This paper is a huge warning: “Autoroll: scripting the emergence of classroom facial recognition technology”

This paper was published last year, but because of this tweet I just found out about it this morning:

Do read the full paper, but this conclusion gives a good summary:

This paper has described how a small start-up helmed by two first-time entrepreneurs was able to script a facial recognition for schools under the guise of being innovative, time-saving, focused on ‘care’ and other such manifestations of technology-driven efficiency. While this article has not set out to conclude whether the continued incursion of facial recognition technology into schools is necessarily a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ thing, this case study does point to the lack of consistent values underpinning all actors’ manoeuvres throughout the negotiations around the nature and form of this technology into schools. On one hand, is the pragmatism of technology producers and their supporters to inscribe whatever values, assumptions and promises best suit the needs of the moment. In this sense, it seems reasonable to suggest that tech industry actors are held to account for the provenance of the values they attach to their products (such as ‘care’, ‘efficiency’ and so on). On the other hand, is the lack of effective opposition on the part of other non-industry actors looking to challange emerging technologies such as AutoRoll.

Abstract of the paper:

This paper considers how facial recognition technology is coming to find a place in contemporary schooling. Drawing on the ‘script analysis’ approach from the field of Science and Technology Studies, the paper examines the development of a facial recognition-based classroom recognition system by an Australian start-up company – ‘AutoRoll’. Drawing on a range of primary and secondary data, the paper details the ongoing negotiations and mechanisms of adjustment between start-up founders, developers, marketers, policy and education actors as this socio-technical object progresses through successive phases of scripting, deinscripting and rescripting. These accounts illustrate how an initially contested technology enters a local educational system and begins to be sold to schools. In particular, the paper considers the ways in which a spirit of tech industry ‘solutionism’ is used to manufacture trust and legitimacy in the face of the disjointed governance and limited oversight of ed-tech by government and other public agencies.

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