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Psy-technologies as Global Assemblage: Histories and Social Lives of Quantification and Digitisation in Three Former Countries of the British Empire

Principal Investigator: Dr China Mills, Lecturer in Critical Educational Psychology, University of Sheffield
Co-Applicant: Dr Elise Klein, Lecturer in Development Studies, University of Melbourne

Abstract: Psy-technologies (from algorithmic diagnostic tools, to smartphone apps) have become a central element of development programmes, increasing the reach of behavior change agendas globally. For some, psy-technologies signify a ‘new field of investigation’, raising the need for novel methodological tools. Yet, while many technologies are new, they are embedded in historical conditions, often linked to colonial governance. Current research points to the role of technology in making visible behavioural and psychological ‘problems’ and in constructing them as amenable to technological intervention (Mills and Hilberg, forthcoming). This project will dig deeper into the historical conditions of the British Empire that enabled the development of psy-technologies in each case site. It will investigate the neglected global coloniality of psy-technologies, and argue that this historical dimension has effects not only on the reception of these technologies but fundamentally structures how behavior and psychologies are understood and governed.

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