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Dr Ben Evans

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Professional biography

I seek to empirically understand how situated communities develop their conventions/rules and products. This broad intent segways into research interests in communication (language, signs, multimodality) digital technology, education, mediated action, social culturalism, social capital and systems of activity. Therein, my research builds out from the writings of Wertsch who argues that:

'...human action typically employs "mediational means" such as tools and language, and that these mediational means shape the action in essential ways' (Wertsch, 1991, p.12).

An interest in mediated action began when I was introduced to computer-based cognitive tools while studying digitally-mediated learning at Oxford. These tools promise to distribute cognitive load between computer and human in ways which ensure that human's peculiar goal is achieved, even if it hither-to remained out-of-reach. Roy Pea's papers on 'distributed intelligence' speak to this perspective:

'I take as axiomatic that intelligence is not a quality of the mind alone, but a product of the relation between mental structures and the tools of the intellect provided by the culture' (Pea 1985, p.168).

These philosophical foundations situated an investigation into the role of classroom music education in community development. This Doctoral research argued that the music classroom could be redefined by its situation in time and space: a place where young people's culturally constructed musical relationships collide with formalised institutional agendas to forge new community conventions. I investigated how institutional rules, digital technology and young people's personal relationship with music can simultaneously mediate creative behavior in ways which uphold authentic community discourse. That is, creative activity which seeks to make use of and develop participants' social capital to redress any power asymmetries which might otherwise arise during classroom activity. 

Pea, R. (1985). "Beyond Amplification: Using the Computer to Reorganize Mental Functioning." Educational Psychologist 20(4): 167-182.
Pea, R. (2001). Practices of distributed intelligence and designs for education. Distributed Cognitions: Psychological and Educational Considerations. G. Salomon. Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press: 47-87.
Wertsch, J. (1991). Voices of the Mind: A Sociocultural Approach to Mediated Action. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.

Research interests

  • Digitally-mediated learning
  • Multimodal communication (social semiotics, signs)
  • Social capital and power/control asymmetries influencing community settings
  • Social equality and justice 
  • Social culturalism (e.g influencing role of community conventions [i.e. rules, artifacts, people] upon situated action)
  • Qualitative methodology (nature of reality/truth, dismantling power asymmetries in research design, visualizing qualitative data)
  • Learning theory/pedagogy
  • Educational psychology and philosophy 
  • Music education (esp. statutory provision in the UK)
  • Creativity (empirically investigating creative process from a systems perspective)
  • Activity theory
  • Theories of mediated action (cognitive load/distributed intelligence)
  • Philosophy of digital technology

Teaching interests

  • Carrying out research in educational settings
  • Digital technology and society
  • Development of academic writing, critical thinking
  • Research methodology and methods
  • How to capture multimodal communication for data analysis
  • Designing research for human participants (ethical implications) 


Experiences of African American Spanish Learners in the US: mitigating racialization and fostering belonging through an inclusive curriculum (2024-01-16)
Morris, Andrea Easley and Evans, Ben
Journal of Spanish Language Teaching, 10 (pp. 138-154)