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For full information about the background and context for this this series on Landscapes of Learning for Unknown Futures: Prospects for Space in Higher Education please click here.

A recording of this session can be accessed by clicking here. Passcode: 90H=7iq#


It has never been more important to have a critical understanding of the complex association(s) between digital technologies and spaces in and around higher education (HE). Change and emerging innovation in educational technology is shifting expectations, practices, and discourse around how learning is situated in space and time, extending the locus of student learning experiences both across and beyond the physical campus. The purpose of this three-part Symposia Series is to provoke a critical examination of the changing relationship(s) between digital technologies and learning space, and an exploration of the possibilities for new configurations of learning activities and interactions. The intention is to move beyond totalising critiques of HE learning spaces, and instead consider places for learning according to the level of complexity and depth that they exhibit and the neoteric topologies of connection, social meaning, and practice that they promote. In a networked world, the links between cooperative action and spatial proximity have been broken. The concept of learning landscape is offered as a way of exploring the range of learning spaces that are needed to better align with changing patterns of learning and increasing proliferation of digital technologies. We are yet to properly conceptualise this emerging, pluralised, learning landscape in terms of the relationship between pedagogy, technology, and nascent configurations of learning spaces and environments.

In response, this Symposia Series brings together and engages key stakeholders in a timely discussion and debate to support new thinking in decision-making, policy, and practice as we consider the promise of future landscapes of learning in HE through the prism of three thematic lenses: networks, assemblages, and flexibilities. Each of these lenses represents the conceptual focus for a Symposium with the aim of providing designated space and scope for interrogating a range of theoretical and applied interpretations and perspectives, and generating collaborative, reflexive discussions, and debate.

Symposium 1: Networks

In this first Symposium, we chart a focus shift in HE, recognising that the contemporary learning landscape needs to be considered less in terms of singular learning spaces and more in terms of the ways in which spaces are becoming more connective, permeable, networked, and interwoven (physically and digitally), providing inclusive and adaptive environments in which learning can take place.


Each session will feature a keynote address, paper presentations, and a panel discussion. The format is an experimental hybrid approach, hosted face-to-face at SRHE’s premises in London but with key elements available to remote participants either synchronously or asynchronously:

  • Face-to-face participants will engage live and synchronously with each element, have opportunities for networking with presenters and fellow attendees, and be hosted for lunch by SRHE.
  • Remote participants will be able to engage with the keynote address via live stream (and will be prioritised in Q&A), will receive recordings of each paper presentation, and receive a written digest of the panel discussion following the event.

Both face-to-face and remote participants are invited to contribute prompt questions for our panellists via the event Padlet (please check your event booking confirmation for the link).

Please note that this event is free for SRHE members whether attending in-person or remotely. In-person spaces are limited - please let us know if you cannot attend. 


11:00 – 11:15

Welcome & introductions

11:15 – 12:15


Professor Lesley Gourlay (University College London)

Network, meshwork, twine: imaginaries of the digital and what they do

Including Q&A from remote participants

12:15  – 12:20  Comfort break

12:20 – 13:35

3 x 20-minute lead presentations:

Mattering, meaning making and motivation: Building trust and respect through multimodal social learning communities

Nurturing meaningful connection in a new era of learning

Physical learning spaces and networked landscapes of learning: Prismatic mediations

There will be 5 mins for Q&A after each presentation

13:35 – 14:15  

Lunch break

14:15 – 15:10  

Panel discussion (keynote and lead presenters)

15:10 – 15:30

Closing comments & event close


Presentation abstracts & speaker information

Network, meshwork, twine: imaginaries of the digital and what they do

Professor Lesley Gourlay (University College London)

The notion of ‘network’ is commonly used in relation to digital technologies, with the concept of the ‘postdigital’ also gaining recent currency. Negroponte (1998) posits the postdigital on the notion of inseparability of the digital and analogue. In this imaginary, the digital is presented as a fully permeating entity, which is regarded as ubiquitous, and occluded from direct view; conjured as a kind of haunting. In this talk I will critique this imaginary as containing inherent tensions and contradictions, and will also interrogate the metaphor of the network, contrasting it with Tim Ingold’s (2011) meshwork and knots, before considering the etymology of the term intertwine. I will argue that these imaginaries fail to adequately capture the relationship between the digital and nondigital in terms of particular aspects of being in the university: specifically, ephemerality, seclusion and copresence. The seminar will conclude with a discussion of implications for research and practice.

Mattering, meaning making and motivation: Building trust and respect through multimodal social learning communities.

Sue Beckingham (Sheffield Hallam University)

Making connections, interacting, and learning to collaborate with peers are vital components of the student experience. This may start in person but there are now many more ways that extend both informal and formal learning through the development of multimodal social learning communities. Students are empowered to co-create their own virtual learning places using social media providing valued space to develop a more personalised and inclusive learning relationship; and the choice to interact when and where they choose. Scaffolded by tutors, this can provide support to develop interpersonal communication and cooperation. This presentation will share suggestions on how social media can support mattering where students build trust and feel significant; steps to ensure they understand what is expected of them in these spaces; and shared experiences where students have learned to work cooperatively, motivating them to achieve the goals they have planned.

 Nurturing meaningful connection in a new era of learning

Dr Julianne K. Viola (Imperial College London)

As physical and digital learning spaces are becoming mixed, there is an urgent need to better understand the spaces that nurture students’ sense of belonging. Drawing on data collected since 2019 from two ongoing longitudinal, mixed-methods studies with over 700 Imperial College London students, this talk will provide a unique window of understanding into how the abrupt transition to online interactions in 2020, and subsequent transition to hybrid learning, impacted students’ sense of connection to their peers, teaching staff, and the university itself. How can meaningful connection be established and nurtured in the context of hybrid learning? What communities and spaces are important for student belonging in this new era of learning?

Physical learning spaces and networked landscapes of learning: Prismatic mediations

Dr. Brett Bligh (Lancaster University)

In this talk I will problematise how physical learning spaces mediate networked landscapes of learning. I will proceed by suggesting that how physical learning spaces ‘work’ arises from their position within the activities constituting those wider landscapes—activities that each entwine a range of environments (physical, virtual, institutional, extra-institutional), motivated people, social structures, and resources, and within which physical learning spaces are appropriated and used with varying degrees of success. Essentially, I argue that physical spaces exhibit a multiple mediation, which we can usefully distinguish prismatically for analytical purposes. For example, spaces can be valuable where they are transparent to human attention, invite some actions while constraining others, stimulate sensory and affective reactions, invoke cultural stereotypes and expectations, support the construction and display of learners’ working, and accommodate the rhythms of particular learning communities or groups. Appreciating these distinctions allow us to analyse and debate the place of physical learning spaces for networked landscapes of learning in dynamic rather than deterministic ways.


A recording of this session can be accessed by clicking here. Passcode: 90H=7iq#

April 26th, 2023 from 11:00 AM to  3:30 PM
Online OR Society House, N1 9RL
United Kingdom
Event Fee(s)
Online participants £0.00
Non-member in person £75.00
Member in person £0.00
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