Category Archives: papers

new journal article: digital co-production, hospitality and mobilities

Carnival Scene, Francesco Montelatici. Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture collections, David Laing Bequest (on loan to the Scottish National Gallery).

My most recent article was published last week, and it bridges the recent Artcasting project with work I am currently developing about what ‘open futures’ for digital cultural heritage may look like, and why this matters.

Ross, J. (2019). Casting a line: digital co-production, hospitality and mobilities in cultural heritage settingsCurator: The Museum Journal, 61/4. 575-592.

I’m fond of this paper. It came about because of the co-production strand at the Association of Critical Heritage Studies’ conference in 2016, where I first talked about the idea of digital co-production and got really useful feedback from some fantastic researchers. Since then I’ve been developing the idea further, and refining the key elements of digital co-production.

In a nutshell, I argue that digital co-production:

  unfolds across multiple times and spaces;

  involves the ‘unknowable other’;

  challenges the stability of relationships;

  invites a rethinking of hospitality.

I use the example of the Artcasting project to illustrate these four elements. Ultimately, the theoretical contribution is the bringing together of hospitality and mobilities to consider hospitality as a ‘trajectory’, building on David Bell‘s (2012) notion of ‘host-spots’.

 In the context of co-production, trajectory invites us to consider movements of people into, through and away from the museum, taking up different positions in relation to shifting host/guest trajectories as they enter, leave, and reencounter it. A range of practices in relation to access and use of digital cultural heritage objects offers many possible trajectories of hospitality. The position of ‘host’ shifts from the museum to the aggregator web site to the user themselves as control over and location of the digital object moves. Guesting is constructed and reconfigured through timelines, searches, mentions, likes and upvotes. The user-as-host might even extend a welcome to the museum-as-guest by mentioning it on their personal feed.

All of these trajectories coalesce around an object whose meanings are shifting in the process. I think the role of the museum in this context is to set up co-productive situations that can allow for multiple hostings and guestings, and (following Doron 2009) inhabit more uncertain, less secure positions in relation to its role as ‘host’. (Artcasting was a very interesting example of this multiplicity.)




Bell, D. 2012. “Moments of Hospitality.” In Mobilizing Hospitality: The Ethics of Social Relations in a Mobile World, edited by J. G. Molz and S. Gibson. Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Doron, E. 2009. “At Hospitality’s Threshold: From Social Inclusion to Exilic Education.” Curator: The Museum Journal 52(2): 16982.


Shout outs to Melissa Terras, Smita Kheria, Christopher Ganley,  Mairi Lafferty, Ashley Beamer and Louise Rasmussen for all their contributions to the thinking-in-progress, to Phil Sheail for the work we did on hospitality that informed this paper, to Sian Bayne for reading and commenting, and to Jeremy Knox, Claire Sowton and Chris Speed for everything Artcasting related. 🙂 

‘Mobilising connections with art’ – a new open access journal article about the Artcasting project

Example of an artcast. Artwork: Self Portrait, 1975 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

My newest article has been published in the International Journal of Heritage Studies. Its focus is on interpreting data from the Artcasting project, a 2015-16 research project that was funded by the AHRC to understand how people’s connections with art can be visualised and used to enrich evaluation practice in museums and galleries. The article is open access and available now

Ross, J., Knox, J., Sowton, C. & Speed, C. (2018) Mobilising connections with art: Artcasting and the digital articulation of visitor engagement with cultural heritage. International Journal of Heritage Studies.

The article looks at how digital methods in cultural heritage settings can help evoke and illuminate the richness of visitor engagement and interpretation. Through the process of analysing the Artcasting data, we found it really useful to look for ways to make sense of difference in visitors’ responses to artworks. We did that in this article by conducting both a thematic analysis, and a more mobilities-informed analysis of the same dataset. We argue that:

The Artcasting project focused on supporting visitors to articulate their responses to artworks using a method that was provocative, performative, and attuned to the mobilities of interpretation, engagement and ownership. This mobility, and the sparking of expressions of ownership through the question of where and when an artwork belonged, created new articulations… The capture of these articulations constitutes a contribution and valuable step forward in our understanding of how heritage is performed at an individual level through the production of memory and messages; and at a collective level through the hypermobility of interpretation. (Ross et al 2018, p.17)

I’m pleased and proud to see this article in print – many thanks to my co-researchers and -authors Claire Sowton, Jeremy Knox and Chris Speed; and to our research partners from the ARTIST ROOMS programme at National Galleries of Scotland, Tate and the Bowes Museum.

Campus Imaginary: new paper about online students & dissertation experiences

A paper based on the research conducted as part of the Dissertations at Distance project has just been published in Teaching in Higher Education. The paper introduces the idea of the ‘campus imaginary’ as a way of accounting for the tendency of online students to attribute difficult or challenging experiences of independent research to their distance from the campus.

[Campus imaginaries portray] the imagined institution and those in it as approachable, sociable, and a space more amenable to the sorts of activities interviewees found themselves undertaking as part of their dissertation. In part these imaginaries draw on assumptions about the advantages of ‘in-person’, as opposed to virtual, contact which are far removed from the experiences described in the literature on campus-based students’ independent research experiences. A number of interviewees, even those whose overall experiences of their online programmes were extremely positive, appeared to ascribe negative experiences to their status as online distance students. For example, issues such as unexpected obstacles, troubles with motivation, difficult supervisory relationships, lack of time and space to focus, and feelings of isolation and doubt were interpreted as features of the online dissertation process specifically. As we will see, however, these issues are common features of transitions from taught courses to independent study; the nature of supervisor-student dynamics; and the inherent challenges of conducting research, particularly for newer researchers.

Ross, J., & Sheail, P. (2017). The ‘campus imaginary’: online students’ experience of the masters dissertation at a distance. Teaching in Higher Education, 0(0), 1–16.


openness & not-yetness – new journal article in Open Praxis

Amy Collier and I have been writing and talking about the concept of not-yetness for a few years now – most recently at the Educational Futures and Fractures conference in Glasgow in February.

On Friday a new article was published in Open Praxis (open access):

Collier, A. and Ross, J. (2017). For whom, and for what? Not- yetness and thinking beyond open content. Open Praxis, 9/1.

This article started life as a presentation at the 2015 Open Ed conference in Vancouver – here are our slides from that talk.

Thanks in part to the discussions at the conference (some reflections on these by @cindyu , David Kernohan), we’ve been continuing to develop these ideas, and this article is the result. It takes a range of critical perspectives on openness as its starting point, and offers the concept of ‘not-yetness’ as a productive lens for examining meanings of openness that go beyond instrumentality, uniformity, and content.

New book chapter, Jen Ross & Amy Collier – Complexity, Mess, and Not-yetness: Teaching Online with Emerging Technologies

Ibook cover emergence and innovation in digital learning‘m really pleased to share my latest open access publication – a jointly authored chapter with Amy Collier (Middlebury College, US) – which defines and explores the concept of ‘not-yetness’.

Ross, J. and Collier, A. (2016). Complexity, mess and not-yetness: teaching online with emerging technologies. In G. Veletsianos (ed), Emergence and Innovation in Digital Learning: Foundations and Applications. Athabasca University Press.

You can download the chapter directly and for free from (go to the “Free PDF” tab).

Amy and I have been writing and speaking about not-yetness for a couple of years now. Here are some related blog posts and other materials:

We are just finishing up a paper based on our OpenEd15 talk, and will be submitting this soon – stay tuned!

Digital Education at Edinburgh: Spotlight issue of Techtrends

In late 2013 the Digital Education group was invited to produce a spotlight issue of the journal TechTrends. This has just been published! You can find it here:

As Sian and I wrote in our editorial:

We were delighted to be invited to create a spotlight issue of TechTrends, bringing together research from the Digital Education research group at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. This group includes members involved in the online Masters in Digital Education programme, MOOC developments at the University of Edinburgh, including the E-learning and Digital Cultures MOOC, authors of the Manifesto for Teaching Online, as well as our Children and Technology group, and Learning Analytics strand.

The group is diverse, and this diversity is reflected in the contents of this spotlight issue. From app design for children with autism, to how reflection is changing in information-dense environments, to students’ views of academic writing in the digital age, to patterns of participation in MOOCs, this spotlight issue is held together not by a single theme or a topic, but by a shared curiosity about what is happening to learning and education as more and more of our experiences are mediated by digital practices and technologies.

The other key thing that brings the articles in this issue together is this: the authors strongly believe that those of us who are immersed in and excited by the possibilities of technology and education are uniquely placed to ask critical questions about it. As knowledgeable insiders, we can and must examine our own and others’ practices, and challenge assumptions and oversimplifications about educational change in a digital age. These papers share this critical take, and aim to treat emerging technology trends as a generative site for asking big questions.

One key source of big questions isbig data’. In this issue, Hamish Macleod, Jeff Haywood, Amy Woodgate and Mubarak Alkhatnai examine some common assumptions made about MOOCs, and find these are not always backed up by participation data from the University of Edinburgh’s massive courses. Jeremy Knox experimented with sensors to explore the boundaries between the human and non-human in the production of data, with interesting implications for future directions for learning analytics. Dragan Gašević, with his co-authors Shane Dawson and George Siemens, challenge the educational usefulness of measurement and prediction of student outcomes through learning analytics, where these analytics are not well-grounded in educational theory and practice. And big data of a different kind – the digital artifacts we collect and learn with – is the focus of Tim Fawns’ exploration of how we engage with information online. He argues that the scale of these collections, and their importance in our lives, now require approaches which combine selectivity and digital creativity to make reflection central to our strategies for coping with information overload.

Another important dimension of learning and technology is how established practice and theory might be challenged and changed by the incursions of the digital. Philippa Sheail argues that the taken-for-granted concept of the ‘meeting’ undergoes some profound transformations when applied to different sorts of digital environments. Andrew Manches, Pauline Duncan, Lydia Plowman and Shari Sabeti take a close look at the development of children’s games to incorporate them into an emerging Internet of Things (IoT). They examine how children engage with IoT-enabled toys linked to the popular games Skylanders and Disney Infinity, and reflect on the ethical and practical implications of changing children’s relationships with everyday things. Peter Evans’ research into professional learning in social media environments shows how these technologies challenge concepts of autonomy and learner control usually thought of as central to personalisation.

Finally, what is still emerging hasn’t yet become routine and invisible, and so can be particularly useful in defamiliarising our world as educators. Once things become ‘black-boxed’ (ref), they disappear from view, and examining new educational technologies, concepts and practices can sometimes crack that box open, letting us make the familiar productively strange. Christine Sinclair takes student perspectives on academic writing as a starting point for exploring the changes which might be coming in scholarship and rethinking the idea of ‘dialogue’ for a digital context. Sue Fletcher-Watson provides an analysis of the development of mobile applications for children with autism, questioning traditional relationships between researchers and developers in the process. She proposes ways for academic researchers, families and consumers, and commercial developers to work together to ensure that both the evaluation and development of these emerging technologies make use of the best available evidence.

As we have engaged as editors with the papers in this spotlight issue, we have come to feel that the different topics, approaches and concerns of our colleagues accurately reflect the richness and diversity of the field of digital education itself. Psychology, cultural studies, literature, sociology and organisation studies are all in evidence as disciplinary perspectives here. We hope that you will find, as we have, that this bringing together of perspectives is invigorating and inspiring, and offers you some fresh insights into your own matters of concern.