La Trobe

File(s) stored somewhere else

Please note: Linked content is NOT stored on La Trobe and we can't guarantee its availability, quality, security or accept any liability.

Reassembling practice: a relational approach to online learning in higher education

posted on 11.11.2021, 03:52 authored by John HannonJohn Hannon
This thesis sets out to investigate the transformative effects of networked technologies on work and sociality through an enquiry into the practice of online learning in higher education. It develops and documents a critical approach to the deployment of technologies in practice. The research enquiry of the thesis locates online learning within the context of technological change in the “network society” (Castells, 1996), and challenges many existing arrangements under which technologies are implemented in educational institutions. The thesis proposes a relational approach, with its origins in actor-network theory (Latour, 1987; Law, 2000), in which people, objects and technologies are viewed as having significance not in themselves, but in their social and material relations. In this investigation, I focus on practice in terms of material effects of activities organised around a set of shared understandings and discourses. Practice, therefore, is analysed as action-oriented and not as intentional and human-centred. For evidence, the thesis draws on the experience of practitioners, and also addresses practitioners as its audience. Its goal is formative (Scriven, 1991): to improve and recover practice in the complex field of online learning. I attempt to meet this goal through two approaches: an ethnomethodological study of how a sample of practitioners across three universities negotiate their practice, and through a relational analysis of practice contexts in the form of case studies. The approach I develop for this enquiry takes as its object of study the sociotechnical assemblages of learning, and applies the relational principle of heterogeneity to all constituent elements – human, technological, material and discursive – tracing their associations in the expression of agency. The thesis argues that a relational analysis can act as an intervention, an opening of blackboxes, a reassembling of how agency is delegated, ordered and claimed through its institutional actors: people, discourses, and technologies.


Center or Department


Thesis type

Ph. D.

Awarding institution

La Trobe University

Year Awarded


Rights Statement

This thesis contains third party copyright material which has been reproduced here with permission. Any further use requires permission of the copyright owner. The thesis author retains all proprietary rights (such as copyright and patent rights) over all other content of this thesis, and has granted La Trobe University permission to reproduce and communicate this version of the thesis. The author has declared that any third party copyright material contained within the thesis made available here is reproduced and communicated with permission. If you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact us with the details.

Usage metrics