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Data-driven societal technologies in China and Western-style democracies as a new challenge for education

Joint Project of the Grimme Institute (Dr. Harald Gapski), the University of Cologne (Prof. Dr. Björn Ahl, Prof. Dr. Stephan Packard) and the Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung (Walter Staufer).

January-December 2019.

The term “Super-Scoring” refers to practices that assess individuals and influence collective behavior on the basis of digitally recorded and algorithmically evaluated data. These practices bring together scoring systems and scales from different areas of life, such as economic credit, health behavior, or academic achievements, and could evolve into a new and overarching principle of governance in digital societies. A particularly prominent example is the Social Credit System in China. Platform-based scoring practices and digital sociometrics are also gaining importance in Western societies.

  • What is the current state of some of the practices being developed in China and Western societies?
  • How may we assess individual and societal consequences?
  • How is our image of humanity changing, and how should political and general education react to these digital transformations?

The interdisciplinary symposium “Super-Scoring? Data-driven societal technologies in China and Western-style democracies as a new challenge for education” will take place at Cologne, Germany, on October 11, 2019. At the conference, we will present current concepts and concrete implementations of data-driven social governance processes that implement digital and surveillance technologies; will discuss their normative foundations and socio-political impacts; and will particularly strive to identify consequences for educational policy and best recommendations for action.  We will focus on the individual as observed through digital technologies, as their characteristics and behaviors are mapped in numerical values ​​- point systems, scores and, in particular, super-scores – which are then further processed, evaluated, and economized in societal processes of control. The conference and the portal are intended to promote scientific and public discourse on the social-physical and digital-technological control of societal processes.

The symposium consists of four thematic blocks, each based around three impulses from interdisciplinary perspectives. Each impulse will be accompanied by a written comment in the run-up to the event. The first two blocks will focus on Chinese developments and developments in Western-style democracies respectively, presenting short impulses from experts for legal, surveillance, media, culture, and social studies. The third and fourth block will bring together additional disciplinary perspectives for a joint evaluation, focusing on individual and social consequences observed or yet to be expected from super-scoring systems, and then more specifically on the educational challenges that result from these consequences for schools, but also for adult and public information.