As researchers and educators, we often feel ambivalent towards the constant emphasis on impact that dominates many discussions in the academy. We understand that scholarship is meaningless if it fails to engage with history and the material world, but often find the rhetoric that surrounds impact frustrating and leaning towards anti-intellectualism.
We all want to make the world a better place but the tools at our disposal, while analytically sharp, are not exactly known for their political power. Having a clear strategic direction, in touch with current debates but also committed to the peculiar knowledge-seeking nature of the modern University, certainly helps. And yet, it is not entirely clear how the big issues of our time can be turned into impact-generating research problems that lend themselves to the sort of intellectual work we do.
Aware of these challenges, researchers at Monash University and the University of Padova (Padua) have come together. We are two groups of like-minded scholars active in contiguous disciplinary fields, such as education, media studies and youth studies. Our goal is simple: to explore theoretical ideas and methods that will help us develop a much-needed international perspective on similar research problems.
Our small collaboration has even a name: what can STS do for us? STS stands for Science and Technology Studies, and it refers to a broad field of research that examines how technical/scientific innovations shape and are shaped by society and culture. It felt like a sensible choice for our project, on account of the prominent role of science and technology in many of the phenomena we study. This is not the place to extol the virtues of STS – suffice it to say that there is a certain openness to theoretical and methodological experimentation in this space that feels suited to our interests around the digitally mediated lives of young people: their entanglement with digital platforms in and out of school, their sense of networked belonging, their digitally expressed gender identities, their growing sense of environmental and geopolitical anxiety, and so forth.
On the Monash side, the collaboration involves some researchers from the Digital Education Research (DER) – hence this post published here – and Monash staff who may not have a direct stake in digital technology but are still interested in productive frameworks that can nurture cross-disciplinarity and inclusiveness. On the Padova side, the research unit Padova Science, Technology and Innovation Studies (Pa.S.T.I.S.) will be involved.
The seeds are being planted – this brief post is just to introduce the collaboration. We will communicate more through various social media channels as plans will begin to take shape. The collaboration will bear fruits further down the line in the form of published outputs and events, and hopefully will lead to larger initiatives with the involvement of civil society and policy: watch this and other spaces on the internet!
This project is also aligned with the Shaping Digital Futures research priority in the Faculty of Education at Monash– read more about it here.