Working Paper

Returning the Data Gaze in Higher Education


Thompson TL & Prinsloo P (2021) Returning the Data Gaze in Higher Education. Manuscript submitted for publication.

Learning analytics offer centralisation of a particular understanding of learning, teaching, and student support alongside data-informed insight and foresight. As such, student-related data in higher education can be imagined and enacted as a “data frontier” in which the data gaze is expanding, intensifying, and performing new meanings and practices. But the gaze is not necessarily one-way. In this article we conceptualize different ways the data gaze might be returned. Drawing on more-than-human theorizing, we map three descriptive accounts to better understand the tangle of datafied bodies complicit in the gaze of learning analytics and to inform how the data gaze may be re-shaped, re-directed, and re-storied as forms of data activism. This includes uncovering what algorithms do, improvising passages, and talking back with data-bodies. Such theorization offers insights for new modes of proactive data activism to address the problematics and opportunities of the intensified datafication of learning analytics platforms.

Data gaze; learning analytics; datafication; data activism; data-bodies; more-than-human; higher education

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