Surveillance: Should we just give up?

Do you feel powerless in the face of commercial outsourcing of edtech? Do you feel ashamed of the work that you have to do some days? Do you feel your soul withering away each time you read another Edsurge article about proctoring, or analytics, or data?

Come and join a group of people who feel exactly the same way, and are struggling to work out what, if any responses can make a meaningful difference?

Pre-pandemic, a small group of enthusiastic and bright eyed individuals formed the Higher Education After Surveillance network, with the aim of imagining and developing alternatives to problematic visibility and surveillance in higher education. In 2019 we toyed with some ideas about setting up a Higher Education Surveillance Observatory, to gather data about good, bad, and mixed surveillance practices in higher education. We planned to use the power of the open web and crowdsourcing to document and make this information visible in an open, organised, and centralised place.

From our exhausted and beaten down vantage point of 2023, this work now feels pointless, and we feel defeated as well as exhausted. We still care deeply about problematic surveillance in higher education, but experiences of the last 3 years, the rampant increase in the adoption of surveillance tech in HE, and the extent to which we feel professionally precarious has us existing in a state of digital resignation. Why bother? Is anything we do going to make a difference? Is anyone ever going to use what we might produce? Is there any way to get people to participate?

How can the open web be a place for grassroots collective action?

In this workshop we’ll cover off a little of the history of the Surveillance Observatory idea and what exists today. Then we need YOU to help us understand whether this is worth continuing with, and if so, what does it need to be from our vantage point of 2023?

How do we push back against increasingly harmful and invasive surveillance practices, most of which are underpinned by commercial technologies antithetical to what open education and the open web are?

Is some kind of nowtopia possible? Or should we just go home and give up?

Find more details here.


Beetham, H., Collier, A., Czerniewicz, L., Lamb, B., Lin, Y., Ross, J., Scott, A.-M., & Wilson, A. (2022). Surveillance Practices, Risks and Responses in the Post Pandemic University. 23.
Ross, J., & Collier, A. (2019). Higher education after surveillance.