Datafication Practices: What is being measured, and how are these measures used in schooling?

There is now an extensive body of research literature describing new modes of educational policy governance enacted through datafication practices (see Lingard, 2011; Lingard, Creagh, & Vass, 2012; Lingard & Sellar, 2013; Sellar & Lingard, 2013). The term 'datafication' refers to 'the transformation of social action into online quantified data, thus allowing for real-time tracking and predictive analysis' (van Dijck, 2014: 198). Datafication practices are based on a tripartite alignment between corporate, academic and state institutions and underpinned by 'the ideology of dataism' a widespread 'belief in the objective quantification and potential tracking of all kinds of human behavior' and 'trust in the (institutional) agents that collect, interpret, and share (meta)data.' Notions of 'belief' and 'trust' play a large role in the emergence of 'dataveillance: a form of continuous surveillance through the use of (meta)data' (van Dijck, 2014: 198). Datafication produces new social practices by constructing new modes of the social contract between individuals, governments, corporate organisations and research entities.

Education research into datafication practices has tended to focus on the perverse/ adverse effects of national and international testing regimes on teachers' work and professional identities, as well as the work of school inspectors and principals. Some scholars, such as Williamson (2016) have begun to explore the role of non-human actors (digital technologies, software programs) in shaping schooling lives through the production of bio, neuro and psycho-pedagogies. Data is continually generated about children's bodies, minds and emotions via various software programs, decoded and then recoded to generate pedagogies supposedly designed to meet children's predicted needs (see Williamson, 2016). In addition, machine logic (algorithms) is being used to predict teacher quality based on student test results, and is now implemented in some US districts to hire and fire teachers.

The papers in this symposium speak to this literature, but do so, by following this thing called data. Each of the papers explores how data is enmeshed and entangled in schooling and research practices, and changes not only what it means to do schooling, but what it means to do research on/with/in schools. Barad (2007: 90) argues 'knowing, thinking, measuring, theorizing and observing are material practices of intra-acting within and as part of the world. ... We do not uncover pre-existing facts about independently existing things as they exist frozen in time like little statues positioned in the world. Rather we learn about phenomena, about specific material configurations of the world's becoming'. So how is this data thing a specific material configuration of the becoming of schooling, and of us as researchers of schooling?