Knowledge representations and (re-)designs in museum contexts

Staffan Selander and Eva Insulander (Stockholm University, Sweden)

Friday 5th February 2021

12:00-13:30 GMT

Online event. Registration required via the Eventbrite link below.

This talk explores knowledge representations and (re-)designs in museum contexts. It focuses on a few examples from ongoing and previous projects, where we have examined museum representations and designs in relation to the new role for museums in our contemporary society. Museums change as a response to new political demands, where questions regarding knowledge and communication have come to challenge the traditional, authoritative role of the museum. This change has occurred over time, and is visible in the museum’s presentation of itself and in the way it addresses its visitors in exhibitions. Our design-oriented approach allows us to focus on representations in relation to cultural, historical and social contexts, and to explore how versions of the world are represented over time in relation to epistemic framings, interests and ideologies.

We begin by considering how institutional framings creates conditions for communication and learning practices. We move on to discussing learning as social practice, and elaborate some elements of what we think is needed to understand communication and learning in a wider sense, which includes attention to factors such as use of artefacts and technologies, performativity, multimodality and design. The notions of knowledge representations and (re-)design are defined.

We then give some empirical examples, where we demonstrate our use of these central notions in analyses of exhibitions and visitors’ meaning making. We will show how exhibitions and visitors’ meaning making can be understood in relation to time and place, and how transformational processes may be studied and understood. We attend to how both producers and visitors make selections of objects, arrange the exhibition space and contribute/attend to overall concepts or approaches. Our examples provide an insight into what meaning making entails, not only in terms of cognitive understanding but also as emotional engagement, interest and identity construction.


Staffan Selander has a PhD in Education, and is Professor Emeritus in Education/Didactic Science at the Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University.  A major part of his research during the last 15 years has focused on designs for and in learning, multimodal knowledge representations and digital learning environments. He has been leading several external, international research projects, and has also been engaged in smaller projects in cooperation with school communities. He took the initiative to start the open access journal Designs for Learning [www.designsforlearning@nu]. Some of his later publications are: Didaktiken efter Vygotskij – Design för lärande (Liber, 2017); Games and Education – Designs in and for Learning (with Arnseth, Hanghøj, Henriksen, Misfeldt & Ramberg, Eds., Brill/Sense, 2018), Digital Learning and Collaborative Practices – Lessons from Inclusive and Empowering Participation in Emerging Technologies (with Brooks & Dau, Eds., Routledge, 2021), and Learning as Social Practice. Beyond Education as an Individual Enterprise (with Kress, Säljö & Wulf, Eds., Routledge 2021).

Eva Insulander is an Associate professor and senior lecturer at the Department of Education at Stockholm University, Sweden. Her research focuses mostly on designs for learning, with an interest in social semiotics and multimodal analysis of educational communication, primarily in the context of museum and history education. She has been involved in several research projects focusing on museums as arenas for learning and communication. She is a member of the research group History of education and Sociology of education and section editor of the peer-reviewed open access journal Designs for learning. 

To watch the recorded talk, see here (Passcode: q229$r&t):


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