All posts by Jen

“The university of data”: surveillance, futures and higher education

I thought it was time to summarise some of the work I’ve been doing with colleagues in and beyond Edinburgh on the topic of higher education and surveillance. I’ve touched on these issues in the context of my doctoral research (trying to understand how students viewed the ‘audience’ for their high-stakes reflection) and in relation to work around plagiarism detection, surveillance and trust (see the conference paper Hamish Macleod and I wrote, and the forthcoming book on the Manifesto for Teaching Online). In early 2019, Amy Collier and I began to put together an international network of people – so far mostly in the UK, US and Canada) to explore possible futures for surveillance in universities – we’ve called this network Higher Education After Surveillance, and it is full of truly brilliant people doing urgently needed work in this area.

Amy and I wrote a commentary for Postdigital Science and Education, explaining some of our thinking behind the idea of ‘after surveillance;’. We explain that when we say ‘after surveillance’ we are not looking back, but instead:

gesturing toward a future that involves a deeper understanding of the role surveillance has played and continues to play in universities and tactics and strategies for interrupting and perhaps reducing or reconfiguring its impacts. This requires a willingness to speculate that some of the surveillance roles we have come to accept could be otherwise, along with an acknowledgment that we are implicated in what Lyon terms ‘surveillance culture’ in education. What can we do with that knowledge, and what culture shifts can we collectively provoke?

Two new things have so far emerged from the network. One is a research project called Co-designing with Speculative Data Stories. This was funded by the Edinburgh Futures Institute Research Awards scheme, and the research team (me, Amy, Anna Wilson, Jane McKie and Martin Hawksey) proposed to run ‘speculative data stories’ workshops with groups of colleagues in UK universities whose roles involve supporting, promoting and working with learning technologies. With the current closure of campuses and intense pressures on those very colleagues to support their institutions to move considerable amounts of university work online, we have had to put this project on hold – but we are hoping to be able to reimagine it in some form, soon.

The second new thing – and the prompt to write this blog post today – is that Karen Gregory and I have been successful in securing one of five new funded PhD studentships on the theme of data ethics (Edinburgh Futures Institute/Baillie Gifford). These projects will be advertised in the next few weeks – ours is called The University of Data: Ethical and Social Futures of Data-Driven EducationI am very happy, as is Karen, to hear from anyone who might be interested in applying for this! More info to follow soon, in a separate blog post.

References

Collier, A. and Ross, J. (2020). Higher education after surveillance? Commentary, Postdigital Science and Education. Online First. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s42438-019-00098-z

Ross, J. and Macleod, H. (2018). Surveillance, (dis)trust and teaching with plagiarism detection technology. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Networked Learning 2018, Edited by: Bajić, M, Dohn, NB, de Laat, M, Jandrić, P & Ryberg, T. ISBN 978-1-86220-337-2.

image source: Unsplash. Photographer: Franki Chamaki.

A new postgraduate programme in Education Futures at the Edinburgh Futures Institute

Shawl Design, 242. ECA Rare Books, University of Edinburgh Collections.

A big part of my working life for the next few years involves the development of a new postgraduate programme, to be part of the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). The programme is made up of a number of interlinked pathways, including one on Education Futures – this is the one I’m leading on. The programme will be interdisciplinary, challenge-led, and have core data and creative skills courses as well as a range of core and option courses for each pathway.

Education Futures is particularly exciting (in my view!) because it will focus on some of the key ideas and topics informing learning, knowledge and education across the whole life course, with an emphasis on understanding the relationships between data and education. I want to see the pathway appealing to people from all sectors of education and learning, including schools, workplace learning, community education, and higher and further education. Things are still in the early stages of development, but by studying this pathway, we want students to be able to:

  • Understand and critically examine possible futures for formal and informal education.
  • Analyse education’s role in shaping and responding to global challenges and social, political, cultural and environmental change.
  • Make critical links between education and data-driven innovation, exploring the geographies, mobilities, values, ethics and forms of measurement that come along with greater innovation with, use of, and reliance on data.

Course topics we’re currently discussing include the future of learning organisations; educating for the future; personalisation, surveillance and anonymity; policy, metrics and governance; education and work; agency and social change; participation, care, inclusion and culture; expertise, literacies, trust and data fluency – and more!

I’ll have lots more to say about this in the coming months. However, EFI has just launched a ‘market pulse’ survey to learn more about what people think about the proposed programme and Education pathway so far (there are also surveys available for some of the other pathways). If you are interested in the future of education, knowledge and learning, and have thoughts about this programme or might even be interested in studying something like this, I’d be really grateful for your input! https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/EFI_MSc_Edu_ws

Get in touch if you have any questions about what we’re up to.

(ps – I chose the image for this post because it’s in the new University of Edinburgh collections colouring book, which is sitting on my desk waiting for me to colour…)

Higher Education After Surveillance – a transatlantic project

I’ve meant to post about this for a while, but things have been hectic! Higher Education After Surveillance is a new project that my colleague Amy Collier (Middlebury College) and I dreamed up last year, in light of work we are each doing around issues of surveillance, trust, visibility, digital sanctuary and more, and as a way of trying to think big about some of the challenges we are currently facing. We enlisted the help of a small but mighty group of colleagues around the UK, US and Canada  to get involved, and we hosted a virtual roundtable in March as a way of beginning to scope what such a group might do.

We’re aiming to develop this project in a sustainable way – it isn’t funded (or not yet, anyway), and everyone involved is already incredibly busy – so that it can become something genuinely meaningful, critical and impactful. We also need to think carefully about the scope (geographical and otherwise) of this work. It’s all very exciting, and timely, if daunting – it seems there are new stories, questions and areas for attention emerging most days (this week in the UK it was the announcement of a collaboration involving JISC and the Office for Students, led by Northumbria University, to ‘lead transformation in how the Higher Education sector identifies mental health issues in students‘. It… has not gone over well).

If you are or know someone who needs to be involved in what we’re doing, please do get in touch.

“Unlike a Version”: Exciting news about a funded PhD research opportunity with National Galleries of Scotland

The Madonna of the Annunciation, Francesco Allegrini, National Galleries of Scotland

UPDATE, 3 April 2019: The advert for this studentship is now live on the University of Edinburgh web site! Closing date is 3 May 2019.

 

We are so excited about this new PhD studentship that we want to let people know it’s coming. We’ll soon be advertising a fully funded AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) studentship, for a project we are (for the moment!) calling “Unlike a version: the lives of digitised artworks”. It was a working title, but we all found it so funny that we decided to keep it – and that probably tells you something about the team our lucky student will be joining (and in case you aren’t a 1980s-era Madonna fan, this is the reference (Youtube link) ). The studentship will start in October 2019.

If you don’t know about CDPs, these are amazing funded studentships that not only pay fees and a stipend (for eligible UK/EU students – there are some rules about this), but create really brilliant opportunities for students to be immersed in a cultural heritage organisation over the period of their studies, and support their professional development and scholarship with travel funding, a student development fund, and membership of a network of other doctoral students across the UK.

So: this project is the perfect opportunity for someone whose interests span art, digitisation, digital cultures, engagement and interpretation to spend a few years in Edinburgh working with a team of supervisors from National Galleries of Scotland (Christopher Ganley and Màiri Lafferty) and the University of Edinburgh (Jen Ross and Melissa Terras) on a project that will explore the meanings and movements of digitised artworks in the context of NGS’ collections. We think the right starting position here is that digitised artworks are more than merely versions of the ‘real thing’: they have meaning and value in their own right, and significance for sharing, interpretation, connection and inspiration. The project will develop a richer picture of digital objects and how they contribute to the shifting boundaries of the institution, to curatorial practice, and to NGS’ ambitions to open more of its collections to digital re-use.

The project and the supervisory team are obviously great, but this is also a magnificent time to be a creative/digital/data person in Edinburgh. Do you know about the Edinburgh Futures Institute? The Creative Informatics programme? The city-wide Data Driven Innovation programme? The Centre for Research in Digital Education? What about the festivals, the heritage organisations, the cultural scene? All happening here, with people, projects, networks and opportunities second to none.

If this sounds interesting to you, and you want to know more, please contact me! I’m happy to have informal conversations and answer questions.

new journal article: digital co-production, hospitality and mobilities

Carnival Scene, Francesco Montelatici. Royal Scottish Academy of Art & Architecture collections, David Laing Bequest (on loan to the Scottish National Gallery).

My most recent article was published last week, and it bridges the recent Artcasting project with work I am currently developing about what ‘open futures’ for digital cultural heritage may look like, and why this matters.

Ross, J. (2019). Casting a line: digital co-production, hospitality and mobilities in cultural heritage settingsCurator: The Museum Journal, 61/4. 575-592.

I’m fond of this paper. It came about because of the co-production strand at the Association of Critical Heritage Studies’ conference in 2016, where I first talked about the idea of digital co-production and got really useful feedback from some fantastic researchers. Since then I’ve been developing the idea further, and refining the key elements of digital co-production.

In a nutshell, I argue that digital co-production:

  unfolds across multiple times and spaces;

  involves the ‘unknowable other’;

  challenges the stability of relationships;

  invites a rethinking of hospitality.

I use the example of the Artcasting project to illustrate these four elements. Ultimately, the theoretical contribution is the bringing together of hospitality and mobilities to consider hospitality as a ‘trajectory’, building on David Bell‘s (2012) notion of ‘host-spots’.

 In the context of co-production, trajectory invites us to consider movements of people into, through and away from the museum, taking up different positions in relation to shifting host/guest trajectories as they enter, leave, and reencounter it. A range of practices in relation to access and use of digital cultural heritage objects offers many possible trajectories of hospitality. The position of ‘host’ shifts from the museum to the aggregator web site to the user themselves as control over and location of the digital object moves. Guesting is constructed and reconfigured through timelines, searches, mentions, likes and upvotes. The user-as-host might even extend a welcome to the museum-as-guest by mentioning it on their personal feed.

All of these trajectories coalesce around an object whose meanings are shifting in the process. I think the role of the museum in this context is to set up co-productive situations that can allow for multiple hostings and guestings, and (following Doron 2009) inhabit more uncertain, less secure positions in relation to its role as ‘host’. (Artcasting was a very interesting example of this multiplicity.)

 

 

References:

Bell, D. 2012. “Moments of Hospitality.” In Mobilizing Hospitality: The Ethics of Social Relations in a Mobile World, edited by J. G. Molz and S. Gibson. Ashgate Publishing Ltd.

Doron, E. 2009. “At Hospitality’s Threshold: From Social Inclusion to Exilic Education.” Curator: The Museum Journal 52(2): 16982.

 

Shout outs to Melissa Terras, Smita Kheria, Christopher Ganley,  Mairi Lafferty, Ashley Beamer and Louise Rasmussen for all their contributions to the thinking-in-progress, to Phil Sheail for the work we did on hospitality that informed this paper, to Sian Bayne for reading and commenting, and to Jeremy Knox, Claire Sowton and Chris Speed for everything Artcasting related. 🙂 

‘Mobilising connections with art’ – a new open access journal article about the Artcasting project

Example of an artcast. Artwork: Self Portrait, 1975 © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. Used by permission.

My newest article has been published in the International Journal of Heritage Studies. Its focus is on interpreting data from the Artcasting project, a 2015-16 research project that was funded by the AHRC to understand how people’s connections with art can be visualised and used to enrich evaluation practice in museums and galleries. The article is open access and available now

Ross, J., Knox, J., Sowton, C. & Speed, C. (2018) Mobilising connections with art: Artcasting and the digital articulation of visitor engagement with cultural heritage. International Journal of Heritage Studies.

The article looks at how digital methods in cultural heritage settings can help evoke and illuminate the richness of visitor engagement and interpretation. Through the process of analysing the Artcasting data, we found it really useful to look for ways to make sense of difference in visitors’ responses to artworks. We did that in this article by conducting both a thematic analysis, and a more mobilities-informed analysis of the same dataset. We argue that:

The Artcasting project focused on supporting visitors to articulate their responses to artworks using a method that was provocative, performative, and attuned to the mobilities of interpretation, engagement and ownership. This mobility, and the sparking of expressions of ownership through the question of where and when an artwork belonged, created new articulations… The capture of these articulations constitutes a contribution and valuable step forward in our understanding of how heritage is performed at an individual level through the production of memory and messages; and at a collective level through the hypermobility of interpretation. (Ross et al 2018, p.17)

I’m pleased and proud to see this article in print – many thanks to my co-researchers and -authors Claire Sowton, Jeremy Knox and Chris Speed; and to our research partners from the ARTIST ROOMS programme at National Galleries of Scotland, Tate and the Bowes Museum.