Intimate analytics in precision learning: Dr Ben Williamson Data Controversies 2019
From James Stewart
Human bodies have become highly valuable informational resources in data-intensive forms of postgenomics and neuroscientific research, application, and commodification. Biodata related to education is increasingly available, as huge biobanks of genomic data and new neurotechnologies have developed, leading to a raft of multidisciplinary initiatives focused on the ideal of ‘precision learning’. While education is already subject to many ‘big data’ programs—such as learning analytics—precision learning represents a shift to ‘intimate data’ and the mining and analysis of biodata from the human body.
This presentation will open up precision learning to social scientific examination. Drawing on recent science and technology studies of data-centred postgenomics, bioinformatics and neuroscience, as well as on critical data studies and biosocial conceptualisations, precision education initiatives will be approached as the hybrid product of three interpenetrating ‘codes’: biological codes pertaining to fleshy bodies, computer codes that instruct bioinformatic technologies, and social codes related to governing the expected or desired conduct of students.
Controversy: Proposals for ‘precision education’ based on genomic and neural data about students reproduce controversies around genetic discrimination, cognitive enhancement, and biological reductionism in data-intensive science and technology.