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Call for Participants – Digital Inequality in Education: Pasts, Presents and Futures

Digital inequalities have long existed within education, both within traditional educational spaces and practice, and within specifically digital interactions. These inequalities have deep roots in extant socio-cultural and socio-economic inequalities, and yet emerge in unique ways through the macro and micro dynamics of education and digital technologies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, digital inequalities have been bought into a new light as the infrastructural provisions of classrooms and campuses have given way to various at-home arrangements. As we tentatively approach a new phase in the pandemic, questions are also rising about the future of digital education and the possibilities for different relationships with technology in education. What, for example, does this mean for student and learner’s experiences of digital inclusion, exclusion and inequality? How are long-standing inequalities being remade (or unmade) in blended and digital classrooms?

Digital inequalities also deeply impact research and researchers, both in their lived experiences and practice, and in how they conduct research. This  raises questions about how best to capture and give voice to these disparities, and how best to navigate the political, theoretical and methodological possibilities of digital inequality. It is imperative that we analyse the  methodological tools and positions which may give voice to certain dynamics whilst minimising or obscuring others. Similarly there is a need for theoretical frameworks that capture the complexities of digital inequalities at the nexus of human and non-human, agency and structure, macro and micro. Finally, there is an evident need to consider the political aspects of exploring digital inequalities, and where researchers, practitioners, stakeholders, and activists position themselves in relation to these concerns.

It is with this in mind that we invite expressions of interest for a multi-stage reflexive project, starting with a workshop and proposed edited collection, exploring reflexive framing of digital inequality in education. We aim to begin with an event bringing together practitioners, stakeholders, and researchers interested in exploring digital inequality through a reflexive lens, looking at methodological, theoretical, and political frames for understanding the past, present, and future of educational inequality.

We aim to run the event as a series of three  workshops around the themes identified below in this call, with the first tentatively scheduled for July 14th from 11am to 3pm. These would be closed sessions, with participants invited to submit an optional blog post about their contribution for The Post-Pandemic University as an initial statement of work in progress. From this event, we aim to produce an edited collection exploring the ideas, research, and practices discussed in the workshops, with speakers and participants contributing to the final edited collection. Beyond publications, we also aim for the attendees to form the basis of a working group for sharing and generating discussions, ideas, and research in an ongoing manner.

If you would like to take part in this project then please fill out this form by May 31st: https://forms.gle/sGn9xsHMFs9VKUc18

Pasts:

  • What has been lost, forgotten, or isolated about past digital inequalities?
  • How do researchers and practitioners account for lack of data collected on already disenfranchised communities?
  • What have we learnt from decades of moral panics? How do we avoid moral panics stealing the oxygen from a discussion of lived digital inequality?
  • What lessons can be learnt from early theorisation of digital inequalities?
  • How has the decades of formation of policy and ‘neoliberal creep’ eroded various aspects of educational practice in the present at different levels?
  • How has colonialism shaped the digital inequalities which we confront today?
  • Has techno-optimism and tech-boosterism lived up to its promises of wider and more inclusive education? 
  • Despite many efforts in the past to address them, why do digital inequalities persist?
  • Have any private and public initiatives that have attempted to address digital inequalities succeeded?
  • What role has race and/or identity played in the historical formation of educational inequalities?

Presents: 

  • What methodologies and theories do we have for uncovering digital inequality?
  • Are ‘pre-digital’ theories still useful? Are there new theories and synergies available?   
  • What do these methods and theories obscure and bring to light?
  • Do we need more naturalistic studies that don’t rely on surveys?
  • What current practices highlight issues of concern for digital inequalities?
  • What can banal and everyday uses of technology tell us about inequality at local and national levels?
  • How is technology currently governed? And how might this be bleeding into agency in educational practice?
  • How is knowledge around and through digital means generated in educational practice? What is lost and gained in this knowledge production? 
  • If capitalism produces inequalities, is it inevitable digital technology will compound them? 
  • Is technology just done to people; imposed on them against their interests?
  • Are there opportunities to actively and creatively resist the commercial foreclosure of possibilities? 
  • What claims are being made about AI and why?
  • What’s the relationship between current enthusiasm for STEM education, the economic instrumentalism of education, platform capitalism and forms and mechanisms of social stratification?
  • Does understanding of digital inequality require an understanding of (intersecting) structural inequalities such as class and race?
  • How do we explore the intersection between institutional racism(s) and digital inequalities?

Futures:

  • What is the future of digital inequalities?
  • What is the legacy of ‘disaster nationalism’ and ‘disaster pedagogy’ as we move into a new phase of the pandemic? What might this mean for digital education moving forward?
  • How do researchers interested in digital inequality capture imaginaries and narratives of futures?
  • What future political, methodological, and theoretical issues are raised through the rise of ‘big tech’ monoliths? How do researchers and practitioners position themselves in regards to these corporate interests?
  • Can/should we avoid the prevalent narratives of ‘innovation’, ‘disruption’ and ‘new’ in digital education?
  • Are we remaking old patterns of digital inequalities?
  • What’s the relationship between current enthusiasm for STEM education, the economic instrumentalism of education, platform capitalism and forms and mechanisms of social stratification?
  • Is platform capitalism colonising the future of education or is this another moral panic?
  • What role can technology play in working towards decolonized institutions in the future?

Organised by Harry Dyer, Mark Carrigan, Huw Davies and Zoetanya Sujon

Categories: Archive

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