Session 6a

'Eduveillance': Re-imagining the Age of Bentham’s Chrestomatic-Panopticon

Professor Balbir Barn, Deputy Dean Science and Technology, Middlesex University London

Bentham’s other designs for his Panopticon template included the idea of the Chrestomatic-Panopticon where the teacher supervises up to 600 children without being seen.  Today, we can observe wide scale adoption of data analytics and other technologies in higher education strategy and practice. The question arises, to what extent are core values such as privacy, transparency, and autonomy being eroded through accidental or deliberate surveillance?

Click here to view Professor Balbir Barn's presentation

Session summary: 

In a period of uncertainty and risk, higher education policy and practice is driven, increasingly, through the use of data and new technologies.  Data, it seems, might have the answer to important concerns such as student retention and progression, diversity concerns or even optimisation of workloads. Hence we see well trodden paths were the search for gold (the temporally related predictor variables) leads us to ever more data collection, design of new systems, integration between systems, and student friendly apps. In constructing this Eduveillance Assemblage (with due apologies to Deleuze and Guattari) we are focusing too readily (because it is too easy) on the data representation of the student. In the act of doing so, we are creating opportunities for erosion of key moral values such as privacy, transparency and autonomy through accidental surveillance. The rational or motivation for construction of such an assemblage is complex and can be from a utilitarian, economic, or altruistic (improvement) basis. Introduction of some tracking technologies are based on selected evidence that students “have grown up giving a lot of their data to Facebook” [1]. Facebook of course offers multiple pages of close legal contract wording to encourage these same students to sign up.

This presentation will draw upon research on surveillance theories to propose that in the quest of better of decision-making in higher education, we need a conceptual understanding of ‘accidental surveillance’ so that appropriate protection of the student body can be maintained. Parallels will be drawn with studies in the youth justice sector.

[1]. Bridget Burns, University Innovation Alliance. Quoted in Times Higher Education: