Using Actor Network Theory (ANT) as a framework for exploring the ‘messiness’ of technology-mediated innovation (Nimmo 2011), the study assumes that knowledge is enacted into being by complex assemblages of human and non-human actors (Fenwick & Edwards 2013). Further, following the work of Ann-Marie Mol (2002), it assumes that different material enactments, or practices, produce different realities. These multiple realities are coordinated into what Law (2004) calls a ‘virtual singularity’. Put simply, are we always talking about doing the same thing when we talk about OER, and can we define what we do in a policy that describes an intended practice?
Mol’s approach to analysing multiple realities is a form of ethnography called ‘praxiography’, or the study of practices. Bueger (2013) describes the praxiographic strategy of ‘following objects’ – reconstructing “the activities that were required to bring it about by following the object backwards in time, visiting the sites of its manufacture and speaking to the actors whose relations were required” (p 397). This study follows the various documents that have been produced and published as the University thinks about, and develops, an institutional OER policy. Network diagrams were produced to indicate the associations between documents and people and five of the individuals involved in the development of these documents were identified and interviewed. Interviews and documents were analysed to gain insight into the practices that were being described.
The purpose of the study is to gain an understanding of the complex ways in which policy might influence practice. Mather (2014) notes, “perhaps the central problem between praxiography and policy is that policy has difficulty dealing with things that are multiple. Policy requires a singular and external reality upon which humans can act and intervene. Praxiography, in contrast, troubles this taken for granted relationship between the world out there and how we might change it, and instead points to how our performances interfere with the singular worlds upon which policy purports to act” (p 105).
Bueger, C. (2013). Pathways to practice: praxiography and international politics. European Political Science Review, 6(3), 383-406.
Law, J. (2004). After method: mess in social science research. London: Routledge.
Mather (2014), Avian influenza multiple: enacting realities and dealing with policies in South Africa’s farmed ostrich sector. Journal of Rural Studies. 33, 99-106
Mol, A. (2002). The body multiple: ontology in medical practice. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.
Nimmo, R. (2011). Actor-network theory and methodology: social research in a more-than-human world. Methodological Innovations Online, 6(3), 108-119.