Digital policy sociology: Software and science in data-intensive precision education

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Software code, algorithms, data analytics and infrastructures have become inseparable from policy processes and modes of governance. This article introduces ‘digital policy sociology’ as a way of studying the role and influence of digital technologies in education policy. Building on existing ‘policy sociology’ approaches combined with emerging insights rom ‘digital sociology’, digital policy sociology extends the analytical gaze to new technical actors – nonhuman software and hardware, as well as human experts, technology companies, and promotional organizations. As a case study exemplar, the analysis focuses on an emerging domain of data-intensive science and technology with significant implications for education policy in the future. ‘Precision education’ is an emerging combination of psychological, neuroscientific and genetic expertise, with a particular emphasis on using advanced computational technologies to produce ‘intimate data’ about students’ bodies and biological associations with learning. These intimate data have potential to become new sources of biological policy knowledge, raising significant methodological and analytical challenges for policy sociology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalCritical Studies in Education
Early online date27 Nov 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Nov 2019


  • biology
  • data
  • genetics
  • neuroscience
  • precision education
  • psychology


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