On the 21st of February, our colleague Antti Paakkari gave the defence for his doctoral thesis at the University of Helsinki! The title for his thesis is ”Entangled Devices. An ethnographic study of students, mobile phones and capitalism”. You find the abstract below and you can access the digital version here. The ethnographic data Antti based his thesis on is from the Textmöten research project .
Not for the first time I was amazed by the opportunities for multiple research foci that this set of data offers. The fieldwork included quite technical solutions and was time consuming, but the data it generated made it worth all the effort. As the opponent, associate professor Minna Ruckenstein (University of Helsinki), pointed out, the data offers a unique insight into students mobile phone use. I was eagerly awaiting critical questions in regard to the methodology as I am mentally preparing for the day I will give my defence. The opponent was however mainly impressed by the work we had done and suggested that we publish more methodological papers. Antti himself did however point out, that in the future, he would prefer to engage the students even further in the research design.
Doctoral student, Textmöten
This ethnographic research looks at the ways in which mobile phones are present in the school life of upper-secondary school students. The research analyses the affects phones have on the spatiality and power relation of school. The research has been undertaken as part of Textmöten research project and draws from ethnographic data produced in two Finnish upper-secondary schools during 2015-2016. The research consists of three peer-reviewed articles and a 94-page summary. The three articles of the dissertation examine the connections of school and mobile phones from different perspectives. The first article analyses the historically ambivalent relationship between school and technology, including the fact that technology in school seldom works in anticipated ways. The difference between many earlier technologies and mobile phones is that this time students are the ones bringing them to school. The second article analyses how phones are present during lessons, how different apps are used and what phones mean to young people. The conclusion is that phones have become a familiar presence during lessons in the research schools. Both the amounts of phone use and the ways the phones are used vary among the students but phones were used significantly throughout the research. In interviews, students emphasized the importance of the phones. They signified independence, adulthood and a space of one’s own. On the other hand, students mentioned the occasionally laborious nature of phones which had to do with a constant stream of messages and notifications. The third article focuses on one particular lesson in order to examine the multi-faceted character of phones and the connections they enable. Phones foster new agencies and bring opportunities for re-evaluating school spaces and power relations. However, at the same time they offer commercial actors a way into the classroom and give them a foothold in school. The research engages Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari’s concept of assemblage to analyse the social and political connections of technology. Mobile phones are approached as part of a wider context. The research takes advantage of the concepts of platform capitalism and digital labour. Contemporary mobile devices are used mainly through platforms owned by global corporations such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft or Apple. Platforms connect individual user activity onto a database controlled by the platform owner. As data is today a pivotal economic factor, enterprises seek to collect as much data as possible. Schools are some of the most interesting sites for data extraction for technology companies. This is why we are seeing so many actively seeking to enter school spaces in which the presence of commercial actors has so far been tightly controlled. The research asks: are large technology companies quietly gaining a foothold in school spaces through mobile phones without a political debate on the issue
Keywords: school, technology, phones, mobile devices, capitalism, as- semblage, platform capitalism, digitalisation
The authors of the paper Exploring visual communication and competencies through interaction with images in social media are Matilda Ståhl (Åbo Akademi University) and Hannah Kaihovirta (University of Helsinki). The paper is part of our Special Issue on Smartphones in classrooms and you will find more information about the paper here.
The students of today are surrounded by visual information, online as well as offline. This study examines visual communication and active competencies when interacting with longer-lasting images in social media. Focusing on one focus student in upper secondary school in Finland, the ethnographic data consist of 41 images that the focus student interacted with, by liking or sharing, on Tumblr and Instagramduring school time. The data are collected during 3–5 consecutive days once a year during the focus students three years in upper secondary school. Three interviews function as secondary data.
Drawing on visual ethnography and different levels of messages in visual material, the analysis shows that the focus student interacts with images in a way that communicates the kind of persona the focus student wishes to convey in social media. Thus, the findings indicate that four competencies are active while interacting with images in social media: visual competency; technical competency; knowledge of social norms; and knowledge of self. Therefore, we claim that there are active competencies when interacting with images on social media and that this should be considered in the educational discourse on youth as media users.
Figure 1. Image liked on Instagram, 2015
The author of the paper Digitally mediated interaction as a resource for co-constructing multilingual identities in classrooms is Fredrik Rusk from Nord University. The paper is part of our Special Issue on Smartphones in classrooms and you will find more information about the paper here.
The development of smartphones and mobile Internet have advanced tremendously since 2000 and have made the access to communication increasingly available in diverse settings, including classrooms. Today, smartphones are used in classrooms as part of both on- and off-task activities. For multilingual participants, this communication involves several languages. Previous research shows that classrooms are often oriented to and jointly constructed as monolingual settings in which participants orient to the language of instruction. In the research reported here, I focus on the ways that multilingual participants orient to and use mobile digital technology to co-construct multilingual identities in these classrooms, that is, how participants can, in-and-through the use of mobile communication, actively construct multilingual identities and bring them into the classroom. However, the mobile interactions also influence and contribute to classroom interactions and vice versa. Nevertheless, the digitally-local multilingual identity that is co-constructed and expressed in mobile interactions appears not to be problematized in the same manner as explicitly multilingual turns in the non-digital classroom may be oriented to as interactionally problematic. The verbal, non-digital, classroom becomes—in the interactional spaces afforded by the mobile communication—multilingual, as the participants co-construct multilingual identities in-and-through their mediated interactions.
The authors of the paper ‘Being stuck’. Analyzing text-planning activities in digitally rich upper secondary school classrooms are Riitta Juvonen (University of Helsinki), Marie Tanner (Karlstad University), Christina Olin-Scheller (Karlstad University), Liisa Tainio (University of Helsinki) and Anna Slotte (University of Helsinki). The paper is part of our Special Issue on Smartphones in classrooms and you will find more information about the paper here.
The aim of this article is to develop an understanding of how students use different interactional resources to manage problems that arise in their text-planning processes in digitally rich environments in Finnish and Swedish upper secondary schools. We explore both individual and collective teacher-initiated writing tasks in different subjects and during moments when text-planning seems to ‘get stuck’. Theoretically, we draw on a socio-cultural understanding of the text-planning process, and use multimodal conversation analysis to examine how students display ‘being stuck’ during their text-planning through their embodied and verbal performances, what role smartphones and laptops play in their process of becoming ‘stuck’ and ‘unstuck’, and how different interactional resources are coordinated during the students’ text-planning processes. The data consist of video-recorded face-to-face interaction, students’ activities on computers and/or with a pen and paper as well as simultaneous recordings of the focus students’ smartphone screens. The results demonstrate that students often resort to smartphones as resources to display, negotiate and transform problems in their text-planning process. Our results challenge common claims within the contemporary debate both in relation to digital devices as the solution to pedagogical challenges and in relation to the debate on smartphones as devices that disrupt work.
The authors of the paper Digital labour in school: Smartphones and their consequences in classrooms are Antti Paakkari (University of Helsinki), Pauliina Rautio (University of Oulu) and Verneri Valasmo (Åbo Akademi University). The paper is part of our Special Issue on Smartphones in classrooms and you will find more information about the paper here.
This paper reflects on the forms of digital labour present in upper secondary school students’ smartphone use during the school day. Digital labour is understood as value-producing online activity, for example the labour of producing content for social media platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. Through analysis of students’ phone use in classroom we approach aspects of digital labour intertwining with school. In the paper, theoretical perspectives on digital labour are connected with ethnographic data on student phone use. Our findings suggest that digital labour has become a permanent part of school life. Two main consequences are identified. Firstly, for the students the school is no longer a place where work does not take place, as digital labour intertwines with the school day. Secondly, technologies introduce new corporate actors into the classroom space that schools have to negotiate with.
We are happy to announce that the first papers of our Special Issue Smartphones in classrooms are now being published!
The Special Issue is published in Learning, Culture and Social Interaction and is edited by Christina Olin-Scheller (Karlstad University), Fritjof Sahlström (Åbo Akademi University) and Marie Tanner (Karlstad University). You will find the link to the Special Issue here and links to specific papers in later posts.
The Textmöten project group is currently working on a proposal for a special issue together with our colleagues Christina Olin-Scheller and Marie Tanner from Uppkopplade klassrum in Karlstad, and Oystein Gilje and Fredrik Rusk from Norway. The papers for this special issue proposal were presented during NERA in Copenhagen earlier this year and now almost all of us had the opportunity to meet in Björköby, Korsholm, Finland for a writing camp!
During this camp we stayed at Kvarkens värdshus, far away from the civilization but with the beautiful Kvarken World Heritage Site around the corner. For those of us who were the only author present for our paper, this camp made it possible for us to focus on writing our papers with an informed colleague to consult only a few steps away! And those who us who were writing together had the time to discuss and plan their paper in a way that is tricky when you are living in different countries.
Apart from working, we also found the time to eat together, go for walks, freshen up in the sauna and enjoy freshly baked buns! After two intense yet very rewarding days together, all of us left feeling a little tired but with a smile on our face.
Doctoral student, Textmöten