Universities are increasingly organized and managed through software,
powered by code and fuelled by data. In the influential book Code/Space,
Kitchin and Dodge (2011) argued that software introduces a new
governing logic of ‘automated management’ into diverse spaces and
practices. With the proliferation of data processing software across
higher education, universities are now becoming code/spaces where forms
of automated management and governance are embedded in multiple tasks
and systems—from robotic process automation in administration and
algorithmic recruitment to automated grading, AI tutors and classroom
analytics. This presentation provides an initial analysis of the
emergence of the ‘automatic university’ as an imagined future ‘smart’
institution that is already being instantiated in the present through
diverse technical projects, political interventions, commercial
pressures, and sectoral interests. These imaginaries and programs of
automated management on the campus are controversial: they suggest a
redeployment of expertise to increasingly capable digital software;
reconceive of campuses as ‘mini smart cities’; privilege technical
models of education; embed public HE institutions in private for-profit
infrastructures; catalyse new markets for ‘data solutions’ sellers; have
the potential to induce new anxieties among staff and students; and are
likely to bring about new organizational behaviours, with unintended
side effects and unanticipated consequences.
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