Uppsala University Department of Information Technology

Licentiate thesis 2024-001

Capital and the Social Reproduction of Inequality in Computing Education

Thom Kunkeler

31 May 2024


Computing education in Western countries has traditionally been characterised by low levels of participation and diversity among its student population. In order to broaden participation in the field, it is fundamental to understand the various mechanisms through which power structures and inequality are reproduced. From a Bourdieusian perspective, this licentiate thesis sets out to understand the interaction between capital, class, and habitus which allows a dominant class to thrive at the expense of other classes.

Paper I shows that capital serves as a barrier for non-computing students entering the computing field, whereas in Paper II a dominant class is identified as possessing higher levels of capital, which is then related to their higher levels of participation in the field. In addition, Paper I provides insight into the ways the subordinate class internalises and acts upon their lower levels of capital.

This licentiate thesis lays out the groundwork for studying capital in computing education by developing and validating research instruments which can be used for further study. In addition, relevant theories to educational participation are discussed, with a particular focus on capital theory. More work is needed to understand the reproductive mechanism through which the dominant class legitimises their capital within the field of computing education, thereby establishing their class position. Future work is recommended in the domain of habitus and capital-inclusive pedagogy. Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the reproduction of inequality in computing education by assessing the various mechanisms involved, and designing pedagogy which can be used for successful engagement of students with varying levels of capital.

Note: Updated 2024-05-20.

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Uppsala Universitet