The Power of the Platform: Panorama as a Producer of (dis)empowerment in Educational Leadership

Year: 2021

Author: Langman, Sarah

Type of paper: Individual Paper

Technological advancements are continuing to transform processes and practices across the many institutional dimensions of education. Logics concerning the legitimacy of digital data techniques and technologies in educational leadership settings have become privileged through the naturalisation of datafication, a reductive process that renders all school happenings as a quantifiable commodity. Principals and school leaders are not immune to these rationalities as they are bound by policy that privilege digital data metrics as the central way of knowing their schools’ performances, which ultimately reshapes their subjectivities and discursive practices. This paper draws on a study involving a detailed investigation of the Panorama system, a data platform under the governance of the Victorian Department of Education. This platform is utilised by principals, school leaders and executive level employees, like Senior Education Improvement Leaders (SEILs), within the Department as a tool for measuring school performance, consequently influencing a number of linked policies and procedures at local and state levels. Utilising a framework that draws on discipline (Foucault, 1977) and control (Deleuze, 1992), this study highlights the way in which the platform mobilises both disciplinary measures and forms of control in a complementary way that ultimately fosters a self-perpetuating mode of power. This paper seeks to make visible the productive nature of Panorama in terms of its position within a complex ecosystem of policy actors and agents and how it (dis)empowers school leaders in various ways. Liquid surveillance (Bauman & Lyon, 2013) is used as a way to explain how Panorama as a digital platform enables school leaders to be both subjects and agents of dataveillance and how this is only made possible in the digital sphere. The impacts of this are also critically explored to consider the new actors which find their way into education policy as a result of digitised regimes, as well as the possibilities for restructuring the institutional formations of school leadership. This paper demonstrates the need for ongoing critical research that seeks to make visible the privileged power/knowledge constructs and the limitations such agendas produce.