Some key questions about higher education & surveillance

Before our first meeting in March 2019, we asked the people who were attending to write some topics and questions they would hope to see addressed in the project. I can’t honestly think of a better way to scope out the territory of ‘higher education after surveillance’ than to share these – lightly edited and categorised, but otherwise in their raw, vibrant, urgent form. We invite comments about any of these, and suggestions of more questions. 

Social impacts:

  • Are we training students for a life of labor inequality, surveillance, and exploitation? – Karen Gregory
  • What are the implications for the growing “datafication” of our lives on the delivery of public services like education, the role of governance (at all levels) in the capture and use of this data, the social response to these trends, and the role of universities in developing citizens who can engage critically with all of the above? – Rob Littlejohn
  • What are the relationships between surveillance cultures in higher education and in society more widely? And what wider impact do these practices in HE have? – Jen Ross


  • There has been tremendous backlash (techlash) in the past year or so aimed at platforms and some of their practices, as well as more calls for regulation. So far not so much in ed-tech. What might an ed-techlash look like? And given the recent techlash, why are certain powers in education willing to build educational structures on the failures of platforms? – Chris Gilliard
  • Given that surveillance is often used as a core part of platform business models, how can surveillance-free platforms be supported as sustainable endeavors by educational institutions? – Ben Werdmuller
  • Where there is digital there is always data. Are surveillance-free platforms possible? – Anne-Marie Scott


  • What can real trust in digital education look like? – Amy Collier
  • Who do we trust? Does trust in digital education rely on a leap of faith? – Anne-Marie Scott
  • To what extent do learning platform designs and features implicitly teach unhelpful types of behaviour and expectation in relation to trust? – Anna Wilson

Contexts and insights:

  • What are the core needs (not features, but underlying reasons) that have been answered by surveillance-orientated models, and how can we better meet them with tools that are more respectful of student rights? – Ben Werdmuller
  • What are the practices and policies already in place in schools — prior to and without the use of digital technologies — that foster surveillance? How have students’ and teachers’ bodies been disciplined historically? How has the experience of surveillance differed based on race, class, gender, ability, location? – Audrey Watters
  • What constitutes (and ought to constitute) data and evidence for learning? – Anna Wilson
  • How is surveillance used in community settings and across online platforms? – Melody Howse
  • How can surveillance inform the imaginary? – Melody Howse

Alternatives and actions:

  • What are the options to our current paradigm of platform and surveillance capitalism? – sava saheli singh
  • How can we develop research programmes in universities which can actually halt the coming wave of surveillance ed-tech? – Sian Bayne
  • What are effective alternatives and responses to the rhetoric used for advancing intelligent campus, online proctoring, learning analytics, and plagiarism detection? – Amy Collier
  • In education, how do we build resistance against narratives of the inevitability of extractive practices?  – Chris Gilliard
  • How can we use the vast investment in data science to push back on reductivism and the ‘growth’ agenda? – Sian Bayne
  • What does a feminist praxis of digital education/instructional design/edtech look like, and what are practical guidelines for and examples of such a practice? – George Veletsianos
  • What does a digital learning environment that is void of surveillance look like and who (e.g., faculty, students, staff, administrators) needs to do what for that to happen? – George Veletsianos


  • What do the universities of the future look like? Why? – George Veletsianos
  • How can we use speculative methodsto engage with people about futures they want in this area? – Jen Ross

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