Contextualizing the datafication of schooling – a comparative discussion of Germany and Russia

Year: 2019

Author: Hartong, Sigrid, Piattoeva, Nelli

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper seeks to contribute to a growing body of research on the increasing datafication of schooling, which in recent decades has become one of the most salient topics in comparative education and education policy research. Specifically, it addresses the rising scholarly concern about the meaning of (comparing) contexts as bounded localities facing an increasingly fluid and generative process of datafication. This concern is closely related to wider (and also older) calls to denaturalize space as a territory, to move away from seeing the social as a single spatial type and instead to approach space as relational and consisting of complex constellations of changing topologies. Topological theorizing brings to the fore spatial complexity and dynamism, but it simultaneously maintains that it is possible – and even necessary – to bridge topological and topographical perspectives and to understand their mutually constitutive nature in space-(re)making. The contribution uses the recent expansion of standardized assessments in Germany and Russia to illustrate this complex coming-together of topological and topographical space-making in datafication. The main focus is therefore on the role of datafication in (re)constructing topographically imagined contexts, particularly federal-national-subnational relations, but also on how datafication has been affected by these complex, evolving relations. We engage with the concept of data infrastructures to capture the dynamics of topological-topographical relation-making and, consequently, to deal with the growing ‘messiness’ of context in international comparative research on datafication.