Blurring the education vision machine: redistributing the sense of bureaucratic standardisation

Year: 2021

Author: Heimans, Stephen

Type of paper: Individual Paper

This conceptual paper revolves around the question of what is made hearable and see-able (and thinkable) in the distribution of educational sense created through and by the various instruments of standardisation that abound in education. It is to recognise that each “standardization…valorizes some point of view and silences another” (Bowker and Starr, 2000, p. 5-6) and that therefore also this involves “an ethical choice, and as such it is dangerous-not bad, but dangerous (Bowker and Starr, 2000, p. 5-6). Part of the danger lies in the differences between whose work is standardised and in what detail this occurs- people with most power and control are subject to the least fine-grained standardisations of their work and the opposite is also true (Bowker and Starr, 2000). The angle explored in this paper concerns how suggestions for changing this- for redistributing the standardisation of sense and the sense of standardisation – may be conceptualised. To begin we metaphorize Virilio’s vision machine and use it to investigate what it might be that standards see and which therefore brings to light what is see-able. But we extend the metaphor to a look at the possibility of the standards as an enabling prosthetic that can produce an intensification of this machinic visibility that might enable a teacher autogestion, a dissensus staged toward redistributing the sense of standardisation as and by a vision machine. We are not saying the standards are a machine or that the vision machine is just about standardisation, but we can say that, following Virilio, there arises a phatic visibility which poses questions whose answers are largely standardised- they are questions which lead to a non-event.  Nothing, educational at least, happens- the machine just keeps working- producing images of itself that are sensible mainly to itself- though of course there may be punitive sanctions and career rewards in (in)correct visibilisations. Autogestive, dissensual activity may produce a blurring of educational sense- when teachers, whose only role in the production of standards about their work is none, take one.