Dorthe Staunæs: Data Sense and the Will (Not) to Know

On The June 14, 2021

10:00 to 12:00

In this presentation, I take my cue from the current datafication in education. The analysis and material is developed in the recently published book Datasans (Data Sense) (Staunæs, Bjerg, Juelskjær & Olesen 2021).

Today and globally, big data and small data are used to represent and list students (and others) in numbers, graphs, and other metrics. Data are small pieces of measured life, used in decision making and related to possible interventions. Data express a will to know, to paraphrase Foucault’s first volume on biopolitics. However, data do more than they show. Data are agential and not only matters of facts. Data have vibes and thereby affect us and ‘world’ our views and decisions in different ways.

I start my presentation in the British TV-series Years by Years and the British movie Sorry we missed you. Assisted by these two cultural products, I wonder about the profound will to know through data – but also the animosity towards knowing something specific and the uneasiness regarding the kind of knowledge and decisions that data may lead to. Moving to the field of educational leadership, I explore the intersections of data and social categories (gender, ethnicity, and race) in interview material. Paradoxically, I find a will not to know through data. This makes me argue that it is expedient to supplement the concept of biopolitics with necropolitics (Mhembe): First, by emphasizing affect, death and waste in the production and use of data. Secondly, by exploring how, where, when and why data-informed decisions are letting some data-subjectivities live and some die and thereby de/potentializing certain ‘genres of being human’ (Wynter).

Professeur, PhD, Dorthe Staunæs
The Danish School of Education, Aarhus University.