Biosocial spaces and neurocomputational governance: brain-based and brain-targeted technologies in education

Ben Williamson, Jessica Pykett, Selena Nemorin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
217 Downloads (Pure)


Recently, technologies based on neuroscientific insights into brain function and structure have been promoted for application in education. The novel practices and environments produced by these technologies require new forms of ‘biosocial’ analysis to unpack their implications for education, learning and governance. The article provides an original analysis of current ‘brain-based’ R&D by the edu-business Pearson to apply artificial intelligence in education, and by the computing company IBM to develop cognitive systems for learning. These emerging forms of neurocomputation are examined as technologies designed to function according to neuroscientific understandings of the brain, and to impress themselves on the cerebral lives of learners by being embedded in educational spaces. To examine the technological and neurobiological means by which a learner is made up through technologically-mediated educational environments, we advance the idea of ‘brain/code/space’ as a conceptual framework. This describes environments that possess brain-like functions of learning and cognition performed by computational processes. The brain/code/spaces of education proposed by Pearson and IBM are intended to optimize human cognition as a technique of human capital development in order to enhance the performance of education systems to secure comparative advantage in a globalizing policy space, exemplifying new forms of neurocomputational governance and capital.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
Publication statusPublished - 27 Oct 2017

Bibliographical note

Forthcoming in Special Issue of Discourse: The Cultural Politics of Education, on Biological rationalities in education’, guest editors Kalvero Gulson and Bernadette Baker.


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Big Data
  • Biosocial
  • brain
  • cognitive computing
  • neuroscience


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