Do Educational Technologies Have Politics?

PROJECT DATES: 2020 – present

This project employs multiple methods such as Natural Language Processing and discourse analysis, and the theoretical lens of Semiotics, to reveal underlying patterns and motivations in the discourse of contemporary EdTech. In particular, we triangulate between qualitative and automated statistical analysis of interviews, websites, and historical documents to find how the discourse of EdTech is conceptualized, constructed, and disseminated — and how it is reshaping education to the image of automated technologies. For example, we were able to reveal the striking similarities between the discourse around Skinner’s “teaching machine” of the 1950s and the EdTech products of the 2010s and 2020s, and crucial disparities between the stated goals of AI in education companies and their actual products.

The first publication of this project was “Do Educational Technologies Have Politics? A Semiotic Analysis of the Discourse of Educational Technologies and Artificial Intelligence in Education” written in co-authorship with renowned Brazilian scholar Izidoro Blikstein. A new version of this paper is now in press in an MIT Press book due in 2023. A third paper was published in 2022, co-authored with Yipu Zheng and Karen Zhou, in the European Journal of Education, titled “Ceci n’est pas une école: Discourses of artificial intelligence in education through the lens of semiotic analytics.”

PI Paulo Blikstein has spoken extensively about the project at many academic conferences, such as his Keynote Address at the Artificial Intelligence in Education Conference in 2018 in London, the AI in Education Conference at Columbia University (see videos), Stanford MediaX and many others.

Blikstein, P., & Blikstein, I. (2022). Do educational technologies have politics? A semiotic analysis of the discourse of educational technologies and artificial intelligence in education. In Algorithmic Rights and Protections for Children. MIT Press.

Blikstein, P., Zheng, Y., & Zhou, K. Z. (2022). Ceci n’est pas une école: Discourses of artificial intelligence in education through the lens of semiotic analytics. European Journal of Education.


Karen Zhuqian Zhou


Izidoro Blikstein


For more information, please contact Paulo Blikstein (