Producing the NAPLAN Machine: A schizoanalytic cartography

Year: 2013

Author: Thompson, Greg, Cook, Ian

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Everything revolves around desiring-machines and the production of desire… Schizoanalysis merely asks what are the machinic, social and technical indices on a socius that open to desiring-machines (Deleuze & Guattari, 1983, pp. 380-381).
Achievement tests like NAPLAN are fairly recent, yet common, education policy initiatives in much of the Western world. They intersect with, use and change pre-existing logics of education, teaching and learning. There has been much written about the form and function of these tests, the ‘stakes’ involved and the effects of their practice. This paper adopts a different “angle of vision” to ask what ‘opens’ education to these regimes of testing(Roy, 2008)? This paper builds on previous analyses of NAPLAN as a modulating machine, or a machine characterised by the increased intensity of connections and couplings. One affect can be “an existential disquiet” as “disciplinary subjects attempt to force coherence onto a disintegrating narrative of self”(Thompson & Cook, 2012, p. 576).
Desire operates at all levels of the education assemblage, however our argument is that achievement testing manifests desire as ‘lack’; seen in the desire for improved results, the desire for increased control, the desire for freedom, the desire for acceptance to name a few. For Deleuze and Guattari desire is irreducible to lack, instead desire is productive. As a productive assemblage, education machines operationalise and produce through desire; “Desire is a machine, and the object of the desire is another machine connected to it”(Deleuze & Guattari, 1983, p. 26). This intersection is complexified by the strata at which they occur, the molar and molecular connections and flows they make possible. Our argument is that when attention is paid to the macro and micro connections, the machines built and disassembled as a result of high-stakes testing, a map is constructed that outlines possibilities, desires and blockages within the education assemblage.
This schizoanalytic cartography suggests a new analysis of these ‘axioms’ of testing and accountability. It follows the flows and disruptions made possible as different or altered connections are made and as new machines are brought online. Thinking of education machinically requires recognising that “every machine functions as a break in the flow in relation to the machine to which it is connected, but at the same time is also a flow itself, or the production of flow, in relation to the machine connected to it”(Deleuze & Guattari, 1983, p. 37). Through its potential to map desire, desire-production and the production of desire within those assemblages that have come to dominate our understanding of what is possible, Deleuze and Guattari’s method of schizoanalysis provides a provocative lens for grappling with the question of what one can do, and what lines of flight are possible.