The gaze of practical intent : An ethnographic exploration of socio-communicative distortions within hobbyists' informal learning spaces

McElroy, Cheryl and Oztok, Murat (2021) The gaze of practical intent : An ethnographic exploration of socio-communicative distortions within hobbyists' informal learning spaces. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Background : The idea of non-institutionalised learning is an appealing one, particularly when understood within a context of educational freedoms produced through acts of self-realisation and participatory engagement. Thus, hobbyists, are a type of informal learner who enjoy voluntary learning across a wide range of social spaces in communication with peers and career professionals. Likewise, communication, explained as the transference of messages, can also be understood as the basis for which all representations of social life - including learning - are given meaning. Whilst hobby-focused literature exists, the interplay between communicative acts and hobbyists’ learning is less understood. Therefore, the findings aim to review the extent to which informal learning might be positioned as emancipatory, considering it has no formal policy governance beyond the settings in which it unfolds. Methodology : This thesis comprises a multi-sited ethnographic study, that through the lens of critical theory, will explore the extent that hobbyists understand the presence and effect of communicative distortions. Observations produced over an 11-month engagement with aquatic enthusiasts, along with in-depth semi-structured interviews, are used to examine the characteristics and effects of the settings in which hobbyists are held to learn. Findings : Participants described the link between the online and offline space through their understanding of the ways in which various permutations of space influenced their learning. Participants also demonstrated awareness of the presence and effects of distortive communicative acts, with disruptions found online perceived to be significant and far-reaching compared to offline spaces. Beliefs, identity, and individual differences also served to produce communicative distortions. Furthermore, hobbyists explained their approaches for overcoming these effects and whilst both the origin and nature of distortions can explain persistent issues within both the aquatic hobby and informal learning, such strategies might also form a starting point for bridging troublesome communicative divides.

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Thesis (PhD)
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25 Feb 2021 11:28
Last Modified:
05 Jun 2024 23:44