Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Mark Luborsky


With the rapid growth of eLearning applications - the software providing for learning through the Internet - it has become commonplace to describe those technologies as both simple tools and user-friendly. These two vague yet suggestive terms make the operating of the technology appear as social value and any related issues as a user's problem. Interested neo-liberal groups take a step further when considering eLearning technologies as the solution for the problems faced in the field. STS studies recognize that technology fetishism is strategically employed to justify the latest developments of capitalism as technological and logical.

This doctoral study examines the complexity of the LMS software, a widely used platform in higher education, from a learner's perspective by both problematizing the term user and highlighting the systemic nature of user's issues. Becoming an LMS user is viewed as a social process of sense-making in which the system is transformed to the point that learner feels in a personal relationship with the system. The surrounding fetishistic discourse represents a capitalistic philosophy not only associated with the industrial production of software but also aimed at the commodification of learner, contradicting the social image/function of education.

This study draws mainly from an ethnographic data collection on the experiences and perspectives of a team in charge of updating and troubleshooting Blackboard software in an American higher education setting during the 2012-13 school year, from a selection of hundreds of Internet related documents, and from my personal experience with online teaching. The study first outlines the origin and historical rise and expansion of LMS technologies; it describes how the system was socially reconstructed for fitting technology and situating learner within consumer structures; and it explains the social processes through which a learner becomes a Blackboard user. By using Blackboard as a case study, this dissertation attempts to narrow the gap between similar studies in education that often take technology/user for granted and the valuable insights achieved by STS studies in surrounding areas to LMS.