This article will propose a more authentic learning environment for students of the social sciences, one that is not only learner-centred but community-centred. Drawing on the principles of social pedagogy, cultural-based learning, place-based learning and co-production, this article advocates engaging community groups as co-producers in the generation of knowledge, enhancing learning within – and beyond – the university. By not using the community simply as a source of research data or placement opportunities, the curriculum is more likely to produce reflexive graduates better equipped to engage with complex global problems, enhancing their global citizenship and that of the wider community.
Developing community-facing learning in the social sciences
Jessica Belue Buckley and Søren S. E. Bengtsen
Janet Haddock-Fraser, Peter Rands and Stephen Scoffham (2018), Leadership for Sustainability in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury, 221pp., ISBN: 978-1-350-00612-6
Sónia Cardoso, Orlanda Tavares, Cristina Sin and Teresa Carvalho (eds) (2020), Structural and Institutional Transformations in Doctoral Education: Social, Political and Student Expectations. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 410pp., ISBN: 978-3-030-38045-8
Creating multi-sensory learning environments
Sabine Krajewski and Matthew Khoury
In this article, we argue that physical rooms cannot be replaced by virtual space without literally losing the student’s body and that experimenting with rooms and active learning is imperative for improving and advancing students’ learning. Our case study offers insight into a ‘soft room experiment’ without hard furniture or audio-visual equipment at one Australian university and makes recommendations that will be useful in many other educational environments. Our qualitative research project is based on feedback from students and staff as well as on class observation. Findings show that learning spaces need to be designed with appropriate pedagogies in mind, be multifunctional and ideally also multi-sensory.
Penny Welch and Susan Wright
In this issue of Learning and Teaching: The International Journal of Higher Education in the Social Sciences, authors from a range of academic disciplines – music therapy, political geography, social policy, international communications and law – explore some contemporary concerns in higher education.
Nuclear Waste Management and its Challenges for Nature-Culture-Relationships
Over the past decades, industrial societies have produced a range of substances whose effects humans increasingly identify as toxic—a prominent example is radioactive waste and the question of its disposal. This fabricated “object of modernity” not only calls for the knowledge of the natural sciences, it also affects society at large in its immense challenge of figuring out how to dispose of this material and altogether “detoxify” society from its hazardous activity. The contribution develops a heuristic perspective on toxic objects, exemplified by analyzing documents with a focus on how different societal actors in Germany problematize high-level radioactive waste (HLW) in the context of finding a repository site. The perspective on toxic objects aims to strengthen a more nuanced view of “modern” relationships between human action and material activity with regard to hazardous socio-chemical fabrications as a consequence of an objectified nature.
A Critical Disability Studies perspective
This article explores the portrayal of disability through the Disability Service web pages of Welsh universities in order to understand their potential impression on disabled applicants. The method of Qualitative Content Analysis enables consideration of multiple dimensions including use of language, terminology and photography, as well as discussion of academic, cultural, social and logistical aspects of student life. The development of a primarily concept-driven coding frame enables consideration of the absence of certain criteria as well as the frequency and prominence of others. The ensuing discussion considers, from a Critical Disability Studies perspective, the sector’s portrayal of the construct of disability. This article proposes a call to action to challenge deficit-based interpretations of disability and advocates an affirmative stance towards disability in higher education policy and practice.
Human-Centrism, Posthumanism, and AI
Nandita Biswas Mellamphy
More and more scholarly attention is being paid to the challenges of governing artificial intelligence and emergent technologies. Most of the focus remains on questions of how to preserve the human-centeredness of increasingly advancing machine-driven technologies. I problematize discourses of “human-centered AI” that prioritize human control over nonhuman intelligences as a solution for the challenges posed by emergent technologies like artificial intelligence. Posthumanism provides a compelling theoretical basis for this line of questioning and for reimagining alternative ethical constructs. I outline and consider three distinct scenarios in which (a) humans are at the center of command and control, (b) humans and nonhumans share control, (c) human oversight is completely removed. I suggest that more attention could be given to critical and speculative ways of reimagining the concepts of “human,” “nonhuman,” and human/nonhuman relations.
Posthuman? Nature and Culture in Renegotiation
Kornelia Engert and Christiane Schürkmann
The contributions in this special issue focus on different phenomena and conceptual approaches dealing with “the Posthuman” as a discourse of renegotiating nature-culture-relationships that has emerged over the past decades. The selected articles from fields of sociology, political science, and social anthropology demonstrate how to work with and discuss posthumanistic and post-anthropocentric perspectives, but also how to irritate and criticize universal assumptions of particular posthuman approaches empirically and theoretically. The introduction aims to position the particular contributions in a field of tension between de- and re-centering human beings and human agency.
Franziska von Verschuer
Since the mid-twentieth century global modernization of agriculture, seed banking has become a core technoscientific strategy to counteract agrobiodiversity loss and ensure future food security. This article develops a post-anthropocentric reading of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault as a nodal point of global ex situ conservation efforts. Based on qualitative expert interviews, I explore the rationality of crisis and salvation that underlies these efforts and discuss its roots in an anthropocentric relation to nature as a resource. By arguing that the latter produces the crises that conservation measures intend to counteract, I show how the Seed Vault conserves this resource-orientation. I then illustrate a concurrent unruliness of more-than-human worldly becoming the embracing of which, I argue, is a way for conservationism to cultivate different, non-crisic futures.
This article asks what part prehistory could play in establishing a posthumanist settlement, alternative to the humanism of the Enlightenment. We begin by showing how Enlightenment thinking split the concept of the human in two, into species and condition, establishing a point of origin where the history of civilization rises from its baseline in evolution. Drawing on the thinking of the thirteenth-century mystic, Ramon Llull, we present an alternative vision of human becoming according to which life carries on through a process of continuous birth, wherein even death and burial hold the promise of renewal. In prehistory, this vision is exemplified in the work of André Leroi-Gourhan, in his exploration of the relation between voice and hand, and of graphism as a precursor to writing. We conclude that the idea of graphism holds the key to a prehistory that not so much precedes as subtends the historic.