Who’s Taming Who? Tensions Between People and Technologies in Cyberspace Communities

  • Terrie Lynn Thompson


It would seem that for many people, spaces on the Web have become an integral part of their lives. This may include seeking out learning opportunities in online communities. But how do people negotiate the materiality of screens and settings; discussion boards, RSS feeds and avatars; passwords and Facebook profiles? Emphasizing the relational aspects of learning, networked learning focuses on connections among learners, other people, learning resources and technologies. Although human–human relations are not necessarily privileged, appropriate conceptual tools are required to explore other types of relations, particularly human–non-human associations. Actor Network Theory (ANT) is one perspective that enables a socio-material exploration of heterogeneous networks. This chapter draws on ANT to explore how the interactions between Web technologies and self-employed workers shape work-related learning practices in an online community. The chapter examines the co-constitutive relationship between human and non-human actants. Findings suggest that participating “in” an online community is a series of passages marked by both attempts to stabilize and disrupt relations. As participants in this study attempted to “tame” the technology, the technologies in use were doing their part to tame other actants. However, these relationships do not describe distinct human and non-human entities, but rather hybrids or socio-technical constructions – a blending. The chapter concludes with questions emerging from such provocative entanglements.


Online Community Discussion Forum Network Learning Actor Network Theory Online Space 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Athabasca UniversityAthabascaCanada

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