Learning Foams: Towards an Atmospheric Ethics of Education

Publication Name

Postdigital Science and Education


Where is the air in the design of learning futures? The Covid-19 pandemic and the unfolding climate crisis have rendered air as an explicit life support infrastructure of learning and as an agential force in design. As air becomes more contested and access to air is constricted, we need to design for atmospherically entangled learning futures. Existing discussion of atmospheres in educational literature focuses on their affective dimensions. We advocate for biometeorological dimensions of atmospheres to also be included by introducing air into the discourse around leaning futures. Addressing a networked learning context, we further ask, what constitutes digital air? By applying Peter Sloterdijk’s ontology of foams to educational situations, we develop ‘learning foams’ as a novel thought-image to aerate the existing concept of networked learning and provide a guide for thinking through atmospheric entanglements in education. We argue that being attuned to the air and atmospheres is necessary to design for breathable learning futures. Following Sloterdijk’s spatial and relational ontology, we show how the frame of learning foams surfaces the need for an atmospheric ethics of education that is centred on human and more-than-human relationality. We speculate on some emerging approaches to support this ethics, such as ‘planty’ pedagogies and more-than-human-centred design.

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