Peripheral is Not Peripheral: Lave & Wenger on Legitimate Peripheral Participation

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1998). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Lave and Wenger in this first chapter talk about learning not as an acquisition of knowledge but rather learning through engagement in the social world by experiencing the performance of an expert. They use the term legitimate peripheral participation to describe the access one has to such learning. The use of the term peripheral made me think that the learning was on the edge, but that is not the case. They comment,

"There is no place in a community of practice designated 'the periphery,' and, most emphatically, it has no single core or center. Central participation would imply that there is a center (physical, political, or metaphorical) to a community with respect to an individual's 'place' in it. Complete participation would suggest a closed domain of knowledge or collective practice for which there might be measureable degrees of 'acquisition' by newcomers (p. 36)."

So if there is no periphery and no centrality, then why use the term periphery? The term in itself refers to the edge, so why use this term? It seems as if they are suggesting that there are not amounts of learning but that we learn through participation or the access to the participation, which they are calling legitimate peripheral participation.

From my experiences in CI597C, we talked about, what I would consider, various levels of participation - from complete engagement to simply lurking. In my mind, there seem to be levels, but I'm thinking Lave and Wenger would argue that fact based on the previous quotation.

What thoughts do you have? Your insights are most welcome in order to clarify this concept for me.