How Objects in Spaces Help People in Places: Material Object Interactions Affecting Adults’ Informal Learning: Arts-Informed Research using Sculptural Mobile Forms

Thumbnail Image
Mason, Stephanie M.
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Mount Saint Vincent University
This work is a wide-ranging exploration into the ways adults can be supported to learn informally through material object interactions in public places. In keeping with my methodological lens of arts-informed research, I use a mobile kinetic sculpture to represent entwined strands of thought relating to adults’ informal learning, material object composition, and places’ spatial and historical changes. The design consisted of qualitative interviews and a focus group, in addition to creatively-inspired hand-drawn maps and crafted models, to gather insights from 6 adult participants with lived experiences of 4 public place sites in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The resulting collection of voices, impressions, and images revealed 3 themes–time, tensions, and change–showing attitudes and awarenesses about adults’ informal learning understandings, material objects’ literal and symbolic associations, and public places’ learning opportunities. Enquiry elements proved deceptively complex, revealing that Halifax’s public places are rarely visited for learning purposes, that people value public places reflecting broad social concerns and changes over time, and that visually stimulating displays and features may prompt public place informal learning. Major findings show that • adults rarely connect learning with material object interactions, and generally do not expect to learn in public places, yet are not resistant to these learning possibilities; • public places’ ongoing evident and hidden changes permit balanced tensions that allow different learners’ needs to be accommodated in shared space; • adults who are assisted in imagining places’ size and historical reach through activities like walking or artistic representations are better equipped to recognize materialities connected to buried narratives fostering expanded knowledges; and, • arts-informed research fits this enquiry because entangled ideas are celebrated and because the mobile form permits layers of meaning-making in representing findings, demonstrating research process, and affording adults’ informal learning as itself a material object for interaction. Constructivist positionalities, ecological and new materialisms theories, and stylistic influences from postmodernism and feminisms fashion this writing, producing a bricolage of effects and wayfinding and discovery mirrored in textual author intrusions and literary vignettes. This work adds to knowledge about adults’ informal learning made possible in everyday spaces, and is methodologically significant as a model of interconnected research practice and artful forms. Plus: cats.
Adult learning, object interaction, informal learning