Towards platform pedagogies’ bibliographies

Julian Sefton-Green has had a new article published, outlining the core concept of platform pedagogies. The article, Towards platform pedagogies: why thinking about digital platforms as pedagogic devices might be useful, can be found here (assuming you have the right access requirements).

The article itself argues for a pedagogical understanding of the user-technology relationship. Digital platforms have permeated almost all elements of society, reconfiguring how we (as users) live. Platforms (or the companies behind platforms) are in the business of data, meaning they are in the business of user-governance. If users are presented a limited number of ways in which they can interact with a platform, they can be taught how to interact with a platform ‘correctly’. ‘Correctly’ here means generating data in a standardised manner, making it easier to extract formatted, relational data, which is easier to value.

It is in teaching users how to act that platforms act pedagogically. Platforms act as ‘a classroom we can never leave, a form of certification to which we all continuously aspire’. Platforms are seen as using the IRE (initiation, response, evaluation) pedagogical model to train users, only granting the user permission to access the platform if they ‘behave’ as the platform desires. Users may be free to give the answers they want ‘but the reward goes to the answer that the teacher has defined as correct’ e.g. Facebook may allow you to set your name as you please but they reserve to the right to indiscriminately ban your profile if they suspect this name is not your own/your legal name.

The article is very interesting, and it made me consider my own pedestrian, platformised interactions (and I’m not just saying that because Julian is my supervisor). The primary mundane-interaction-made-absurd was that of reading the article in the first place. Deakin’s own LMS-style platform (DeakinSync) recently informed me that it would no longer support the ‘library search’ function, instead requiring the user goes directly to the Deakin library website. So this is where I now begin my search, assuming I am signed in DeakinSync, else I will have to request a push notification to my phone to confirm that it is, in fact, me trying to search for a journal article, not some wayward data thief with too much time on their hands and too little good stolen data.

However, Deakin has two library websites: the catalogue search (http://library.deakin.edu.au/) and the library home (https://www.deakin.edu.au/library). I’ve never been able to find anything using the former but always default to it, unable to differentiate between the two addresses. Once the ‘correct’ library site has been found, I search for the article. As happens about 50% of the time, the article does not appear. Given this frequency, I have a work around. Instead of searching for the article, I search for the journal. This does appear, allowing me to go to the ‘list of issues’ section of the Taylor & Francis website. You may assume that the article would be in the most recent issue, titled Volume 42 2021. You would be incorrect. Instead (through making this mistake myself many times) I have learnt to always check the ‘latest articles’ tab first. Finally, after pressing all the right buttons, in all of the correct orders (over multiple devices if you are not properly signed into DeakinSync) I am granted access to the article.

This seemingly byzantine process is something I’ve become quite adept at, having been taught by the DeakinSync platform, the adjoining Deakin library site(s), and the subsequent journal websites just how to prove I should be allowed to read an article. Reading Julian’s article, it was hard to shake the feeling that this is just another lesson within my own Kafkaesque classroom (although at least Kafka’s setting of a castle was a bit more romantic). Worse still is the mild feeling of satisfaction gained from getting to the article: ‘knowing’ that I know how to work the system to get what I want, having been taught by the same system how to do so. The feeling of making the library search pull up the right journal for me is replaced by a feeling of being cowed by the indifferent platform into reordering my inputs into the ‘correct’ actions. So thanks for that, Julian, I appreciate it.

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