I’m very taken with Andrew Pickering’s concept of veiling. If I understand him correctly, it refers to how knowledge production can circumscribe reality by taking us on a detour from certain aspects of it. Those features which resist representation in our approach risk dropping off stage, unseen and unheard. He uses it to refer to how modern science veils the performative dimension of our being but I think it can also be used to make sense of how platformised knowledge production, reliant on what registers as a behavioural trace within a digital platform, leaves large swathes of social reality opaque. 

Kicking myself I can’t make the date for this conference organised by Eric Lybeck:

Call for Papers (LINK)

Academics, Professionals and Publics:
Changes in the Ecologies of Knowledge Work

4 April 2019
University of Manchester, UK
Organiser: Eric Lybeck, Manchester Institute of Education
Contact: eric.lybeck@manchester.ac.uk

Keynote speakers:

Andrew Abbott, University of Chicago
Vivienne Baumfield, University of Exeter
Linda Evans, University of Manchester

A PARADOX: never in human history has the role of knowledge been as central to the organisation of our work, politics and experiences as in our 21st century globalized societies. Yet, we also find today a rising distrust in experts, academics and professionals amongst the public, politicians and, indeed, other experts in differentiated disciplinary and professional fields.

Are there historical precedents for the growing challenges to the authority of knowledge workers and professional expertise? Are there aspects of the way knowledge is presently organized institutionally, politically and publicly that causes these dynamics? What is – and, what should be the relationship between universities, their graduates and wider societies? Have we reached the limits of a particular set of functions – the education of increasing cohorts of students and professionals; the advancement of economically profitable technical innovations; social justice activism – or, are we destined to add more and more roles and structures to an already highly complex global university system?

This conference to be held 4 April in Manchester will assess the role of academics and professionals and the knowledge economy, in general, to reflect critically on the past, present and future of the academic profession within a field of professions (and other occupations) – taking stock of what has led to our present condition, while perhaps signalling a navigable course for the future.

Call for abstracts:

We encourage interested members of the academy (any discipline), professions and public to submit abstracts for consideration in the programme, which will take place across one day in concurrent panels, workshops and keynote speeches.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to: the role of academic knowledge in professional education and practice; populist distrust of expertise; the role of think-tanks, consultancies and ‘non-academic’ forms of expertise; the changing role of knowledge in policy-making; histories of experts and professions, including artisan, trade and other occupational groups; economists’ and consultants’ role in law, education, science policy, etc.; professionals as public intellectuals; professionals, academics, students and political activism; professional services within university administration; academic work-life; sociology of higher education; inequalities of higher education and/or professional employment by race, class, gender, etc.; policy discourse and professionals as carrier groups; neoliberalism and professional expertise; individualisation vs. collective professional ethics; jurisdictional competition between and amongst professions; leadership and development; professional careers; crises of expertise, historical and present; the civic role of universities; rankings of universities and professional schools; international experiences of higher education and/or professional careers.

Please send 250 word abstracts to eric.lybeck@manchester.ac.uk before 15 February.

Further Conference Details:

Further details regarding the conference will become available early March. In the meantime, we encourage interested participants to arrange travel and accommodation for the morning, afternoon and evening of 4 April in Manchester. The main costs of the conference itself are funded by the Leverhulme Trust as part of the organiser’s early career fellowship, ‘The Academic Self: Changes in University Expectations Since 1800’. There may be a nominal fee requested to cover the costs of refreshments, which will be announced in March. We are also actively exploring facilities to support childcare and reduced fees for early career researchers and will have more news of this in due course.

Any questions or comments, including registration of interest for future email updates and news, can be directed to eric.lybeck@manchester.ac.uk

In her superb The Monsters of Educational Technology, Audrey Watters makes a convincing case that innovation in educational technology has been dominated by the trope of ‘content delivery’. New technologies are seen to improve content delivery in a variety of ways: scale, speed, cost etc. But this is a limited and limiting conception of education, access and innovation.

Is there a risk that social media use by academics comes to be framed in these terms? What I’ve written about as the fallacy of amelioration is relevant here. The assumption that there are vast stores of untapped knowledge which could be used to straightforwardly fix social problems, if only people would listen to us. 

If I’m right about this conceit then there’s an obvious compatibility between it and the ‘content delivery’ trope. We can see the marginalisation of academic knowledge production as a failure of content delivery, susceptible to rectification through shiny new delivery mechanisms which we must all now embrace as a matter of urgency. In doing so, we would fundamentally mystify the implications of social media for the academy.