Big Data from the South

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"A research network and program launched in 2017 by Stefania Milan (University of Amsterdam) and Emiliano Treré (Cardiff University):

BigDataSur is a collective effort to interrogate ‘Big Data from the South’, moving beyond the Western centrism and ‘digital universalism’ (Chan, 2013) of much of the critical scholarship on datafication, digitalization and Artificial Intelligence. The research workshop allowed the BigDataSur network to advance in charting its field of inquiry, including in the conversation activists and practitioners from various corners of the globe as well as scholars from disciplines as diverse as media studies, development studies, law, globalization studies, philosophy, science and technology studies, critical data studies—and counting.

In the context of BigDataSur, we maintain a flexible, expansive, and plural definition of the South(s) that casts it as a place of (and a proxy for) alterity, resistance, subversion, and creativity, embracing the dynamism and the multiplicity of interpretations while going beyond the geopolitical denomination. On the basis of this definition, which goes beyond the restrictive notion of the ‘Global South,’ we can find countless Souths also in what would normally be inscribed under the West, as long as people suffer discrimination, and/or enact resistance to injustice and oppression and fight for better life conditions against the impending data capitalism. With our definition, we engage in an exercise of disaggregation of the geographical dimension: while, on one hand, geography per se loses centrality in favor of a ‘broader’ and more imaginative definition of the South as also metaphor and proxy, on the other hand, we recenter geography, recognizing the differences it harbors and especially the shaping roles of power inequalities, old and new, still visible today in, for example, digital and data infrastructure. Simultaneously, we want to avoid the temptation to romanticize the South and reify the North (Milan & Treré, 2019, p. 325)."