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Jonas Andreasen Lysgaard

Mobility narratives that move me: fiction & evidence in ESE research

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A strong tradition of thought in philosophy and politics of education is that education needs to take into account past and present experiences of their students in order to create as meaningful learning conditions as possible. At present, education operates in a “post-truth” and ”post-normal” space where many, if not all, remaining eco-social challenges (see United Nations Sustainable Development Goals) are “wicked” (Pryshlakivsky & Searcy 2013), i.e. characterized by fragmentary and uncertain knowledge not lending themselves to consensual measurement, prediction and control according to established standards of disciplinary scientific expertise and traditional decision-making routines (Latour 2004). Hence, there is a strong demand from coming future generations to learn how to deal with wicked problems and govern temporary yet effective solutions to these problems. In fact, for many, learning how to proactively adapt to such insecurities is a question of survival. In this wicked space, many of the world´s young draw their experiences from fiction (poetry, face book, internet porn, prose, music, songs, storytelling, nursery rhymes, art, movies, graffiti, crafts, motorcycling, etc.). Popularly, fiction is often separated from the Real. In fact, according to traditions such as outdoor education and eco-criticism, some real (i.e. non-fictive) experiences are even more Real (i.e. authentic) than others. Accordingly, experiencing a dialogue with a cartoon character is less Real than experiencing human-to-human dialogue and experiencing human-to-human dialogue in man-made environments such as in a bar in the city is considered less Real than experiencing human-to-human dialogue in the “wild”. In this paper, we argue that such demarcations between fiction and the Real and between Real and the more Real is part of a destructive narrative that does not enable, and at worst hinders, the kind of moral and political transgressive learning that wicked situations require. Hence, if education does not employ a new narrative of the relationship between fiction and the Real we risk missing out on what influences young people, that stuff that makes their world meaningful and constitutes the hotbed of the emergence of new and unorthodox knowledge, skills and values needed to navigate the future. We will argue in line with resent ESE-research (see Hansson 2014), and aim to show, that it is paramount that education takes student’s experiences of/in fiction serious. Moreover, the paper argues against an a priori hierarchical order between different forms and kinds of experiences as relevant for learning. The paper embraces a scholarly experience of the paradox that resides in that popular fiction narratives such as those accounted for above are regarded to be less valid compared to so called evidence based narratives provided by research, while at the same time fictive narratives often are regarded as the faculty that can inform us about the deep existential truths of what it means to be human. The paper provides personal anecdotal, i.e. fictive, evidence for the claim that it is impossible and even undesirable to draw an impenetrable line between the factious, or, Real, and the fictive. This evidence is in itself a curdled, vibrant, emergent and mutative confusion of professional and private experiences of being and acting as ESE-scholars. Method Based on this evidence the paper proves that Dewey’s concept of “environing” as experiential meaning making is indeed not a process of correspondence between Reality (empirical "facts") and statements (fiction, i.e. conclusions, interpretations) but rather a process of earnest playing in the field of experience as such. Such playing might, according to Dewey involve “persons”, "some topic or event”, “toys”, a “book” with “imaginary regions”, “materials of an experiment”, or the “castle in the air” a person builds. In short meaning making is a mobile, curdled and mutative process involving “whatever conditions interact with personal needs, desires, purposes, and capacities to create the experience which is had” (Dewey 1938: 43-44). As we set this paper in a sustainable development context, we also wish to highlight technology experiences. Hence the paper draws also on the concept of “technogenic identification processes” (Kronlid 2008), which implies experiencing being impure moral agents and that mobility machines such as motorcycles (and their narratives) have entered, or rather have always resided in, existential space. In fact it is the “respite from the material and its needs”, in, in lack for better words, the “space" between “mind and nature, that technology is born” (Götz 2001:25), and might we add is also constituted, re-materialised, and sustained. In that sense is technology as merely, “one aspect of human sociality” (Ingold 2002: 314) already part of our “curdled selves” (Cuomo 1998), hence of making meaning of the world. In meshing Dewey's “environing” and “technogenic identification processes” with Harman's (2013) Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO) we argue that it is possible to move beyond the classic demarcation between fact and fiction. By opposing the classic anthropocentric ontological split between human (discourse) and object, fiction and Reality, OOO opens up for a new understanding of the role of narratives as independent objects on the same scale as grains of sand, universities, axolotls and planets. In short, this theoretical meshing of ideas illustrates how fiction and the Real inhabits the same space, and to revisit the old question of refraining from privileging human discourse above other “stuff” be that of non-human origin such as the wild, or, of human origin, such as the motorcycle. Expected Outcomes The paper uses a stage poem, America, an experiential narrative of riding a Triumph Bonneville America motorcycle through the Swedish summer landscape as the peg around which we construct our argument. We will show how this stage poetry narrative helps us to address questions such as the meaning and value of speed, acceleration, the rhythm of technogenic moving and mooring, which can be translated into an understanding of our own movements and moorings through life and how we engage with new things, such as mediating new information through a certain pace, rhythm, movement, acceleration, slowing down. This fictive/Real example of a narrative object illustrates that regardless of the metaphysical status of what/who we encounter in education and throughout life, if this experience becomes meaningful to us, we are navigating around them, towards them, and enmesh with them in the same principle ways; “accordingly, experiences of all kinds are not fixed, but mobile” (Hansson 2014, 88).
Original languageEnglish
Publication year2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventECER - UCC, Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: 22 Aug 201725 Aug 2017



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