Circles of Interaction

I’m going to caveat this post with the fact that I am not going to write a list of reference list for this piece anywhere. If you need to know what I’ve read, then there is a list of where my ideas have been parked in various settings on the publications and media page on this website. It’s mostly published and mostly been fairly positively received!

I’ve been growing a theory in my brain for about 6 years, essentially since I started my PhD. I was really keen on Foucault and Bourdieu as frameworks to hang my ideas and principles on. People have subsequently said I’ve got a bit of a thing for dead French chaps and their theories. They’d not be wrong really. I found that Bourdieu just fitted well with how my brain chunked the world and it’s interactions really well. Habitus makes sense as a tool I love the way that I am able to see how things are structured from inside education as a practitioner and also as a researcher.

I love me a bit of Jenkins as well. His ideas around Orders of Interaction are just spectacular. They are so blooming useful for framing how I ‘attack’ the Bourdieusian world for analysis and break down how people do social life.

I love these people but I’ve just not been able to quite get the dynamics of it right for myself. Fields are great but they’re static and stand alone and levels of interaction don’t boundary things quite so well because they are so big. So I needed something interlocking, co-creating and co-producing. Something that had boundaries but that could sit alongside other ‘fields, ’practice’ and ‘habitus’ in Bourdieu-speak but that also considered the levels at which they were maintained and (re)produced. I had various circles, spirals and helixes floating around my head after chatting with colleagues and then I saw a light fitting. It is blooming lovely and I have bought the chrome version for my house!

The light-fitting has become ‘circles of life’ and it’s my way of capturing a theoretical framework.

The ‘Boundary Circle’ connects and limits everything. External structures exist and within the boundaries of education, actors are constrained, producing and maintaining those structures. Their ‘dialogue’ circle is where the boundaries set externally limit dialogue between actors. But underpinning and informing those dialogues between actors, we have the ‘self-circle’ where actors’ own individual sensemaking happens. The sense making is informed by  and underpings the dialogue circle. The key of this model is that the circles interlock, with the boundary being the largest (most powerful and dominant, least changeable by individuals), intersecting with everything and underpinning it, but laso affected by the ‘self’ and ‘dialogue’ circles.

But the boundary can move. You can boot it somewhere else and boundaries (other ‘fields’) can nudge and plonk each other. So a change in a health boundary may affect education. The points of touch between circles move and new sense-making and dialogue happen here. Then changes in boundaries may happen.

This is a new thing in my head and I’ll flesh it out properly when I’m grown up but for now, here’s where we’re at and here’s how I used it in a chat this evening for the FIRE-UK Quick Fire Conference!

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