What is your role in the Centre for Research in Digital Education?
For the next two years, I will be working with Ben Williamson (Chancellor's Fellow, Edinburgh Futures Institute, also based at the Centre), Martyn Pickersgill (Personal Chair of the Sociology of Science and Medicine at the Usher Institute Centre for Biomedicine, Self and Society) and Jessica Pykett (Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Birmingham) on the project 'Biology, data science, and the making of "precision education”’, funded by the Leverhulme Trust. We will be looking at how data-intensive biological techniques such as brain imaging, biosensors and computational genomics are being used to produce individualised ‘precision’ approaches to teaching and learning. Our team will examine the infrastructure of people, knowledge, institutions and technologies that enable the development of precision education as a field of knowledge, scrutinising its translation into policy and practice, and highlighting the social implications of conceptualising and classifying learners through the analytical gaze of computational biology.
How do you see Digital Education and why do you think it’s important?
Digital education is not just about the digitally-mediated delivery of educational content, or the adaptation of pedagogical techniques and relationships to online platforms. Digital education has important practical utility, but its technologies and functions raise their own set of questions, especially when they involve data-driven claims to superior knowledge and promote forms of automation. Digital educational technologies, as well as those aimed at student pastoral care (such as digital mental health applications for students), are embedded with particular knowledges, theories and assumptions about human cognition, ability, affect, human desires and relationships. It is important to subject these to critical scrutiny and investigate their social implications, as well as examine how they may have been shaped by political economies, policy agendas and their associated political ideologies.
What piece of work are you most proud of (to date)?
My book, Surplus Citizens, which was published by Pluto Press in 2019, builds on almost seven years of research on the politics around the financial crisis in Greece (covering the years 2010–2017), as well as linking them to a reconceptualisation of Modern Greek political culture, institutions and history from feminist and race-critical perspectives. However, I am also very proud of the article published this August in Critical Social Policy, of which I am lead author, and which is more relevant to digital education. The article maps the management of mental health in UK higher education, as part of a project funded by the Wellcome Trust. I feel it contributes to a nuanced understanding of the relationship between new approaches to mental heath and the neoliberal restructuring of higher education, against a wholesale dismissal of a therapeutic or psycho-social lens to educational relationships (often criticised for constructing ‘vulnerability’). We note what approaches, technologies and knowledges around mental health are favoured right now by university administrations, and analyse why.
If you had a time machine for a day when would you visit and why?
If only for one day it would have to be something spectacular — the worst kind of tourism! I’d be curious to see Aztec civilisation: a day in Tenochtitlan disguised as a male noble, if I could hope to see anything at all...