European Educational Research Journal vol:13 issue:1 pages:89-106
Over the last two decades, a sense of awareness has arisen that universities are facing important challenges. This article focusses on the challenge that could be broadly termed as ‘the digitization of academic work’, yet without assuming that this digitization would be an explanatory factor clarifying the precise nature of contemporary academic work. On the contrary, and adopting a relational actor-network theory (ANT) approach, this contribution stresses the concrete composition of academic work without making any general presumptions regarding how the university is looking like nowadays. Furthermore, by introducing a specific interview technique as methodological approach and different visualizations as (qualitative) analytical approach, this article offers a threefold exploratory textual and visual analysis of academic practice in the making. First, the constitution of an academic practice is discussed, showing the prevalence of multifarious human and non-human actors, and how each of these actors is embedded in a network of interactions with other actors. Second, we show how academic practice is distributed into different regions of interacting actors. Third, the association of these different regions is analyzed with special attention for boundary actors (between different regions) and digital actors. The article concludes, firstly, that it makes not much sense anymore to talk about academic practice in terms of humans or non-humans, material or digital, etc. Instead, perhaps it makes more sense to speak of actors in academic practice as being humandigital. Secondly, the article concludes that sociomaterial approaches might constitute a fruitful addition to more traditional research about the university that is inclined to focus on epochal changes that are suggested or expected to alter the position of academics and the university.