If These Walls Could Talk: Semiotic Codes Analysis of School Space

Conference: The Barcelona Conference on Education (BCE2022)
Title: If These Walls Could Talk: Semiotic Codes Analysis of School Space
Stream: Challenging & Preserving: Culture, Inter/Multiculturalism & Language
Presentation Type: Oral Presentation
Sari R. Alfi-Nissan, Bar-Ilan University, Israel


Schools are both physical and human sites. While people shape and design the physical space of schools, school space nonetheless (re)shapes human behavior, interactions and thought. From a Foucauldian perspective, schools are sites where the articulation of discourse carrying knowledge and powers takes place. However, the sociology of education rarely addresses semiotic codes in physical surroundings of schools to examine these articulations. While the school space is recognized as important, the existing research primarily examines its impact on students' achievements and rarely as a place where social agents live and (trans)form identities. This study presents a tool for understanding school life with all its knowledge/powers, by examining symbolic interaction of space and performers. Drawing on Ervin Goffman and Michel Foucault, this study presents a constructivist methodology design of semiotic codes analysis of school space which includes: 1) Holistic school scenery examination in specific linguistic, graphic & symbolic settings. 2) Etic spatial patterns of meaning analysis, within structural, cultural, and agentic context. 3) "Behind the scenes" social agents' analyses of their everyday life performance scenery. Findings show how the researcher as a social actor living outside the school space and the interpretations of the social agents living within it merge to create reflexive analysis serving both the researcher and the actors. Understanding space as a main player in the construction of self and identity is essential in educational studies and can serve as a reflexive tool for educators and designers in processes of planning and designing inclusive and multicultural school spaces.

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