thoughts from a conference

I’ve been doing higher ed data and data policy for a long time now, almost three decades. I now have staff that are younger than the length of time I’ve been doing this stuff. It’s enough time to see that we continue to try and solve the same problems, just with different language and different metrics.

I think also not many of my fellow practitioners are thinking deeply about why we count. It’s easier to talk about what to count, how to count, but not why. There is a lack of fluency with the history of higher education and how it connects with American history. Also, it the nature of counting itself seems to be of non-interest. I draw blank stares when I talk about counting to one or counting as an act of control (although sometimes a light goes on here).

So now I am bringing the concept of “information justice” to the discussions. That seems to stir interest. It’s still the same conversation, just at a different level that seems more actionable since it provides a script, or at least the appearance of a script. But justice of any type is not something that should have to originate out of the idea of “doing justice.” Instead, it should originate from your thoughts about why and how you are doing something to ensure fairness and equity. Too often justice comes into play after the fact in order to clean up the messes that occur from sloppy thinking and acting.

Another thing that is clear to me is that I need to write up the philosophy that drives what I do (and what I don’t do). See, my thinking about analytics and data use has evolved tremendously over the years. I used to be a true believer about using neural networks and other precursors of predictive analytics, but now I have serious doubts. More and more I have become concerned about information justice, long before I knew there was such a term. I’ve generally thought about things in much simpler terms like “counting to one.”

Stay tuned. I will be writing a philosophy of counting while on vacation.