Seminar: Platformizing Higher Education: Computer Scientists and the Making of MOOC Infrastructures by Dr.Sheerharsh Kelkar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Program in History, Anthropology and STS
Friday, March 18 10:45 p.m.
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.
Bio: Shreeharsh Kelkar is a sixth-year Ph.D. student at MIT’s Doctoral Program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology, and Society (HASTS), interested in the history and anthropology of computing. As a student of STS, he primarily conducts ethnographic and historical investigations into the creation, use, deployment, and domestication of computing infrastructures in organizational contexts, paying particular attention to the (re)configurations of work, labor and expertise. In addition to his dissertation, his other ongoing projects include the social history of the prestigious entrance examination of the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), a study of software infrastructures used in hospital back-offices, and a study of the work practices in the emerging field of “data science.” He also works as a Contributing Editor for the Platypus blog administered by the Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC) and is interested in new forms of scholarly publishing beyond monographs and journal articles. Before coming to STS, he worked as a computer scientist in the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI).