Digitalization, Big Data and Fantasies

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Digitalization, Big Data and fantasies in education One may be surprised what digitalization and Big Data are being used for in education. Through digital technologies, Big Data is being gathered to provide access for politicians and the public to school matters in general and specifically if schools and teachers do not reach determined goals. For example, attainment of socioeconomic reference indicators, measured by students’ grade point average. Many fantasies are attached to digitalization and Big Data. Fantasies about increased transparency, safety, and prediction (Zuboff, 2019). However, digitalization and Big Data may also produce a culture of ‘shaming and blaming’, displaying those schools that do not live up to fixed goals. This in turn may lead to goal-fixation, nearsightedness, and ‘prophylactic’ reasoning in schools. In this paper we analyze the fantasies and powerful beliefs that make it difficult to problematize and critically reflect on the emergence of digitalization and Big Data. Inspired by psychoanalytical theory (Zizek, 2008), political and organizational theory (Ball, 2008; Agamben, 2013; Weick et al. 2005; Gioia & Chittipeddi, 1991), and anthropological studies of the performance of magic in ‘primitive’ and ‘modern’ organizations (Malinowski, 1948; Clark and Salaman, 1996), we will discuss examples of fantasies from previous and ongoing research (Rüsselbæk Hansen & Phelan, 2019); Bøje et al., 2018; Balslev & Raae 2019). We argue that delicate balances between monitoring and democracy are tipping. Furthermore, we argue that digitalization and Big Data support and are being supported by a neoliberal fantasy where measurement, clarity, comparison, and competition set the educational scene (Brown, 2015). That way a certain regime is produced which seems to regulate schools, teachers and students in ways that risk dismantling democratic engagement and conversation. This scenario will be illustrated as well as discussed: how can this be avoided so democracy does not turn into another lost ideal in education?
Translated title of the contributionDigitalisering, Big Data og fantasier
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateMar 2020
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2020
EventRethinking the futures of education
in the Nordic countries
- Turku
Duration: 4. Mar 20206. Mar 2020


ConferenceRethinking the futures of education
in the Nordic countries
Internet address

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