Ghost hunting in the broken archives: using the archival past to define educational futures

  • Gallagher, M. (Speaker)
  • Stuart Nicol (Speaker)
  • Markus Breines (Speaker)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


Digital education is often presented as breaking from tradition. A failure to account for how digital education emerges from historical institutional activity is problematic as this activity continues to circulate through the present and educational future, appearing and disappearing in often unexpected ways. Using Derrida’s concept of hauntology as a theoretical lens, this presentation traces how a digital education initiative at the University of Edinburgh in 2003 carried through to the creation of a course to train teachers to teach online in 2019, which in turn informed the university’s response to the pandemic in 2020. In this presentation we attempt to demonstrate how digital archives, often precariously constructed and neglected, can haunt the educational trajectory of the future.

Hauntology potentially provides a mechanism for institutions to trace their own histories and to note how these histories, often hidden in broken archives or carried forward into the present by hosts, inform their present and future trajectories. Broken archives, those that have ceased to function as active repositories but are disconnected from institutional domains and ontologies, shut due to absent gatekeepers, or merely forgotten, contribute​ to the sudden and often unexpected emergence of hauntings in present and future trajectories. This presentation is concerned with re-historicizing the digital by noting the ghosts that circulate through it. Ultimately, the exploration of the ‘predigital’ suggests that archives can teach us about the formation of digital education in the past, but also help us understand the shape of any future trajectory.
PeriodOct 2022
Event titleCARNET Users Conference – CUC : Opening up in a closed world: Postdigital Science and Education
Event typeConference
LocationŠibenik, CroatiaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • digital education
  • hauntology
  • Archives