Techno-structure and Techno-power in the Neoliberal University

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date


Faculty Sponsor

Arthur Scarritt


“In the end,” writes Ralph Poore for Focus on Boise State, “a flipped classroom [one in which technology is a primary learning tool] encourages students to be responsible for their own learning, and to make it a lifelong habit” (Poore 2013). This notion of individual success is at the heart of the recent movement of higher education into the digital realm. Neoliberal discourses, making reference to individual responsibility, market forces, progress, and so on, have been used to justify many developments in higher education. Technology, specifically digital and electronic technologies like computers and smart phones, has entered into the university setting in ways that both challenge and exacerbate the neoliberal activities of individualization and privatization. Technology is described as being nimble, entrepreneurial, flexible, and always progressive within neoliberal discourses. Through these activities, inequalities of class, age, ability, gender, and race are masked behind neoliberal notions of ‘progress’ and ‘equality for a broad and diverse populace,’ creating shifting dynamics of power in the university’s social structure. A student must now interact with the university through a multitude of technologies. Classroom activities, registration, contacts with student services, and even common university activities like student organization elections have all become increasingly digitized. Perhaps students, now more than ever, are evidence that “the relation between organism and machine has been a border war” (Haraway 1991). Technology is imbued with political power, and is indeed the “form, function and expression of a discourse of information that is also a discourse of domination” (Hassan 2012). Due to the increasing cost of higher education, combined with the high cost of technology, the responsibility for teaching and learning is shifting to mask the neoliberal influence on the digitization of the university, which lends to the scapegoating of certain groups. In light of this information, I would like to explore the questions: how have neoliberal discourses of technology affected student stratification? As a method of inquiry, I plan to ask how do students’ beliefs and experiences affect their ability and desire to become a ‘virtual student citizen?’

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