‘Digitisation and Securitisation of Upbringing: interdisciplinary interventions’

Free conference at Liverpool Hope University

23rd and 24th March 2020

Registration is free but is required via the eventbrite link.

Abstracts available beneath the Schedule.


Monday 23 March

1pm       Coffee and registration

1.30        Welcome and Introduction

1.45        Babs Anderson (Liverpool Hope): Parents as their child’s first educator?: A changing landscape in practice

2.30        Response: Stefan Ramaekers (KU Leuven, Belgium)

2.45        Q&A

3pm       Michel Vandenbroeck (Ghent, Belgium): Measuring the Young Child: Counting what counts?

3.45        Response: Zoi Nikiforidou (Liverpool Hope)

4pm       Q&A

4.15        Coffee break

4.45        Kip Kline (Lewis University, Chicago): Ecstatic Parenting: The ‘Shareveillant’ Subject and the Overproduction of the Self in the Digital Age

5.30        Response: Judith Enriquez-Gibson (Liverpool John Moores)

5.45        Q&A

6pm       End of Day 1 Closing remarks

Tuesday 24 March

9.30        Coffee

10           Ben Williamson (Edinburgh): Bio-data futures: behavioural genetics, genoeconomics, and bioinformatics in upbringing and education

10.45     Response: Estella Hebert (Frankfurt)

11           Q&A

11.15     Coffee break

11.30     Panel discussion, chaired by Dr Clionagh Boyle (Liverpool Hope)

12.30     End of Day 2 Closing remarks

12.45     Close


We are warned of an emerging ‘crisis of childhood’.[1] Policy responses to this have given rise to discourses and practices of risk management and early intervention in early childhood education and parenting, to ensure that optimal learning potential is reached and to safeguard against future harms.

This conference will bring together specialists in early childhood, digital sociology, and educational philosophy to explore the ethical, political, and pedagogical implications of these emerging and powerful trends.

The context in which ‘safeguarding’ has been reformed in recent years implicates childcare in government security and anti-terror legislation.[2] This ‘securitisation’ is effected not only through protocols governing how to care for children, but also through the measurement and recording of these. Hence, the enactment of the responsibility of both teachers and parents is increasingly mediated via digital technologies that offer real-time, continual progress monitoring. Children today are now described as ‘datafied’,[3] as key milestones and developmental benchmarks, achievements and projections – in education, health, and play – are recorded.

Learning, in this context, entails a focus on individuals developing particular emotional and behavioural skills in view of self-regulation, and to enable identification and prevention of future barriers to maximal success.[4] There is a sense that caring for our children entails future-proofing them. The contingencies of the everyday are seen as problems to be ironed out and avoided in future rather than part of the complexity and compromise of being human.

The focus on the individual is seen also to remove the focus from the intergenerational nature of the parent-child or teacher-child relationship, historically characterised by contestation, renewal, and openness.[5]

The way that individualisation, digitisation, and securitisation are recasting how we think about parents, teachers, and children raises pressing questions:

  • To what extent is children’s freedom of movement delimited by these developments?
  • To what extent is parents’ political agency in relation to the next generation reconstituted by digitisation and securitisation?
  • To what extent is teachers’ professional judgment framed by these concerns rather than pedagogical ones?
  • To what extent does the focus on an individualised form of citizenship compromise our ability to tolerate plurality?

Seeking responses to these questions starts to highlight a further tension: Between the dominant idea of the uniqueness of each child and the ideology of the self-fulfilling neoliberal learning citizen, on the one hand, and educating children based on standardised learning dominated by a particular normative psychological discourse of child development and educational neuroscience. That is, between the homogenisation of pedagogy through the need to render compliant, measurable, and comparable, and the discourse of personalisation. Digitisation brings this into sharp relief: the content and categorisations that measurements is based on designed in to the technology, which purports to facilitate personalised learning.[6]

This conference offers an opportunity to frame the way these questions are pursued, to hear specialist analysis that offers new insights in to these concerns, and meet fellow parents and professionals grappling with these issues.





[5]Ramaekers S., and J. Suissa. 2012. The Claims of Parenting. Reasons, Responsibility and Society. Houten: Springer.