Exploring in-between space

Inbetween_webinar_ccbyIn a Teaching and Learning Conversation* webinar (26th Nov) Andrew Middleton and I wanted to present and explore some ideas about in-between spaces drawing on the concepts of liminality and third space/place and use this as an opportunity to talk about informal learning.

By in-between spaces we were referring to spaces that are outside pre-defined boundaries (and where there is the potential for people to step outside/transcend existing roles/identities). A lecture room or an institutional virtual learning environment are examples of bounded spaces that are well established and where the roles and expected contribution of staff and students can be said to be almost ‘built in’. In contrast in-between spaces are characterised by having less structure and less well-defined roles and therefore potentially they are spaces where less formalised interactions and conversations can happen.  In-between spaces are thus characterised by boundary crossings. 

In the webinar I talked about the ‘Students as Teaching and Learning Consultants‘ project and my analysis of the liminal conversational space that developed in the process (see references below). And when we asked participants where and when they learn, ‘in conversation’ and ‘in collaboration’ featured frequently. They also identified the activity of connecting across contexts and public/private, home/work spaces as key to their learning.

Mapping the constituent parts of the idea of in-between space

I have been trying to do a sort of initial mapping of the ideas influencing the notion of in-between and the different disciplines they originate in. In the image below I have tried to trace the influences that come together in the notion of in-between space. From Anthropology and Victor Turner‘s analysis of liminality comes the idea of the transformative power and ambiguous nature of the in-between. From Sociology and the work of Oldenburg (influenced by Georg Simmel‘s work on sociability) comes the idea that the in-between space is characterised by equality and community. From the thinking of Homi Bhaba in Cultural studies and the way Kris Gutierrez combines Bhaba with Vygotsky and Goffman, come the idea that the in-between space has the potential for boundary crossing and is characterised by negotiation and translation.


Depicting the aspects of different disciplines and writers that influence and come together in the notion of in-between space. CC-BY

*TLC is an informal cross-institutional collaboration to provide joint CPD opportunities for everybody teaching and/or supporting learning in Higher Education.

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About kshjensen

Anthropologist. Ethnographic research and user experience. I craft, bake, like real ale and stacking stones. Currently working on developing research impact.
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8 Responses to Exploring in-between space

  1. francesbell says:

    Very interesting! Would love to chat about this sometime. Are you at NLC 2016 by any chance?

    • kshjensen says:

      Hi Frances, I would certainly be more than happy to chat and hear your thoughts. I’m not at NLC 2016, really enjoyed it when I went. I hope to be at OER in Edinburgh in April, will you be there?

      • francesbell says:

        I am self-funding and can only afford one conference so chose NLC2016 but I did work on programme committee for OER16 (coordinating reviews) so I know there are very interesting submissions. I wish I could be there. I heard Andrew Middleton speak about ‘walking around’ staff development last year and it sounded fascinating.
        I’ll be reading more about liminality and third spaces (so thank you for this) as I have been exploring (critically) the concept of heterotopias in SNS and SNS used in social learning in recent work. One is a paper for NLC2016 and the other is a paper I’m writing with co-authors that we are currently revising after review.

  2. kshjensen says:

    I am building a collection of learning space, liminality, third space literature at: https://www.zotero.org/katjensen/items/collectionKey/RZEFPNGZ

    I think it is an open group for anyone to join. I confess that I am not as consistent in keeping it up to date as I should be but there may be some useful papers in there.

  3. Pingback: Liminal space in The Breakfast Club | kshjensen – always learning

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