Friday, May 13th
Platformizing Higher Education: Computer Scientists and the Making of MOOC Infrastructures
125 Mt. Auburn, 4th Floor
Meet at the Long Table (left off of the elevators)
Abstract: Based on a 18-month multi-sited ethnographic study of the engineers, instructors and researchers who build the computing infrastructures for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), this talk investigates how computer scientists and their regime of expert knowledge are re-configuring notions of educational expertise. I show that actors working on and within MOOC infrastructures draw self-conscious inspiration from the technical precedents of Internet “platforms” like Amazon and Google. In so doing, they transfer techniques and work practices used extensively in these platforms to the process of teaching and learning (e.g., they frame training students to assess each other’s homework as similar to getting crowds to do micro-tasks, or “crowdsourcing”). I call this process of institutional transformation “platformization” and argue that the Internet platform needs to be understood as a technical and ideological entity that is being used to reconfigure authority and expertise within existing institutional spaces.