- The Kressens and Van Dijck article (focusing on Dutch schools) was seen as useful in its putting forward the concepts of interoperability and intraoperability. The question becomes, if you have a large monopoly within a system of interoperability, has that then become intraoperability by stealth? If smaller companies or alternative platforms have no means of gaining traction or intervening in the system, it may seem to be the case.
- The question was raised of, what is the alternative to something like Google? This was not meant in a flippant manner but a sincere questioning of how we would (or should) imagine an alternative to the current system. It is evident to anyone who has worked with technology (particularly with bureaucratic institutions trying to implement technology) that creating a proprietary system is a huge investment. It doesn’t really seem feasible to simply suggest that educational institutions (or even localities) create their own platforms.
- One alternative to this would be the massive open-sourcing of educational technology a la Moodle. This was discussed in terms of citation software. There is no one, singular monopoly in citation software and it was suggested that this may be due to the citation styles. These are concepts which exist above the platform, so do not let the platform become the sole provider of citations/citation management. This forces an interoperability between citation managers because the citations are the same, no matter which platform you are using currently. It was suggested that this is what we are/should be looking for in terms of educational platforms as well. If we accept this, the question then becomes, should this expand to hardware as well? Would this mean that students in less well-funded schools would simply end up with inferior products and we would be in the same position as now but with more steps?
- There was then a discussion around the ability that states have to platformise services. People such as Ben Williamson and Stephen Ball have done work to show the lobbying that private companies do regarding technology and government. The argument made here (by lobbying) is that governments (no matter their size) are not big enough to properly implement platforms. This leads, generally, to a Googlisation, Microsoftisation, Appleisation, etc. of governmental services.
- Governments have been portrayed as too lumbering to set up and operate platforms, while the private sector is portrayed to be more agile and able to fill vacuums in the market. This has been emphasised with newer, digital technologies as they offer more to commodify but it is not new. Graham & Marvin’s Splintering Urbanism covered how the areas under streets were disaggregated and privatised under neoliberalism. Platforms (through algorithms) act as an assemblage of disaggregated services so work in a similar way, just not in a physical one.
- It was noted that it is worth re-emphasizing that the idea that governments ‘can’t’ make platforms is just that; an idea. It is more of a lack of a ‘will to platform’ than an actual inability.
- Alongside the perceived inability of governments, there is also a perceived distrust of governments to implement platforms. Governments have been seen (in the past 20 or so years) as using technology to encroach on privacy and (somehow) companies like Apple have become the flagbearer for things like privacy and free speech. COVID does change this to an extent. There has been a much greater willingness to allow governments to track our movements (as well as limit our movements), with vaccine passport being the newest form of this tracking.
- The discussion then became, if the solution is a state-created educational platform(s), how would this work in the context of globalisation? Would geographical and cultural educational practices be preserved on these platforms or would we end up with a monolithic culture of education, being pushed by the countries with the most influence/resources?
- It was noted though that the on-the-ground research often isn’t so cut and dry anyway. Schools do not use a platform but a patchwork of platforms (as shown by Luci’s current research). This brings us back to interoperability, in that the reality seems to be a modular series of platforms that tie in together but move separately. They are not a monolith. Then when you examine the less formalised technology use in schools (i.e. not dictated by school or state bodies but carried out by individuals), we see an even greater array of platforms being used. This is worth remembering when we are talking specifically about educational platforms.
Another note was that we (generally, not just the reading group) have become accustomed to deeming almost everything a platform or using platforms as a metaphor for older processes. This leads to a conceptual stretching of terms like ‘platform’ and ‘digital governance’, while taking a platform gaze to everything else. So it is worth remembering that not everything is a platform, nor does it need to be.