Listen to episodes featuring Jason Beech:

New spatial thinking

How to Address the Complexities of Space in Educational Research

By Jason Beech
Senior Lecturer in Education Policy
Monash University

One of the things that I mostly value of FreshEd is the possibility of listening to some of my favorite authors and researchers explaining their ideas in different ways. I also use it to introduce myself into the thinking of authors I still have not read or themes I want to start exploring. There are many interesting episodes that I could recommend, but I will focus on the theme of space in educational research. Manuel Castells defines space as “the material support of time-sharing social practices”. From this perspective, the complexities of spatiality are quite evident. Since the late 1980s, the concept that became mainstream in academia to address these complexities is the notion of globalization. However, I think globalization has become a kind of mantra. A sound we repeat without really understanding its meaning. Furthermore, its effect is to stop thinking. As researchers, we need to unpack the notion of globalization and open up our research imagination to invent new ways of understanding who is acting (people and institutions, but also objects, viruses, etc.), through which means and with what effects in these so-called global spaces. I could recommend so many episodes in FreshEd for this creative journey. Given the limitations of space, I will mention three by some of my favorite thinkers, but these are just the tip of the iceberg.

First is the episode with Arjun Appadurai. I found it fascinating how he connects discussions about space to the pandemic. He defines the virus as a global force pushing for the most local levels of interactions. I think this is such a powerful notion to explore in education, as spaces and borders between schools, families, students, technological objects, data, and states have been re-casted. The conceptualization of flows of information as the source of new kinds of uncertainties is another wonderful starting point to rethink the curriculum.

Bob Lingard presents a very good example of how the abstract idea of globalization can be brought down to earth by dissecting in detail the work of probably the most powerful global organization in contemporary times – the OECD. From exploring the origins and some of the structural attributes of the organization to looking in detail at the new mechanisms that it is using to influence very localized practices of education, sidelining state bureaucracies. This episode is very informative and inspiring.

Finally, a very different angle to explore spatiality in education is offered by Jane Kenway. She explains her work based on the notion of a multi-sited global ethnography and questions the notion of the ethnographic site as a self-contained small-scale space. Instead, she makes a very convincing call for the importance of paying attention to mobilities, looking at connections, and questioning the binary inside/outside when studying educational sites.

I like these three episodes because they represent very different gestures regarding how to address the challenges of understanding the spatiality of education.

January 2, 2022