Seminar recording - Communities, "Big Data", and Social Justice

Communities, "Big Data", and Social Justice' seminar recordings available

This event took place on 11th May 2018 at The Moray House School of Education.  Recordings can be accessed via the presentation titles below.  

‘Communities, “Big Data”, and Social Justice’ was the theme of the third seminar in the Data Citizenship series (details below).  Community education projects, while often seeking to (re)establish social, and ‘human’, connections amongst private and consumerist spaces, find in ‘big data’ the substantial, yet somewhat ‘more-than-human’ promise of new insights, collective practices, and political action made possible through intensive data collection processing. How can informal education projects – those rooted in a concern for communities and social justice – engage with the ‘datafied’ society and its citizens? 


Lina Dencik (Cardiff University), Governance, Citizenship and Resistance in the Datafied Society

The mass collection and analysis of data is now a key feature of contemporary society. It is transforming the nature of business, politics, economics, civil society and everyday life. In this presentation I will focus particularly on the changing nature of governance, drawing on an on-going project that explores the uses of ‘data scores' in public services in the UK. Scoring provides a lens through which to ground and concretise what can often feel like very abstract debates on datafication. In outlining these developments, I will discuss implications for understandings of citizenship, and will consider concerns and forms of resistance to this emerging mode of governance. I will end by outlining ideas around ‘data justice’ as a way to frame and nurture alternative imaginations around the organisation of data-centric technology.


Gary Fraser (University of Edinburgh), New Digital Technologies and ‘Datafication’ in Community Education: Implications for Professionalism, Politics and Practice

Our world has been transformed in recent years by a phenomenal rise in new digital technologies and it is argued that we are living in a new era - the era of the ‘network society’ or ‘surveillance capitalism’ (Zuboff, 2015). Drawing upon my own empirical research, which was based on a case study of community education in the context of local government, I explore how digital technologies and governmental demands for data (datafication) have transformed everyday working practices. I argue that the transformative effects of digital technologies and datafication are manifested in community education in two ways: first, the professional community education worker is de-professionalised and feels increasingly alienated from their work and also by the ways in which their labour is mediated and controlled by computerised technologies. Contemporary professionals, I suggest, are de-professionalised, de-skilled and demoralised by new regimes of practice associated with computerisation and digital technologies. And yet, something else is also happening and I propose that professional community education workers are being re-professionalised and I argue that digital technologies and datafication have produced new professional subjects in the field of practice, subjects who work in a field of judgement shaped by government policy. The wider theoretical perspective, which informs my argument, is shaped by ideas associated with Michel Foucault and in particular governmentality theory and I explore via Foucault how practices associated with digital technologies and datafication are inherently political and linked with a political rationality shaped by neoliberalism.

Key words: community education; digital technology; ‘datafication’; governmentality theory; neoliberalism.


Callum McGregor (University of Edinburgh), Data Citizenship and fetish thinking: Between smart cities and folk politics

The City Deal represents an economic and policy commitment to making Edinburgh the ‘data capital of Europe’, with the University of Edinburgh positioning itself in a vanguard role. My presentation is concerned with the dominant problem representations shaping this narrative of ‘data citizenship’, and its potential consequences for communities. I approach this task by speculating on the ways in which fetish thinking shapes the dominant narrative, as well as ‘folk political’ resistance to it. I conclude by suggesting that dialectical reasoning is one tool that educators, working across a range of contexts, might employ in order to think critically about what is at stake.


Data Citizenship seminar series

The Data Citizenship seminar series was hosted by the Centre for Research in Digital Education ( and the Edinburgh Futures Institute (


The series examines the role of education and digital technology in developing notions of contemporary citizenship.  As the era of ‘big data’ promises all kinds of disruptions, from economic revolutions, to new scientific insights, to modified forms of governance, participation and activism, the balance between the citizen and the state requires renewed attention. Education, as the foundation and ‘lifelong’ thread of public life, appears to be subject to the disruptive ventures of ‘big data’ governance, but also a key site for the shaping of new kinds of ‘citizen’. Three seminars in this series critically addressed the education themes of schooling, higher education, and community education.

Data Citizenship seminar 1, Analytics: The Datafication of Higher Education and Work -

Data Citizenship seminar 2, Schooling Data Citizens -