Assemblies of media towards community participation: evidence from my MSc dissertation. Brooklyn Bridge blueprints and human capital.
Assemblies of media towards community participation: evidence from my MSc dissertation. Brooklyn Bridge blueprints and human capital.

Reader: this is Part 3, the final part. I wanted to take the time to say that I appreciate your patience in this journey. I promise to post something frivolous and/or awesome in the near future. I have already received a request to go back to my blogging roots and publish more Voltron.

Engagement with technology

The construction of new texts emerge, often, from engagement with new technologies; this engagement with new technology is often governed by community practice. Technology is a tool for making meaning in the particular domain of the community, a tool which complements and foreground other tools such as accepted forms of discourse, history (community memory), media, modes, and others.

Technology provides the connective tissue of these assemblies of meaning by making possible the assembly at all. With technology, “what is not beside the point is the ability to bring things into conjunction which might have previously been relatively difficult to join” (Kress, Pachler 2007, p.28). This is especially true with mobile technology, being broadly defined as mobile phones, tablets, and laptops (yes, I am going against the grain on the inclusion of laptops, but bear with me). These mobile technologies allow for the transformation of the habitus of the learning and the learner. By engaging with these technologies, “I have turned the environment in which I am, whatever it may be and wherever I may be, into a site of learning” (Kress, Pachler, 2007, p. 28). Assembly of previously incongruous learning resources through mobile technology transforms habitus, situates the learning across seemingly incongruous locales (university, discipline, home, and current location) and this transformation, in turn, transforms engagement with the community. Participants engage technology to enact practice in their communities. In this thesis, mobile technology is positioned as “the ether of practice, or an interactive element in which practice is enabled” (Potter, 2012).

*Note: I am trying to push away from technology as the enacter/great savior of activity and refocus its as enabler/ether of practice. It makes new assemblies possible and this in turn transforms practice. But it is the individual or the community which assemble the resources for meaning. Technology broadens the landscape a bit towards that end (and inherently mediates it, yes).

For the purposes of constructing new digital texts, mobile technology makes possible the assembly of semiotic resources and the transformation and confluence of learning habitus (I had to look up the plural of habitus only to realize it is habitus-you win, English). It is the environment in which this construction and transformation is enacted. It also signals an evolving community of practice as it provides the following:

  1. New processes for constructing meaning
  2. New processes for engaging technology
  3. Evolving definitions of transparency (Lave, Wenger, 1991, p.102) as technology has within it embedded characteristics of cultural practice and social organization. As legitimate peripheral participation depends on transparency for understanding the value and use of an artifact (technology), acknowledging mobile technology as an agent in the writing process is necessary.
  4. New semiotic resources available for meaning-making and new assemblies of those resources available as boundary objects for participants to inspect as ‘legitimate’ practice

I will spare you some of the examples I am gathering from higher education (experimentation is still in its infancy), but lay out what I see are some of the salient details of these ‘new’ mobile texts as made evident through Multimodality. I referred to these in previous posts as Mobile Material Essays or Mobile Material Texts so I will stick with those, although I imagine this will change by the time I actually submit this thing.

Definition, Examples, and Salient Details of Mobile Material Texts

Digital texts in the Humanities produced through mobile technology (laptop, mobile phone, tablet) comprised of

  1. An order of discourse advancing or engaging the knowledge domain of the community
  2. An assembly of semiotic resources (media and modes) aligned with community practice (ie, available artifacts) and the chosen discourse


  1. Mashups/Remixes/Montages
  2. Digital compositions
  3. Multimodal essays (video pieces, etc.)

Salient Points of Mobile Material Texts as made evident through Community of Practice and Multimodality theory

  1. Multiple modes or multiple semiotic resources
  2. Assembly of modes advances or engages chosen discourse
  3. Space/location itself is semiotic resource
  4. Evidence of engagement, imagination, and alignment with community of practice
  5. Generated through mobile technology (broadly defined)
  6. Transformation of habitus (relate to Sharples work); novel alignment of learning/semiotic resources: Technology provides “ the ability to bring things into conjunction which might previously have been relatively difficult to join” (Kress, Pachler, 2007, p. 28).
  7. Validated/legitimized by community or particular community relationship (faculty)

So with all those characteristics, I ask the same question I asked in the previous post. Is the following a ‘new’ text/mobile material essay? I composed it, recorded it, and filmed it in mobile technology. I tried to edit it altogether on my tablet, but it crashed my iPad. But the intention was there. Only the accompanying text was composed via a laptop. I recorded it on trains, in airports, at home, at work, etc. (multiple habitus). It was validated by faculty involvement (being a part of the University of Edinburgh’s MSc in Elearning); space and location itself is a prime organizing resource. I aligned the discourse with existing practice (mostly). I think it ticks all the checkboxes of relevance as outlined above. The only concern I have is whether these texts are novel at all and perhaps merely represent an extension of existing practice. But there is a whole lot of thesis to write still.

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By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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