You are here:

Working-class computer learning: An historical materialist analysis of participation, practice and learning in the everyday

, University of Toronto , Canada

University of Toronto . Awarded


In this thesis I explore the class dimensions of adult computer learning amongst industrial workers in Southern Ontario (Canada). My interests are to understand the full range of computer learning that working-class people engage in which is largely obscured by a coherent set of universalized, individualized, pedagogically-oriented tendencies that run through conventional adult learning theory. I use historical materialist and neo-Vygotskian frameworks in an integrated analysis of in-depth interviews (n = 73), case studies of micro-interaction as well as original analysis of large-scale survey data. I argue that computer learning is deeply embedded in relations of advanced capitalism. Central concepts include “common sense” (Gramsci, 1971), working-class learning “habitus” (Bourdieu, 1984), and “frame analysis” (Goffman, 1974). The material structure, orality and commodification in working-class computer learning are considered. Combining this analysis with a careful consideration of social standpoints in everyday activity we are able to understand computer learning as composed of differentiated and differentiating patterns of participation.

Focusing on everyday practices, I claim that class standpoints provide the starting point for understanding a working-class learning habitus. When fully expressed in materially stable conditions this habitus gives rise to spontaneous, mutualistic and democratic learning communities. The establishment of these conditions is also influenced by gender and racial standpoints. Working people's computer learning activities centre around tactical methods, interstitial locations of practice, and class-based cultural networks. At the same time, computer learning activity is mediated by a highly fragmented and contradictory technological common sense which is dominated by individualized consumption, mystification of technology, exchange-value oriented activity and a process of incorporation into capitalist political economic relations.


Sawchuk, P.H. Working-class computer learning: An historical materialist analysis of participation, practice and learning in the everyday. Ph.D. thesis, University of Toronto. Retrieved April 21, 2019 from .

This record was imported from ProQuest on October 23, 2013. [Original Record]

Citation reproduced with permission of ProQuest LLC.

For copies of dissertations and theses: (800) 521-0600/(734) 761-4700 or