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Finding a Line: Affective atmospheres in skateboard sessions

1.3 Learning, knowledge and agency
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
9:57 AM, Friday 1 Sep 2017 (30 minutes)
Learning scientists exploring the relationship between interest and learning have developed nuanced accounts of interest-based participation. Azevedo (2011, 2013) has advanced lines of practice theory, arguing that interest emerges through the entanglement of preferences and conditions of practice. Central to this theory is the importance of multiple sites/communities of practice, especially in terms of how learners engage in interest-driven, technical disciplines. Still, there is continued need to understand how learners “forge connections among such places” (Azevedo, 2013, p. 503). This emphasis on forging connections signifies a shift from tracing locations of learning and toward pathways that lead to those sites. Adopting a mobilities perspective, Engeström has explored the importance of the “lines” (Ingold, 2007) that create connections between sites. These lines, he writes, foster “swarm-like patterns of mobility” that can “pop up in unexpected locations at unexpected times and expand very rapidly. They also seem to be extinguished from time to time, yet they reappear and flare up again” (p. 2009). These wildfire activities provide transformative learning opportunities that are “built into the very operating principles and everyday social textures of these activities” (p. 5). 

This paper questions the relationships between interest, mobility, and (connections among) places of learning. Drawing on a twelve-week study of youth skateboarders and the interest-driven practices in which they engage, this paper offers affective atmospheres (Anderson, 2009) as one means to understand how learners forge connections among sites. Affective atmospheres, Anderson (2009) writes, have a “spatial form--diffusion within a sphere.” They are generated by bodies – of multiple types – affecting one another as some form of ‘envelopment’ is produced” (p. 80). Affective atmospheres serve as one way forward in coming to understand--and feel--how learners “fuse together” sites for learning. How do learners become enveloped in places of learning? And how do those spaces diffuse and re-form elsewhere? Data include approximately forty hours of videotaped activity of skateboarders and the photographers/videographers with which they partner at a skate park/camp in the northeastern United States. Inspired by innovations in mobile methods, especially its focus on corporeal movement of bodies, I sought to move with skaters, especially as they generated “lines” for themselves, or series of individual tricks across the landscape. Analytically, I attuned myself the production of a skate “session” or the coming together of numerous skaters to observe and cheer on others, as well as to test out their own tricks or lines. 
Penn State University
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