Data freedom fighters, Data terrorist or Data Gangsters

Data is a funny thing, I feel like its a riddle that we all are acutely aware off existing however seem paralysed to do anything about nor own it.

What do I produce but never see, never own but has direct impact on everything around us and not just me ?

The data conversation is not new and I will not pretend I know every facet in this ever shifting sphere however with my current job data has become more prominent, more important, more valuable and more discussed. So do dashboards, learning analytics (again another bucket term for anything that produces data which can be used for analysis in a learners educational journey), adaptive learning, predictive student modelling and retention data help students (does it, should it, could it)? Are educational bodies jumping into the data bubble for the good of society, community and most importantly the student and academic? Or are we starting to see institutions harvest data to predict and model best outcomes for them to ensure cost and profit margins are favourable (not that I am suggesting this is their primary goal however it may be a side effect).

Ethics of data is a dirty place, one persons freedom fighter is another persons terrorist and so institutions can state they are using the data for the right reasons however lets question who defines right and wrong? The data owner or the data producer or a 3rd party company hoovering any data it can access or should we ignore this new currency and hope it goes away (if it ain’t broken ……then your probably need glasses).

Data is one side effect of convenience, of not understanding what is being recorded, where its being recorded and who has access to my recording (and what they will do with it, give it to my freedom fighter or my terrorist….at cost or free). We are now saturated with toxic digital data waste with access points everywhere and data farming happening 24/7 from the minute you wake and touch your phone, speak to a smart speaker, tap your smart watch, use your travel smart card, enter the office building until the day is over and you lock the car before you got to bed….its all recorded.

Who and where is  the storage of your digital you? Is it locked behind numerous doors which have sharks with laser beams attached to their heads patrolling on a rota in a country that is EU privacy shield regulated, audited and security tested (queue my penetration testing comment………and back to being adult). Or is it in a house with all the doors open, in a massive city that is “borrowing” next doors wireless, on a unlocked console with directory details  on a post-it note stuck on the monitor.

dr evil

This data could be used to manipulate and expose you to doctored information via filter bubbles or it could be used to help manage your heating better and reduce your bills (the ethical conundrum of cheaper fuel bills against democracy).  In recent years datafication of the population and usage of predictive modelling has been marketed and bought by numerous political organisations whom now can exploit your digital garden  based on your social profile, your likes,  tags and your social community. Or is it the social media, search, advertisement, TV  channels tailoring content for us because ‘I like this which means you will like that’ (I love almond butter, i don’t like marzipan).

So in education do we understand the data generated by students, the context of the data, the platforms that produce the data. If we can use data should we? Can data derived models define a person (or the person creating and using the models)? We may only have a portion of the data that is needed however are we creating an input that could change that students behaviour for better assisting them in achieving their goals and the impact of this interaction? How should we interact? Whats the best interaction type? What happens after the interaction? Who is accountable for the interaction? Should everyone get an interaction? Why interact? Is the interaction invasive or helpful? Is the interaction my freedom fighter, my enemy of neither as I am a persuadable.

The fine line between privacy and care in these data digital spaces its blurred and I feel that we are still experimenting with hows, if, whens and whys of the usage of data in education  and whether its applicable, beneficial, ethical or contextual for the students.

Maybe we are neither data freedom fighters or data terrorists rather data gangsters who are swayed by our own desires and the vision we see of the data world.

the matrix


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