Updates from June, 2019 Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts

  • Mark 7:56 am on June 30, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: issue formation, mattering, ,   

    The analytical space where ‘publics’ meet ‘problems’: keeping it open rather than shutting it down 

    From Material Participation by Noortje Marres pg 57-58:

    By defining the public in terms of a problem of relevance, pragmatism undid two persistent attempts to solve the problem of material publics by conceptual means: the tendency to either internalize or to externalize the problems of the public. They warned against the attempt to externalize public affairs, and to assume that issues are simply ‘out there’, and all that is required for effective public action upon them, is an adequate (expert) understanding of these ‘objective’ problems. Rather, the public’s problems are also internal problems: they require some kind of mobilization on the part of social actors. However, the pragmatists equally warned against the attempt to conceptually resolve problems of the public by ‘internalizing’ the issues, and by suggesting that public issues are at heart a problem with people’s inability to take them seriously. 30 From the standpoint of the problem of relevance, the problem is not one of human nature–it is not a problem with its given epistemic, emotional or psychological constitution (illiteracy, indifference, short-sightedness). But neither are the issues at stake exactly ‘out there’, as an objective problematic that impacts on humans actors from an external environment. From the pragmatist perspective, the actors in here are not necessarily de-mobilized, and the problem is not necessarily all ‘out there’, but this does not necessarily solve much, as the question remains how relations of relevance can be established when actors are intimately affected by problems in which they have little investment?

  • Mark 8:35 am on June 26, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    Turn those clapping hands into angry fists 

    Sleep on pillows made in Singapore.
    Wrapped in comforters, sweating through sheets.
    Drink your coffee in the morning, flown in on airplanes across vast seas.
    And your house is made of wood, central air, central heat.
    You’ve got your furniture of particle board.
    Your doors are locked for, for safety.
    And you walk in leather shoes, pants of denim, a black cotton sweatshirt.
    And you do what you do because doing can start to form a habit.
    And you drink all night long. And you sleep through the morning.
    And if something doesn’t break. I’m just gonna go, go fucking insane.

    And you sweep up the floor when it’s dirty
    You do the dishes, when the sink’s full
    And when the refrigerator’s empty
    well it’s time, it’s time, it’s time, it’s time to go the store

    You put your books on a shelf
    Clothes arranged in the closet
    You hang the things on the wall that you don’t wanna be so easily forgotten

    I hate these songs
    I hate the words
    That the singer is singing to me
    I hate this melody
    I hate this stupid fucking drum beat

    But I’m not gonna tell anyone
    What I’m really thinking about
    Keep them conversations on the surface
    Just keep on smiling
    Just keep on saying
    Everything’s gonna be alright
    It’s gonna be alright

  • Mark 5:15 pm on June 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply

    Prospecting: Extraction, Speculation, and Liberation in the Accelerated Academy 

    CFP – Prospecting: Extraction, Speculation, and Liberation in the Accelerated Academy 

    (Accelerated Academy 7)

    Nov. 22-23, 2019

    Michigan State University Digital Scholarship Lab

    An interdisciplinary symposium on the future of academic life and labor, organized by Zach Kaiser (MSU) and Erin Glass (UC San Diego)

    In theory, the academy is an institution of research and learning, intended to advance human knowledge and educate citizens. In practice, however, the academy appears evermore as a site of prospecting, or a source of raw material for aggressive forms of neoliberal mining and extraction. Through various speculative and extractive behaviors, academic practice is increasingly managed and shaped by internal and external forces as a means of “optimizing” academic activities and making them more efficient in order to cut costs and maximize revenue. As is well documented in the growing literature of critical university studies, this prospecting is manifest in the adjunctification of academic labor, the rise of administration, the continuous increase of student tuition, and the perpetuation of the student debt crisis that has engulfed the United States. We can also see prospecting in the ruthless capture and privatization of scholarly research by scholarly publishers at the cost of public access to research that the public has in fact already paid for. Prospecting is also at play in the academy’s collision course with surveillance/platform/cognitive capitalism: the university’s intellectual products have been transformed into valuable data to be mined, packaged, sold, and ultimately controlled by IT and ed tech capitalists in their pursuit of profit. Though these extractive and neoliberal processes are not unique to the academy, their presence in institutions dedicated to learning has implications for academic subjectivities and the institutions themselves. 

    Building on the work of past Accelerated Academy symposia, the 7th edition proposes the concept of “prospecting” as a productive tool to think through the future of academic life, labor, and outcomes. Prospecting as a concept may help us broaden the discourses about academia, and shine light on the different economic interests, technical assemblages, and affective regimes that shape its activities. We are also, however, committed to the challenge of identifying prospects of autonomy and liberation that are still within the academy despite its compromised state, and thinking through the strategies that academics might use to better take advantage of them. We encourage contributors to consider the various material and social connotations carried by the term “prospecting,” and the way it might help us develop a robust analysis of life in the accelerated academy and the high stakes of our contemporary moment. Topics might include:

    • Prospecting as it relates to the extractive behaviors characteristic of the accelerated and platformized academy, including the extractive data capture of students and faculty through educational and workflow technologies.

    • Prospecting as an extractive colonial appropriation of land and of bodies within academe (and the uneven distribution of the consequences of this behavior across race, gender, and class lines). 

    • Prospecting as extractive ecological behaviors by academia (ranging from the harvesting of minerals to produce the technologies on which our academic infrastructure is built to academic travel). 

    • Prospecting in terms of university real-estate speculation and acquisition, campus development, the increase in satellite campuses of major western universities overseas (particularly in the middle and far east), as well as the growth of extension and continuing-ed programs.  

    • Liberatory/radical prospecting, or the ways that we, as the academic community, can work towards reclaiming the academy for social justice and the public good. This ethos is embodied in works like Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s “The Undercommons,” Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s “Generous Thinking,” la paperson’s “A Third University is Possible,” Cathy Davidson’s “The New Education,” and Christopher Newfield’s “The Great Mistake.”

    We welcome contributions (ranging from paper presentations to artistic projects, hands-on sessions, projections, tours, etc) from anyone who is interested in and passionate about these topics. We will also do our best to accommodate remote presentations/projects via video conferencing or other possibilities. Submit a 500-word abstract using the Google Form linked below by August 1, 2019. Questions? Email Zach Kaiser (kaiserza@msu.edu) and Erin Glass (erglass@ucsd.edu).


    If the link above does not work, please copy the following URL into your browser. https://forms.gle/QHhQUQ6cLkHjut8KA

  • Mark 3:43 pm on June 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    Neurodiversity Reading Group 

    This looks really interesting:

    You are invited to participate in the Neurodiversity Reading Group that will run monthly in London (UK) in the academic year 2019-20. The first meeting will take place on Friday 19 July 2019, 3-5pm, at London South Bank University (Room K503, Keyworth Centre). During the summer (2019), the meetings will take place the third Friday of every month (locations TBC).

    The Neurodiversity RG is intended for all academics, students and non-academics who are interested in reading and discussing academic texts on neurodiversity. Each meeting, we aim to read and discuss one or two academic texts and sometimes we will supplement this with non-academic material (text, audio or video). The texts will come from, among others, critical disability studies, intersectionality studies (e.g. race critical, feminist and queer studies), and mad studies. They will be grounded in various academic disciplines and explore various perspectives. While we might read texts that use the medical model of disability, note that we will do so to critique.

    For the first meeting (19/07/19) we will discuss the following two texts:

    ·         Graby, Steve. (2015). “Neurodiversity: bridging the gap between the disabled people’s movement and the mental health system survivors’ movement?”. In: Helen Spandler, Jill Anderson & Bob Sapey (Eds), Madness, distress and the politics of disablement (pp.231-244): Policy Press. Available here.

    ·         McWade, Brigit, Milton, Damian, & Beresford, Peter. (2015). “Mad studies and neurodiversity: A dialogue”. Disability & Society, 30(2), 305-309. Available here.

    If you cannot access the readings, get in touch with us so we can send them to you.

    Please make sure that you read the ground rules, which are available on the blog at: https://neurodiversityreadinggroup.wordpress.com/ground-rules/.

    If you want to stay updated about future dates, readings and locations, please do keep an eye on the website (https://neurodiversityreadinggroup.wordpress.com), on Eventbrite, or send us the organisers an email so we can send reminders.

    There is no registration fee, but please register via Eventbrite so that we know your name so you can access the building. Please feel invited to get in touch regarding disability related and other access needs and queries. If you need a ticket for a PA, please get in touch so we can put their name on the list.

    We look forward to seeing you 19 July or at one of the following meetings,

    Dyi and Emma


    Date: Friday 19 July 2019

    Time: 3-5pm

    Location: Room K503, Keyworth Centre, London South Bank University

    Address: Keyworth Street, London, SE1 6NG

    Access needs: The building and room are wheelchair accessible. We will not use any audio-visual technology. Please get in touch to discuss any needs and queries you have.

    Food & drink: Not supplied, but feel free to bring your own.

    Registration: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/1st-neurodiversity-reading-group-meeting-london-uk-tickets-63648785230

    Facilitators: Dyi Huijg and Emma Sheppard

    Contact: neurodiversityrg@gmail.com

    More info: https://neurodiversityreadinggroup.wordpress.com

  • Mark 8:59 am on June 25, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    The object turn in the social sciences 

    From Material Participation by Noortje Marres, pg 6:

    This field of work finds its starting point in the rejection of the critique of objects that has been dominant in twentieth-century social science: the idea that things, technology and materiality render engagement impossible. This work suggests that this negative critique has lost its plausibility, and proposes what could be called an ‘object turn’ in social, political and cultural research: we must recognize that material entities equally make an important positive contribution to the organization of social, political and moral life in industrialized societies.

  • Mark 2:32 pm on June 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    Who needs actions when you got words? 

    OR what Joan Pedro-Carañana calls discursivism: “the belief in the almighty power of discourse. This is a form of wishful thinking based on what Freud called the infantile belief in the omnipotence of ideas (and communication)” and Jana Bacevic has written a superbly original PhD thesis about.

  • Mark 10:18 am on June 24, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , liquid modernity,   

    The liquid powering liquid modernity 

    From John Urry’s Societies beyond Oil pg 9:

    Leading social analyst Zygmunt Bauman famously described the twentieth-century development of all this movement as a ‘liquid modernity’. But what he did not examine was how there was in fact a literal liquid –oil –that made this modernity, oiling the wheels of a globalizing society. It seemed that the modern world had struck ‘black gold’. Its supplies of oil powered up societies in many novel ways and this high carbon pathway would move onwards and upwards, developing and reinforcing Western modernity as both ‘business as usual’ and as ‘natural’. Urbanist David Owen refers to this twentieth-century development as ‘liquid civilization’, a mobile civilization based on the very cheap liquid of oil and for which there are no significant alternatives.

  • Mark 8:04 am on June 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    Professionalisation as capture  

    From Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything pg 203:

    These are the tough tools with which the environmental movement won its greatest string of victories. But with that success came some rather significant changes. For a great many groups, the work of environmentalism stopped being about organizing protests and teach-ins and became about drafting laws, then suing corporations for violating them, as well as challenging governments for failing to enforce them. In rapid fashion, what had been a rabble of hippies became a movement of lawyers, lobbyists, and U.N. summit hoppers. As a result, many of these newly professional environmentalists came to pride themselves on being the ultimate insiders, able to wheel and deal across the political spectrum. And so long as the victories kept coming, their insider strategy seemed to be working.

  • Mark 12:55 pm on June 16, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: doctoral pedgaogy, , , , ,   

    Twitter and the internal conversation 

    My notes on Rainford, J. (2016). Becoming a doctoral researcher in a digital world: Reflections on the role of Twitter for reflexivity and the internal conversation. E-Learning and Digital Media, 13(1-2), 99-105

    In this paper Jon Rainford brings together two of my favourite things, the internal conversation and Twitter. He uses the framework of the former to analyse how the latter is used by doctoral students. He frames Twitter as a potential solution to the problem of loneliness which is an inevitable challenge for the increasing numbers who are not full time PhD students. From pg 100:

    Study for a doctorate can be thought of not just as completing a qualification but of ‘becoming’ (Barnacle, 2005; Barnacle and Mewburn, 2010). For full-time students, this becoming is often negotiated in shared physical spaces, however, for many students, this full-time mode of study is not possible. This has led to more diverse modes of study: part-time study for a traditional PhD, one of the more employment focused professional doctorates, or combinations of full-time and part-time study. With full-time work and part-time study, it can be easy to feel on the outside of the academy looking in. However, regardless of the mode of study, isolation is seen as one of the biggest challenges to doctoral students (Ali and Kohun, 2000)

    He talks about this as a ‘virtual common room’ which is available to those who do not have access to the face to face encounters that full time study affords with those with similar experiences. The virtual common room is more diverse for not being confined to a particular institution and for the quantity of responses which a single query can solicit. These exchanges can perform the same function as face to face conversations, helping clarify a matter for the person initiating them. But Rainford stresses the significance of their enduringly public character, as it means that “the digital footprint of them remains long after the conversation is over“ (102). This can leave doctoral researchers exposed, as he writes on 102:

    In terms of a democratization of knowledge this may be a benefit, but it also means that for new scholars, their emergent thoughts are etched into permanence if these communicative dialogues take place on Twitter. It is also important to note that in the context of some professions such as health care, discussing certain issues may be inappropriate and break rules of professionalism (Chester at al., 2013). In the early stages of doctoral becoming individuals often need to seek answers to questions that expose their naivety. This can create real anxiety when the networks that doctoral researchers draw upon may be those who offer future employment

    I found his focus on the conversational dimension of twitter very thought provoking, even if it obscures the role of content on Twitter a little bit. It made me wonder if the extent to which twitter is dominated by self conscious ‘content’ is a variable which tracks what the platform have come to describe as ‘conversational health’. On 103:

    Framing the role of Twitter in internal conversations through a communicative mode of reflexivity means that at least one other person is needed to enter into dialogue with. For this reason, Twitter excels over other SNS for reflexive deliberations as it is predicated on shared conversations, not just shared content as on services such as Tumblr or Pinterest. That being said, its ability to support these conversations is reliant on developing a suitable network of possible interlocutors

  • Mark 8:46 am on June 15, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    Coming soon: Social Media for Academics 2.0 

    Completely rewritten with 100 new pages. Full details here

  • Mark 12:28 pm on June 13, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , ,   

    Fast movements struggle with slow issues  

    From Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything pg 158:

    Because this is a crisis that is, by its nature, slow moving and intensely place based. In its early stages, and in between the wrenching disasters, climate is about an early blooming of a particular flower, an unusually thin layer of ice on a lake, the late arrival of a migratory bird—noticing these small changes requires the kind of communion that comes from knowing a place deeply, not just as scenery but also as sustenance, and when local knowledge is passed on with a sense of sacred trust from one generation to the next. How many of us still live like that? Similarly, climate change is also about the inescapable impact of the actions of past generations not just on the present, but on generations in the future. These time frames are a language that has become foreign to a great many of us. Indeed Western culture has worked very hard to erase Indigenous cosmologies that call on the past and the future to interrogate present-day actions, with long-dead ancestors always present, alongside the generations yet to come. 

    In short: more bad timing. Just when we needed to slow down and notice the subtle changes in the natural world that are telling us that something is seriously amiss, we have sped up; just when we needed longer time horizons to see how the actions of our past impact the prospects for our future, we entered into the never-ending feed of the perpetual now, slicing and dicing our attention spans as never before.

  • Mark 8:33 pm on June 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , contingency,   

    Becoming who we are  

    From Figuring by Maria Popova pg 3-4:

    We spend our lives trying to discern where we end and the rest of the world begins. We snatch our freeze-frame of life from the simultaneity of existence by holding on to illusions of permanence, congruence, and linearity; of static selves and lives that unfold in sensical narratives. All the while, we mistake chance for choice, our labels and models of things for the things themselves, our records for our history. History is not what happened, but what survives the shipwrecks of judgment and chance.

    And the invisible connections we rely upon. From pg 5:

    So much of the beauty, so much of what propels our pursuit of truth, stems from the invisible connections—between ideas, between disciplines, between the denizens of a particular time and a particular place, between the interior world of each pioneer and the mark they leave on the cave walls of culture, between faint figures who pass each other in the nocturne before the torchlight of a revolution lights the new day, with little more than a half-nod of kinship and a match to change hands.

  • Mark 2:43 pm on June 12, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    What is global competence? 

    My growing interest in how digital competence is being conceptualised, pursued and enacted by national and international organisations has led me towards the slightly older concept of global competence. In this paper on global competence in engineers, it is presented in terms of a mismatch between the requirements of working as an engineer in global society and the skills which existing engineering education tends to develop in students. In this sense there’s a normative model of how students must be taught in a way that leaves them able to function adequately within a global order. As they write on pg 120:

    Globalization is a fact of life, whether in the management of business enterprises, the conduct of government affairs or the exploration of the frontiers of science and technology (Ratchford 1998, Grose 1999, Wheeler 2001). Our highly interdependent global society is as much a result of the need to address major worldwide challenges, such as sustainability, health and security, as it is the result of important advances in the conduct of international commerce, e.g. the European Union, NAFTA, and the creation of nearly instantaneous worldwide commu- nications using cell phones and the Internet (McGraw 2000a, Akay 2003). These challenges and opportunities are dramatically and rapidly changing the role of engineers in society and, consequently, the nature of engineering practice (Loftus 2003).

    In this sense, the notion of ‘global competence’ is about adaptation to a changing world, through the mechanism of transforming the educational processes which leave people with some dispositions and not with others. Even if a big chunk of their discussion is confined to engineers, the changing conditions ascribed to the working lives of engineers clearly apply to other occupational groups as well. From pg 121:

    Most engineering now involves large, complex and multinational projects. Many engineers will find themselves working and/or living in foreign environments during much of their career. This places an increased emphasis on language and communication skills (Malone et al. 2003). The facility to communicate in other languages and to assimilate with ease into foreign workplaces and lifestyles are critical to both professional and life success.

    They equate this capacity with the need to “think and act on a global scale” but there seems to be an equivocation here. Much of what they discuss is about operating in different locations, it is the small scale multiplied across contexts rather than an expansion of horizons to global proportions. The consensus in the literature is apparently that three elements are needed to produce globally competent students: “coursework in international studies, second language proficiency and international experience” (121). It’s clear to me how this could improve the capacity to shift between concepts but not how this would engender thinking and acting on a global scale. They stress that international experience must be interconnected and that global knowledge must be demonstrated in terms of the student’s own course of study, as opposed to being presented in the abstract.

    A number of US universities have developed programs “designed to prepare students to live and work in the global context of the 21st century” even if they don’t use the term global competence to describe the aim (122). They are particularly interested in Georgia Tech’s International Plan, described on pg 123: 

    This program, designed for completion within four years, includes the three components deemed essential for global competence: coursework in international studies, language proficiency and an immersive international experience. A hallmark of this program, and one that sets it apart from other programs, is that it is integrated into the student’s disciplinary studies. Participants gain an appreciation for how cultural context affects the practice of the discipline. Successful participants receive a designation on their diploma and transcript signifying the depth and breadth of their global competence in the discipline (i.e. Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering: International Plan). The general requirements for the International Plan are shown in table 1. Participating units then tailor their degree programs within this framework of requirements.

    Students must complete four courses in international studies (the categories are “international relations, global economics and a course with an emphasis on a country or region”). This is how the outcomes are assessed, quoted by the authors on pg 125:

    Basic global competence is the product of both education and experience, and it is characterized by a graduate’s ability to (1) communicate in a second language via speaking, listening, reading, and writing (second language proficiency); (2) demonstrate substantively the major social–political–economic processes and systems (com- parative global knowledge); (3) assimilate knowledgeably and with ease into foreign communities and work environments (intercultural assimilation); and (4) communicate with confidence and specificity the practice of his or her major in a global context (disciplinary practice in a global context). (Georgia Institute of Technology 2005)

    I find the focus on the substantive character of global society extremely interesting and would like to understand more. How widespread is this approach to global competence? The digital equivalent of it would be something like platform literacy?

  • Mark 2:33 pm on June 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , ,   

    Why the EU matters for the future of the climate  

    I’ll add this to reigning in big tech as the best argument I can see for supporting the EU. Could any other power structure in Europe achieve this outcome? From pg 137 of Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything:

    A 2012 report by the German National Center for Aerospace, Energy and Transport Research (DLR), for instance, demonstrated that 67 percent of the electicity in all of the EU could come from renewables by 2030, with that number reaching 96 percent by 2050. But, clearly, this will become a reality only if the right policies are in place.

  • Mark 10:12 am on June 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Making time to think 

    It occurred to me yesterday that I spend less time thinking than I once did. One of the reasons I wanted to leave The Sociological Review and have a period of (sadly self-funded) underemployment was because I’d felt for a year or two that I was  as cognitively occupied as I’m capable of being. I keep running out of bandwidth and I increasingly dislike it.

    The problem is partly one of how my life has changed in the last five years or so. It used to provide me with endless occasions to think and I’ve failed to realised that I increasingly need to make time for this. There are a number of ways in which I can do this which I’ve been failing to:

    • Not listening to music or a podcast when I’m walking
    • Turning my phone off or putting it in my bag when I travel
    • Sitting in coffees shops with a notebook rather than a phone or iPad.
    • Not listening to podcasting/audiobooks in the bath

    These are small steps but I found it rewarding to think in these terms, with ‘thinking time’ being an accomplishment rather than a generalised feature of my life as a whole which I struggle to exercise an immediate influence over.

  • Mark 10:02 am on June 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply  

    And I always dreamed of classic cars and movie screens 

    And I always dreamed of classic cars and movie screens
    And tryin’ to find some way to be redeemed….


  • Mark 9:30 am on June 11, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Ben Williamson, , digital schools, , ,   

    Silicon startup schools 

    My notes on Williamson, B. (2018). Silicon startup schools: technocracy, algorithmic imaginaries and venture philanthropy in corporate education reform. Critical studies in education, 59(2), 218-236.

    The technology sector has turned its gaze towards education in recent years, manifesting in a whole range of initiatives as well as the increasing prominence of education in how digital elites imagine disruptive change. In this paper Ben Williamson analyses four new schools as embodiments of this trend, prototypical examples of how digital elites imagine a future in which scalable technical platforms meet pressing social needs. They move beyond bringing technology into schools and instead place “schools into private hands as testbeds for a model of schooling that is rooted in the embedded technological knowledges, assump- tions, and practices of corporate technology culture” (219). As he goes on to describe them later on 219:

    These new schools are being designed as scalable technical platforms, underpinned by software engineering expertise; they are funded by commercial and venture capital and philanthropic sources; staffed and managed by entrepreneurs, executives and engineers from some of Silicon Valley’s most successful startups and web companies; and proposed to reinvent, reimagine and rebuild education in the mould of Silicon Valley itself.

    He identifies a number of pertinent features through his exploration of the websites and branding associated with each fo the four schools:

    • P-TECH, AltSchool, Kahn Lab School and XQ Super School combine venture capital with philanthropic giving in a novel combination. Business backed foundations fund advocacy (the ‘demand’ side) and directly funding charter schools (the ‘supply’ side) with digital elites figuring prominently amongst them. The charter schools framework “enable private organizations to penetrate the publicly funded education sector, govern institutions directly, and to advocate more competitive, deregulated models for public education” (220).
    • Digital technology is a central part of this movement to ‘reform’ schools e.g. learning analytics, personalised learning etc. Williamson argues that these startup schools need to be understanding as the next stage of this movement, marrying its corporate agenda to a new technoutopian impulse: “Rather than tinkering in the margins of state schooling to increase efficiencies and effectiveness by implanting new technologies in classrooms, Silicon Valley is seeking to ‘radically disrupt’ the established model of the school through both its technical practices and its venture philanthropic modes of governance” (221)
    • There is a distinctive socio-technical imaginary (“collectively held, institutionally stabilized and publicly performed visions of desirable futures that are animated by shared understandings of forms of social life and social order and made attainable through the design of technological projects” – 221/222) underpinning these developments. This algorithmic imaginary embodies an ideal of calculability, rendering a datafied world legible and susceptible to real time intervention through machine learning. This imaginary is becoming the lived reality of education.
    • Code is central to the operation of these new schools and this offers a conceptual and methodological challenge for established ways of understanding educational organisations and systems. Furthermore, as he observes on pg 231, ”

      The Silicon Valley discourse of innovation, entrepreneurship, startup culture, makerspaces, crowdsourced solutions, platforms and philanthrocapital is becoming a new language of schooling”. Schools are become different sorts of objects with important consequences for educational research. The language used by advocates shuts down debate and analysis of the complexity of what they are doing: “The language of an eduOS – a technical operating system for education – ignores the messy complexity of social context, and implies that technical solutions can be applied as software patches or upgrades to outdated and buggy systems.” (232). 

    These are the distinctive characteristics of the schools he analyses:

    • The P-TECH approach was initiated by IBM in collaboration with the New York City government, before encouraging others tech firms to launch their own with their own skills needs as the focus, legitimated in terms of providing a pipeline of skilled labour from diverse communities. These are used for real time analytics of the educational ecosystem as an  intensified expression of their smart city agenda, offering a living laboratory in which IBM can test out new products and initiatives.
    • Maker schools teach through a hacker ethos of experimentation rather than formalise learning, increasingly popular with digital elites for educating their own children outside of a school system they see as fundamentally broken. The difficulty with scaling these initiatives has led to the creation of hybrid schools such as AltSchool, “described as a new ‘central operating system for education’, a scalable technical infrastructure that can be transported to new sites.” (225). The AltSchool “encourages greater exploration, inquiry and problem-solving through the active con- struction of knowledge and understanding, whilst monitoring and regulating the experience through learning analytics and adaptive learning software” (226). The Lab School founded by Khan Academy embodies a similar progressivist impulse: “teaches math, literacy and computer programming – in line with its tech sector roots – but also emphasizes ‘real world’ projects, personalized learning, student-centred learning, and a strong commitment to building children’s ‘character’ and ‘wellness’ through, for example, ‘mindfulness’ meditation training(227). But it also positions itself as “an experimental R&D lab for testing different educational approaches and technologies, and aspires to contribute to the production of new theories of learning itself” (227) including welcoming outside organisations for research. Both of these schools project a front door of character education & self-realisation, coupled with a backdoor of learning analytics & applied behavioural science. The contingent compatibility between these two things is a very important point in this analysis by Williamson. 
    • A similar relation can be seen in the XQ Super School Project with its heavy focus on how ‘brain science’ can be a means for empowering students to take control of their learning. This crowd sourcing initiative seeks to solicit radical new ideas for school design, within the narrow ideological constraints found elsewhere in this paper. As he puts it, “The promise here appears to be of activating human capital through brain-targeted pedagogies” (230). 
  • Mark 7:45 pm on June 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Can capitalism survive climate change? 

    From The Uninhabitable Earth pg 162-163:

    The question is a prism, spitting out different answers to different ranges of the political spectrum, and where you fall on that range probably reflects what you mean by “capitalism.” Global warming could cultivate emergent forms of eco-socialism on one end of the spectrum, and could also conceivably produce a collapse of faith in anything but the market, on the other. Trade will surely endure, perhaps even thrive, as indeed it did before capitalism—individuals making trades and exchanges outside a single totalizing system to organize the activity. Rent-seeking, too, will continue, with those who can scrambling to accumulate whatever advantages they can buy—the incentive only increasing in a world more barren of resources, and more mournful of recent apparent abundance, now disappeared.

    • landzek 2:52 am on June 12, 2019 Permalink

      Man; you read a lot. I guess that’s kind of your job though. 🙂. I think I was destined not to be an academic from the start because I have always read extremely slowly and for whatever reason I was good at hiding it maybe. At least, none of my teachers ever assessed me for reading speed or something like that.


      If indeed the climate is changing because of human activity then I would make an argument that there is no climate change without capitalism.

      Because the climate is always changing, if we are having an impact or are making a change in a different way than it should, then it must be exactly the ideas that we are having which allow the context by which climate change has meaning as a human involvement. And there is no possibility of having a contact outside of capitalism except to say that there is a context that is outside of capitalism, which then is existing within the context of capitalism itself. Climate change and capitalism are inseparable. And so when the climate actually changes to a significant degree that there is no more capitalism, there will be by definition no more climate change — except the fact that the climate is changing all the time. The measurements we make to show human involvement in the world necessarily show the significance of human involvement because the way that we are understanding it is exactly the context of our understanding of it, which is necessarily involved with the human being in a climate . 🥦😆

  • Mark 4:14 pm on June 10, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: quitting social media, , social media detox   

    Learning to live with social media 

    Far from being the contribution to social media quit lit which I thought it would be, this piece by Elisa Veini nails the question which has become my overriding obsession:

    How then, faced with the inescapable need to have a professional profile on LinkedIn and maybe the will to see what is happening on Twitter, or just to contact with friends and family, on Facebook indeed – how to do it in a way that feels at least a bit right? The answer depends on yourself, and the parameters you set for your own social media behaviour. I think that there is a fine balance between becoming overtly cautious of every step you take in public, and not losing your spontaneity. The point is, you do need parameters, and you need to act on social media in a way that corresponds to those parameters. For the rest, the choice is yours.

  • Mark 2:09 pm on June 9, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , ,   

    The cruel optimism of educational technology 

    My notes on Macgilchrist, F. (2019). Cruel optimism in edtech: when the digital data practices of educational technology providers inadvertently hinder educational equityLearning, Media and Technology44(1), 77-86.

    It is now widely affirmed that overcoming the ‘digital divide’ is crucial to ameliorating inequality, providing everyone with the digital skills and access they need to fully participate in an increasingly digitalised society. However the constant reproduction of that divide, with such a wide range of well document implications for inequality, suggests something is seriously amiss in how we think about tech and politics. This paper uses qualitative interviews to explore how those working within educational technology (12 participants, including CEOs and CTOs of startups and managers at major educational publishing houses) talk about data practices, as well as their understanding and orientation towards the ethical and political dimensions of them. It explores these through the notion of cruel optimism. From pg 78:

    To analyse the interviews, the concept of ‘cruel optimism’ became relevant. Berlant describes ‘cruel optimism’ as those moments in which something we desire is actually hindering our ability to attain it (Berlant 2011, 1): Optimistic is the animating, sustaining, energising belief in ‘the good life’, and in the struggles and change required to reach this good life: in the case of educational technology, the good life would be the equity and social justice enabled through the use of digital technology. This optimism is cruel when it is tied to fraying fantasies of the good life, e.g., when people remain attached to the fantasies of romantic love, upward mobility or the solidarity of political systems despite their fragility (Berlant 2011, 21).

    It uses three ‘data stories’ to explore the complexity of data practices and how actors orientate themselves to them. I wasn’t convinced this was a particularly useful analytical framework. Effectively, it identifies ways in which ed tech products are invested with optimism as well as how they fail to live up to these (self-interested?) expectations. Its findings are about the rhetorical structure of ed tech optimism and how they get in the way of unpacking the political economy. What’s interesting in this paper and why I will refer back to it is the first-hand accounts from senior figures in the ed tech world of that rhetorical structure and how they orientate themselves to it. But the framing gets in the way of the findings and makes it oddly hard to read. In many ways I think this is an interesting example of an over-theorised piece of qualitative research.

    It nonetheless does a good job of explaining how this optimism is depoliticising. From pg 84:

    They also show how the fantasy of equality is projected onto a socio-technical mediator (a personalised literacy platform, data privacy practices, an active parent armed with data visualisations) which enables a small interruption in inequality, but also blocks attention to the weakening of the fantasy of an equitable life in today’s increasingly post-democratic world.

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