Ghost hunting in the broken archives: Re-historicizing digital education in an institutional context

Michael Gallagher, Stuart Nicol, Markus Breines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Digital education is often presented as breaking from tradition. A failure to account for how digital education emerges from historical institutional activity is problematic insofar as this activity continues to circulate through the present and future, appearing and disappearing in often unexpected ways. Using Derrida’s hauntology as a theoretical lens, this paper 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.

Working in a broadly autoethnographic way alongside archival document analysis, several findings emerged. First, hauntology provides a mechanism for institutions to trace their own histories and to note how these histories, often hidden in archives or carried forward into the present by hosts, inform their present and future trajectories. Second, 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. Third, curation of the archive is an act of reinterpretation, one that troubles historical narratives and introduces new hauntings. All these findings assert a re-historicizing of digital education by emphasising the hauntings from the past that inform its emergent present and contested future, countering many of the ahistorical imaginaries of digital education.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPostdigital Science and Education
Publication statusPublished - 16 Aug 2022

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • autoethnography
  • broken archives
  • digital education
  • hauntology


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