Ann Bib #2: Situated Learning

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Legitimate peripheral participation in communities of practice. Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation (91-117). Cambridge: Cambridge, UP.

Lave and Wenger examine the ways that newcomers or apprentices enter a community of practice. This chapter focuses entirely on situated learning, the idea that the members of the community learn from one another without being specifically instructed by a master. In fact, most often apprentices learn more alongside other apprentices than from direct instruction from the master (93). “A learning curriculum consists of situated opportunities (thus including exemplars of various sorts often thought of as ‘goals’) for the improvisational development of new practice (Lave 1989)” (p. 97). The social structure in a community of practice allows for participation at multiple levels, participation “in an activity system about which participants share understandings concerning what they are doing and what that means in their lives and for their communities” (p. 98).

The authors explain that one way to engage in the community is to understand and use the tools of the community. To become a full member “requires access to a wide range of ongoing activity, old-timers, and other members of the community; and to information, resources, and opportunities for participation” (p. 101). Further, understanding the technology employed by the community is also important, not only for learning purposes but to “connect with the history of the practice and to participate more directly in its cultural life” (p. 101). Full community members will be able to understand the ways of the culture with transparency. At that point, use of technology, tools, artifacts, etc. becomes not something else to learn but rather a means to learning more and participating more fully.


I will be arguing that the festival itself is a community of practice. Granted, it is one where newcomers do not need to be acculturated should they choose to merely attend as concert attendees and not full community members. Some bring their own mobile communities with them, while others have created temporary communities that are only in play during the time period of the festival each year.Because the festival requires the commitment of living on site for the duration, community is more likely to happen than at other festivals where attendees are more able to opt in or out of the community.

Question for the class: would the concert totems function more as artifact, tool, or technology, or a mixture of items?

I do see the concert totems as enabling a more full participation in the festival community of practice, and I see a difference between the totem-creating skills of a newbie and an experienced old-timer. I will explore further in my project.