Accepted Paper:

Higher education and the labour market infrastructure in the digital economy  


Janja Komljenovic (Lancaster University)
Adrian Mackenzie (Lancaster University)
Eva Hartmann (University of Cambridge )

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper focuses on social media platforms, universities and the labour market. Specifically, it examines (i) how social media companies motivate actors to produce data, (ii) what kind of social relations they structure with the infrastructural design, (iii) what are the consequences.

Paper long abstract:

This paper investigates the increasing role of global private actors in governing higher education by focusing on data and data practices around graduate employability and skills. More specifically, we focus on social media platforms as basic infrastructures in the contemporary platform capitalism (Srnicek, 2017). We draw on three related processes: the increasingly complex and trans-national labour market that makes skills matching difficult (Moore and Morton, 2017); the increasing responsibility of higher education institutions (HEIs) for the employability of graduates (Harvey, 2000); and lastly, the rise of the digital economy, in which digital platforms are basic coordination infrastructures (Helmond, 2015). Not much is known about practices and measures used by HEIs to mediate the transition of students into employment. Moreover, there is a paucity of research into the role and significance of social media, digital platforms and data in employability practices. This paper addresses this gap and presents some first findings of a research project that has collected data from surveying 900 European HEIs, webscraping Web pages of 1000 European HEIs, a sample of user profiles from LinkedIn and document analysis of employers' recruitment practices. Using this rich empirical data together, we discuss the mechanisms of graduate employability data production, the political economy of this data and what are the consequences for students, graduates, HEIs and employers.

Panel G03
Technologies that count: big data and social order