Towards a digital sociology of education, an interview

The whole talk is brilliant! @Neil_Selwyn is interviewed by and  @mark_carrigan. Here is the blog: The Sociological Review if someone is interested in finding more posts and relevant information
Some key points tha illuminate my learning journey as an (very) early career researcher:

  • Digital technology must not be seen as a hubris-driven solution for educational problems. Loving this idea of hubris-driven. I have to admit that when I started my research I thought of digital technology as the panacea in education. After getting into reading, analysing and understanding technology from a more broader and philosophical perspective I started to see so many different avenues that were hidden for me before. I can see how much my position has changed, how much critical I have become, and there is so much to learn still. But defenetly it is imperative to know more and be aware of much more critical stances on technology to ba able to see beyond the fancy view on technology. My process has been amazing! And I have to Bbe thankful to scholars like Selwyn and Martin Oliver, as they have been my main eye-opening readings.
  • Experiences are happening in the digital space, what does it mean to research the practice that unfolds in that space? What is new and what is different in this space?
  • It is important to be skeptic about too much optimism, not to be a cheerleader 🙂 but to see the danger within the politics of educational technology. The power structures it favours.
  • Educational technology needs to be problematised, and there are areas recommended by Neil Selwyn:
    • Materialities of digital technology (software, coding, structure). It is about unboxing these materialities and looking at them closer. It is not about opening up the box when things go wrong; instead, it is about unboxing them while they are functioning and analysing them in depth
    • Platform studies, sociology of software. This, in particular, I found pretty interesting. It is about tearing a system apart. I would say it is analysing how it came what it is. Looking beyond the system.
    • The human aspect of technology. Exploring what people do, activities and practices, emotions, affects. It is not only questions about what works and what don’t and why? Meaning making, how do people make meaning of experiences that are unfolding in the digital space? what is new or different there? what are the continuities or discontinuities in that experience? Values that are shared.
    • Sociology of knowledge in the digital age and how that interacts with education? Exploring literacies and ways of doing things in the digital space. Digital identities and the struggle between the individual and the institutional, that debate between structure and agency.
  • An interesting view of schools as data farms, this I found fascinating
  • Then they talked about the different methods to do research, new modes of enquiry in a digital age where new tools and approaches are developed. What is the new toolkit that the digital offers?
    • Semantic analysis: Digital discourses as they unfold. Twitter feed, blog with comments, instagram feed.
    • Data mapping
    • Computational social science: Big data analysis
    • Trace ethnography: Tracing data through codes and networks. The data as the unit of analysis instead of the individuum.
    • Digital ethnography
    • Platform and software studies (I am interested in this): Researching the systems, the coded spaces, the digital learning environments. Looking for the coded elements of education. Interrogating those codes, the data, the online aspects of education. This tides in with critical reverse engineering which is interested in deconstructing closed educational system and look at how it is build, what assumtions, values and considerations are coded into the platform. Interrogate the code itself. Selwyn argues here that technology is higly political and it some how predefines structures of power within the design. This structures can be very interesting if they are dismanteled. An interesting thing to do would be taking a LMS terring it apart and building it again with your won assumptions, values and intentions
    • Cooperative critical design (I am interested for phase 2 of my research). I found a paper which I am starting to read: Critical Theory and Paricipatory Design. The aim of this method is build and design with the users. The process of designing is important not so much if the design works or not. It would be important to ask why it didn’t worked. It is bottom up design. I think that Feenberg in his book questioning technology talks about democratic design, arguing that this approach is powerful to foster change.
    • Life methods

The talk was highly interesting and enlightening for me as I am still questioning technology and my unit of analysis. I am thinking in applying cooperative critical design as students will be re-designing the informal system of tools they already have in place and through that design process I hope to foster more awareness and critical thinking about the role of technlogy in their education.

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