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Revisiting Communities of Practice – the case of Egyptian graffitists

Amal Abou-Setta (Educational Research PhD Programme, Lancaster University, Lancaster, UK)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 11 May 2015



The Egyptian Revolution gave birth to an intriguing community of graffiti artists that have been going through successful social learning processes. The naturally formed learning groups provided a fertile substance for social learning research and called for a comparison between the nature and elements of social learning and those of the learning taking place in the more traditional settings in an attempt to magnify factors of success. The purpose of this paper is to draw upon Wenger’s (1998) theory of Communities of Practice (CoP) and examines three major elements of learning in relation to it; namely, motivation, social practice, and the role of experts.


The paper offers an in-depth analysis of perceptions of six Egyptian graffiti artists of their learning experiences.


The paper argues that the motivational factor is underdeveloped in Wenger’s theory and that a concept that encompasses a combination of intrinsic motivation (IM) and identified regulation would provide a more accurate description of the driving force of a successful social learning process.

Research limitations/implications

Although a snowballing approach was adopted, reaching the interviewees was not an easy task for security reasons; therefore, limiting the number to six was forced upon the researcher. Yet, a sense of saturation was reached. The paper underlines the vital role of social practice, which places meaning at the centre of learning, calls for revisiting the role of experts in Wenger’s theory and claims its marginality.


Conclusions of this study suggest that the idea of a combination of passion and goal as core components of a CoP is an underdeveloped concept in Wenger’s (1998) theory and that outward motivational factors need to be discarded from the equation. This research proposes that a combination of IM and identified regulation provide a more accurate description of the driving force of a successful social learning process.



The author would like to thank the graffiti artists who took part in this research and contributed with photos of their artwork. This research project has been conducted in completion of an Educational Research PhD degree at the Lancaster University. Special thanks go to Professor Murray Saunders (Lancaster University) for his insightful comments on earlier drafts of this paper.


Abou-Setta, A. (2015), "Revisiting Communities of Practice – the case of Egyptian graffitists", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 135-151.



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