social semiotics), digital media and computer science. We invite the submission of 1,000-word abstracts by March 15th, 2021. Invitations for full manuscripts will be sent April 15th, 2021, with full manuscripts due October 15th 2021. Please remember to select "special issue title” when submitting your paper to ScholarOne.
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