chapter  4
Beyond ‘mutual constitution’: Looking at learning and context from the perspective of complexity theory
Pages 17

The question of ‘mobilizing learning across domains’ seems to directly contradict the notion of learning as situated, and tied up with the particularities of context. The requirement to consider such different ideas together, however, signifies something of the range of competing agendas, theoretical concepts and divergent histories which characterize the state of contemporary learning theory. This chapter will argue that some of the conceptual difficulties involved in theorizing learning are the result of a clash between, on the one hand, a range of perspectives which have come to the conclusion that ‘knowledge must be contextual’ (Byrne 2005a) and, on the other, a prevailing ontology which declares that contextual knowledge can only ever be ‘idiosyncratic’ (Bassey, in Marsden 2007). Evolving interpretations of situated learning, activity theory and actor-network theory all attempt to deal with the difficulties that this creates. This chapter will explore how complexity theory, as a perspective which ‘arises among’ other discourses, rather than ‘over them’ (Davis and Sumara 2006: 8), offers a means of exploring some of the issues involved in contemporary articulations of knowledge, learning, cognition, and context in more detail.