Doing sociomaterial studies: the circuit of agency

Sara Hawley has just published an article in Learning, Media and Technology, looking at theories of sociomateriality and agency to consider children’s writing practices.

In recent sociomaterialist, materialist and post-human theorizing which foregrounds the importance of objects and bodies, ideas of consciousness and intentionality are seen as potentially tainted either with Cartesian mind-body splits or with subjectivities that are too discursively constructed.

At the same time, new theories of affect as something pre-personal and corporeal further marginalize the notion of human agency. But could the pendulum have swung too far in outlawing the human in favour of the pre-human and post-human? How can sociomaterial theories be reconciled with educators’ ongoing commitment to give their pupils voice and identify effective pedagogies for teaching digital media? This paper analyses data from a study of online multimodal writing practices in a London primary school to expand current theorizing about agency. It proposes the idea of a phenomenologically-inspired circuit of (sociomaterial) agency as a way to bring back the ‘human’ and incorporate the middle ranges of agency.

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