We now find ourselves in what Mark Andrejevic (2019) describes as an ‘era of pervasive automation’ – where masses of digital data are coming together with algorithmic processing and machine learning to drive powerful automated decision making systems that increasingly shape the boundaries of everyday life. This special issue explores the diverse implications that these automations have for education – from the lived experiences of teaching and learning within automated classrooms, through to the changing nature of educational governance.
On one hand, we are interested in testing what Morgan Ames terms the ‘charismatic appeals’ that currently inform discussions of automated technologies in education. How are automations of education decision-making being deployed at an institutional level, and with what outcomes? How are automations of education being experienced at an individual level, and with what outcomes? For example, to what extent do these technologies enhance the autonomy of teachers and students? To what extent do automated technologies lead to cost-efficiencies, time-saving and speeding-up of education processes, and a general avoidance of institutional inertia? What is the effect of reducing (or removing) the number of ‘humans in the loop’? Are key decision-making processes noticeably more objective, consistent and ‘precise’?
There is also a pressing need to address the messy realities of automation and education that are less often acknowledged in current debate. For example, what implications does digital automation have for the intensification, extensions and diminishment of teachers’ work and labour (Wacjman 2017)? What role might education have in supporting the development of critical literacies – preparing young citizens for dealing with (and perhaps resisting) increasingly automated societies (Cotter 2020)? How do emerging forms of digital automation correspond with previous pre-digital automations of education (Watters 2021)? What issues do increasing automations of education raise with regards to human rights and welfare, ethics and fairness, disadvantage and inequality, discrimination and oppression (Green 2018)? What forms of trust or oversight does the prospect of automated education require?
All told, we are interested in contributions that provide education-related extensions of ongoing critical debates about automation across the wider social sciences, humanities, design and technology fields. Potential topics of interest include:
- The role of automated decision-making in educational governance, organisation and management – e.g. how is automation associated with emerging or intensified performativity cultures, what forms of regulation and oversight are emerging with regards to educational automation?
- The changing nature of pedagogy in the automated classroom – e.g. how is automation in education shaping teacher and student relationships, what are the pedagogical benefits and/or harms of increased automation of classrooms?
- The hidden labour of educational automation – e.g. the additional work required from teachers and students arising from ‘fauxtomation’, through to outsourced forms ‘invisible’ labour, including gendered labor implications
- The changing nature of teacher work in automated contexts – e.g. which elements of teacher work are being intensified and which are being diminished? How is teacher autonomy impacted by automated technologies? What forms of de-professionalisation and diminishment of professional expertise are likely?
- Student experiences of automated education – e.g. how are students learning to work with/ work alongside/ work around automated aspects of their student experience?
- Automated surveillance in educational contexts – what forms of automated tracking and monitoring are at play in contemporary education settings?
- Pre-digital histories of education automation – what continuities and/or disjunctures are there between current emerging digital automations and previous waves of teaching machines?
- Platforms and infrastructures for automated education – e.g. how is automation being integrated into educational platforms infrastructures, and with what implications?
- Biological aspects of automation – e.g. how is automation evident in emerging biodigital and posthuman understandings of the coming-together of biology, knowledge and society?
- Sociotechnical imaginaries of automated education – from the ‘smart school’ to the ‘robot teacher’
- Anticipating possible automated futures – e.g. what alternate forms of education automation might be possible and/or preferable? What are the educational implications of speculative forms of the ‘fully automated classroom’ or ‘fully automated luxury communism’? What would a digital feminist agenda for automated education look like?
24 January 2022 – Deadline for 700-word abstracts
31 January 2022 – Authors notified and invited to write full manuscript
16 May 2022 – Deadline for full draft manuscripts
20 June 2022 – Deadline for reviewer feedback
12 September 2022 – Deadline for final submission of revised articles
Neil Selwyn, Carlo Perrotta (Monash University, Australia), Thomas Hillman, Annika Bergviken-Rensfeldt (University of Gothenburg, Sweden). Please feel free to contact Neil Selwyn to discuss your possible contribution.
Andrejevic, M. (2019). Automated media. New York and Abingdon: Routledge.
Cotter, K. (2020). Critical Algorithmic Literacy: Power, Epistemology, and Platforms. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University.
Green, B. (2018). Data science as political action: grounding data science in a politics of justice. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1811.03435. Accessed 14 May 2021.
Robinson, L., Schultz, J., Dunn, H. et al. (2020). Digital inequalities 3.0: Emergent inequalities in the information age. First Monday, 27(5). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i7.10844.
Wajcman, J. (2017). Automation: is it really different this time?. The British Journal of Sociology, 68(1), 119-127. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-4446.12239.