Governing with Data – Block 3 reflections

Reflecting on my first two visualisations in this final block ‘Governing with data’, I was preoccupied with the measurement, monitoring and regulation of outcomes, and the impact this could have at both an individual and organisational level. Performativity through quantification, calculation and classification emerged as an essential feature to governance in the nineteenth century with the rise of statistical knowledge production marking a distinct shift from the regulation of inputs to the measurement and regulation of outcomes (Williamson, 2017, Ozga, 2016).  Through data streams, real-time monitoring, and predictive data use these existing techniques of accountability and performativity have been redeveloped to amplify, accelerate, and expand the scope of numerical data. 

Naturally I gravitated to analysing my data and presenting it with both performance and accountability in mind. I recognised the reductionism and loss of context specificity of this knowledge and data (Ozga, 2016) yet my main concluding thoughts and reflections centred on themes such as fear of statistical surveillance, loss of autonomy, trust, and data sharing. Ozga (2016) situates educational governance within a neo-liberal imaginary in which networks are held together through the flow of comparative knowledge and data standards. Growing up in a society with this innate subjugation and deference to this apparent pool of objective data perhaps meant that instinctively I did not question the data itself, how or why it was collected, or the narrative that it generated. I was more concerned with how this narrative could be used and its impact on individual and organisational future action. 

There was a distinct shift in my reflections in the third and final visualisation where I began to consider the narrative itself; taking a step back and considering the context within which this narrative is shaped and how this then influences future action. With this in mind as I was going through the process of designing and setting the parameters of my final data collecting activity, I became aware and slightly uncomfortable with the power at my fingertips. Paul Prinsloo’s article (2019) brought this to life for me through the examination of the Global South within a global colonial imaginary that he argues continued through capitalism and is now structured and supported through data capitalism and Silicon Valley solutionism. I was now moving from merely considering how data are used to considering an infrastructural perspective by examining how information infrastructure is built, by whom, and what influences the kind of information that matters (Anagnostopoulos and Jacobsen, 2013). 

The visibility of this infrastructure and socio-technical networks or complex assemblages of people, technologies and policies, coupled with the introduction of the concept of informatic power illustrates not only the power dynamics and tensions that exist within education but how these data and policy instruments are neither objective nor neutral. It is through informatic power that these networks can extend their reach and define what kind of knowledge and ways of thinking matter, who counts as ‘good’ teachers, students, and schools, and extend their reach beyond policy into educational practice and learning activities. Therefore questioning the objectivity and neutrality of data, data visualisations and data systems is key given how they in turn can amplify the rhetorical or persuasive function of data and the narrative that shapes subsequent future response and action (Williamson, 2017). 


Anagnostopoulos, D., Rutledge, S.A. & Jacobsen, R. 2013. Introduction: Mapping the Information Infrastructure of Accountability. In, Anagnostopoulos, D., Rutledge, S.A. & Jacobsen, R. (Eds.) The Infrastructure of Accountability: Data use and the transformation of American education.

Ozga, J. 2016. Trust in numbers? Digital Education Governance and the inspection process. European Educational Research Journal, 15(1) pp.69-81

Prinsloo, P. 2020. Data frontiers and frontiers of power in (higher) education: a view of/from the Global South. Teaching in Higher Education, 25(4) pp.366-383

Williamson, B. 2017. Digital Education Governance: political analytics, performativity and accountability. Chapter 4 in Big Data in Education: The digital future of learning, policy and practice. Sage.

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