Talk: the Idea of a Digital University, David Berry, 12 June 4-5.30PM

12 June, 4-5.30pm, Faculty of Education, 184 Hills Rd., Donald Macintyre Building, Room 2S3 (second floor)

In this talk, I set out to examine the ways in which the university, as an idea, was discussed, written about and actively debated over a long period of history.  I aim to develop a set of critical research questions and problematics in relation to the university, and also to reassemble a set of concepts for thinking about the university in a digital age. When and why the question of the “idea of a university” becomes important? Are there particular historical patterns or social conflicts that generate the conditions for the questioning of the university? Why has the university become such an important site of criticism today?

I also think it is important to ask who it is that is thinking about the idea of a university in each period, as this is, I think, another important aspect to explain both the specificity of the questioning, but also the kinds of answers that are generated in each historical period. Lastly, I want to highlight that asking the question of the idea of the university is important for another reason, and that is that it brings to the fore moments when the university itself is under contestation, whether by the academics and staff that inhabit it, by the state, or from other social forces that may create the conditions for the university’s radical reconfiguration.

David M. Berry is Professor of Digital Humanities at the University of Sussex, Visiting Fellow at CRASSH and Wolfson College, Cambridge, and an associate member of the Faculty of History, University of Oxford.

His most recent books were Critical Theory and the Digital and Digital Humanities: Knowledge and Critique in a Digital Age (with Anders Fagerjord).

All are welcome. The Faculty of Education is about 15′ cycle and 30′ walk from Central Cambridge, and 10′ from Cambridge train station.

Donald Macintyre Building is fully accessible.

For questions about the seminar, contact Jana Bacevic (


Call for Papers: Capitalism, Social Science and the Platform University

December 13th-14th, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge

In recent discussions of capitalism, the notion of the ‘platform’ has come to play a prominent role in conceptualising our present circumstances and imagining our potential futures. There are criticisms which can be raised of the platform-as-metaphor, however we believe it provides a useful hook through which to make sense of how socio-technical innovations may be leading to a new phase of capitalist accumulation. To talk of ‘platform capitalism’ in this sense does not exclude consideration of parallel notions such as digital capitalism, data capitalism and surveillance capitalism but rather seeks to frame these considerations through a focus upon the platform as a novel assemblage.

While research into social media and the sharing economy is relatively advanced, the increasing centrality of platforms to the operation of the university remains understudied and undertheorised. Our conference seeks to rectify this, raising the possibility of the ‘platform university’ as a provocation to stimulate discussion concerning platforms, the commercial and academic science they depend upon and contribute to reshaping, as well as their implications for the future of the university. We see the university as a case study for inquiry into platforms, but also as a horizon of change within which the social sciences seek to address these processes. 

We invite papers which address the full range of questions posed by these considerations, including topics such as:

  • The ontology of platforms
  • The epistemology of platforms
  • Methodological challenges in studying platforms
  • The transformation of the social sciences
  • The politics and political economy of platforms
  • Platforms as evaluative infrastructures
  • Platform education and the platform university 

There will be a keynote by Ben Williamson on The expanding data infrastructure of higher education: public-private policy networks and platform plug-ins.

We welcome abstracts of 500 words or less by July 31st 2018, sent to Please include a brief biographical note, as well as three key words to categorise your submission. We also plan to publish a select set of papers as a special issue or edited book and are in conversation with journal editors and publishers. We hope to have limited travel and accommodation funding available for unfunded PhD students and post-docs but cannot confirm this at present.