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Public/private entanglements in educational digital infrastructures: The Helsingør/Chromebook controversy (5+3), 2023-10

PhD fellowship in the field of Public/private entanglements in educational digital infrastructures: The Helsingør/Chromebook controversy (5+3)

The Graduate School at Arts, Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University, in collaboration with the Villum Foundation and the Velux Foundation, invites applications for a fully funded PhD fellowship in Public/private entanglements in educational digital infrastructures: The Helsingør/Chromebook controversy provided the necessary funding is available. This PhD fellowship is available as of 1 January 2024 for a period of up to three years (5+3). The candidate who is awarded the fellowship must commence his/her PhD degree programme on 1 January 2024. 

On 18 August 2022, the Danish Data Protection Agency made a ruling stating that Helsingør municipality's use of Google Workspace in schools was non-compliant with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This decision led municipalities to become concerned about the legality of Google Chromebooks in schools, used by approximately 50% of Danish municipalities and comprising a crucial infrastructure for communication, planning, and teaching. Parents grew worried that municipalities had little control over their children's data, while municipalities realized that they lacked the expertise and resources necessary to regulate or oversee tech giants such as Google.

The widespread digitalization of the public sector has created new digital information infrastructures that enable data to flow between public and private institutions. As a result, commercial actors have gained a foothold in shaping public services and accessing citizen data. In fact, most digital 'public' services are delivered through digital interfaces that are ‘privately’ owned.

The so-called 'Chromebook case' raises the question of whether the public sector has become too reliant on tech giants to provide digital public services and to what extent public administration can regulate and safeguard citizen data when it is in the hands of private sector companies.

Within this thematic frame, the PhD sub-project is focused on conducting an ethnographic study of how citizen data becomes a matter of concern in emerging digital infrastructures and their concomitant political and economic arrangements.

Research foci relevant to the position include but are not limited to:  

  1. how Chromebooks became controversial and what questions it raises about the safeguarding of children’s data
  2. how Google and municipalities through Chromebooks produce and harvest data, including questions such as where data is stored, where it travels, and how it is used, for which purposes, and by whom.
  3. how stakeholders make sense of children’s school data in the hands of Google and Helsingør Municipality

We are ideally looking for a candidate with a background in anthropology, science and technology studies, education studies, sociology or related fields. Knowledge about digitalization and datafication are considered an asset, as is experience with qualitative research methods. Given the nature of the project’s empirical work, basic Danish or other Scandinavian language skills will be advantageous but are not required. We require that applicants will be fluent (or near fluent) in speaking and writing English.

The PhD scholarship is part of the interdisciplinary research project “Algorithms, Data and Democracy” (www.algoritmer.org).

Enrolment and place of work
The PhD student must complete the studies in accordance with the valid regulations for the PhD degree programme, currently the Ministerial Order of 27 August 2013 on the PhD degree programme at the universities: http://phd.arts.au.dk/applicants/thephddegreeprogramme/

Description of the graduate school’s PhD degree programme: http://phd.arts.au.dk/applicants/phdstudystructure/

Rules and regulations for the PhD degree programme at the Graduate School at Arts: http://phd.arts.au.dk/applicants/thephddegreeprogramme/  

The PhD fellow will be enrolled as a PhD student at the Graduate School at Arts, Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University, with the aim of completing a PhD degree at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University.

The PhD student will be affiliated with the PhD programme Learning and Education.

The PhD student’s place of work will be the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University. In general, the student is expected to be present at the school on an everyday basis.

The PhD degree programme is expected to include a lengthy research stay at a foreign institution, cf. Description of the graduate school’s PhD degree programme.

Danish School of Education’s research programme: http://edu.au.dk/en/research/research-programmes/

5+3 programme
When you apply for a 3-year PhD fellowship (5+3), you must have completed your two year Master’s degree (120 ECTS) no later than 31 December 2023.

The PhD fellow will be employed as a PhD student at the Faculty of Arts, Aarhus University. The terms of employment are in accordance with the agreement between the Danish Ministry of Finance and the Danish Confederation of Professional Associations (see section 6.1.4), as well as with the protocol to the agreement covering staff with university degrees in the state sector (see enclosure 5). The agreement and the protocol including amendments are available online: http://phd.arts.au.dk/applicants/thephddegreeprogramme/

Salary: http://phd.arts.au.dk/financing/salary-and-employment/salary-5-3/

How to apply
The application must include:

  • Motivation/cover letter (statement of motivation and research interests, max one A4 page of 2,400 characters including spaces)
  • CV (including a complete list of education, positions, publications and other qualifying activities)
  • Project description outlining how the candidate envisages completing the work to be undertaken during the course of the term of appointment.
    The overall project description (excl. list of project literature/bibliography/reference list and timetable) must not exceed 12,000 characters including spaces, tables, diagrams, footnotes, endnotes and illustrations (5 A4 pages of 2,400 characters each)
  • Project literature/reference list
  • Timetable (mandatory form)
  • Cover sheet (form stating your degrees)
  • Copies of educational certificates (Bachelor and Master’s degrees). The diplomas or diploma supplement/transcript of records must state: name of university, education (Bachelor or Master), duration (number of years, full-time), courses, marks and (if given) ECTS credits.

Please see a detailed description of the requirements for the application in the guide for the application facility: http://phd.arts.au.dk/applicants/how-to-apply/  

If you require professional guidance regarding your application for the PhD fellowship please contact the PhD programme director at Learning and Education:  http://phd.arts.au.dk/about-us/contact/

For further information, please contact Associate Professor Helene Friis Ratner, Danish School of Education, helr@edu.au.dk, phone + 45 30 82 60 19.

The application must be submitted in English.

All applicants must provide documentation of excellent communication skills in English which are considered essential, and you must therefore be able to read, write, and speak academic English fluently. English language requirement is comparable to a minimum of TOEFL 83 or IELTS 6.5. Please see this page for further information: http://phd.arts.au.dk/applicants/english-test/

Applications for the PhD fellowship and enrolment in the PhD degree programme can only be submitted via the application form in Aarhus University’s web-based facility.

Deadline for applications: 1 October 2023 at 23.59 Danish time (CET/CEST).
Reference number: 2023-10

During the assessments, Aarhus University can conduct interviews with selected applicants.