Boundary Brokers: Mobile Policy Networks, Database Pedagogies, and Algorithmic Governance in Education

  • Ben WilliamsonEmail author
Part of the Research in Networked Learning book series (RINL)


Contemporary educational governance is increasingly influenced by non-political organizations and actors who work together in mobile ‘policy networks’ to influence governmental decision-making. The main aim of this chapter is to examine one particular cross-sector policy network as exemplifying a shift in the ‘governable spaces’ of contemporary education policy. It offers a novel twist on ‘networked learning’ in that it queries the cross-sectoral organizational networks increasingly driving learning agendas. The policy network consists of the organizations Nesta (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), the Innovation Unit (a social enterprise working on innovation in public services), and the RSA (Royal Society of Arts, Manufacturing and Commerce), as well as others including the social innovator Nominet Trust and the think tanks Demos and the Education Foundation. In particular the chapter offers a critical examination of how this specific policy network is proposing to mine and analyse digital data from learners’ online networked activities in order to predict and pre-empt their future progress and outcomes, as part of a social and technical imaginary of the data-driven, algorithmic future of education. In this sense, the emerging forms of data-based networked learning examined in this chapter, and the organizations helping to position these technologies as a new policy agenda, represent a form of future-tense governance of education, where the emphasis is on governing, shaping and sculpting learners’ future lives and their lifelong learning trajectories through new forms of predictive algorithmic governance.


Algorithmic governance Analytics Data Database Policy network 



The research for this chapter was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (grant ref: ES/L001160/1)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EducationUniversity of StirlingStirlingUK

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