Review and discussion of Ferreday & Hodgson – The tyranny of participation

This is my 3rd post for my PGCE in Technology Enhanced Learning. For this post, we were asked to review several papers. This is the first one of these : Ferreday & Hodgson – The tyranny of participation



The main issues the authors are engaging with

  • The ‘darker’ sides of participation in learning are under the spotlight in this paper.
  • Participation is not necessarily a utopian ideal but it could be experienced as oppressive
  • Participative learning without reflexivity can be tyrannical
  • The possibilities offered by the disruptions of a heterotopian space posing as an alternative

What their position (arguments) are

  • Participation without reflexivity can be seen by some learners as an exercise of power and oppression
  • It is suggested that online spaces should not necessarily be seen as utopian spaces, as a lot of pedagogists believe, but as spaces characterized also by disruption which in the end can disturb the notion of the learners. They are ambiguous spaces which can offer possibilities exactly through these disturbances
  • There are different identities of individuals in the way they participate. Failing to recognize them is not given enough attention and this causes many problems in the way these learners are seen in an NL environment.
  • Feelings of guilt are manifested but heterotopic spaces allow space for such feelings to be in the open, and they could result in support and critical reflection. This is what a non-perfect community is but it is a diverse and open space.

How this relates to my experience of the TEL course

I can tell that there have been instances that I, too, experienced, these ‘dark sides’. More specifically, one of the problems was that we were provided too much information at times, and there was not always enough time to learn and practice all this new information. Since the group forum was the main way of communication and participation, there were participants (including myself) that did not respond to the reflective tasks within the time limits given but only later. As a result, there was no response to these posts by other participants, leaving these ‘late’ participants with a feeling of exclusion or with an obligation to apologise constantly for not being prompt in their replies, exactly as Ferreday discusses. From a personal point of view, once writing a post, there is the expectation of a dialogue and when this does not occur, disappointment follows. Not being bound by space and time makes online learning convenient for busy professionals like us, yet it seems that, no matter how many the obstacles, interaction remains an essential as well as a much expected part for the learning process to be fulfilled. Yet, even if these feelings were out there, they did not cause a great disturbance rather than showing that these are just some possibilities that can occur in these online spaces.

What the paper’s main strengths and weaknesses are from my experience of the TEL course

Approaching online spaces and participation as not utopian spaces that can embrace diversity and offer more opportunities for reflection. In this way, these spaces are seen in a more realistic way and not as idealistic spaces where perfection is expected and nothing less.

Perhaps a negative side to this is that for a heterotopian space to function positively in the end, even through disruptions, there has to be reflective practice and therefore engagement of the learners with each other and another prerequisite is the creation of a more informal/less academic atmosphere, both of which require time to happen.