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What Should We Ask About Badges?: Framing a Research Agenda for the Field

What Should We Ask About Badges?: Framing a Research Agenda for the Field



If you’ll be in Boston on March 5, please join us for a 2014 Pre-Conference Workshop focusing on badges for lifelong learning research.

Who: Anyone in the digital badges and learning community

What: A 3-hour workshop to learn about current research (including the Badges and Badging Development Research grantees), where participants will exchange ideas and begin drafting a badge research agenda.

Where: The St. James room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, Boston, MA

When: Wednesday, March 5, 12:30-3:30 p.m.

Cost: None. However, if you plan to attend DML 2014 Conference March 6-8, 2014 they need to register via this link:

Badge research is important for practitioners, for communications, and also for funding. What do we need to focus on as a field? What disciplines are contributing? What has been done so far? Who is asking for what, and why? What research is most helpful to which communities?

Join HASTAC and grantees from the HASTAC/MacArthur Foundation Badging and Badge System Development Research Competition as they discuss emerging questions in the field of badges for lifelong learning, and contribute your ideas to a research agenda via a hands-on workshop session.

Planning to attend? Please RSVP to Hilary Culbertson at contact[at]

Please note that lunch will not be provided.






Hi Michael

I edit the journal, On the Horizon, which is doing a themed issue on innovation which is being guest edited by Art Harkins. You could submit the draft to art at or alternatively submit it directly to On the Horizon thru Emerald's "scholars" website. Feel free to contact me


That being said, it would be interesting to understand how you hope to address the questions that you have asked. It would seem that you need one or more foresight tools in order to tease out the first and second order implications and rank them rather than the narrow casting implied by the questions themselves. 

For example I would suggest that an "implications wheel" allows one to get beyond the superficial. An alternative qualitative or semi-quantitative methodology would be a "delphi". To stay within the social/cultural frame one might choose "causal layer analysis, CLA.

Your questions are "n" dimensional and I am concerned that taking a single or reductionist frame may yield reasonable precision but lack broad based accuracy.






Hi Michael,

Thanks for sending me your paper -- I went ahead and published it on so others could appreciate your perspective on the sociology of digital badges as much as I did. 

Insurgent Credentials II: What Is Sociologically Significant About Digital Badges? 



I am very sorry that I cannot be with you in Boston.


While my questions come from outside of the badging community, and reflect my interests as a sociologist, I hope they remain useful to those within the badging community.


I have a pending research proposal in which the following four questions are posed:

1. How might badges alter the relationships between the fields comprising economic and education organizations, respectively? Most analyses of the “intrusion” of economic values and interests into academia have limited their focus to the practices of “academic capitalism.” Will badges further extend “logics of action” associated with institutions in the economic field into the organization and practices of higher education?

    2. Does the introduction of badges into the reward structure of higher education challenge institutionalized models of “academic” pedagogy, learning, knowledge, and credentials, and, by extension, existing organizational and identity categories?

    3. Given that badges may be issued by a variety of kinds of organizations and entities, will the expansion of badges further alter the field of “higher education”? Recent work has taken note of the increasingly complex nature of the field of higher education, but has confined its attention to organizations that readily fall within that category.

    4. What are the prospects that badges could substitute for, or supplement,  academic credentials in labor markets? Will badges confirm David Bills’ (2004) forecast that the link between “education” credentials and jobs will intensify, even as the link between school-based credentials and jobs may not intensify?



I also have a draft paper entitled "Insurgent Credentials II: What Is Sociologically Significant About Digital Badges." I will send it to Sheryl to post if she wishes. I am happy to share a copy of the paper in its current form if I am contacted at