Penn State

Consortium forSocial Movements and Education
Research and Practice

Tanner Vea

Tanner Vea

Assistant Professor of Learning, Design, and Technology and Learning Sciences
He/Him, They/Them
Tanner Vea

Professional Bio

Tanner Vea is a socioculturally oriented learning scientist whose research focuses on emotion and felt relation as learning processes and outcomes, particularly in contexts of political contestation. Dr. Vea has published on learning and emotion in the animal rights movement in the Journal of the Learning Sciences, Information and Learning Science, and the British Journal of Educational Technology. They are currently engaged in a research partnership with a multiracial community organizing group in Philadelphia to explore the notion of a "political home" and how design practices can be adapted to cultivate one in the context of political organizing.

Research Interests

Affect and Emotion, Social Relations, Ethics, Design

Related Materials

Joe Curnow, Tanner Vea, Andrew Kohan
Our Research

In summer 2019, we hosted the Learning to Engage conference, a place for learning scientists to collaborate on our work for justice-focused research that centers learning and civic engagement. Funded by the Spencer Foundation, we spent a week thinking through how learning matters in community organizations, social movements, classrooms, and informal learning environments. At the end of the conference, we committed to creating a comic that translates the research work we have done with different activities into a more useful resource that explains sociocultural theories of learning and contextualizes how they can be useful in other organizing spaces. The comics in this special issue attempt to do this work.

Curnow, J., & Vea, T. (2020). Emotional configurations of politicization in social justice movements. Information and Learning Sciences, 121 (9/10). 729-747.


This paper aims to trace how emotion shapes the sense that is made of politics and how politicization can remake and re-mark emotion, giving it new meaning in context. This paper brings together theories of politicization and emotional configurations in learning to interrogate the role emotion plays in the learning of social justice activists.


Drawing on sociocultural learning perspectives, the paper traces politicization processes across the youth climate movement (using video-based interaction analysis) and the animal rights movement (using ethnographic interviews and participant observation).


Emotional configurations significantly impacted activists’ politicization in terms of what was learned conceptually, the kinds of practices – including emotional practices – that were taken up collectively, the epistemologies that framed social justice work, and the identities that were made salient in collective action. In turn, politicization reshaped how social justice activists made sense of emotion in the course of activist practice.

Social implications

This study is valuable for theorizing social justice learning, so social movement facilitators and educators might design spaces where learning about gender, racialization, colonialism and/or human/more-than-human relations can thrive. By attending to emotional configurations, this study can help facilitate a design that supports and sustains learning for justice.


Emotion remains under-theorized and under-analyzed in the learning sciences, despite indications that emotion enables and constrains particular learning opportunities. This paper proposes new ways of understanding emotion and politicization as co-constitutive processes for learning scientists interested in politics and social justice.


Vea, T. (2020). The learning of emotion in/as sociocultural practice: The case of animal rights activism. Journal of the Learning Sciences29(3), 311-346.

Learning sciences researchers, including those in the sociocultural tradition, often address emotion on motivation’s terms, as a condition or quality of being that propels or mediates learning activity. Other times, emotion remains implicit in analyses of learning. Toward a more robust theorization of the relationship between learning and emotion, I present a sociocultural analysis of ethnographic fieldnotes and interviews with animal rights activists. I present a sociocultural practice view on emotion, introducing “emotional configurations” to denote how emotion, rather than comprising universal and internal states, only becomes meaningful through entanglement with sense-making and situated practice in social activity. Analysis reveals two modes for emotion in learning: (1) as a condition of learning that drives learning along and (2) as a target of teaching and learning in its own right. I name “guided emotion participation” as a genre of activity that approaches emotional configurations as a learning target. Integrating sociocultural practice theory with emotion research provides new tools for analyzing emotion in learning. This study highlights how emotion is subject to norms, ideology, and power relations. For researchers studying the politics of learning, this study demonstrates how emotion shapes political possibilities and collective action as learning phenomena.

In this paper, I consider a social movement for animal rights as a site of learning about a particular form of ethics. I use a multiliteracies framework, which emphasizes critical consumption and creation across a range of media forms, to consider how learning unfolds using a different kind of medium: the affective body. Activists in this study learned to read the signs of their embodied encounters with nonhuman animals as a privileged mode for understanding their ethical truth. Then they used other forms of digital mediation to produce and spread the feelings of being present with animals for others. I discuss social media memes and virtual reality as two examples. I employ the term “im-mediacy” to emphasize both the affects of feeling present and the sense-making involved in mediation and its ideologies. This approach considers affect and semiosis as mutually constitutive processes in learning. The findings also suggest the need to consider the affects produced in learning environments that bring bodies in proximity to one another, or that use technology to mediate feelings of proximity, as well as what I describe as embodied literacies for sensing the needs of others and responding with care.