Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Open data

It was Open Data day on Saturday: 

"Open Data Day encourages citizens in cities around the world to write applications, liberate data, create visualizations and publish analyses using open public data to show support for and encourage the adoption of open data policies by the world's local, regional and national governments."

One of the benefits of open data is supposed to be that it increases transparency and accountability with respect to public bodies and services. Another is that it increases public participation in decision making. But it is not everyone who has the computing facilities to allow big data analytics. It is the big corporations who have these facilities and who are keen to access the data being made freely available by Government. It is why we have the Named Person and early interventions, all the better for gathering information. It is why there is a push towards computer game based learning in schools.

Data, our data, our children`s data is now a commodity.
Bates makes the case that the open data movement, in the UK at least, had little political traction until big business started to actively campaign for open data, and open government initiatives started to fit into programmes of forced austerity and the marketisation of public services. For her, political parties and business have appropriated the open data movement on "behalf of dominant capitalist interests under the guise of a ‘Transparency Agenda’".
In such cases, the transparency agenda promoted by politicians and businesses is merely a rhetorical discursive device. If either party was genuinely interested in transparency then it would be equally supportive of the right to information movement (freedom of information) and the work of whistleblowers (Janssen 2012) and also loosening the shackles of intellectual property rights more broadly (Shah 2013). Instead, governments and businesses are generally resistant to both.
Rob Kitchin, The Data Revolution: Big Data, Open Data, Data Infrastructures and Their Consequences (Sage, London).

It can be better understood why school curricula are being changed around the world when the data revolution is taken into account. Education is moving from a traditional knowledge based curriculum towards an outcome based system where it is not what a pupil knows or understands that counts, but rather the skills and attributes they have as persons. These skills might include motivation, team work, emotional and social learning, the soft skills that a future employer finds advantageous in its workforce. It is the kind of information they are prepared to pay for.

When it comes to gathering and using children`s data the U.S is at an advanced stage but it does allow us to see what will be coming our way soon. First, the curriculum was changed to Common Core and then each child was attached to a computer for personalised learning and assessments.

Here is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation:
We’re investing in a new generation of courseware that adapts in sophisticated ways to students’ learning needs. We’re also supporting game-based learning that generates rich data about students’ progress and challenges them with exactly what they need to learn next...
We’re particularly focused on providing students and their teachers with more rapid, useful feedback to inform their learning all along the way. The combination of more transparent and useful data and clearer expectations for students can help educators’ flag young people’s needs early and often, so their path to college and careers is a smooth one.

Well that is the hard sell.  Here is the other side:
Stealth learning platforms and assessments (platforms and assessments that operate in real-time within the technology without a child knowing it) foster an education system where parents will have very little control over what our children learn and what they are tested on. Meta-data can be tracked through every key stroke, as well as facial expressions and behaviors through computer cameras, etc. And, the data collected from our children’s learning platforms will be used to control what and how their teachers teach, as well as what federal mandates will be placed on teachers and schools in order to make individual children "college and career ready."
The corporations obtain the data free, do the number crunching, create the products, and then sell the products back to the government, paid for through taxes. The government gets better control of the population, corporations make a profit, but the data subjects themselves gain nothing worthwhile.

It`s a nice arrangement if you can get away with it.

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