EERJ Special Issue: Researching space and time making in Education

EERJ Special Issue: Researching space and time making in Education

The European Educational Research Journal  (EERJ) was created by EERA to further the aims of the association and its members, educational researchers across Europe. It is a scientific journal interested in the changing landscape of education research across Europe. It publishes double-blind peer-reviewed papers in special issues and as individual articles. As part of the ongoing cooperation with EERJ, the EERA blog will share updates and information about upcoming and published special issues and articles alongside blog posts from EERJ contributors. 

Introduction―Space-and time-making in education: Towards a topological lens

Vol 21, Issue 6, 2022

First published online February 16, 2022

Mathias Decuypere
KU Leuven, Belgium

Sigrid Hartong
Helmut Schmidt University Hamburg, Germany

Karmijn van de Oudeweetering
KU Leuven, Belgium

Have you ever had the feeling that time is going faster than it used to? That this acceleration is doing something with our idea of what good education is, or should be? That the pandemic has done something to our understanding of what it means to teach and learn physically ‘here’, or digitally ‘there’? That it is hard to say where and when exactly the workday of an educator starts or ends?

Space and time are made

These questions show us that it is increasingly getting more difficult to talk about space and time as if they are naturally just ‘out there’, surrounding us and our social lives. Contrary to such an instrumental and ‘neutral’ understanding of space and time, nowadays, we equally often hear that space and time are (partly) human constructions, and that our understanding of them changes continuously. For instance, the emergence of online educational platforms and other digital tools allow people from all over the world and across different time zones to be simultaneously present in a class or lecture.

Like a magnifying glass, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has powerfully invigorated and accelerated processes of digitization, and even more clearly illuminated how much impact they have on the educational field. As living rooms have transformed into do-it-yourself classrooms, as computer screens have served as both blackboards and lecturing halls, and as after-school programs have spread over the day, the pandemic has concretely shown how space and time are not only abstract ‘givens’. Rather than that, they have turned the self-evident and previously somehow “tacit” character of space- and time-making in education, into a topic of crucial concern.

Social topology at work

In our Special Issue in the European Educational Research Journal, we discuss and elaborate on one approach that allows us to research such processes of space- and time-making: (social) topology. The usage of topology is not necessarily new in educational research, but it has hitherto merely been used in very complex, theoretical, and abstract manners. In this Special Issue, our aim is to bring together various empirical studies that work within the framework of social topology. In adopting a topological lens, all the studies contained in the Special Issue show topology ‘at work’: they make it very concrete how you can, by means of this framework, research different sorts of space(s) and time(s) in educational practices.

Making educational spaces and times

Topology thus focuses on space and time as relational constructions that are made by humans, and that at the same time have a very profound impact on humans. A very intuitive example of this is the switching of the clock when we enter and exit daylight saving time – we then all very clearly feel the impact of our (human) tinkering with time. In our Special Issue, we have collected various contributions that show the different sorts of spacetimes that exist in the field of education; most of the time even existing at once. Where, for instance, does a lecture take place when it is being distributed in a digital form as a lecture capture and when it is equally being discussed online on Twitter?

Similarly, when and where does something like a borderless ‘European education’ take place when it is happening online? Where does it begin and where does it end?

These are the kind of questions that are addressed in our Special Issue, and that show the importance of using a topological lens in order to do research that focuses on the making of educational spaces and times. Moreover, as the Special Issue shows, these newly emerging spaces and times, when they are introduced in our educational systems, are doing something with and to do those systems. For instance, they create new sorts of professions and new types of professionalities. Equally, they are rhetorically deployed in such a way that they install particular future visions and desires into students and teachers.


In summary, then, our Special Issue focuses on educational spaces and times as things that are continuously being made. Moreover, the articles in the collection do so by giving mutual attention to space(s) and time(s).

As such, the collection greatly advances our understanding of how the spatial and the temporal continuously interact with each other, and thus makes a clear case for the importance of analyzing both conjointly, without seeking to privilege one over the other.

You can access the EERJ Special Issue here (open access). If you are interested in submitting to the EERJ, you can find the Submission Guidelines here.

Prof. Mathias Decuypere

Prof. Mathias Decuypere

Associate Professor of Qualitative Research at KU Leuven, Belgium.

Mathias Decuypere is Associate Professor of Qualitative Research at KU Leuven, Belgium.

Professor Sigrid Hartong

Professor Sigrid Hartong

W3-Professor of Sociology at Helmut Schmidt Universität Hamburg, Germany.

Sigrid Hartong is W3-Professor of Sociology at Helmut Schmidt Universität Hamburg, Germany.

Karmijn van de Oudeweetering

Karmijn van de Oudeweetering

Doctoral candidate at KU Leuven, Belgium.

Karmijn van de Oudeweetering is a doctoral candidate at KU Leuven, Belgium.

How to prepare for your first ERG conference

How to prepare for your first ERG conference

The Emerging Researchers’ Group holds an annual conference, the Emerging Researchers’ Conference (ERG), preceding the European Conference on Educational Research (ECER). We asked Estella Ferraro for some tips on preparing and attending your first ERG Conference.

Going to an international conference for the first time can be overwhelming and exciting at the same time. It is an excellent opportunity to meet fellow colleagues from all over the world – I have met colleagues from Europe but also from Australia, Asia, South America, and Africa.  It also gives you feedback on your research from outside the own academic framework, which can really open your eyes to entirely new perspectives.

You can’t just show up on the first day of the conference. There are a number of preparations you should undertake, and some of them start months before the conference even takes place. Especially when planning to go to ECER for the first time, it is easy to lose track of the upcoming necessary deadlines. So here are some tips on how to prepare for your first (or second or third) ERG conference.

Deadlines and preparations in advance to the conference

The Proposal

Many reasons may have led you to want to attend the ERG conference. Perhaps the topic is of great interest to you, or you have always wanted to travel to the place ECER takes place that year, or maybe your supervisor asked you to come along. The first decision is if you wish to present yourself or if you are attending to watch, learn, and network. Both have their advantages: it can be very inspiring to participate for the first time without being nervous or stressed about your own presentation, especially if your funding permits that.

On the other hand, I would suggest that if you have a chance to present you should go for it! The ERG conference is a great place to practice your presentation skills and get helpful feedback on your research in an extremely friendly atmosphere on an international scale.

Submission usually starts in December before the conference and ends in January. You can find the current deadline here. This timeline is something you should keep in mind and plan for so you can write the proposal and hand it in in time.


With that in mind, you might also consider funding opportunities. There are many opportunities for travel grants and funding you can apply for (from EERA, your home country, or home university). It is worth researching the conditions and deadlines for funding opportunities so that you don’t miss a chance! Make sure you can get all necessary documents in time, especially if you need something from others who might take some time such as a recommendation letter.

Accommodation, Visa and Flights

Obviously, this won’t apply if the conference takes place digitally. In April review results are usually announced, and this is when things get real! It can be advisable to book accommodation even before results are announced if you have an option to cancel free of charge. ECER is a huge conference and often in small cities so affordable accommodation can be booked out quickly. Don’t leave this to the last minute. Similarly, if you need to apply for a visa, check the deadlines so you don’t miss anything.

Deadlines and Preparations Closer to the Conference

Preparing your Presentation

Once time draws closer to the conference, you should start preparing your paper if you have been accepted to present one. Here it is important that you don’t overload your presentation as timing can be tricky. Participants often want to include too much information, while often it’s better to keep it simple and clear. Don’t be scared about presenting in another language.  Your English doesn’t have to be perfect and, in my experience, everyone at the ERG conference is really helpful even if you forget how to say something. If you have questions on your research or about something you’re stuck with, it’s fine to ask for that in the discussion too, so that you can really get the most from your experience and presentation at ECER.

Scheduling your conference

Look at the schedule and think about what interests you, and what you want to get out of the conference. Be prepared to pick out some sessions in advance but also accept that sometimes you might end up spontaneously changing your mind. Don’t overschedule yourself Leave some space for networking opportunities and meeting other academics as well.

Finally, all I can say is the emerging researcher conference is an amazing platform to learn, engage and network, so: Enjoy your time there!

Further Information

Find out more about the ERG Conference, including deadlines, programme, and accepted presentation formats on the EERA website.

Want to know what to expect? Have a look at the previous ECER and ERG conferences and check out our YouTube channel for videos of the ECER keynote sessions in 2020. 

Dr Estella Ferraro

Dr Estella Ferraro

Dr Estella Ferraro (née Hebert) is a Post-Doc researcher at the Goethe University in Frankfurt at the chair for theory and history of education. She is also a co-convenor for the Emerging Researchers Group and for Network 6 Open Learning: Media, Environments, and Cultures of the European Educational Research Association (EERA). Her research interests focus on questions of media education including teaching and learning with new media, datafication and big data, digital surveillance, identity in the light of personal data, and questions of digital ethics. Her PhD thesis published under the title of „Willful Blindness – on the relationship of identity, agency and personal data“ exemplifies the intersection of a bildungs-theoretical perspective with post-digital theories that characterise Dr Ferraro as a researcher.

She has over six years of experience in teaching and researching media education and has worked and studied internationally. For more information on her research and work go to: