Literature Discussions As Mangles Of Practice .

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ISSN: 2325-3290 (online)Literature Discussions as Mangles of Practice:Sociological Theories of Emergence and/in DialogicLearning EventsGeorge KamberelisWilliam McGinleyColorado State UniversityUniversity of ColoradoAlyson WelkerColorado State UniversityAbstractIn this report, we argue that some of the most productive and edifying kinds of literature discussions among certainages/grade levels may be best understood as “mangles of practice” (Pickering, 1995). Mangles of practice involvethe coalescence of planned and contingent forces, and they produce emergent or self-organizing transformations ofongoing social activities, as well as unpredictable outcomes or products. Indeed, the discussions we studied hadthese characteristics. They often involved both planned and contingent actions and reactions by individual, social,cultural, and material agents and agencies. As such, they were emergent phenomena about which we could seldompredict what precise collections, collisions, and collusions of actions and reactions would occur within them or whatthe effects of these collections, collisions, and collusions would be. In spite of (or more likely because of) theirunpredictability, these discussions were extremely dynamic knowledge-producing activities. Given this social fact, wethink our findings contribute significantly to understanding the lineaments and potentials of dialogic pedagogy, whichdeepens students’ learning and development. More specifically, when teachers successfully prompt and engagestudents in more robustly dialogic talk that promotes text-to-life connections, life-to text connections, linkages to nonschool knowledge (like that of popular culture), etc., then students often reap a wide variety of benefits with respect totheir abilities to engage in genuine inquiry, to reason and argue for particular interpretations, to evaluate complexhuman actions and decisions, and to develop principled social, cultural, and moral equipment for living their ownlives.George Kamberelis is professor and director of the School of Education at Colorado StateUniversity. He received a Ph.D. in Education and Psychology and an M.S. in Psychology from theUniversity of Michigan, an M.A. in Religious Studies from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. inDialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal http://dpj.pitt.eduDOI: 10.5195/dpj.2015.69 Vol. 3 (2015)A98

Literature Discussions as Mangles of PracticeGeorge Kamberelis, William McGinley, & Alyson WelkerPhilosophy and Religion from Bates College. Professor Kamberelis’ research is resolutelyinterdisciplinary, integrating intellectual perspectives from anthropology, psychology,linguistics,sociology, cultural studies, and literary studies. His work also embodies a deep commitment to theory(especially critical social theory). Over the years Professor Kamberelis has conducted research andtaught courses on critical social theory, interpretive research methods, theoretical foundations of readingand writing, literacy and society, classroom discourse, and media literacy.William McGinley is a professor of Literacy Studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He received aPh.D. in Literacy Education from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, an M.A. in EnglishEducation from Idaho State University, and a B.A. in English from St. Joseph’s College. ProfessorMcGinley’s research addresses various issues related to learning and teaching literacy land literature. Hehas examined how theories of emotion and sentimentality in democratic politics can inform literaryunderstanding. He has investigated how teachers-in-preparation draw upon improvisational narrativemodels to organize and understand their initial teaching experiences. And he has conducted research onhow middle school students deploy the creative power of writing and visual art to envision a sense ofshared community designed to inspire others to act on challenges their communities face.Alyson Welker is an instructor in the English Department and a doctoral student in the School ofEducation at Colorado State University. She received an M.A. in Rhetoric and a B.A. in English from theUniversity of Colorado Denver. Ms. Welker’s central research interests focus on enhancing learningprocesses across disciplines and learning-teaching environments. She has conducted research on theeffects of deploying innovative technologies in both online and on-campus courses. Inspired by narrativetheories and critical social theories, Ms. Welker is currently investigating multimodal literacy practicesdesigned to promote civic engagement and enact social change. IntroductionThe study from which this report was generated was guided by the following research questions:What human and non-human agents are involved in student-led, student-generated discussions aboutliterature? What are the nature and effects of inquiry-based, student-led, student-generated literaturediscussions? What can teachers learn from these discussions about how they might facilitate classroomtalk and social interaction in ways that promote deeper forms of inquiry, more responsive or dialogic formsof classroom talk, and more genuinely co-constructed forms of knowledge about literature and its relationto life?By student-led, student-generated discourse in inquiry-based language arts activities, we mean toinclude small group discussion, collaborative work, responsive writing, and all manner of collaborativeinterpretative activity. By genuinely, co-constructed forms and knowledge, we mean to index ways ofimagining self, others, and world that become valuable democratic resources that, as Nussbaum (1995)has explained, cultivate our poetic, metaphoric, and imaginative sensibilities, thus opening up ways ofseeing beyond the “facts” and into the minds and hearts of others as they negotiate the exigencies of theirlives and engage in forms of social interaction that lead toward increased self awareness, thedevelopment of more sophisticated interpretive practices, greater understanding of the lived experiencesDialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal http://dpj.pitt.eduDOI: 10.5195/dpj.2015.69 Vol. 3 (2015)A99

Literature Discussions as Mangles of PracticeGeorge Kamberelis, William McGinley, & Alyson Welkerof others, and more robust participation in community-based projects, initiatives, or movements (Ganz,2010; Nikitina, 2009).To frame the findings from our study, we drew upon Pickering’s (1995) “mangles of practice”construct or metaphor. Mangles of practice involve both planned and contingent actions and reactionsbyindividual, social, cultural, and material agents and agencies. As such, they are emergentphenomena about which one can seldom (if ever) predict what precise collections/collisions/collusions ofactionsand reactions would occur within themor what the effects of thesecollections/collisions/collusions might be. Indeed, this characterization of activity mapped beautifullyonto what we saw when we watched the videotapes of the student-led, student-generated discourseabout literature. Besides being useful in characterizing the nature and effects of the activity we studied,the mangles of practice construct is also useful for re-imagining what happens (or could happen)when students engage in discussions about books they read in their English Language Arts (ELA)classrooms. In turn, these insights could help ELA teachers imagine and facilitate forms of dialoguesabout literature that Nystrand (1997) and others have argued should but seldom occur in ELAclassrooms.Importantly, especially for the audience of Dialogic Pedagogy, Pickering’s mangle practicemetaphor can be viewed as a practical operationalization of Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism. Drawing fromBakhtin (1981), we can imagine discourse on a continuum from more recitative to more carnivalesque.More recitative forms are like the traditional Initiation-Response-Evaluation (I-R-E) genre in which an ELAteacher asks a text-based question, a student answers the question, and the teacher ultimately evaluatesthis answer (e.g., Cazden, 1988). Discourse at this end of the continuum limits possibilities for the coconstruction of knowledge, deeper modes of inquiry, and students’ ideas about what it means to read andrespond to literature. More carnivalesque forms of classroom discourse have much fewer rules orconventions about purposes for reading and responding to literature, the meaning potentials of literarytexts, who may initiate discussions, who may ask and answer questions, who may evaluate responses,and how text-based discussions must unfold, etc. Thus, these forms of discourse expand the meaningpotentials of literary texts, increase possibilities for inquiry-based teaching and learning, and cultivate theco-construction of knowledge about literature and literary interpretation.The remainder of the report is organized in the following way: First, we elaborate on ourconceptual framework by unpacking key constructs and arguments central to the mangles of practicemetaphor and other ways sociologists have theorized emergence, especially ones that have focused oncommunication practices and activities. Next, because the data analyzed were drawn fromacollaborative action research project, we outline the research methods of the study (i.e. the context andparticipants, the classroom activities involved, the data collected, and our data analysis strategies). Wethen present key findings derived from analyses of several segments of interaction from our data thatillustrate how interactional activity produced text genres, activity genres, and other relevant structures,meanings, and subject positions in contingent but productive ways. Importantly, we contextualize thesediscourse analyses of interactional segments with relevant contextual information, insisting all along thatcontext itself is a dynamic, social fact that is produced over time just like our focal objects. Finally, weoffer some conclusions drawn from this work and suggest some implications for research and pedagogy.Conceptual FrameworkAlthough theories of emergence or dialogism or improvisation are not very commonly used toframe psychological or educational research, they have been developed and used within sociology andDialogic Pedagogy: An International Online Journal http://dpj.pitt.eduDOI: 10.5195/dpj.2015.69 Vol. 3 (2015)A100

Literature Discussions as Mangles of PracticeGeorge Kamberelis, William McGinley, & Alyson Welkercommunication studies for many years to understand and explain phenomena as diverse as micro- andmacro- social structure, computer mediated communication, conversation, oral narrative production,laboratory work, and children’ pretend play (Giddens, 1984; Latour & Woolgar, 1984; Pickering, 1995;Sawyer, 1997). Although most theories of emergence could be used to frame this work, we foundAndrew Pickering’s ideas about what he calls “mangles of practice” to be particularly useful because of itsfocus on moment-to-moment activity and the specifics of social interaction. Mangles of practice involvethe coalescence of planned and contingent forces, and they produce emergent or self-organizingtransformations of ongoing social activities and the products (including knowledge products) of theseactivities. This construct was the outcome of Pickering’s efforts to explain social practice in real time.Pickering insisted that representational idioms are synchronic and, in the end, fail to explain dynamic,ongoing processes. Unlike representational idioms, performative idioms—ones based on descriptionsand explanations of actual social practice in real time—more accurately capture the nature and functionsof social activity and have considerably more explanatory power.To warrant these claims, Pickering offered painstakingly detailed accounts of several “big” eventsin the history of science, mathematics, and technology. For example, he chronicled Donald Glaser’sattempts to build a bubble chamber and eventually a quenched xenon chamber to study the “strangeparticles” that were noticed in cosmic ray experiments using cloud chambers during the 1950s andbedeviled physicists ever since that time. Pickering also chronicled Giacomo Morpurgo’s efforts to findparticles (eventually called quarks) that could explain third integral electric charges (e/3 or 2e/3). In theseand other examples, Pickering argued quite convincingly that scientific processes and products emerge inthe complex, real-time interactions among human, material, and social factors. In his analysis of Glaser’swork for example, he showed how the reconfiguration of different material set-ups of bubble chambersaffected how strange particles were conceptualized, how experimental goals were developed andachieved or abandoned, how Glaser interacted with his laboratory partners, and even how social lifeamong the larger particle physics community was organized and reorganized over time and as a functionof many unforeseen events and forces.Pickering’s theory of emergence pivots on two key ideas: (a) re-imagining agency and (b) takingthe temporal flow of activity very seriously. Unlike most theories of agency based in Enlightenmentconceptual frameworks, Pickering views agency as much more complex involving human, material,conceptual, and disciplinary agents. Frustrated with the complete absence of time as a constitutive forcewithin the representational idiom, and because emergence is predicated on the flow of time, Pickeringplaces time at the very center of this theory of the mangle of practice. With its resolutely diachronic focus,all forms of agency, all activity, and all products of activity are seen as emerging in time. Examples thatsupport this position abound with respect to theories (e.g., Newtonian physics), the organization ofdisciplines (e.g., DSM I, II, III, IV, V, VI), the organization of institutions like school (e.g., progressivism,traditionalism, No Child Left Behind), and so on. Time really matters! Within a perfor

Pickering’s theory of emergence pivots on two key ideas: (a) re-imagining agency and (b) taking the temporal flow of activity very seriously. Unlike most theories of agency based in Enlightenment conceptual frameworks, Pickering views agency as much more complex involving human, material,

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