Monday, 19 December 2016

Wellness optimisation in an era of austerity

This is best savoured slowly, but in Coding the biodigital child: the biopolitics and pedagogic strategies of education data science, Ben Williamson from Stirling University reveals all.

"The identification and measurement of psychological indicators through content analysis, natural language processing, emotion questionnaires, as well as big data techniques of sentiment analysis and `machine emotional intelligence systems` are all expert techniques for mining children`s emotions and `with increased affordances to continuously measure facial and voice expressions with tablets and smartphones, it might become feasible to monitor learners` emotions on a real-time basis` (Tientes and Rivers 2015,15)."

"Emotional learning analytics and positive behaviour apps, as a particular psychopedagogic branch of educational data science, are an instantiation of a broader set of historical, social and technical developments relating to the measurement of the emotions. The psy-sciences have long played a significant role in generating classifications by which children are measured and monitored. Through psychological techniques, children have been made visible and assessable through scales, charts, visual displays and other inscriptions, pertaining to norms of posture and movement, personal habits, personality, and diverse forms of conduct. These transform the child through the scientific and technical imagination into an `object-child` rendered in manipulable, coded, materialised, mathematised, two-dimensional traces, which may be utilised in any procedure of calculation (Rose 1996, 112)."

"In the contemporary big data setting, techniques of emotion measurement and management have been developed further in commercial and governmental objectives. Davies (2015) has detailed how the psy-sciences have proliferated through big data, face-reading software, sentiment analysis and `more emotionally intelligent computers` that can be taught how to interpret human emotional behaviours and produce social trend data on population mood. These technologies enable unprecedented psychological tracking and gauging of the emotions of both individuals and populations, but can also be programmed to judge and influence feelings.  As a consequence, `the truth of our emotions` will allegedly become plain, once researchers have decoded our brains, faces and unintentional sentiments` and society becomes designed and governed as a vast laboratory, which we inhabit almost constantly in our day-to-day lives (Davies 2015)."

"The scientific roots of such practices lie in economic variants of psychology, such as behavioural science and happiness economics. These psy-sciences have ascertained that humans are susceptible to `unconscious emotions and sentiments, and can therefore be `nudged` to change their behaviours and decision-making towards healthier lifestyles and more emotional fulfilment (Jones, Pykett, and Whitehead 2013). Such techniques have now been installed in the dominant operating model of many governments. The science of `nudge`, happiness and wellbeing indicators, and the mobilisation of techniques of sentiment analysis, represent the mass psychological surveillance of population mood being carried out by scientific experts on behalf of governments. Through such techniques, psychopedagogies of emotional management extend beyond the school walls into the governance of the social order as a whole. Individuals and populations alike are increasingly amenable to a constant psychological and emotional analytics, producing an affective audit trail that can be mined for purposes of governmental prediction and pre-emption. They are exhorted to turn their lives `into an exercise in wellness optimisation` as part of a new `biomorality` that demands individuals act to become more happy and healthy even as governmental austerity cuts into welfare and social services provision (Cederstromm and Spicer 2015)."



  1. Hope his gets well circulated, especially around what is left of the teaching profession.

    Please keep on doing what you're doing...

  2. Hope this gets circulated far and wide - especially among the teaching profession (or what is left of it).