CSPS Seminar | WE’VE GOT A FILE ON YOU! Datafication and quantification in academia and beyond | September 8 | 15.00-16.30 | Wageningen University | Place: Forum Building

CSPS Seminar | WE’VE GOT A FILE ON YOU! Datafication and quantification in academia and beyond | September 8 | 15.00-16.30 | Wageningen University | Forum Building, Droevendaalsesteeg 2, Room V0031 or on Teams (Teams-link)

You can sign up here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScckZLUmU_yzzbbfOOgvKp6BbkSeJxjY9AwjALkfYpUCUQLYg/viewform?usp=sf_link

Contributions by Maartje RoelofsenTrista Chih-Chen Lin, Bram Buscher and Guus Dix | Moderated by Martijn Duineveld.

Wageningen University has a new research website: research@WUR. According to the university library, this will enable all of us to create more extensive research profiles of ourselves, render visible research collaborations and, most importantly, search more efficiently for knowledge and expertise. In this CSPS ‘Rethinking the University’ Seminar we ask ourselves the question is this a disaster for academics, for meaningful academic work and for all the university should stand for? How do fingerprints, allegoristic identities and platform capitalism shape who we are and what we might become and aren’t we all too eagerly involved in all of this? 

A visceral approach to the datafication of productivity and wellbeing in the academy by Maartje Roelofsen and Trista Chih Chen Lin

In this seminar, we discuss how ‘data visceralization’ can help us understand and conceive differently of universities’ approaches to questions of ‘productivity’, ‘wellbeing’ and ‘vulnerability’ among university workers. Taking two types of surveys on “work and wellbeing” among university staff as examples, we discuss how tools of data-gathering and data-processing may (inadvertently) desensitize and depoliticize the subject matter under scrutiny, further obscuring experiences of inequalities and intersectionality at work. Inspired by data feminisms, we then zoom in on the embodied, emotional and felt qualities of data to envision instead how data may be able to work for university workers in such ways that they create more just, equitable, and livable work futures.

Not-so-SMART: Why new platform and surveillance technologies are bad news for science and understanding | By Bram Buscher

This presentation critically engages with new technologies for data processing related to research outputs, connections and management. Such technologies are generally heralded as making research and publishing more efficient, enabling better connections between researchers and bringing disparate forms of research data together for better research and output management. Based on the examples of Elsevier’s Pure and Fingerprint technologies, I argue that in reality the effects of these new technologies and the surveillance platforms they are based on, will be precisely the opposite: they degrade scientific understanding and relations by reducing them to superficial numbers, clicks and hits; they will lead to increased anxiety and stress among academic staff; and they open up the possibilities for new types of panopticon academic governance. The presentation concludes by exploring an alternative based on decentralized diversity in research(er) representation.

The symbolic power of research metrics | By Guus Dix

In an attempt to come to terms with the power of religious language and rituals, Pierre Bourdieu argued that the ‘symbolic efficacy of words is exercised only in so far as the person subjected to it recognizes the person who exercises it as authorized to do so’. In contexts like these, power is not simply exercised over people but crucially taps into their willingness to recognize and submit to a certain authority. In my presentation, I will argue that what goes for the symbolic efficacy of words goes for the symbolic efficacy of numbers. Over the past two decades, numbers have become more and more important in higher education – from publication output, citation scores and journal impact factors to university rankings. Drawing on recent research on the place of numbers (metrics) in scientific practice, I will argue that the focus on research management – or on ‘neoliberalism’ – has merit but is also limited. It fails to capture how we ourselves are ‘implicated in the indicator game’, as Fochler and De Rijcke have it, and thereby contribute to the authority these numbers have over us.