Sunday, 24 August 2014

Phenomenology and the Paradox of Designing Learning

This is my sketch for Chapter 3 of my book "Education and Information". It's given me quite a lot of trouble which I think is still quite evident in the text. It helps me to blog it - seeing the text in a different context is rather like reviewing proofs (and I always seem to want to make radical changes at proofing stage - I know I'm not alone here!)

It's important to get a grip on 'experience' and the phenomenological/interpretivist tradition as it applies to educational technology, learning analytics, big data, etc. But phenomenology is incredibly messy. Burrell and Morgan quote Natanson (1973) in arguing that phenomenology is a disparate body of ideas which isn't (in Burrell and Morgan's view) coherent:
"Phenomenology is a presuppositionless philosophy which holds consciousness to be the matrix of all phenomena, considers phenomena to be objects of intentional acts and treats them as essences, demands its own method, concerns itself with prepredictative experience, offers itself as the foundation of science, and compreises a philosophy of the life wolrd, a defence of reason and ultimately a critique of philosophy"
Yet phenomenology in one aspect or another underpins almost  all education research, educational surveys of student experience, and so on. Education is characterised (by Roger Brown) as an 'experience good'. Phenomenological analysis indeed has become a kind of handmaiden in the functionalist or managerialist pursuit of 'evidence-based policy'.

Introduction: Positive and Negative Subjectivity

Potential students in higher education cannot know what it is like until they have actually attended: education is an 'experience good' (Brown). This essential difficulty has been one of the key problems in establishing a ‘market’ for education: markets depend on information to support 'consumer choice'. The effort to establish reliable information sources for education has led to a plethora of surveys, league tables, and other data including job prospects and salary forecasts which supposedly gives an indication of the ‘quality’ of the experience learners might expect should they choose an institution. The hope is that the choice of an education institution might become like the choice of a technology, where the experiences of others can be easily shared, aggregated and the compared. Education is unlike technology in many ways, however. Most technology serves a specific purpose which is clearly codified in the expectations of users. Consequently performance can be measured against codified expectations. Expectations concerning the function of education are contested and the subjectivity of educational experience remains difficult to codify. In addition, educational institutions differ: elite institutions select their customers on the basis of their academic ability - a distinction which is used to reinforce their status. The further one goes down the ‘status ladder’ of institutions, the less choice students have in selecting an institution irrespective of the amount of information available to them about their likely experiences.

The study of experience belongs to the discipline of phenomenology instigated by Edmund Husserl in reaction to the excessive claims of Comtean positivistic sociology with major contributions including those of Heidegger, Scheler, Merleau-Ponty and Schutz. As Burrell and Morgan note, the interpretivist movement in the late 19th century sought to reframe knowledge of the social sciences through the lens of individual subjectivity, a concern also driving Weber’s methodological individualism and eventually connecting phenomenology with sociology through the work of Schutz.  Phenomenology is limited by the efficacy of its methods, its tendency towards solipsism, and its relationship with the kind of naïve empiricism which it critiques. These limits were evident in the very beginning. Comte’s view that social science should follow the physical sciences in its methods and processes seemed problematic given the that human subjects were not the same as the objects of physics. Experience in the social realm was seen to have a causal bearing on social reality - it was argued that the study of the structure of experience could serve as a study of the nature of society. Husserl argued that the endeavour of sociology is “to transcend the natural attiditude of daily life in order to render it an object for philosophical scrutiny and in order to account for its essential structure.” (Natanson, quoted by Burrell and Morgan, p233)

This chapter explores the way methods of phenomenological analysis relate to issues of experience and the results of application of analysis. Two aspects of phenomenology are considered:

  1. experiences as codified entities whose structure can be explored
  2. experiences as uncodified feelings, sensations, intuitions and emotions

In each case, the fundamental question that is pursued is "How does experience communicate?" In the case of codified objects - Husserl's “object” for philosophical scrutiny as the essences exposed through processes of phenomenological reduction – the way that such objects are themselves the sources of other experiences is examined. Phenomenological method has grown into an industry: the methodological approach of capturing experience and reducing to essences has been boosted by normative practice in the academy. Humean scientific reasoning, which depends on regularities of events sees in the phenomenological method a way of identifying regularities in the patterning of essences of experience. Hardly any PhD in educational technology passes without some reference to experiential data and phenomenology. Grounded theory has become the object of methodological practice. Unfortunately, a lack of critique in these processes can lead to regularities in the application of methods and somewhat contrived regularities in the perception of pattern. In this practice, the privileging of language remains the principle problem. Yet increasingly, learning analytics, automatic topic analysis, and a number of other techniques stand for evidential processes. Essences are encoded through language as the cyphers of meaning behind the speech acts of individuals who are asked about their ‘experiences’. Phenomenological analysis presents cyphers of authentic experience – the method which evidences what people like and what people dislike within the education system. At its worst, phenomenology has become the handmaiden of functionalism: it has become the tool for the production of evidence which has supported the managerialist intervention. Accounting, rationalising, packaging and marketing of experiences is important to the purveyors of educational products. What matters in a commercial educational universe are the experiences of the ‘paying customers’ (students). The tools of phenomenology appear complicit in an atomising of experience and an ignorance of the social dimensions of experience: the experiences of teachers tend not to be measured. The frequent use of surveys in education to assess the ‘experiences’ of students is typical: in the UK, the National Student Survey asks students whether they agree (on a Likert scale) with statements like “Staff have made the subject interesting” or “The course is intellectually stimulating”. Responses are coded, analysed and meaning and 'trends' deduced. 

The experiences produced by codified experiential data - typically in managers and politicians - can fall into the 2nd category of 'uncodified experience' of emotion, intuition and feelings. With the presentation of data concerning experiences in the use of technologies, data graphs are both codified analysis and intervention where the experiential impact is uncodified. How are we to view experiential data given that it is both an indicator of experience, and a source of experience? Experiential data becomes another artefact in the educational universe. This has become more apparent with the rise of learning analytics and rich data analysis of the responses of people to software, curricula, teachers, etc. Following practices devised through the internet in terms of identifying the ‘best product’ and supplying reviews for those products, the capturing of educational experiences is now part of the educational picture, with providers of education taking decisions with regard to how those decisions will be represented in statistics. How are we to consider the uncodified aspects of the experience of data presentations of codified experiences?

The distinction between codified and uncodified experiences has been expressed within Searle's social ontology as the difference between "epistemic objectivity" and "epistemic subjectivity". To say that experiential data is an “artefact” of education is to identify that what Searle calls a ‘status function’ is made about a data analysis: “this is a legitimate and accurate measure of the experience of those who engaged with this lesson/course/software/etc”. Status functions are made about all kinds of educational artefacts from courses to textbooks. Now the very 'status' of data becomes causally significant in addition to the content of the declarations that comprise the experiences that are captured.  This is not to say that experiential data isn’t indicative of experiences. It plays its role in the production of an ‘information economy’ in the market of education (Brown). Yet, status declarations entail power structures, and consequently not all status declarations are equal. Husserlian phenomenology concerns itself with codified experiences (the epistemically objective aspects of experience), whilst the consideration of such objects of experience as sources of uncodified experience, the phenomenology of Heidegger presents an important contrasting route. 

At the heart of the question of codified and uncodifed experience, and the relation between epistemic objectivity and epistemic subjectivity is a fundamental difference between Husserlian and Heideggarian approaches to subjectivity. Husserl's approach is transcendental, and as such positive in terms of its identification of the essences of experiences. For Heidegger, there could be no separation between objects of experience and experiences themselves: there was always an infinite regress of experiences which language and thought struggles through. In contrast to Husserl’s attempt to conceptualise experience, Heidegger attempts to articulate the struggle of conceptualising experience. What concerns him is not the articulation of essences but the constraints within which subjectivity operates. Thinking’s objective is to push against constraints.

Heidegger’s subject and the experience of technology

It is not only tools which constrain being; it is thinking about tools; it is any kind of philosophical reflection about tools. This raises questions which are rarely asked by educational technologists.
1.       What is it "to be" (and indeed, "to learn") in a world of tools?
2.       What is it to be in a world of other people who we care for?

He gives technological constraint a name: he calls it ‘enframing’. Technology is characterised as the “setting-upon that sets upon man”. There is an emerging pessimism about technology (which he saw as inevitably leading to enslavement) leads him towards an increasingly mystical position which seeks refuge in art and poetry: in contrast to 'enframing', Heidegger draws attention to poets who "dwell" in the world, rather than are enframed by it. The problem with this is that it seems that Heidegger sees little hope in the world of everybody else, and that ultimately he feels he wants to retreat into a world of art and poetry. It is on this last point that the critics of Heidegger seized, accusing Heidegger of engaging in the kind of mystical retreat from the world which ultimately leads to the rise of the fascism which Heidegger was himself implicated in. “Heidegger was always a Nazi” accuses Adorno. Adorno complained that the phenomenological project (and its associated existential project) effectively mystified subjectivity: for all Heidegger’s jargon about authenticity, there was a radical gap between the political problems in the world and the way that reasoning about the world was conducted. Into this gap, criticised Adorno, come people who exploit the mystification of experience. Consequently, experiential jargon becomes the handmaiden of "evidence-based policy" and its managerialist champions. It also gives ways way to automatic pictorial representations of reality, without any critique as to what is being examined or looked at. The question of the nature of the subject in education is fundamentally a question about the possibility of naturalism in educational research.

What Heidegger is effective at, however, is in describing the moments of experience of using tools in a way which relates to actual technological experience. His achievement lies in articulating a complex vocabulary for these different moments of experience. He describes how tool usage fades in and fades out of conscious thought: one minute we might be conscious of putting the clutch down in the car, and the next it becomes an automatic exercise. Heidegger believes that these kind of automatic exercises dominate daily experience with technology; it dominates the thoughtlessness with which so many of us move through life: he calls this thoughtlessness ‘falling’. This puts particular emphasis on the moments when those things to which we become accustomed to stop working. At these moments of ‘breakdown’, Heidegger argues, there is a moment of ‘revealing’ in the world, as we are interrupted in falling and have to look around us and consider what to do next. Heidegger’s presents concepts like ‘falling’, ‘ready-to-hand’, ‘present-at-hand’, ‘dasein’: as a way of focusing attention on the specific moments of experience of what it is to be in a world of tools. Educational technologists might ask themselves “what is it to be in a world of computers as we try to learn?” The question seeks after essences, after the nature of things – about the nature of the ontology of the world. 

Heidegger’s radical questioning of subjectivity is a negativising of subjectivity. When Heidegger asks profound questions about the nature of being, the issue concerns the relationship between ‘subjectivity’ and the social. He has been accused of technological determinism because he sees technology as framing being – that the technical bears on the subject in a way where the subject is enclosed by the external technical realm. In inquiry about the nature of Heidegger’s ‘subject’, we can first ask whether subjects are “enclosed” in the world. Other phenomenologists such as Merleau-Ponty would argue that subjects and the world are entwined – that the constitution of subjectivity is dependent on the world, whilst agency transforms that subjectivity at the same time. Merleau-Ponty’s evocative (and somewhat Catholic) phrase “Flesh of the world” is indicative of the way in which the issue of subjectivity in the light of technology is open to question, and so Heidegger’s concern for the enframing brought about through technology is not as much of a problem as he might think. More recently, the entwining idea has become popular among thinkers who support the concept of ‘socio-materiality’ in the understanding of technology.

Between the positions of Heidegger and Husserl there is a question about whether or how the negative subjectivity of Heidegger’s inner life might rise above the material constraints of technology (and this indeed is one of the features of art) and how it might do this. In other words, how are limits surpassed? This is an educational question: the means by which each of us moves beyond limits is through processes of learning which are almost always dependent on the care of other people in the surpassing of limits and the creation of a deeper engagement with the world. What is the interaction between technologies and the agency of those who aid the process of moving beyond constraints? Behind these we return to questions raised by Husserl: if the agency of other people is important in the moving beyond constraints, how is it we know what to do? How is it that we have some understanding of what holds each of us back? Doesn’t this point to the possibility that there are experiences which we do recognise in each other? If we reject the identification of essences of those experiences as the essential objects of communication, how is it that experience communicates without objects? These abstract questions have very practical and real consequences in the world of educational technology.

The Paradox of Design in Education

All teachers design educational experiences. Design as an activity is directed towards purposes and functions – usually to achieve lesson objectives. The experience of designers and the experience of learners exists in a dynamic relation to processes of design: every act of the designer is a new source of experience; every new experience feeds into acts of design. Knowledge gained from experience and actions which are taken are entwined. When a design manifests itself in a new artefact, that artefact will the source of experiences to those who encounter it. Designs determine the physical form of software, lesson plans, classroom designs, buildings, textbooks: indeed, the material objects of education. Designs – of learning, buildings, textbooks – are processes which manifest in a declaration: “x is a design for y” or even “x is a design for producing y experiences”. But if a design is a declaration about the status of an object, what is the relationship between the experience of creating it and the experience of encountering it? This is a question about the relationship between that element of inner knowledge – the inner world of the person having the experience – what Searle calls “epistemic subjectivity” and the artefact produced at the end of the process about which a declaration is made – what Searle calls “ontological subjectivity”.

Whilst the design of schools, textbooks, building, lessons and curricula seen as an act of making interventions in the experiences of learners, it relates to broader social mechanisms of status of those designers (teachers, ministries of education, governments) and others making the interventions. The successful designer gains reputation as a result of design and implementation. The success of a design may depend not only on the quality of the design but on the social relation of the designer to the learner. If teacher X wants to implement a design because they feel that it is the most effective approach, they make a status declaration “this is the most effective approach” which because of their already established power, they know they can enforce the design. In order to do this, they must have some idea of the experiences of those around them even if their anticipation of the effects of the design on learning experience is accurate or not. The insight from which design proceeds is polyvalent: there is insight into the likely experiences of other people encountering a design (which may amount a personal insight into the designer encountering the design), but there is an insight in the possibility of promoting the design – of making the status declaration in the first place. Social structures surrounding the design process assist in the latter: designs produced through a large-scale funded project will carry greater chance of successful status declaration than an individual’s idea. The European Commission declaring that “X is a tool for Y”, “Z is a project” is different from the individual teacher’s idea. Designs with the backing of major technology corporations like Microsoft carry even more weight. Yet, the weight of the organisation behind the status declaration does not determine the experiences of users.

It is useful to distinguish expectation as a unit for exploration in educational experience. The declaration of something ‘working’ depends on a social process whereby the ‘workingness’ emerges. When examining the experience of learners, there are measurements that can be made which can be interpreted as measurements of expectations. Such data becomes, of course, the subject of experiences in the minds of designers, politicians, etc: they contribute to the weight of ‘evidence’ that leads to a reinforcement of the original status function of the object with the declaration that ‘x works’. But the statement “x works” is a statement about what others might expect. Around these status declarations, there are points of dispute because “x” never works for everyone. However, simple organisational features such as lectures that begin on time, good activities, clear textbooks, transparent marking criteria have an impact on what is conventionally termed ‘learning experience’. Learning experience at the very least relates to the nature of the encounter with the objects of education and in particular an encounter where the expectations of learners are met.
If there is a paradox in designing learning it is that there is a conflict between expectation and experience. Expectations exist at many levels: the designer’s expectations are not the same as the learners. Some expectations are codified, others exist in unarticulated patterns of practice. Things work when there is a coordination of expectations, and indeed, society is replete with codified expectations: money, institutions, textbooks, teachers, government are codified expectations. What Searle calls the ‘ontologically subjective’ is the domain of codified expectations. But the paradox of designing learning rests on the fact that there are expectations which are not codified, but yet can be communicated. Here we can be more specific about the question about how experience communicates: we should ask how uncodified expectations are communicated.

The domain of Searle’s “epistemically subjective” comprises those things which we cannot give voice to: itches, feelings, emotions, intuition, reaction, bodily gestures are all examples of uncodified expectations. Design as a process relies on codification of expectations to produce experiences which has uncodified expectations as a component. The interface between uncodified and codified expectations is the interaction with discourse and the extent to which the “epistemically subjective” can become knowable as “epistemically objective”. Social structures facilitate or block the process: The teacher with inflated expectations concerning the ability of their learners do not teach well, yet the means to change the teacher’s expectation relies on the codification of their learner’s experience and the articulation of a status function in the form of new designs to remedy it. Since the relation of the teacher in relation to the learner is one of power, the possibility of the expectations of an individual having bearing on power is dependent on a social climate which makes privileges the articulation of uncodified expectation. Yet since power is required to make a status declaration, some giving up of power is required so that design might be successful. The European Commission is a powerful organisation which can make status declarations. Yet its power makes considered reflection on expectations difficult. Fear plays a part in the critical exposure of a mismatch in expectations. And since expectations are hard to codify, educational alienation results from educational design.

The relationship between uncodified and codified expectations, the status functions of educational objects (including the objects of experience) and the relationship between the epistemically subjective, epistemically object and the ontologically subjective presents one more mystery. This is the way that the curriculum itself has divided itself into subjects. This too appears to be an aspect of educational design; indeed we continue to create new ‘subjects’ on the curriculum in a social process which aims to match educational qualifications with economic function of individuals.

From Designing Learning to Forms of Knowledge and the question of natural education

Subjects of knowledge are codifications of expectations within education. In the medieval universities, codification of educational practice was established around the basic practices of argumentation which underpinned the method of disputation that derived from Socratic thought. The techniques of disputation were developed to be exercised on the quadrivium: an elemental group of subjects: arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy. To the extent to which all western educational practice derives from these medieval practices, we might ask to what extent these curricula were designed. Is there something natural about them? On the one hand, to the medieval mind, the philosophical foundations of the curriculum design were entwined with the theological values of the society. On the other, even in the medieval world, the exploration of the phenomena of music and the exploration of the phenomena of astronomy or mathematics must at least have appeared different in nature or appearance. However, the approach was one of illumination where the medieval mind was to schooled in identifying the similarities between things and fundamental concepts. Music and astronomy were linked by the doctrine of the music of the spheres; arithmetic was connected to the nature of the relation between strings; the stars presented geometric patterns, whilst the relation between geometry and number encompassed the differences between mind and body. Medieval education was a process of the discovery of mind through nature; it was fundamentally cosmological.

The question of how the trivium and the quadrivium acquired its structure is not only a question of the nature of subjects. The distinction between phenomena and senses: the sense of sound, the visual phenomena of the environment, the stars, space and logic. Irrespective of social structure norms and experiences, every human being encounters fundamental phenomena in the world, and different people engage with each in different ways. In anthropological and historical evidence in education, deep paradigmatic distinctions between what might be called functionalist inquiry (mathematics, logic, the arts of human coordination and warfare) and interpretivist disciplines (the art of persuasion, and the early exploitation of hermeneutics for the interpretation of biblical texts) together with ethical and aesthetic inquiry. To what extent might we talk of a natural structure of knowledge? How are the practices of education which are codified in the classroom related to the phenomena of life upon which knowledge is founded?

This is the question that Paul Hirst articulated in writing “Liberal Education and the Nature of Knowledge”. Hirst argues that:
“to acquire knowledge is to become aware of experience as structured, organised and made meaningful in some quite specific way, and the varieties of human knowledge constitute the highly developed forms in which man has found this possible. To acquire knowledge is to learn to see, to experience the world in a way otherwise unknown, and thereby to come to have a mind in a fuller sense”
What does ‘becoming aware of experience as structured, organised and made meaningful in some quite specific way’ mean? What does Hirst mean by experience? Is he talking about the codified experience as it is represented in the educational curriculum? Hirst’s statement might be compared with Newman talking about the intellect:
"The intellect of man [...] energizes as well as his eye or ear, and perceives in sights and sounds something beyond them. It seizes and unites what the senses present to it; it grasps and forms what need not have been seen or heard except in its constituent parts. It discerns in lines and colours, or in tones, what is beautiful and what is not. It gives them a meaning, and invests them with an idea. It gathers up a succession of notes into the expression of a whole, and calls it a melody; it has a keen sensibility towards angles and curves, lights and shadows, tints and contours. It distinguishes between rule and exception, between accident and design. It assigns phenomena to a general law, qualities to a subject, acts to a principle, and effects to a cause."
Newman’s idea of perceiving “in sights and sounds something beyond them” echoes the medieval cosmological view of education and knowledge. Newman similarly talks about order and structure in experience, but his emphasis is on a unity of experience – what he called “universal knowledge”. In Hirst’s statement that “to acquire knowledge is to learn to see, to experience the world in a way otherwise unknown.”, ‘making aware’ means a process of having ones’ expectations transformed.

In becoming transformed by events, bodies are reoriented and expectations are changed. Hirst appears to reify ‘bodies of knowledge’ and equate ‘having a mind’ with having a particular disposition of awareness towards those bodies of knowledge. The ontology of knowledge rests in the particular dynamics of those social structures: the structures of school, teachers, timetables, assessments and so on: in other words, it is practice not content.
Hirst argues that:
"to have a mind basically involves coming to have experience articulated by means of various conceptual schemata."  
Conceptual schemata are codified expectations grounded in particular communities. When Hirst makes the distinction between forms of knowledge and fields of knowledge he attempts to grapple with the content/practice problem. Hirst’s  forms of knowledge are “ideal types” much in the manner of Plato. Knowledge, to Hirst, is a process of ‘becoming aware’ of ideal types.

The fundamental question of Hirst is whether the coordination of expectation forms around conceptual schema, or whether conceptual schema are epiphenomena surrounding the process of coordinating expectations. In the medieval view, expectations grew around fundamental qualia and phenomena of the world, and this contributed to the conceptual schema of the trivium. Hirst’s conceptual schemata in a world of academic subjects which are evidenced by textbooks, webpages, video lectures, teacher training programmes and curricula a Platonic view of ideal types of education is understandable. It is the process of coordinating expectations which can explain the nature of the different structures we have in education may make Hirst complain that there is no way of ‘seeing’ the expectations of somebody. The practices within the maths lesson and the music lesson relate to the expectations of music and maths teachers, the expectations of school authorities and examiners. In this sense, the content of the maths and music lessons including calculators and recorders, forms a sociomaterial context within which expectations can be managed. However, this does not explain the extent to which some individuals choose to focus on one subject or another, to reproduce one form of knowledge over another.

The Communication of Expectations and Experience

This chapter has focused on the problem that whilst it may be possible to codify aspects of experiences through identifying essences, there remain aspects of experience which cannot be codified. In particular there are aspects of experience of the data of experience which are not codified. Yet, experiences appear to be communicated even when they are not codified. How is it that this can be possible? How is it that something which does not have a conceptual schema communicate? This question was addressed by Alfred Schutz in a paper he wrote on how music communicates.  For Schutz, the communicating of experiences like music is indicative of a fundamental “interpersonal subjectivity” in operation: individuals engage in a mutual ‘tuning-in’ to one another. Schutz explains that “the reciprocal sharing of the other's flux of experiences in inner time, by living through a vivid present together” – for Schutz, it is in this domain of the ‘we’ that communication arises, not in the semantic content of symbols and messages. This is not to say that people have to be together to tune into one another, but it is to say that what happens is a process of tuning in. Mutual tuning-in can help to explain the collective euphoria of mass entertainment like football matches, rock concerts or the theatre.

To talk of education as an experience good means that the we-ness of educational processes has to be engaged in in one way or another. If the question about the communication of experience is a question about the communication of expectations, the answer to ‘how do expectations communicate?’ lies in the nature of meaning and communication not only as it is represented in words, but as it is transmitted in gestures, non-linguistic utterances like laughs, glances, bodily movements, or the general sound of the classroom (one only has to listen to a classroom to know if a lesson is dead or not). Does such an analysis of the way that experience communicates entail a positive or a negative subjectivity? What is the balance to be struck between those aspects of experience which can be identified (in the language that people use) and those aspects of experience which are extra-linguistic? As a negative subjectivity, what must be engaged with are the limits of the subjective: the constraints within which subjects are able to form. Here Heidegger's approach is useful insofar as it is not just technologies that constrain experience - it is other people, and in particular the articulations of experience (whether codified or uncodified) of other people. Experience communicates negatively in the sense that every individual's experience mould's everyone else's.

Having said this, codified expectations have an impact on uncodified expectations. It is through this mechanism that parent can bribe their children to work hard! Money, assessments, curricula, rules of the classroom and timetables are all codified expectations and each is deployed in educational experience as a way of coordinating uncodified experiences. Behind codified expectations lie aspects of routine: the "redundancies" of practice in daily life - the things which each individual thoughtlessly does as part of their being. For Heidegger, this is part of 'falling' and 'throwness' through the world, although redundancy also has an analytical meaning.

In information theory, redundancies are important in framing the successful communication of messages. Redundancies are the "ground" upon which the "figure" of a message is produced. In human interactions each individual has many redundancies concerning their practice and their expectations of what might happen as a result of practice. When people come together in classrooms there are naturally overlaps between the redundancies of expectation concerning the situation that people engage in. When expectations and experiences are codified in the form of timetables, curricula and assessments there is a coordination of the redundant expectations of individuals such that new kinds of overlapping of redundancies are produced. This creates the background against which the 'messages' of the classroom - the topic of the day, the task for the assignment or the assessment criteria ‘stand out’ as the 'messages' (figures) conveyed. 

Analysis of redundancies is possible. Hirst raised the problem of which activities are considered to be 'teaching' and which are not. So, for example, we might ask whether "opening windows" or "sharpening pencils" is part of teaching. What might be said here is that opening windows and sharpening pencils constrains expectations - at least of the teacher, and the students are collective witnesses to the teacher's routine. Awareness of routine as constraint can be focused on simple measures of data: at a very basic and practical level, absences of data in systems like a VLE can be more informative than presences. The reading of the 'routine' of non-engagement will usually prompt teachers to act (i.e. create different kinds of events for the student) in new ways like phoning up the student. If a teacher, when faced with a learner like this discusses “What are you interested in? What do you do most of the time? How do you feel?” then the learner’s opportunity to talk about the things which excite them can lead to a change in orientation.  There are different explanations for the efficacy of this kind of situation. Harré, for example, talks of the differences in “positioning” between people. The asking of such questions are events. The teacher may have an understanding of “what’s missing” – but they can only do this if they have some understanding of their own absences – of their own figure and ground. The utterances that are made are made in this context of mutual understanding of absence and redundancy.

Schutz's idea of 'tuning-in' to each other finds a different kind of expression in Parons's concept of ‘double-contingency’ in communicating process. For Parsons, double-contingency is the process whereby an utterance is made by somebody in the light of the understanding of the effect that their utterance might have on the person they are talking to: double-contingency entails a reflection and modelling of the other person. Luhmann developed Parsons idea into a social theory which privileged communications over individual agency: for Luhmann, agency is oriented towards the maintenance of specific codes of communication, where each of the domains of social life (e.g. economics, education, law, art, love) manifest in particular sets of social expectations. The concept of double-contingency, and Luhmann's theory of social systems presents a powerful explanatory framework for social life which reveals both a communication environment as a constraint on subjectivity, whilst at the same time with its emphasis on codes on communication, embraces a Husserlian transcendental (and positive) phenomenology. However, Luhmann's deflation of agency and individual psychological experience makes assumptions about the constitution about individual psychology to fit with his transpersonal concept of communication. In this sense, Luhmann remains true to the Kantian idea of the 'transcendental subject', except that in place of Kant's categories of understanding, Luhmann supplants an idealised dynamics of communication. This weakness in his theorising throws the spotlight back on the theoretical position from which Husserl and Heidegger's approach to phenomenology began in the first place - in particular the transcendental subjectivity of Kant and its relation to the empiricism of Hume. 

Phenomenology, whether a transcendental activity or an existential one, entails idealisation about people. For all its claims about getting to the essences of experiences, real people, real action, real situations are removed. As we become more immersed in the alliances between phenomenology and functionalism through big data and learning analytics, the removing of concrete experience carries great social risk. Tuning-in to each other happens in the context of real things that happen - whether it is experiences in the classroom, or the presentation of analyses. In particular, the way that data increasingly leads to a codification of 'educational excellence' through league tables and other indicators serves not to deepen insight into educational processes but to drive markets for education by which institutions maintain their viability at the expense of the deeper social function of education. Idealising subjectivity at any stage means blindness to real concerns and concreteness. In such a context, Heidegger's worries about technological enframing seem justified: we risk living through analyses of what computers believe our experiences to be, always blind to those aspects of experience which remain uncodified.

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