Author Archives: Julian Sefton-Green

A Research Agenda to Examine the Political Economy of Digital Childhood

As part of my work for the ARC centre of excellence researching digital childhood I chair the editorial board for our working papers.

I have also co-authored a review investigating how the historical concept of a political economy of childhood might be usefully applied to children growing up in the digital age in order to establish an new research agenda. The review first defines what a political economy of digital childhood has meant historically in order to map working definitions. It then characterises research into the differing political economies of:

  • communications and the media
  • children and consumerism,
  • digital consumption,
  • and the family and education to see how such traditions might be either brought together or kept apart.

It argues that the research arena of digital childhood sits at a confluence of these academic research traditions bringing together studies of the political economy of the media and of childhood. The paper then reviews contemporary research into the political economy of digital childhood and concludes by offering areas for further research and enquiry structured around the key themes of: markets; institutions and platforms; and value.

Learning to Live with Datafication: Educational Case Studies and Initiatives from Across the World

My new book co-edited with Luci Pangrazio has just been published and can be found here.

The collection argues that as digital technologies play a key role across all aspects of our societies and in everyday life, teaching students about data is becoming increasingly important in schools and universities around the world. We have brought together international case studies of innovative responses to datafication, setting an agenda for how teachers, students and policy makers can best understand what kind of educational intervention works and why.

We think that Learning to Live with Datafication is unique in its focus on educational responses to datafication as well as critical analysis. Through case studies grounded in empirical research and practice, the book explores the dimensions of datafication from diverse perspectives. It examines how educators conceptualise the social implications of datafication and what is at stake for learners and citizens as educational institutions try to define what datafication will mean for the next generation.

Embodied technology use: Unaccompanied refugee youth and the migrant platformed body

This article co- authored with Annamaria Neag and published here argues that technology occupies a central role in the lives of unaccompanied refugee youth. Technology helps them when crossing countries, finding a shelter, and accessing education, or even in negotiating family relations online (e.g., Çelikaksoy & Wadensjö, 2017; Marlowe & Bruns, 2020; Morrice et al., 2020). Research with young refugees shows that social media and smart devices have become essential means to resolve many challenges (Kutscher & Kreß, 2018). The aim of our article is to go beyond a utilitarian view of digital technologies and social media in the lives of migrant youth and show how digital actions can be extensions of bodily communications in relation to, for instance, locating the self within new cities, food, music, and religion. We introduce the concept of the migrant platformed body as a site of struggle for unity that brings past and present into continuous discussion in and through the uses of social media technologies.

The death of the educative subject? The limits of criticality under datafication

This article, written with Luci Pangrazio, argues that amidst ongoing technological and social change, there are implications for critical education that result from a data-driven model of digital governance. We argue that traditional notions of critique which rely upon the deconstruction and analysis of texts are increasingly redundant in the age of datafication, where the production of information is automated and hidden. We then explain the concept of the ‘educative subject’ within the liberal education tradition, with specific focus on the role of critique and reflexivity in their becoming.We explore how the logics and practices of datafication and automation pose unprecedented challenges to the educative subject, examining three features in particular: the creation of data subjects; the rise of correlationalism; and the move from representation to operationalisation. We conclude by outlining a research agenda to address the existential challenges posed by data education.

The article can be found here.

Tracing the enduring effects of community arts programs (TEECAPs)

I am just beginning a new three year project funded by the Wallace Foundation in the US.

The key aim of this study is to explore the long-term effects of participating in out-of-school (OST) arts education programs serving young people from marginalized communities. The project will delve into the life experiences of people who have participated in OST arts programs to determine how they perceive their participation affected their lives over the long-term. We will examine the potential shaping force of OST programs on identity formation and its influences on lifecourse trajectories that might derive from participation in non-formal arts education. By doing so, we will also shed light on the capacity of creative communities of practice and OST programs, in particular, to impact the life experiences of marginalized youth.

The rationale for the project is that although Education policy set by federal, state, and local agencies throughout the U.S. Australia and the UK promotes the value and need for creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, yet opportunities for rich learning experiences that promote agency and a sense of belonging in relation to normative institutions are subject to racial and class divisions. Research that examines the ways in which a broad range of life-shaping capacities develop outside formal school settings can provide insight into the influence OST programs have, increasing recognition of their value and the possibilities for enhancing, expanding, and committing funding to OST arts education. 

The initiative will theorize and capture potential long-term outcomes of OST arts programs and then use the findings and implications to influence ongoing and future design, implementation, and evaluation of OST arts programs. This approach will challenge deficit or remedial discourses by reevaluating the educational status of the developmental processes and supportive personal relationships that many staff in this sector value as consequential outcomes, but which are rarely documented as such. The focus on capturing perceived impact over the long-term will be an ambitious and original contribution to the sector.

This project will first, derive narrative accounts of long-term impact from people who attended after-school arts -based programs at least 10 years ago. These accounts will be analyzed thematically and conceptually, and the findings reviewed and validated by three categories of stakeholders: the participants in the study themselves, program-based practitioners, and other stakeholders, including our technical advisory group. In the second phase, findings from these accounts and their subsequent validation will then be used for practical application. It is expected that program leaders, policy makers, researchers and funders will be able to use these findings in the support, design, implementation, improvement, and extension of programs to further test and refine strategies for long-term impacts of considerable social import. A potential third phase (not currently funded) could expand these strategies at scale through research-practice partnerships based on our findings.

I will be working with colleagues from the University of California, Irvine, the University of Kentucky and Parsons School of design, new school New York. This project builds on previous publications examining out-of-school learning and the project YouthSites, (a history of the political economy of after-school learning organisations in London, Vancouver and Toronto).

I will write more here project unfolds

#Educarconsentido!

I was recently interviewed ( in English) for the Spanish-language blog/YouTube channel about some of the long-term implications of the pandemic for how we might think about teaching and learning, schools and education systems. The YouTube interview can be found here.

Platform Pedagogies –Toward a Research Agenda

In a short “call to action” Luci Pangrazio and I argue that Platforms have become integral to young people’s social and educational lives despite bringing new risks. We explore how a theory of pedagogy can shed new and useful light on interactions on platforms focusing on digital activity in terms of a teaching and learning relationship.

We propose the concept of “platform pedagogies” to protect algorithmic rights and encourage investigation in:

  • how the structure of digital platforms “teach” or train forms of engagement and participation;
  • the literacies individuals draw on as they learn to use digital platforms;
  • what young users know about the ways digital platforms datafy them;
  • how digital platforms reconfigure the relations between the school and home and the nature of teachers’ work;
  • the theory of learning that underpins “educational” platforms.

The piece can be found here.

Towards platform pedagogies: why thinking about digital platforms as pedagogic devices might be useful

This article has just been published in Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education. It is available here.

It argues that in a context where current forms of governance and polity across many societies are engaging with ‘platformisation’, the paper argues that the utility and consequences of using a theory of pedagogy can provide a different way to explain how digital technology might ‘determine’ subjectivity. The paper describes the key process of how platforms work when considered as a ‘pedagogic device’: paying particular attention to how users ‘learn’ or are ‘subjected’ to norms and behaviours. I outline three key dimensions of pedagogicisation, textualisation, templatisation and trainability arguing that digital platforms suggest an eternal process of school enrolment – a classroom we can never leave, a form of certification to which we aspire. To rework Plantin, J. C., Lagoze, C., Edwards, P., & Sandvig, C. [(2018). Infrastructure studies meet platform studies in the age of Google and Facebook. New Media and Society, 20(1), 293–310.] formulation, it articulates a platformisation of pedagogy as much as a pedagogicisation of platforms thus concluding how the process of platformisation itself is part of a wider inscription into forms of pedagogic authority.

Educational Futures across Generations

Around May last year, I worked with Ola Erstad from the University of Oslo and Pariece Nelligan at Deakin to establish a website called Educational Futures Across Generations. The aim of the project was to bring together various perspectives on the future of education and how the pandemic has and continues to impact education and learning. Scholars from across the globe were invited to submit video responses for up to three questions. The consensus from the submissions so far is that education and learning systems need to adjust to meet significant social and cultural change, especially:

  • how teachers and students access and use technology;
  • in response to the disruption to face-to-face teaching
  • the decline in civic responsibility of schools
  • the everyday commonplace of virtual communities and digital learning.

The website is still evolving with new contributions, and the community of video statements is intended to expand so as to include new stakeholder groups such as teachers and principals in different countries. This project contributes to UNESCO’s Futures Initiative and seeks to broaden and deepen understandings and conversations about the future of education in both a global and local context. An interim repost reflecting on the process and its messages can be found here.

Digital Rights, Digital Citizenship and Digital Literacy: What’s the Difference?

Thesis the tile of a new essay by Luci Pangrazio and myself published here. We argue that using digital media is complicated. Invasions of privacy, increasing dataveillance, digital-by-default commercial and civic transactions and the erosion of the democratic sphere are just some of the complex issues in modern societies. Existential questions associated with digital life challenge the individual to come to terms with who they are, as well as their social interactions and realities. In this article, we identify three contemporary normative responses to these complex issues –digital citizenship, digital rights and digital literacy. These three terms capture epistemological and ontological frames that theorise and enact (both in policy and everyday social interactions) how individuals learn to live in digitally mediated societies. The article explores the effectiveness of each in addressing the philosophical, ethical and practical issues raised by datafication, and the limitations of human agency as an overarching goal within these responses. We examine how each response addresses challenges in policy, everyday social life and political rhetoric, tracing the fluctuating uses of these terms and their address to different stakeholders. The article concludes with a series of conceptual and practical ‘action points’ that might optimise these responses to the benefit of the individual and society.