Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Higher Education

First Advisor

P. Bruce Uhrmacher

Second Advisor

Mike H. Nguyen

Third Advisor

Cecilia M. Orphan


Critical theory, Data criticism, Descriptive statistics, Equity, Pragmatism, QuantCrit


The economic logic of neoliberalism has reached its zenith—now firmly entrenched in our political, social, and cultural transactions (Giroux, 2014; Harvey, 2005). As a result, we stand on the precipice of a new era—the data era—in which neoliberalism’s orientation towards accountability, micro-management, and hierarchical ordering mediates all social and political narratives. Data, it is said, is fast becoming “the new oil”—the most valuable global resource (Bhageshpur, 2019; Harari, 2018).

This is problematic. Although there are countless ways in which the application of data has improved the world, it has a long, dark history as a technology of oppression. Yet, data is different than the powerful resources of the past. Unlike land and factories, data’s power is not tangible. Rather, it exists only through the intellectual interpretation we collectively assign to it. Therefore, data’s false narratives might also be challenged, rather than exercised against us.

This dissertation asks and answers: How might we change our relationship with data to better consume and produce it? And to coax more equity into being, while rooting out oppression?

This is accomplished via a three-manuscript dissertation in which each essay is ready for academic publication. Essay one presents a conceptual framework—a reimagination of the past 100 years of data-criticism literature—providing the reader guidance on how to spot power, thereby becoming a better consumer of data. Through rigorous systematic review, essay two synthesizes the literature of the critical+quant scholars, resulting in a framework for producing better data. Essay three applies the findings of the earlier essays to illustrate how criticality, applied to data heavy higher education public policy reports, improves equity.

Read in totality, these manuscripts suggest that power does not necessarily take the form of a force wielded from above: data’s power exists through the interpretations we assign it. Therefore, as we amend our relationship with data, it might become a tool to harness hope, rather than an apparatus for oppression. In so doing, a fairer, more just world might be realized.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Wendy A. Fish


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

279 pgs


Higher education

Available for download on Sunday, July 21, 2024