In recent years, the concept of a platform has gained traction as a way of explaining new kinds of economic, social and civic structure. Originally used to describe a specific interface or website, the idea of a platform has come to stand for the ways that digital services and online participation operate through an integrated array of back-end services and analytics, as well as a series of user-facing affordances and interactions across devices/screens that are platform agnostic. The platform thus brings together how an individual at a micro level might, for example, make a purchase, communicate with others, post an opinion, utilise a service and so on, with the socio-technical infrastructure which allows the state and commercial entities that run such platforms to monitor (surveil), harvest, and monetise the aggregated value of such data-driven interactions.
Whilst most of the literature focuses on the emergence of transnational platforms mainly based in the US (Google/Alphabet, Amazon, Facebook et cetera), scholarship has also examined the rise of China’s social credit system (Liang, Das, Kostyuk & Hussain, 2018) or indeed the ways that platforms are now monopolising hitherto discrete market sectors (like Pearsons in Education or Steam/Valve in gaming).
This article sets out a manifesto for investigating the pedagogic dimension of these platforms. It draws on older theoretical traditions that use pedagogy as a way of describing thus explaining the relationships between individual and society, agency and structure as well as examining how platforms are becoming a key infrastructure in so many kinds of learning spaces. Our overarching goal is to identify how platforms mediate and shape everyday educational interactions for children and young people, as platformed “circuits of consumption” weave different experiences and interests together.
Platforms, we argue, standardise and seek to offer a relationship of trust over time with their “citizens”. However, the platformisation of education (van Dijck, Poell & de Waal, 2018) may contain other kinds of risks for students and their families, thereby introducing the need for new forms of validation. By thinking about activities in and across a series of platforms in terms of pedagogic relationships, we argue for the need to explore the mechanisms by which digital interactions take forms of social trust and yet expose people to forms of dataveillance beyond ways that any membership or participation suggests in its initial contract. These digital interactions may compel pedagogies that evoke discomfort, loss and constraint as they ‘manage student experience’ rather than invite learning relationships.
This article sets out a research agenda for platform pedagogies. We begin by providing a theoretical framework for platform pedagogies, critically examining the different areas of scholarship that have been applied to this area of study. We then consider the more practical aspects of platform pedagogies - i.e. what it means to live and learn in a platform society. We identify and discuss four main areas of research: datafication, including new forms of governance, use and surveillance, privacy and platform capitalism; pedagogic interactions: including how platforms reconfigure interpersonal relationships, learning and classroom management, while at the same time reifying traditional forms of discipline; digital literacies, including how to support children and young people to make sense of and navigate platforms; and issues beyond the school, including how platforms reconfigure the relationships between parents/families and teachers/ schools. We discuss our research projects into areas such as data literacies and apps in schools to provide practical examples of how these areas might be investigated.
The article concludes by outlining the key tensions that emerge from this burgeoning field of scholarship, such as reconciling academic concerns with everyday experiences, and how commercially owned and operated technologies can be ethically integrated into public education systems.
Liang, F., Das, V., Kostyuk, N., & Hussain, M. (2018). Constructing a Data‐Driven Society: China's Social Credit System as a State Surveillance Infrastructure. Policy & Internet. 10(4). 415-453.
van Dijck, J., Poell, T., & de Waal, M. (2018). The Platform Society. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Julian Sefton-Green is Professor of New Media Education at Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia. He has worked as an independent scholar and has held positions at the Department of Media & Communication, London School of Economics & Political Science and at the University of Oslo working on projects exploring learning and learner identity across formal and informal domains. He has been an Honorary Professor of Education at the University of Nottingham, UK and the Institute of Education, Hong Kong and he is now a Visiting Professor at The Playful Learning Centre, University of Helsinki, Finland. He has researched and written widely on many aspects of media education, new technologies, creativity, digital cultures and informal learning and has authored, co-authored or edited 15 books. He has directed research projects for the Arts Council of England, the British Film Institute, the London Development Agency, Creative Partnerships and Nominet Trust and has spoken at over 50 conferences in 20 countries <www.julianseftongreen.net>
Luci Pangrazio, PhD, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Deakin University in the Centre for Research for Educational Innovation (REDI). Her work focuses on young people’s use of digital media in their everyday life. She is interested in the mutual shaping of technology and how young people negotiate and manage the opportunities and challenges that arise. Her research interests include personal data and privacy, the politics of platforms and the gig economy. Her current research projects include ‘Data Smart Schools: Enhancing the Use of Digital Data in Schools’ funded by the Australia Research Council (2019-2021) and ‘Data Smart: Developing Pre-Teens Personal Data Literacies’, funded by the Agencia Nacional de Investigacion e Innovacion Uruguay (2018-2020). She has recently published in journals including New Media & Society, Social Media + Society and CTheory. Her book Young People’s Literacies in the Digital Age: Continuities, Conflicts and Contradictions in Practice was published in early 2019 by Routledge.