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Holland's Figured Worlds, Artifacts, and Identities in Pract

Presentation mostly quoted material from Bartlett and Holland and Urrieta. Made for educational purposes.

Rebecca Agosta

on 3 September 2013

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Transcript of Holland's Figured Worlds, Artifacts, and Identities in Pract

Holland's Figured Worlds, Artifacts, and Identities in Practice
The piece began with a discussion about literacy and discourses. If you've taken ENG 1101 here, these words might be familiar to you.

Literacy: the process and/or level in fluency in language and/or communication skills in specific contexts/communities.

Discourse: "institutionally defined, socially acceptable ways of thinking, doing, or saying" (Bartlett and Holland) or "saying (writing)-doing-being-valuing-believing combinations...ways of being in the world; they are forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities as well as gestures, glances, body positions, and clothes" (Gee).

These two things can be studied through Holland's projected theory of Figured Worlds, artifacts, and identities in practice.

Why do you think literacies and discourses are lumped together with identity?
How does this fit a writing and language course's goals?
Identity and Self
"Identity and Self are concepts that are not only constituted by the labels -- 'smart girl', 'delinquent', 'incompetent', or 'beloved teacher' -- that people place on themselves and others, especially in schools. Identity is also very much about how people come to understand themselves, how they come to 'figure' who they are, through the 'worlds' that they participate in and how they relate to others within and outside of these worlds." (Urrieta)
So what is a figured world?
"A figured world is a socially produced and culturally constructed 'realm of interpretation in which a particular set of characters and actors are recognized, significance is assigned to certain acts, and particular outcomes are valued over others'" (Bartlett and Holland 12).
Figured Worlds and Narrative
I mentioned that Holland is much more concerned with how narratives affect identity.

"Figured worlds are historical phenomenon and each figured world is in turn organized by 'cultural means', or narratives, storylines and other cultural genre that help organize the figured world.

These narratives provide a significant backdrop for interpretation and provide cultural resources that are durable and socially reproduced...Although narratives may be used by participants as though they were pre/scriptive, they are commonly horizons for meaning against which incidents, acts and individuals are interpreted" (Urrieta).
"Artifacts are social constructions or products of human activity, and they in turn may become tools engage in processes of cultural production. Significantly, a particular person may even, in practice, be collectively constructed as a social artifact. Individuals regularly get construed as symbols of something-say, of beauty, or intelligence, or geekiness" (Bartlett and Holland).

"People learn to ascribe meaning to artifacts such as objects, events, discourses, and to people as understood in relation to particular figured worlds...artifacts help mediate the thoughts and feelings of individual participants and through this means, people acquire the ability to position themselves for themselves.
"Holland et al emphasize figured worlds as spaces of practice wherein actors form as well as perform. Particular persons are figured collectively in practice as fitting certain social identities and thereby positioned in power relations. Over time actors grow into such worlds, figuring themselves as actors in those worlds and gaining a sense of their position, their standing in the relations of power that characterize the particular community of practice...Social phenomena and phenomena of the person" (Bartlett and Holland 14)
The concept of Figured Worlds focuses on understanding the individuals' practice of improvisation and innovation (agency -- their ability to make choices and changes). Because of this, when studying through a Figured Worlds lens, we think of people as actors who can both adhere to a certain kind of script but also may or may not have power to improvise within the Figured World narrative.
Four characteristics of figured worlds by Urrieta:

1. Figured worlds are cultural phenomenon to which people are recruited, or into which people enter, and that develop through the work of their participants.

2. Figured worlds function as contexts of meaning within which social encounters have significance and people's positions matter. Activities relevant to these worlds take meaning from them and are situated in particular times and places.

Examples continued:
3. Figured worlds are socially organized and reproduced, which means that in them people are sorted and learn to relate to each other in different ways.

Examples continued:
4. Figured worlds distribute people by relating them to landscapes of action; thus activities related to the worlds are populated by familiar social types and host to individual senses of self.

Examples continued:
Are we always in the same figured world? How does this go along with identities-in-practice or Gee's ideas of identity?
"Because figured worlds are socially organized and performed, they are dependent on interaction and people's intersubjectivity for perpetuation. In them, people "figure" how to relate to one another over time and across different time/place/contexts...these ways of interacting are almost like 'roles'" (Urrieta).
What identity is the teacher performing?
How do we know this based on his activities?
How do we know this based on the others' activities?
What identity is the teacher performing?
How do we know this based on his activities?
How do we know this based on the others' activities?
What about different student identities?
What identity is the teacher performing?
How do we know this based on his activities?
How do we know this based on the others' activities?
How might a teacher use these narratives to understand and perform themselves?
Heroes, rebels, victims, overcomers, etc.
Let's think about the figured world of a high school senior.
What artifacts "evoke" the figured world?
What artifacts are in practice with that identity?
How could these artifacts let actors mediate their thoughts and feelings and identity-in-practice?
Works Cited

Bartlett, Lesley, and Dorothy Holland. "Theorizing the Space of Literacy Practices." British Library. n. page. Web. 1 Sep. 2013.

Urrieta Jr., Luis. "Figured Worlds and Education: An Introduction to the Special Issue." Springer Science Business Media. (2007): n. page. Web. 1 Sep. 2013.
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