Harvard Educational Review
  1. Summer 2022 Issue »

    Amazon and the New Global Connective Architectures of Education Governance

    Ben Williamson, Kalervo N. Gulson, Carlo Perrotta, and Kevin Witzenberger
    In this analytical essay, part of Harvard Educational Review’s symposium on Platform Studies in Education, Ben Williamson, Kalervo N. Gulson, Carlo Perrotta, and Kevin Witzenberger argue that global technology companies have begun acting as governance organizations in education. Their analysis focuses on the global technology company Amazon, which has begun penetrating education through a connective architecture of digital infrastructure and platform services. Looking at Amazon technical documentation and publicly available materials, the authors identify and examine five interlocking governance operations and their effects: inscribing commercial business models on the education sector, habituating educational users to Amazon technologies, creating new interfaces with educational institutions, platforming third-party education providers on the cloud, and seeking market dominance over provision and control of key information infrastructures of education. In showing how Amazon is potentially developing infrastructural dominance in the education sector as part of its transformation into a statelike corporation with significant social, technical, economic, and political power to govern and control state and public services, this article highlights the broader implications of increasing technological governance in education.

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    Ben Williamson (https://orcid.org/0000-0001-9356-3213) is a Chancellor’s Fellow at the Edinburgh Futures Institute and the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. His current research focuses on digital technologies and data infrastructures in education, the education technology finance and investment industry, and the role of data science in the production of policy-relevant knowledge. He is the author of Big Data in Education: The Digital Future of Learning, Policy and Practice (Sage, 2017).

    Kalervo N. Gulson (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3581-9935) is a professor in the School of Education and Social Work at the University of Sydney and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. His research investigates whether new knowledge, methods, and technologies from the life and computing sciences, including artificial intelligence, will substantively alter the processes and practices of education policy. He is the coauthor (with Sam Sellar and P. Taylor Webb) of Algorithms of Education: How Datafication and Artificial Intelligence Shape Policy (University of Minnesota Press, 2022).

    Carlo Perrotta (https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3572-0844) is Senior Lecturer in Digital Literacies in the Faculty of Education, Monash University. He is interested in the sociological and psychological ramifications of digital technology in education. His current research focuses on the social and political accountability of algorithms, automation and artificial intelligence. His articles have been published in many journals, including Critical Studies in Education, New Media and Society, and Learning, Media and Technology.

    Kevin Witzenberger (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-7643-701X) is a Scientia PhD candidate in the School of Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. He researches the automation of governance in education and the potential impact of artificial intelligence on education policy. He has published articles in the Journal of Education Policy, Learning, Media and Technology, and Critical Studies in Education.
  2. Summer 2022 Issue


    Curricular Countermovements
    How White Parents Mounted a Popular Challenge to Ethnic Studies
    Ethan Chang

    Book Notes

    Civic Education in the Age of Mass Migration
    Angela M. Banks

    How the Word Is Passed
    Clint Smith

    Minds Wide Shut
    Gary Saul Morson and Morton Schapiro