Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Gourlay, L.
Open education as a ‘heterotopia of desire’
(2015) Learning, Media and Technology, 18 p. Article in Press.

DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2015.1029941

Abstract
The movement towards ‘openness’ in education has tended to position itself as inherently democratising, radical, egalitarian and critical of powerful gatekeepers to learning. While ‘openness’ is often positioned as a critique, I will argue that its mainstream discourses – while appearing to oppose large-scale operations of power – in fact reinforce a fantasy of an all-powerful, panoptic institutional apparatus. The human subject is idealised as capable of generating higher order knowledge without recourse to expertise, a canon of knowledge or scaffolded development. This highlights an inherent contradiction between this movement and critical educational theory which opposes narratives of potential utopian futures, offering theoretical counterpositions and data which reveal diversity and complexity and resisting attempts at definition, typology and fixity. This argument will be advanced by referring to a one-year longitudinal qualitative multimodal journaling and interview study of student day-to-day entanglements with technologies in higher education, which was combined with a shorter study focused on academic staff engagement [Gourlay, L., and M. Oliver. 2013. “Beyond ‘The Social’: Digital Literacies as Sociomaterial Practice.” In Literacy in the Digital University: Learning as Social Practice in a Digital World, edited by M. Lea and R. Goodfellow. London: Routledge/SRHE]. Drawing on sociomaterial perspectives [e.g., Fenwick, T., R. Edwards, and P. Sawchuck. 2011. Emerging Approaches to Educational Research: Tracing the Sociomaterial. London: Routledge], I will conclude that allegedly ‘radical’ claims of the ‘openness’ movement in education may in fact serve to reinforce rather than challenge utopic thinking, fantasies of the human, and monolithic social categories, fixity and power, and as such may be seen as indicative of a ‘heterotopia of desire’. © 2015 Taylor & Francis

Author Keywords
Foucault; heterotopias; Latour; OERs; sociomateriality

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