Commentary on Neil Selwyn’s LAK18 Keynote Address


  • Paul Prinsloo University of South Africa



Critical Data Studies (CDS), ethics, learning analytics, power


In his keynote, Neil Selwyn not only acknowledged his role as ‘outsider’ to the field of learning analytics, but also intentionally assumed the role of “idiot”. In my commentary I assume that Selwyn’s embrace of being an idiot was more than just self-deprecating humour or a disclaimer aimed to prepare the audience for his provocations. In a Medieval carnival, the clown, fool or community idiot was crowned king, and for the duration of the carnival, could make fun of the royal household, blaspheme and provoke, all licenced by his or her role at that moment in time. Selwyn acknowledged that his own position was and continue to be informed by Critical Data Studies (CDS), an emerging research focus and discourse aimed at troubling much of current accepted and unquestioned assumptions and practices in the broader context of data science. I reflect and comment on Selwyn’s keynote by firstly mapping some of the key tenets of CDS, before addressing some aspects of the keynote and two aspect of his “learning analytics wish-list” namely “giving students control” and “seeing ethics in terms of power, not in terms of protection."

Author Biography

Paul Prinsloo, University of South Africa

Research Professor, Department of Business Management


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How to Cite

Prinsloo, P. (2019). Commentary on Neil Selwyn’s LAK18 Keynote Address. Journal of Learning Analytics, 6(3), 20–24.



Invited Dialogue: "What's the Problem with Learning Analytics?" (Selwyn, 2019)