Caroline Kühn H.


At present, I work at Bath Spa University in the UK, as a Senior Lecturer (associate professor) in the School of Education. My research interest lies at the intersection of technology, society, and power. Issues of data justice and technology-driven design in rural contexts is something I am interested in, as well, as issues concerning digital inequality. I am an organising member of the Critical Realist Network, where I  contribute to the creation and delivery of the international ‘Introducing CR’ webinar series. Underpinning the empirical work I aim at developing critical realist social theory and social ontology, as well as contributing to the research methods toolbox for critical realist research.

As the principal investigator of a one-year funded (2020-21)  project by the EPSRC and the Human Data Interaction+ Network, Understanding data: praxis and politics, we designed and piloted an OER (open educational resource) to improve and foster educators’ critical data literacies. In the project, we looked at three dimensions, agency, legibility, and negotiability as important mechanisms when people are dealing with data-driven systems. In our approach, we put humans at the centre of these systems and we aim to understand how educators can interact in ways that allow them to negotiate the social structures that are operating covertly in the background with negative effects and consequences for our daily lives. As one of the outputs of the research, we developed a data ethics framework which will be available soon as an analytical for educators and researchers to use in their professional practices. In addition, there is a wealth of openly licensed resources that you can download for free.

I am originally from Venezuela,  where I worked for 15 years, teaching Mathematics at different levels of Secondary School.  My initial interest in educational technology coincided with my move to teaching Mathematics at the University Simón Bolívar.  Here, alongside teaching a bridging course and undergraduates, I was part of the mathematics course development team. This interest in educational technology became the theme of my master thesis: designing a website with cognitive tools to support disadvantaged students in their mathematical learning, as a part of the bridging course.
My PhD brought me to Europe in 2011. After a short stay in the mathematics faculty, at the University Complutense in Madrid, I attended a summer school at the Freudenthal Institute for Science and Mathematics Education part of Utrecht University, in the Netherlands. There I met Prof. Dr Jan van Maanen an expert in mathematics education and the history of mathematics. I was able to stay for over a year as a guest researcher.

In my PhD research, I uncovered students’ daily entanglements with digital technologies while looking at students’ agency/lack of in their (open) learning spaces, answering the question of why they engage or not with open and participatory tools when they are at university. While exploring students’ digital spaces I discovered how their digital literacies in academic settings are quite different from some of the skills Jenkins (2006) has thought about, e.g. play (as the capacity to experiment with ones’ surroundings -I am thinking of digital surroundings-  as a form of problem-solving) and networking. Jenkins thinks of these skills as the ones that are needed for full involvement in the new participatory culture, a culture that is shifting the focus of new media literacies from individual expression to community involvement.

I am interested in ways in which undergraduates can reflexively engage with more sophisticated digital practices at university. Using critical realism and realist social theory as my theoretical framework the study uncovered some structural/cultural constraints and enablers that students encountered when attempting to engage with digital technologies, in particular, with open and participatory tools.