Introduction: Critical studies of digital education platforms

Mathias Decuypere, Emiliano Grimaldi & Paolo Landri (2021)

Critical Studies in Education 62(1), pp. 1-16.

Extract. “Investments in forms
Fourth, and as an overarching feature encompassing the previous three, it can be generally argued that digital platforms ‘consider a broad range of phenomena that structure attention, shape decision making and guide cognition’ (Bowker et al., 2019: p. 1). However, such phenomena are not naturally there, but need a significant amount of investment in order to work. Importantly, ‘investment’ should not be understood here as (only) referring to a dedicated economic activity. Instead, and following a line of thought initiated by Laurent Thévenot, Bowker et al. understand investment as investment in forms; that is, investment in dedicated ways in which the world is made dividable, intelligible, knowledgeable and actionable. Put differently, investments in form not only organize thinking and thought; they equally ‘direct action across multiple settings and multiple temporal scales’ (Bowker et al., 2019 :1 – our emphasis; cf. Thévenot, 2009). Transferring these insights to the field of education, we argue that digital education platforms are increasingly investing in new unique and dedicated digital educational forms: they make educational practices dividable, intelligible, knowledgeable and actionable, and they do so through the deployment and inauguration of concepts, classifications, categorizations, commensurations, and evaluations (ibid.). Furthermore, they do so in ways that direct thought and action in highly specific and differentially enacted forms of educational spaces and educational times, by attempting to make these newly emerging forms as solid and as durable as possible (Decuypere & Vanden Broeck, 2020; Thévenot, 1984, p. 2009). They have specific norms, values, ideologies, instructional models, ideas about learning, and good pedagogy inscribed in their architectural, intermediary and organizational design (Decuypere, 2019b; Kelkar, 2018; Van Dijck et al., 2018).” (p. 7)

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