In their book The Costs of Connection: How Data Colonizes Human Life and Appropriates it for Capitalism (Stanford University Press, August 2019), Couldry and Mejias argue that the role of data in society needs to be grasped as not only a development of capitalism, but as the start of a new phase in human history that rivals in importance the emergence of historic colonialism. This new "data colonialism" is based not on the extraction of natural resources or labor, but on the appropriation of human life through data, paving the way for a further stage of capitalism. Resisting it will require strategies that decolonial thinking has foregrounded for centuries, including the articulation of new forms of sovereignty. By reviewing the benefits and limits of these emerging proposals for digital sovereignty—including the ones currently being discussed in the EU—the authors will explore how effectively this concept can inform government and public responses against emerging forms of data colonialism.
17:00-17:05: Welcome and introduction by Orsolya Gulyás & Clément Perarnaud (BSoG)
17:05-17:25: Presentation by Nick Couldry (LSE) and Ulises Mejias (SUNY)
17:25-17:35: Discussion by Julia Pohle (WZB Berlin Social Science Center)
17:35-18:00: Q&A with the audience
Nick Couldry is a sociologist of media and culture. He is Professor of Media Communications and Social Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and from 2017 has been a Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. He is the co-founder of the website www.tierracomun.net for encouraging dialogue on data colonialism with scholars and activists from Latin America. He jointly led, with Clemencia Rodriguez, the chapter on media and communications in the 22 chapter 2018 report of the International Panel on social Progress: www.ipsp.org. He is the author or editor of fifteen books including The Mediated Construction of Reality (with Andreas Hepp, Polity, 2016), Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice (Polity 2012) and Why Voice Matters (Sage 2010). His latest books are The Costs of Connection (with Ulises Ali Mejias, Stanford UP 2019), Media: Why It Matters (Polity 2019), and Media Voice Space and Power: Essays of Refraction (Routledge 2020). nickcouldry.org
Ulises Ali Mejias is professor of Communication Studies and director of the Institute for Global Engagement at the State University of New York, College at Oswego. He is a media scholar whose work encompasses critical internet studies, network theory and science, philosophy and sociology of technology, and political economy of digital media. He is the author of Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) and various articles including ‘Disinformation and the Media: The case of Russia and Ukraine’ in Media, Culture and Society (2017, with N. Vokuev), and ‘Liberation Technology and the Arab Spring: From Utopia to Atopia and Beyond’ in Fibreculture (2012). He is co-founder of Tierra Comun (tierracomun.net) and the Non-Aligned Technologies Movement (nonalignedtech.net). From 2021-2025, he serves as a Fulbright Specialist. ulisesmejias.com
Julia Pohle is a senior researcher in the research group "Politics of Digitalization" at the WZB Berlin Social Science Center. Her research focusses on digital geopolitics and the role of states in communication governance. Lately, she is particularly interested in the discourse on digital sovereignty and how it influences national internet policy in Europe and beyond. Among other roles, Julia currently serves as academic editor of the Internet Policy Review, as co-chair for the Communication Policy &Technology Section of the International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), and on the Steering Committee of the Internet Governance Forum Germany.
Please find the recording of the presentation & discussion below:
This event is part of the Data Sovereignty Seminar Series, jointly organised by CD2I and the UNU-CRIS/VUB Chair on Digital Sovereignty.