The Big Data Revolution in College Applications
Golumbia’s introduction for Cultural Logic of Computation highlights what he sees to be social misconceptions on the rise of computers and outlines his arguments to refute these ideas.
A main ‘misconception’ he stresses is the idea that computers have opened up networks of communication, allowing people to share opinion and information about the self. Golumbia argues that sharing has always been a part of human society.
Secondly, Golumbia presents the ‘misconception’ that computation has allowed for a more democratic distribution of authority. Golumbia argues that the rise of computers aid “institutions in centralizing, demarcating, and concentrating power.”
Here, I will apply Golumbia’s arguments to Eric Hoover’s “The Uncommon Rise to the Common App” Chronicle of Higher Education, 18 Nov 2013 (http://chronicle.com/article/The-Uncommon-Rise-of-the/143093/) to assess the validity of Golumbia’s disputes.
Hoover’s article is a review of the Common Application, a uniform online college admissions form that 517 colleges worldwide use to receive student’s applications for enrollment. The Common Application is the essence of big data: it consolidates students’ information to allow the students to apply to many colleges with just a few points and clicks.
My first question, when reading Hoover’s article was ‘why?’ Why would college admissions offices that promote exclusivity and individuality in their acceptant base turn to a online mass application created by a private company? Hoover lays it on the line, stating “the application’s appeal is powerful. Although access is its altruistic aim, colleges have long viewed it as a tool for enhancing their bottom lines.” It seems as though by acquiescing to the Common Application’s rules, colleges can cast a wider net and receive applications from previously underrepresented student bases.
However, the Common Application also presents a problem for College Applications. It holds such explicit control over what colleges can and cannot require in the student’s admissions that the colleges’ individuality is lost in the process.
How, then, does Hoover’s article relate to Golumbia’s arguments? In Golumbia’s first claim, truly, college applications had previously existed before computation. However, the implication of computation has allowed for a much larger expansion of student informatics, which I think is the true rhetoric behind computation. Secondly, Hoover’s article affirms Golumbia’s belief that computation reinforces authorities central power. As seen, by outsourcing college applications, admissions offices relinquish control on the specificity of the application process, centralizing the power onto a private, corporate body, which creates a multitude of problems.
But the same could be said for the SAT.