Surveillance in the System: Data as Critical Change in Higher Education
Keywords:surveillance, data, datafication, higher education, datafied systems
Over recent decades, higher education infrastructures have become increasingly digitized and datafied. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated adoption of online learning platforms, trading the walls of the classroom for digital systems. Yet the surveillance, privacy, and discrimination issues that such systems raise are minimally understood by those who teach and learn within them. This paper overviews a 2020 pilot survey and 2021-2022 qualitative study of higher education instructors on a global scale. These projects explored the ways in which instructors from various locales and academic status positions understand data and classroom tools using proxy questions surrounding knowledge, practices, experiences, and perspectives. This paper draws on those studies to frame concerns about datafication amplifying issues in higher education. Its premises are twofold: first, if higher education instructors, as knowledge workers, are not knowledgeable about the contexts within which they teach and conduct scholarship, then the construct of shared governance within higher education is inevitably undermined. Secondly, if faculty and academic decision-makers are not intentional about equitable and ethical use of digital platforms within higher education, students’ privacy and data is at risk. In this conceptual paper, we outline findings that frame datafication as a critical change within higher education culture.
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