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Signifying the Transition from Modern to Post-Modern Schooling... 3

cultural constructivism (Gibson, 1979). This concept has become increasingly prominent in
recent sociological and ergo-phenomenological discussions of the significance of domestic
objects (see Hutchby, 2001; Norman, 2000). Hutchby argues that ―affordances are functional
and relational aspects which frame, while not determining, the possibilities for agentic action
in relation to an object‖ (Hutchby, 2001, p. 444). In Gibson‘s work, the concept of affordance
derives from an attempt to understand the immediate phenomenological significance of
ordinary objects. Ordinary objects are viewed as pregnant with meaning. For Gibson, each
perceptual layout affords a particular kind of activity, and so for him the most basic meanings
of the world are already perceptually ―there‖ and readily available to ―resonate‖ with the
organism‘s needs and wider demands for meaning. For example furniture affords more than
an array of practical and survival-orientated significances—chairs for sitting-on, shelves for
putting-things-on, and so on. Additional affordances of furniture could be those of acting as
status symbol and/or sign of taste, imposing a social intercourse of specific type, etc.
Despite the fact that the pole of technological determinism has dominated for quite a long
period of time, it is only recently that we have witnessed a burgeoning body of empirical
studies, from social and cognitive sciences, which has begun to delineate the ways in which
objects are socially constructed and feature in social relations and activities. This kind of
approach corresponds to the aforementioned pole of social constructivism.
The last two decades have witnessed a resurgence of interest in exploring the spatial
contours of socio-cultural life (Kostogriz, 2006) especially in relation to urban (e.g. Wells,
2007; Huyssen, 2003; Weszkalnys, 2007) or domestic spaces (e.g. Lefebvre, 1971; Miller,
2001; Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001) and far less in relation to school spaces (e.g. Solomon,
1992; Lawn and Grosvenor, 2005). Although the ―spatial turn‖ (Soja, 2000) in geopolitical
and cultural studies has directed researchers‘ attention to how spatial arrangements operate as
a constitutive dimension of social life, the implications of these studies for educational
research still remain largely underutilized.
There is a significant ethnographic material that runs from Durkheim and Mauss‘s
Primitive Classification (1963) and much of Levi-Strauss‘s work, to Bourdieu‘s (1979) early
essay on the Kabyle house. Certain material forms, such as house structures or the layout of
villages, seem to offer privileged sites for the expression or concretization of social structures
and cultural meanings.
Among the various contributions falling within this theoretical trend, we distinguish those
of Lefebvre and Foucault. Following Marx, these thinkers rely on the assumption that the
general meaning of an artefact is a technological device which, in combination with labour
use, transforms the consciousness of those who use it and the society in which it is used.
Lefebvre (1991) supplemented the idea of objective space with the social production of
spatiality, maintaining that every society produces its own spatiality in relation to its mode of
economic and ideological production. Lefebvre laid arguments for the integrality of space
with human existence. His book The Production of Space (Lefebvre, 1991) is the most
creative contribution to an understanding of social space which involves three interrelated
dimensions—socio-cultural practices, representations, and imaginations—that have an impact
on the ways we understand and use space and on the ways we are positioned by it.
These concerns have been extended through the historical analysis of the docile body to
social structure and power in work of Michel Foucault (1977, 1986) and sociologically in the
notions of habitus by Pierre Bourdieu (1972).

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