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Because entanglements are vital to understanding relationalities in the specificities, what is needed is an approach that does not tear them apart… (Barad & Gandorfer, 2021, p. 51)
What we (researchers, scholars, students, teachers, etc.) do with ‘data’ once we have ‘access’ to it happens often unexpectedly, in unpredictable and entangled ways. (Koro-Ljungberg, 2015, p. 48)
The concept of entanglement explains the way matter intra-acts. In this study, the concept of entanglements is used to describe the way data makes itself known. That is, data collection and data analysis are re-framed as data entanglements to signal the constant, inherent intra-actions that are always already happening between data collection and analysis practices such that their distinction is indeterminable.
Entanglements are the meeting of material-discursive practices through their diffractive patterning that creates disturbances. These enactments cannot be separated or drawn apart but are part of material becoming. The material becoming is the way that a phenomena, in this case the data, makes itself known. Data entanglements are not merely “the joining of separate entities” (Barad, 2007, p. ix), such as data collection and analysis, but describe a dynamism – an inherent understanding that these data making practices are in constant flux. Entanglement does not denote a blending or unification: “entanglements are not unities. They do not erase differences; on the contrary, entanglings entail differentiatings, differentiatings entail entanglings. One move – cutting together-apart” (Barad, 2014, p. 176; emphasis in original). An entanglement describes the relationality of matter as always already part of a collective process of becoming. The data entanglements in this study are inherently relational and making themselves known through the research processes that were enacted.
In addition, entanglements deconstruct notions of the self, or ‘I’ by positioning the human as a dynamic phenomenon with others (Barad, 2007; Koro-Ljungberg, 2015; St. Pierre, 2011). As stated by Snaza et al. (2016) “there is no longer a knowing (human) subject who acts and a passive (nonhuman) object that is acted upon: everything is ‘entangled’” (p. xvii). St. Pierre (2013) argues that “if being is always already entangled, then something called data cannot be separate from me, ‘out there’ for ‘me’ to ‘collect,’ and, with that astonishment, the entire structure of conventional humanist qualitative inquiry falls apart” (p. 226) and continues to justify the discontinued need for data as a defined ‘thing’. However, in this study, I contend that data is still a needed concept that requires a reconceptualisation. I concur with St. Pierre (2013) that the notion of data being ‘out there’ for ‘me’ to ‘collect’ is problematic, and in this thesis I explore ways that data is always already entangled in the data making process. That is, I argue that data are not “passive” or “subservient to the work of analysis and interpretation”, nor are data “inert, lifeless and disorganized” (Koro-Ljungberg et al., 2018, pp. 462 - 463). Data are material, where data as matter is “lively, agentic, and infused with affect” (Koro-Ljungberg et al., 2018, p. 469). As Koro-Ljungberg (2015) describes,
Thinking about data’s relationality, movement, entanglements, or multidirectional epistemological flows – that is, knowledge from data shaping researchers and research, knowledge from research shaping data, and/or knowledge within the data-researcher relationship shaping the data-researcher relationship, among others – might help us to change the direction of knowledge production in critical social science research and practice. (p. 46)
While the word entanglement has often been used interchangeably with assemblage in the literature (see for example Ellingson & Sotirin, 2020; Gullion, 2018), for the purpose of this PhD, it is necessary to clarify that an entanglement is a specific term borrowed from quantum theory to describe the science that explains how matter cannot strictly be defined or separated with boundaries (Barad, 2007), although the distinctions may seem real to the human eye. These two concepts could be argued and conceptualised to find the intersections, as was undertaken by MacLure (2013) who describes assemblage and entanglement as a way to explain ‘non-hierarchical organisation’. However, while MacLure’s (2013) argument may explain part of an entanglement, it does not encapsulate its complex and dynamic nature in entirety and as such, I assert that it is a reductionist claim. This study is grounded and positioned in the science of quantum physics by considering the human/nonhuman intra-actions of the classroom milieu such as through the concept of material-discursive practices. In addition, quantum theory is where the concept of entanglements was born and as such, is applied fittingly to this study.