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Datafication, testing events and the outside of thought

Thompson, G and Sellar, S (2018) Datafication, testing events and the outside of thought. Learning, Media and Technology, 43 (2). pp. 139-151. ISSN 1743-9884


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© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Education is undergoing various transformations due to new data-driven educational technologies and the management of educational data through data infrastructures. These technologies are frequently promoted to parents and the profession as being ‘revolutionary’ because they represent a new generation of learning. While computer adaptive tests may arguably improve various efficiencies, the argument that they will revolutionise education requires evaluation. In this paper we draw on the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari to theorise (a) the desire for data amongst policymakers and (b) the effects of data infrastructures as systems that coordinate educational thought. We argue that, rather than revolutionising learning as promised, datafication in computer-based modes merely offers more intense expressions of longstanding possibilities for learning. We describe three types of events—breaks, cracks and ruptures—and argue that data-events translate cracks (imperceptible changes that constitute learning) into breaks (information), but either cannot generate rupture (difference) or represent rupture as error. However, the intensification of learning through datafication may, we suggest, rupture educational thought more broadly.

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