The Porous University Symposium: Inquiry as openness; Re-imagining the university, its commitments and responsibilities by Emanuele Bardone and Maarja Taaler

While it is usually connected to widening participation, openness can also be interpreted as the very core element constituting inquiry as a mode of engagement in and with the world. Our provocation focuses on inquiry as openness in university.

Emanuele Bardone
Emanuele Bardone


Our starting point is an experience matured in schools as ethnographers in a European project called “Ark of Inquiry” focusing on inquiry learning. In this project we had a chance to observe how inquiries were conducted in several Estonian schools. Interestingly, the single cases observed varied along a continuum that went from a highly scripted format to a more open one.


On the one extreme, students were reduced to mere executors of a recipe-type of activity. The teacher stepped out of the process making sure that all the steps were properly followed. On the other, students were given the chance to make several key decisions during the inquiry, forcing the teacher to step into the process, tinkering with students’ suggestions and improvise.


Although inquiries practised in school are not (fully) comparable with those conducted by researchers and students in their apprenticeship, this experience made us think. As we have observed, inquiry loses its reason d’etre when it is pursued instrumentally.


If in schools this means relying on a recipe-type of format, in university it means limiting the possibility of re-defining problems, improvising on the basis of chance encounters, experimenting with new methods of collecting as well as presenting “data”.



If we do not limit such possibilities, what kind of institutions can we imagine? How could we re-frame commitments and responsibilities? How would we re-imagine the engagement of actors outside the university?


Would inquiry as openness lead to chaos and dismissal of the university? Does it describe an ideal that would never fit any institutional framework? How would it be financially supported and sustainable?


About the Presenter

Emanuele Bardone is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Educational Technology, Institute of Education, of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has published extensively and written the book Seeking Chances: From Biased Rationality to Distributed Cognition.  He held a Marie Curie Fellowship between the years 2011 and 2014 at the Institute of Informatics, Tallinn University, Estonia, where he taught Philosophy of Human-Computer Interaction and Philosophy of Cognition in the International Master program on Human-Computer Interaction.  He was awarded his PhD in Philosophy from the University of Pavia, Italy, where he taught Cognitive Philosophy from 2009 to 2011.




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