Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

The Tribe of Educational Technologies

Academic journal article Higher Education Studies

The Tribe of Educational Technologies

Article excerpt

Abstract

This article looks into the claim that the international academic community of educational technologies seems to have functioned in a "tribal" way, having formed themselves around tribe-like patterns. It therefore addresses the research question: What are these claimed tribe-like practices that such a community exhibits? This question is answered qualitatively, examining empirically the habits of three Saudi Arabian Bedouin real tribes, followed by empirical comparison of these tribal habits with the habits of the academic community of educational technologies. Having analysed the data using the grounded theory approach, three key themes emerged: Cultural Similarities between Tribes and Academic Communities; Political Similarities between Tribes and Academic Communities; and Social Similarities between Tribes and Academic Communities. Having considered these themes collectively with reference to the existing literature, a theoretical proposition has been grounded: that academic communities are similar to tribes in the sense that all, naturally, constitute themselves in ethnic groups characterised by distinct cultural, political and social norms. The implication is thus that such communities are, at least partially, culturally, politically and socially different. Echoing such an implication, the recommendation is not to seek to remove such cultural, political and social differences and therefore make them act as one, but rather to foster cross-community cultural, political and social exchange and therefore learning.

Keywords: tribe, education, technology, Saudi, anthropology

1. Introduction and Literature Review

The editors' introduction to the Learning, Media and Technology Journal (Selwyn, 2012) directed a criticism to the international academic community of educational technologies, accusing them of having performed in a "tribal" way, having arranged themselves around tribe-like patterns. Since this claim seems fundamental, the editors of the Journal should have explained in some depth what they actually mean here by the term "tribe". Given the lack of a deeper explanation, one might thus accuse, at least defensively, these editors of using fancy terms with no reflexive attention to their social, cultural and political ramifications. Adams (1976) dedicated a column to such a matter, publishing a book called The Academic Tribes. This was followed by another publication by Becher and Trowler (2001) called Academic Tribes and Territories, enquiring into "the numerous and subtle boundaries within the world of scholarly enquiry" (p. i). Two years ago, Trowler and colleagues (2012) published a book entitled Tribes and Territories in the 21st Century, addressing a variety of issues across disciplines and among academic communities. Despite the significance of these publications, the authors, however, appear to have mostly taken the term "tribe" at face value, using it for the most part as merely a synonym for "social group," "social community" or "certain culture." More essentially, these publications seem to show limited empirical understanding of tribal configurations. Considering these limitations, a call can be made for further research intended to first empirically highlight the practices of real tribes and then empirically compare these tribal practices with the practices of academic communities. The current article therefore takes this initiative, examining empirically the habits of three Saudi Arabian Bedouin actual tribes and comparing again empirically these tribal habits with the habits of the academic community of educational technologies.

The traditional practices of real tribes, be they for example Arab, Indian, Chinese or African, are well documented through publications on their novels, poems, educational ideas, transitions and anthropological aspects (see for example Tutchin, 1691; Gutkind, 1970; Marshall & Pope, 1873; Caton, 1990; Langloh-Parker, 1905; Cook, 1934; Pompei et al. …

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