Educational heterotopia and students’ use of Facebook

Andrew Hope


Facebook use in higher education has grown exponentially in recent years, with both academics and students seeking to use it to support learning processes. Noting that research into educational cyberspace has generally ignored spatial elements, this paper redresses this deficiency through using Foucault’s (1986) discussion of different spaces to examine Facebook use. Recognising that more than simple façade space is also social practice, Foucault’s heterotopian principles are used to explore spatial notions of difference (deviance and divergence), relational aspects (conflicts and connections) and flow (time and thresholds). It is argued that social networking sites offer possibilities for creative deviations, can foster learning communities and help to develop social relations. Yet they also distract students, allowing them to escape seminars, whilst giving rise to damaging, rigid definitions of work and study. Ultimately, if universities are to be architects of the future, rather than its victims, the inherent differences of such learning spaces need to be recognised and traditional notions of academic work challenged.


Social Media; University; Space; Heterotopia; Learning

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