Data Colonialism

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1. Nick Couldry and Ulyses Mejias:

"We present the concept of ‘data colonialism’ as a tool to analyze emerging forms of political control and economic dispossession. Regardless of how evocative metaphors like “data is the new oil” might be, we argue that data colonialism can in fact be empirically defined and studied. To this effect, our analysis engages the disciplines of critical political economy, sociology of media, and postcolonial science and technology studies to trace continuities from colonialism’s historic appropriation of territories and material resources to the datafication of everyday life today. We argue that while the modes, intensities, scales and contexts of dispossession have changed, the underlying function remains the same: to acquire resources from which economic value can be extracted. Just as historic colonialism paved the way for industrial capitalism, this phase of colonialism prepares the way for a new economic order. In this context, we analyze the ideologies and rationalities through which data relations—social relations conducted and organized via data processes—contribute to the capitalization of human life."


2. Tierra Comun:

"A new colonial era is under way. This time the target isn’t land or natural resources, but human life itself: human action and experience that can be converted into profit through the medium of data extraction. This is data colonialism.

This represents a deepening of colonialism as significant as the original colonial landgrab of five centuries ago. Historic colonialism preceded capitalism and laid its foundations, based on brutal violence whose implications continue today. The new data colonialism is based, by contrast, on social relations established under capitalism: its violence takes a symbolic form, an opaque and automated violence, that threatens human freedom.

Data colonialism is unfolding on a global scale: its leaders are in China as much as in the USA. Its victims are in countries that suffered from historic colonialism, and among the oppressed and also minorities of the new centers of empire. We are talking here of universal process, but its victims are specific, and growing as global inequality intensifies."


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