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DATAFIED at the Congress of the German Sociological Association

Yesterday (22.09.2020) Juliane Jarke from SP2 and Vtio Dabisch (SP1) jointly presented first results of the two subprojects at this year’s congress of the German Sociological Association. Her presentation was the first of four papers presented by an ad hoc group on the digitization of education. Vito Dabisch’s presentation focused on the increasing production and usage of data for school management by school supervision. He noted that there is an increasing expansion and compression of data and data practices. In this context, the simultaneous data criticism and data orientation of the interviewed actors was striking: School councils are partly (very) skeptical about how helpful data-based control is, but on the other hand more and more data is used in institutionalized discussions. Schools are encouraged to “see” themselves through “their” data and to work with this data.
Juliane Jarke’s presentation concentrated on how school as an organization is changing through digitization and datafication and how this change can be researched.She presented various research artifacts from TP2 that allow to analyze data flows and show how schools (re)position themselves to their environment and how boundaries of their organization, tasks or members are renegotiated.
The slides to the presentation can be found here.

DATAFIED. First DataSession for a joint evaluation

Data session! This sounds like “Jam session” and to a certain extent it is. Together we look at our research data, interpret and consider whether a (dys)harmonic “picture” emerges. In mid-September, the four DATAFIED subprojects met for a joint data evaluation and discussed possible evaluation intersections with regard to the interview excerpts collected in the research field. The data session is the prelude to a series of reconstructive to qualitatively interpretive evaluation sessions, which will result in a book by the end of next year, where we will present the DATAFIED results for public discussion.

Picture from: Business vector created by katemangostar –

DATAFIED represented on the 4S / EASST 2020 Convention in “virPrague”

A screenshot of the presentation by Irina Zakharova and Dr. Juliane Jarke, other participants were made unrecognizable with “stickers”.

From August 18 to 21, the joint conference of the European Association for the Study of Science and Technology and the international Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) took place. Due to the Corona Pandemic, the conference was moved from the Czech capital Prague to “virPrague” and was held digitally. Whether the “vir” stands for “virus” or “virtual” was left open by the organizers. Despite the restrictions due to the pandemic, the organizers quickly created a digital infrastructure combining the classical lectures with the possibilities of digital communication and giving the participants a feeling of community.

The theme of the conference – “Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and agency of STS in emerigng worlds” – focused on the situated nature of the actions of different human and more-than-human actors in the datafied world. In numerous panel discussions, the impact of the corona pandemic on social practices and the role of data, algorithms and information systems in this process were also critically discussed.

As part of TP2 at ifib, Irina Zakharova and Juliane Jarke presented results from the ongoing DATAFIED project in the panel “Crafting critical methodologies in computing: Theories, Practices and Future Directions”. Their presentation was entitled “Software-as-a-Process: Reflection of Discourse-, Map-, and Process-based Research Artifacts” and reflected methodological considerations for the study of information systems.

The authors referred to feminist epistemologies (e.g. Puig de la Bellacasa 2011, 2017, Mol 2002) as a basis for understanding the “fluid”, ever-changing processes in information systems. The aim was to explore how the concepts of care-work and the application of different research artifacts (interview transcripts, maps and process models) help to explore the collaboration of school information systems and the many actors involved in the digitized school as an ongoing, continuous, emotional relationship. In this context, after Puig de la Bellacasa (2017), care work was understood as an affective state, work and ethical-political obligation. Thus, the authors used empirical examples to show how school information systems enable or restrict certain practices of care work. When practices of care work are narrowed down in one place, alternative spaces open up in which both human and more-than-human actors participate together in care work. Moreover, the care of multi-ethnic actors, such as digital data, is one of the practices required by school information systems to successfully implement the educational mission of the digital school.

As an overall result of the panel, the organizers and discussants have agreed to a follow-up meeting in September to further reflect together on critical methodologies and their role in information systems research.

Sixth joint meeting of DATAFIED – again in digital form

A return to normality is not yet foreseeable in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and so the second joint meeting this year was again realized virtually via the conference platform Zoom instead of a meeting in Hamburg. It took place from June 29th to July 1st and was characterized by a good and target-oriented exchange between the participating scientists.
On the first day, previous results were summarised and the first results of analyses and ideas for publications were shared via video conference. The good exchange produced further ideas for synergies between the subprojects, which are now being pursued further.

On the second day various possibilities for the distribution of results were discussed. In addition to the scientific community, the practical partners should also learn what DATAFIED has found out. It is a special concern of ours to “give something back”.

In the second part of the second day the participants concentrated on the consequences of the corona crisis on the DATAFIED project. In all four federal states investigated, schools were closed for several weeks, making it difficult to conduct research on site. Other contacts outside the school also had a different focus at first, and interviews – especially on site – were not possible. Various scenarios were discussed and possibilities examined to compensate for the loss of time.

On the third and last day of the joint meeting, the focus was on the doctoral students. Topics like time management and workload were discussed in the PhD slot of the DATAFIED joint meeting at Wednesday.
In the virtual “bring your own coffee cup” BYOCC format, the five PhDs, Ben Mayer, Vito Dabisch, Tjark Raabe, Jasmin Tröger and Irina Zakharova, discussed with the research coordinator, Annekatrin Bock, the big and small challenges of working in an interdisciplinary joint project during the COVID-19 epidemic. How does field research work without a field? How do you find intersections with collaborative projects when your own results still have to be sorted? How is a dissertation written in three years and what comes after that? The participants hope for a personal meeting in October 2020, then again with analogue coffee cups!

Even if a meeting in persona would certainly have been richer, we were able to clarify important topics and gain new impulses.

Speculative Fiction as a method of investigation: Prof. Dr. Felicitas Macgilchrist presents paper at the University of Utrecht

Screenshot of the seminar “Transmissions in Motion” at the University of Utrecht

What will school look like in 2040? Which socio-technical assemblages will be shaped? How will learners be addressed as subjects?

Prof. Dr. Felicitas Macgilchrist poses these questions in her paperStudents and society in the 2020s. Three futurehistoriesof education and technology“, which she wrote together with Heidrun Allert and Anne Bruch and which she reported on in the seminarTransmissions in Motion” at the University of Utrecht. In theirSocial Science Fictionpaper the authors formulate three different versions of the future 

In the first, learners become so-called “smooth userswho optimize themselves in the pursuit of frictionless efficiency within a post-democratic framework created by large corporations. Because the 2020s had to respond to digitisation and its challenges, education was “smoothedby technological support, entrepreneurs and tech companies became government advisors, decisions were made behind closed doors, and schools became dependent on companies. Educational software was designed to be particularly user-friendly, smooth and groundbreaking, making students less independent, especially in non-cognitive learning dimensions, and their self-optimization became the key process 

The second vision predicts learners as “digital nomads” who seek freedom, individualism, and aesthetic pleasure as solopreneurs, who exploit state regulation and algorithmic rules as they dive deep into a capitalist new economy. In the 2020s, these nomads lived in countries with a low cost of living, but worked in high-wage countries. Through an understanding of algorithms and an authentic, independent entrepreneurial identity, they built their own brand, earned a lot of money by doing so, partly because they avoided government regulations such as taxes, and educated their children online and/or at home. The technical support for their holistic lifestyle was mainly provided by techniques such as life/bio-hacking and the data monopolies of big tech giants manifested themselves. 

In the third vision, learners are participatory, democratic, ecologically aware people, embedded in a “collective capacity to act”, who see institutions as spaces for research into fairer ways of life. In the 2020s it was realized that capitalism had a bad impact on social justice, environment, and independence. Privacy by Design became mandatory for educational software in the EU, OER and Open Source were promoted and established, students learned in hackathons to modify and develop software, and data activism as well as democratic, environmentally conscious responsibility were trained. 

The three visions emerged from the analysis of current educational discourses and developments. In this critical, discourse-theoretical research approach, the focus was primarily on processes of subjectivation. The approach also offers several access points for the following research questions, since a speculative approach in (ethnographic) research can help to better perceive relevant events or ruptures and to recognize new objects of interest.    

Macgilchrist mentions datafication as one such object example in the TiM seminar podcast. Here, a speculative research design could be used to analyze the tracking of learners, the capitalistic use of (learning) data, and example projects that emphasize data justice. In their forthcoming paper on predictive analytics, Felicitas Macgilchrist and Juliane Jarke from the DATAFIED project, for example, focus on a program that reports students whose transfer is at risk. One area of this software is “social learningas a predictive factor. Here, the software tracks which learners communicate particularly frequently with others within the platform, which is then visualised in a network map with colour codes and incorporated into the risk analysis. The problem: the software does not track physical exchanges between learners, but only what takes place on the platform itself. In the future, it could therefore be possible that the learners shift their communication completely to the platform in order to counteract a negative risk assessment by the system. Important risk-reducing face-to-face interactions could be overseen by teachers because they are not “countedby the software system. 

Macgilchrist considers it a problem that the public discourse on education policy still focuses too much on the availability of and equipment with hardware. Software is almost completely ignored here, although it also implies important political and social issues: How are developers trained in the social implications of their actions? Why is this not yet part of their education and what does it mean? How diverse are development teams and how is this reflected in software? How can experiences of exclusion be incorporated into software development and how do we react to incidents of discrimination in educational software? 


Links to the mentioned paper and the lecture: 

Felicitas Macgilchrist, Heidrun Allert & Anne Bruch (2020) Students and society in the 2020s. Three future ‘histories’ of education and technology, Learning, Media and Technology, 45:1, 76-89, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2019.1656235 

“What Follows for Students & Society in the 2020s? 3 Speculative Futures for Education & Technology” (Recorded Session) 

TiM Seminar Podcast #3: Felicitas Macgilchrist on Speculative Futures for Education and Technology 


Conclusion on the Online Ring Lecture “BILDUNGSDIALOG.DIGITAL: Inside Bildungsforschung”

As already announced, the presentation of the DATAFIED project took place on 05.05.2020 in the context of the online lecture series “BILDUNGSDIALOG.DIGITAL: Inside Bildungsforschung”.

DATAFIED in online lecture series “BILDUNGSDIALOG.DIGITAL: Inside Bildungsforschung”

On behalf of the scientists involved in the joint project, Prof. Dr. Andreas Breiter reported on the background, the current status and the objectives of the project. A total of 20 participants received detailed insights into the multifaceted research work during the half-hour presentation. 

The presentation was followed by a lively discussion. The focus was on questions concerning the change in the digitization of schools – especially against the background of the current COVID-19 pandemic. 

Fifth joint meeting of DATAFIED as videoconference

Go digital: The fifth joint meeting takes place as a video conference

The global spread of COVID-19 and the related regulatory measures pose great challenges for researchers in science. But even in times of contact blocks and home offices, it is important to counteract the standstill of scientific work.

For this reason, the fifth joint meeting of the DATAFIED project took place on 27 and 28 April as an online event. On two exciting days, many content and organisational issues were addressed and discussed during the first quarterly meeting in 2020.

On the first day, the individual sub-projects presented their previous findings via video conference, which served as a basis for informative and fruitful discussions. In addition, further synergies and sub-project overlapping topics were identified, which will further intensify the work between the individual research groups and offer exciting cooperation opportunities.

But also the handling of the challenges arising from the rampant corona epidemic and the resulting changes in the school education sector were discussed. Schools in all German states are currently affected by closures and the corona crisis requires a responsible approach to the situation. All employees* in schools and educational institutions are therefore making every effort to continue teaching and therefore often use digital tools. These changes within the school research landscape offer unique opportunities that are being taken advantage of by sub-projects of the DATAFIED project. For example, video or telephone interviews are being conducted with those affected, while the analysis of software and system landscapes is also progressing.

On the second day of the association meeting, the doctoral students were given the opportunity to exchange problems and ideas. This refreshing exchange also took place with the help of a video conferencing tool and offered exciting insights into the work of the doctoral students.

All in all, it was a successful and exciting group meeting. The videoconferencing format allowed many insights into the status quo and results for further proceedings. Although the previous social get-together could not be replaced, a fruitful exchange was possible.


DATAFIED in Online Lecture Series “BILDUNGSDIALOG.DIGITAL: Inside Bildungsforschung”

Even in times of crisis, scientific exchange does not stand still.

In the context of the online lecture series “BILDUNGSDIALOG.DIGITAL: Inside Bildungsforschung”, which will be held weekly from 28th April 2020, various funded projects will be presented to discuss current issues in the context of education and digitisation.  The sessions, which take place on a total of 12 dates, consist of 15 to 30 minutes of input from a project with a subsequent discussion with the participants. 

Besides many interesting projects, the DATAFIED project will also be part of this valuable exchange. Represented by Prof. Dr. Andreas Breiter the joint project will be presented on 05th May 2020. We cordially invite you to participate in the lecture including the subsequent discussion.  

Access to the lecture series can be found here: 

Dates: Weekly from 28th April 2020

Time: 15:00 – 16:00


Data in Discourse Analysis Conference: DATAFIED-Project

Very enjoyable discussions on data, software, discourse, power and knowledge were had at the Data in Discourse Analysis conference at the TU Darmstadt on Wednesday 18 February. Drawing partly on analysis with Juliane Jarke on predictive analytics within the DATAFIED project, Felicitas Macgilchrist reflected on how discourse studies’ „object of analysis“ is changing as education is increasingly datafied. 

She observes changes to the discourse “about” education, the discourse “in” education, and alerts us to the need to analyse the discourse “encoded into” education. Here’s the updated abstract for the paper:

Datafication, the increased transformation of information about education into digitally manipulable data, is a process occurring in educational practice and in (critical) discourse analytical research on education. In part one of this paper, I explore three ways in which ‘digital data’ have changed the way educational discourse studies perceives its object of analysis. First, ‘data about education’ flow abundantly. Schools are producing more numeric data about their students than ever before. Critical discourse studies have analysed, e.g., PISA, ICILS and other international assessments, the media reports about these assessments, and the networks of ‘experts’ from data science, who are increasingly working alongside government agencies to co-write educational policy. Critical analyses have traced these distributed policy networks, following how discursive elements move across sectors. Second, discourse analyses of classroom practices are investigating ‘data in education’. Studies observe how digital data are transformed into data visualisations, analysing, for instance, the uptake of data visualizations by teachers and students during class time. Third, we can observe ‘data encoded into education’. Here, I see the most substantial change for discourse studies. Algorithms written by specific teams in specific (primarily for-profit) contexts shape the software with which teachers and students engage. Discourse analysts begin to look at code, learning analytics, dashboard design, software documentation. In part two of the paper, a short “worked example” from predictive analytics walks through these three dimensions, reflecting on how data have changed the way discourse studies perceives its object of analysis. The paper ends by suggesting epistemological, political and practical questions for future research.

Methodology Workshop on Software Studies

Introduction to the topic: How to investigate the new normal? In search of inventive methods for inquiring the datafication of education“

On Thursday, 30 January 2020, a methodology workshop on software studies took place at the premises of the Institute for Information Management Bremen (ifib). Participants were representatives of all participating subprojects as well as Mathias Decuypere, who is an assistant professor at the KU Leuven and researches and teaches in the field of educational science methodology.

The workshop was opened with a presentation of Decuypere’s work on the topic “How to investigate the new normal? In search of inventive methods for inquiring the datafication of education”. The workshop was followed by a fruitful exchange of ideas between the participants. Various approaches from Decuypere’s presentation were taken up and further developed. Many valuable references to interesting literature sources and other projects were exchanged. In the course of this, the influence of the order of the methods used on the results was discussed, among other things.

After a short break, Jasmin Troeger and Irina Zakharova presented the current status of the methods used in subprojects 2 and 3, as well as considerations for further work. A lively exchange of ideas was also fostered on these presentations. 

The workshop was guided by the following questions:

  • How can we study (learning) software? How can we frame/understand software?
  • What are the challenges in studying software?
  • What types of methods can be used and what types of knowledge do they produce/what types of knowledge do they privilege?
  • How can we study data produced and processed in such systems?
  • What are the effects of using certain methods / following certain approaches (e.g. with regard to the performativity of our methods and procedures)

All participants of the joint project would like to thank Mathias Decuypere once again for his interest in the DATAFIED project, his participation in the Software Studies Workshop, and his valuable input.