Book Review

The Journal Postdigital Science and Education invited me to read the fabulous book “Student Engagement in the Digital University: Sociomaterial Assemblages,” published by Lesley Gourlay and Martin Oliver in 2018. The review I wrote starts with the following introduction:

Lesley Gourlay and Martin Oliver’s Student Engagement in the Digital University: Sociomaterial Assemblages (2018) is a welcome and critical contribution to the study of how students actually engage with the digital university in everyday practice. Inspired by scholars in New Literacy Studies (NLS), Science and Technology Studies (STS), and by Actor-Network Theory (ANT), Gourlay and Oliver argue for a socio-material understand- ing of students’ digital engagement by adopting assemblages (Latour 2005; Fenwick et al. 2015; Bennett 2010) as a conceptual lens. The authors make their case through the study of ‘students’ day-to-day practices of studying’ (62) in the digital university and develop their argument in 12 compelling chapters that read as a liberating narrative from the non- stop messianic ‘tech-talk’ in education (Selwyn 2016: ix). In this context, Gourlay and Oliver (2018) unpack complex issues like How do current discourses and ideologies position students, teachers, scholarship, and the university in relation to the digital in higher education? How does research in education approach students’ agency in the digital university? What kind of revolution follows the use of digital technology in universities―if any? What can (or cannot) we as researchers perceive when applying models and frameworks on empirical student data?

Reading about these issues offers a breath of fresh air that entices the curious reader to learn more about ‘student engagement as a set of socio-material practices’ (Gourlay and Oliver 2018: 9) and to engage with the ‘messy, imperfect, contingent and improvised’ (11) nature of student practices in digital-analog entanglements. By doing so, one embarks on an intellectually stimulating journey that starts with offering a critique to abstract discourses of the digital in higher education; continues with empirical studies of the students’ day-to-day practices in the digital university; and ends by suggesting assemblages as a lens for the study of socio-material practices in higher education.

Cerratto Pargman, T. Review of Lesley Gourlay and Martin Oliver (2018). Student Engagement in the Digital University: Sociomaterial AssemblagesPostdigit Sci Educ (2020).




IV Encuentro Internacional Interfaces de Conocimiento

El Laboratorio de Tecnologías para la Socialización(LabTEC), dependiente de la Secretaría de Extensión Universitaria y Bienestar Estudiantil (SEUBE) organizó el IV Encuentro Internacional “Interfaces de conocimiento” a través de la plataforma Meet de Google. Esto fue una excelente oportunidad para intercambiar visiones del futuro de la educación en Latinoamérica y el Caribe. Las charlas aportaron análisis de casos que dan cuenta de los desafíos de la transformación digital en la vida cotidiana, en la emergencia y en la post-pandemia.







ICLS Symposium: Learning in Unbounded Landscapes -Conceptualizations and Design from an Ecological Perspective

This symposium seeks to advance an understanding of learning from an ecological perspective. The abundance of digital technologies and rapid changes in knowledge domains generate new epistemic and learning practices, drawing on heterogeneous sets of resources, actors, and forms of knowledge. Consequently, learners must navigate complex and unstructured landscapes to gather resources and structure knowledge activities. In doing so, they create continuity and connections between various unbound spaces of learning, i.e., they create their own learning ecologies. Little is known about these processes and how they can be examined or supported. This symposium argues for the necessity of a paradigmatic shift towards an ‘ecological understanding’, which takes into account the enactment of the learning ‘act’, the knowledge forms, contexts, relationships, digital technologies and infrastructures that shape learning practices in unbound landscapes. The four contributions employ an ecological perspective on various aspects of learning and use empirical illustrations to build an argument leading towards a new educational research and learning design agenda. The contributions are complementary as they pinpoint practices students, teachers and institutions engage with and and challenges they are facing in this unbounded landscape.

The symposium was led by Crina Damşa, University of Oslo, Norway & Christoph Richter  Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, Germany. The discussant was Jim Slotta, University of Toronto. The contributers were: Lina Markauskaite, Natasha Arthars, Natalie Spence, Heidrun Allert, Zacharias Andreadakis, Christoph Richter, Crina Damşa and me (Teresa Cerratto Pargman). 

Here is the entire text also accessible in the ICSL 2020 Proceedings.

ECSCW Workshop on Datafication- provocations, threats, and design opportunities

This was a great Zoom workshop with more than 20 attendants participating from Europe, Israel, USA, Canada and Australia. Led by my colleague Karin Hansson we discussed the  emergence of new data sharing practices that are changing our understanding of how history is negotiated and our collective memory enacted. More information:

Thoughts after Reading: #Vibrant Matter by Jane Bennett

Last April, I joined a group of colleagues from Stockholm University and the Royal Institute of Technology who monthly discuss academic books. They had scheduled “Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things” by Professor of Political Theory Jane Bennett. This is a fascinating book because Bennett’s accessible and compelling writing makes it possible to learn more about classical works in Continental Philosophy and because Jane Bennett explains why it is important to interrogate us about how we think, relate, and take care of things, non-human matter. 

Her book brought me back to “Steps to an Ecology of Mind” (Bateson, 1972), a book that I read many years ago (during my psychology training) and that completely changed my view of illness and human relationships. Particularly, Bateson’s writing made me understand that if we want to help people to change, then it is better, as a therapist, to target their relational ways to relate to each other rather than their individual symptoms

Bennetts’ way of writing about relations also resonated with Decuypere & Simons (2016). In that article, the authors distinguish the relational modes from the representationalist modes of thinking by arguing that “relational thinking places the primacy on the prevalent relations in a setting” rather than on social and/or material distinct entities. As such, these authors underscore the importance of looking “at the relations between different actors – and this to such an extent that actors are, in fact, the result of the relations they uphold with other actors” (p.3).

Reading Bennett with Decuypere & Simons’s distinction in mind, makes me think that actors are also the result of the relations they uphold with things. Paying attention to the relations with things, Bennett makes a compelling distinction between things and objects, as she speaks of vibrancy of things and not of objects because objects are the ways things appear to a subject but things are something else, she writes: “things signal the moment when objects become the Other” meaning that things somehow escape the relationship between subject-object; things are at the outside of human/knowledge relationships and then can be called: the out-side. Bennett writes that she tries to give voice to a thing power, to a vibrant matter by underscoring the conative nature of things; that means underscoring the attempted action of things rather than the action itself.

But can this be possible? How can we give voice to the conative nature of things? Most importantly, how can we know about “things” outside of the relationship subject-object?

Bennett’s answer connects, among others, with Adorno’s specific materialism and the idea of Adorno’s nonidentity, which is “the discomforting sense of the inadequacy of representation [that]remains no matter how refined or analytically precise one’s concept can become” (p.14). In experiencing such a discomforting sense of the inadequacy of representation,  Bennett thinks there is an ethical task to do here. Such a task is not the one of remembering this discomforting sense of the inadequacy of representation and thus learning to accept this but rather acknowledging that we are part of things. “We are vital materiality, and we are surrounded by it, though we do not always see it that way. The ethical task is to cultivate the ability to discern nonhuman vitality, to become perceptually open to it”.  (p.14).

How is it possible to think about us as a vibrant matter which is part and parcel of non-materiality, this out-side? Someone who trained to think about this out-side and human participation in shared materiality was Adorno, who wrote about a set of practical techniques, and intellectual and aesthetic exercises for training oneself to better detect and accept what is called “nonidentity”[1].

Somehow these techniques about negative dialectics reminded me of a game I played when I was little. It was in the bathroom of our house, and there was a vanity. It had three flat mirrors, and I could play with them and place them forming a certain angle to each other. The thing is that when you place an object between them, then several images can be observed depending on the number of angles that the mirrors form with each other. As the angle becomes smaller, the number of images increases. I was (the thing) placed between the mirrors so I could play with the number of the images of myself by going back and forth with increasing and decreasing the angles. My favorite part of the game was when I could find the smallest angle and get the most images of myself reflected in the mirrors. At this moment, and only at this precise moment, I could ask: who is this?

This moment was special as I tried to relate to myself as I was an Other; I was looking at myself as if I was a stranger, an alien. I remember the feeling, the experience; it was both scary and fun. It was memorable. Was it a way to see the thing in me? Was my game with the mirrors and their changing angles a sort of a nonidentity technique to getting to know me as a thing from the out-side? Were the images of myself reflected in the mirrors a thing of power? More importantly, was I contemplating (representing) or experiencing (acting)  the thing power? Was I developing a relationship with the out-side?

The thing power and the idea of out-side, the pillars of Bennett’s “vital materialism” posits that “this sense of a strange and incomplete commonality with the out-side may induce vital materialisms to treats nonhumans – animals, earth, even artifacts, and commodities – more carefully, more strategically, more ecologically” (p. 18).

Based on that, one can think that my game with the mirrors was also a game to explore and participate in new types of relationships. Perhaps it was my way to train a new type of relationship with myself as a stranger or a strange thing? A way to relate to the image of myself (as an unknown) without necessarily exercising power on it, conquering it, colonializing it, dominating it? Was this perhaps a new way of being, a sort of exploration of an existential relationship with myself? Or was just this game a way to learn to appreciate, and accept the perceived otherness in me?

Bennett’s book is an intellectually stimulating reading about ontological thinking and political theory as well as the relationships between both. On the one hand, it is about how we can discern the vitality of matter and focus on it while writing about it[2]. On the other hand, the book is about the political implications of the relationships we develop with nonhuman bodies in such a process where we discern the vitality of matter;  a vitality that makes us think about the ethics enacted in such a process.

In the end, the take-away message for me is this fascinating intellectual journey experienced and the hope to contribute to developing more responsible and caring ways to relate to what is unknown and to non-human things. Because, as Bennett brilliantly shows it, this matter alien to us is constitutive of who we are: vital materiality.


Bateson, G. (2000). Steps to an ecology of mind: Collected essays in anthropology, psychiatry, evolution, and epistemology. University of Chicago Press.

Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant matter: A political ecology of things. Duke University Press.

Decuypere, M., & Simons, M. (2016). Relational thinking in education: Topology, sociomaterial studies, and figures. Pedagogy, Culture & Society, 24(3), 371-386.

[1] Bennett writes about the three techniques that Adornos suggests to practice nonidentity exercises. She points to (1)the intellectual practice consisting of attempting to make the very process of conceptualization an explicit object of thought because conceptualization obscures the inadequacy of its concepts and then we need a concept of nonidentity to “cure the hubris of conceptualization” (p. 14). There is also (2)this thing with exercising one’s utopian imagination so we can “re-create what has been obscured by the distortion of a conceptualization” (p.15). I understand it is a way to put conceptualization into brackets and get a more genuine understanding of the out-side (?). Finally, there is (3)the thing with admitting a playful element into one’s thinking and be willing to play the fool by questing after (as Adorno does) “the preponderance of the object” that Bennett calls the thing-power (p. 16).

[2] Bennet explains “composing and recomposing the sentences of this book- especially in trying to choose the appropriate verbs, I have come to see how radical a project it is to think vital materiality. It seems necessary and impossible to rewrite the default grammar of agency, a grammar that assigns activity to people and passivity to things. Are there more everyday tactics for cultivating an ability to discern the vitality of matter?” (p.119) as “is it not, after all, a self-conscious, language wielding human who is articulating thus the philosophy of vibrant matter? (p.120).


The evaluation report of the project “Make IT happen” is out!

Here is the evaluation report of the teachers’ competence development program that focused on teaching school teachers to integrate computational thinking and programming into their school subjects and pedagogical practices. The project was funded by Region Kronoberg and the program was run by AV-Media. It targeted 8 municipalities,  400 teachers and 51 schools.

Read the evaluation report (in Swedish).

Cerratto Pargman, T. & Davidsson, M.(2020). Make IT happen. Slutrapport. 2020-02-30. DOI:10.13140/RG.2.2.31582.59201


Datafication and cultural heritage – provocations, threats, and design opportunities- Workshop at ECSCW 2020.

Datafication and cultural heritage – provocations, threats, and design opportunities

A workshop June 14 2020 at ECSCW, the 18th European Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, Siegen, Germany

Due to the current situation we will accept remote presentations. 
Information on COVID-19 (Corona Virus)

How to participate? Deadline is April 3, 2020.

Submit a short paper stating your position on the theme.The maximum length of the position paper is 2,000 words. The papers should follow the CSCW formatting guidelines.

Send submissions and inquiries to:

Introduction to the workshop’s topic

Increasing digitization and the emergence of new data sharing practices are likely to change how our understanding of history is negotiated. The curation of data is always culturally and ideologically inflected. Accordingly, archiving practices are not only fundamental for our understanding of the past but vital in navigating the present. We have to pay particular attention to the consequences of the interfaces that curate history, especially in relation to big data. 
Crowdsourcing, social media, linked open data, and other participatory and open science practices challenge the archiving practices in cultural heritage institutions due to the character of the networked publics involved and the established structures between and within institutions. However, they also open up new opportunities and practices when it comes to understanding and defining our shared culture.

In this workshop we will bring together researchers who have studied these issues or are working to develop critical perspectives on technology, design, and research practices. We particularly welcome empirically-based research that looks into digitizing and digitalization processes in cultural heritage institutions. We also welcome theoretical contributions that put research practice into a philosophical and historical context while also questioning established norms of what constitutes cultural heritage. 

Karin Hansson, Teresa Cerratto Pargman, and Anna Dahlgren

This workshop is part of the research project Sharing the Visual Heritage. Metadata, Reuse and Interdisciplinary Research, supported by the Swedish Research Council, and situated at Stockholm University.

Make IT happen

Together with Mattias Davidsson and Jenny Lundberg from LNU, I evaluated “Make It Happen project” that addressed 51 schools and ca 400 teachers in the south of Sweden with the aim to help them to develop teaching competence on computational thinking and programming. Last week, was time for presenting the results that were much appreciated by AV-Media Kronoberg (client), teachers and school leaders in 8 municipalities in Region Kronoberg.

I’m particularly grateful to Tina Sundberg, Anna Prisberg and Linda Stark for their invaluable help with providing us access to teaching materials, distributing surveys and organising seminars with the teachers. 

If you are interested in reading the evaluation report (in Swedish), pease contact me, we are interested in your comments!  E-mail:


Denna rapport är en utvärdering av utvecklingsprojektet “Make IT happen” som löpte från januari 2018 till december 2019 och som syftade till att ge grundskolans lärare, verksamma i 8 kommuner i region Kronoberg, möjlighet att höja sin digitala kompetens inom programmering och datalogiskt tänkande. Utvärderingen baseras på kvantitativ och kvalitativ analys av enkäter (före och efter projektet), lärares skriftliga reflektioner (under projektet) samt lärares lektionsplaneringar vid slutet av projektet. Total har vi analyserat material från 218 lärare. Analysen av enkäterna visar att “Make IT happen” har varit uppskattat av deltagarna som menar att projektet har hjälpt dem att komma igång med programmering och datalogiskt tänkande i klassrummet. Av utvärderingen framgår det att en betydande andel av de som fyllde i utvärderingarna (33%) anser sig ha behov av kunskaper, lektionstips, tid och idéer – eller av direkta resurser som datorer, pengar eller personal. En något lägre andel av lärarna ansåg inte att de hade några direkta behov för att kunna genomföra undervisning inom programmering efter utbildningen. Analysen av lektionsplaneringar som lämnats in vid sista utbildningstillfälle visar att deltagarna oftast har replikerat uppgifter som de har fått under träffarna; endast några enstaka lärare har försökt skapa helt nya uppgifter. Detta tyder på att de flesta behöver känna sig tryggare med programmering innan de kan transformera sin egen undervisningspraxis. I förhållande till projektets mål kan vi konstatera att “Make IT happen” har bidragit till att öka antalet lärare som utnyttjar möjligheterna med programmering i undervisningen. Mer specifikt har projektet bidragit till att ge deltagarna baskunskaper inom programmering och datalogiskt tänkande samt ett meningsfullt didaktiskt material för lärare som undervisar i matematik och teknik. Projektet har i mångt och mycket bidragit till att fördjupa förståelsen för- och användningen av programmering i klassrummet.


Avslutning Make IT Happen

Publicerat av AV-Media Kronoberg Fredag 6 mars 2020

Pressmeddelande om Emergent Practices and Material Conditions in Learning and Teaching with Technologies/Springer

Stockholms universitet (SU press) skrev ett pressmeddelande om vår bok som ser ut så här, länken finns här:

Teresa Cerratto Pargman, Stockholms universitet, och Isa Jahnke, University of Missouri, är redaktörer och medförfattare till en ny antologi om digitaliseringen i skolan: Emergent Practices and Material Conditions in Learning and Teaching with Technologies. I 14 kapitel vill redaktörer och författare lyfta debatten från att handla om de digitala plattformarna som ett separat verktyg till deras plats i hela skolsystemet och undervisningens vardag.

Boken kan sammanfattas i fem konkreta tips för politiker och skolledare:

1. Förstå lärarens vardag och hur digital teknik passar in

Mycket av litteraturen och många av studierna kring digitaliseringen av skolan behandlar digitala verktyg och deras möjligheter som ett separat projekt, utan att ta hänsyn till den undervisningsvardag som råder. Entusiaster pekar ofta på nya pedagogiska möjligheter, medan de utvärderingar som gjorts av svenska utrullningar av så kallade 1:1-försök – en enhet per elev – visar dels att man gravt underskattar den tid som lärare ägnar åt själva tekniken (handhavande, enklare support etc) och som måste tas från traditionell undervisning, men också på besvikelse hos lärare som upplever att högflyende visioner om vad den nya tekniken ska åstadkomma inte infriats. Tekniken i sig åstadkommer mycket lite förändring. Det krävs bestämt syfte och tydlig planering för hur tekniken ska hanteras, anpassas, och användas.

2. Digital teknik kan underlätta nya lärandeaktiviteter

En fallstudie av elever som fått designa ett eget virtuellt museum visar att projektet främjade såväl flera olika aspekter av digital kompetens som kritiskt tänkande och avancerade resonemang. Ytterligare exempel finns i boken: poängen är att undervisning med hjälp av digitala verktyg kan skapa helt nya inlärningsprocesser hos elever, men det är ingenting som kommer automatiskt. De etablerade undervisningspraktiker som finns i skolan idag förändras när nya arbetssätt, kompetenser, roller, processer och strukturer utvecklas och driver fram den digitala och kompetenta skolan.

3. Verktyg som inte är tänkta för undervisning kan skapa nya möjligheter för lärandet

Digitala plattformar som inte i första hand är tänkta för undervisning kan fungera utmärkt för att engagera elever. Flera exempel finns i boken, bland annat ett projekt där lärare använt sig av Pokemon GO för att skapa övningar i matematik. Det finns stora möjligheter att skapa arenor som är hybrider mellan undervisning och nöje.

4. Ta hänsyn till värderingar

Författarna menar att alltför lite uppmärksamhet ägnas åt att diskutera de värderingar som ligger bakom de verktyg, plattformar och policies som rullas ut i samband med digitalisering i skolan. Det kan gälla allt från enkla exempel som länkar till en video på internet som eleverna ska titta på, men som föregås av reklam som skolan saknar möjlighet att kontrollera, till mera subtila värderingar som reproduceras i policies och i undervisningsmaterial. Utveckling och design av digital teknik för skolan behöver därför också spegla skolans/läroplanens värderingar.

5. Vi behöver bättre utvärderingar

Författarna menar att det finns ett stort behov av att hitta metoder för att i större skala utvärdera hur digital teknik egentligen används i utbildningsmiljön och vilka konsekvenser den för med sig. Idag rullas digitala verktyg ofta ut under ett paraply av förhoppningar och ambitioner utan att vi på förhand har enats om hur effekterna ska mätas.

Emergent Practices and Material Conditions in Learning and Teaching with Technologies finns att köpa inbunden eller som e-bok via Springer förlag: