26 May 2021, 20:00 CEST
The Hmm ON Algorithmic Colonialism
While 80% of Facebook users are not from the United States, Facebook’s policies for content moderation and ‘ethical’ framework are based on North American standards. In 2016, the company started a campaign (remember internet.org?) to rewire the world and ‘connect the unconnected’. That project kind of failed, but most of the digital infrastructures around the world are still controlled and governed by Western companies, such as Facebook.
When Big Tech companies control digital and algorithmic experiences, they get the power to control the political, economic and cultural domains of life. This is one of the many forms of algorithmic colonialism.
Technological innovations are often asserted as universally positive, and existing beyond geopolitical borders, but it is important that we understand who has the power in relation to these technologies; who creates the rules, regulations, and whose interests are promoted through these technologies. The extraction of data, as one of the financial benefits of digital colonialism, is paralleled and interwoven with more traditional colonialist systems that extract resources like labour and raw materials. Classic colonialism was driven by political and governmental agencies with the aim of dominating the world. Digital or algorithmic colonialism is driven by private corporations who believe that their products can solve the ‘problems’ in the Global South, while simultaneously expanding their domination of digital ecosystems.
During this The Hmm ON event we try to better understand the nuances of how digital or algorithmic colonialism operates today, and we’ve invited three speakers to answer the following questions through their research and artistic work. What is the difference between Facebook and other Big Tech companies extracting our data in Europe versus them extracting data from people living in the Global South? How is this situation different when you’re in a less economically powerful position?
Join us at 8pm CEST. You’ll receive the streaming link after registering for the event.
The Hmm ON …
We’re using face filters to make ourselves prettier, track our daily steps on our iPhones, and rely on Google Maps to find our destination. But what exactly is the impact of these technologies? With The Hmm ON …, we reflect on these playful, serious, and sometimes disturbing developments in internet culture.
Are we witnessing a new form of digital colonialism? Renata is an international human rights lawyer and author, who is currently an HAI Race & Tech Fellow at Stanford University. As an expert in digital rights, she studies the politics of data, the evolution of transparency, and their implications on trade, democracy and society—alerting about a phenomenon she describes as digital colonialism. Renata will be joining us tonight to talk about her research paper ‘Digital sovereignty or digital colonialism‘, which looks at how enhanced technologies have led to the massive collection and analysis of data, the automation of public services, the control of access to global communications platforms, and the implications of these changes. Link
How can we use scanning devices, glitches, and augmented reality to resist against the extractive practices of digital colonialism? Ibiye is a multidisciplinary artist whose work engages with technology, trade and material within the African Diaspora. She’ll be joining us to talk about her artistic practice and her work ‘Data, the New Black Gold’ which explores how citizens could take ownership of the data generated from their cities to prevent exploitation. Set in two West African cities—Lagos, Nigeria and Freetown, Sierra Leone—the project highlights the biases and conflicts of data consumption and the tensions between government, private corporations and citizens. The work looks at how data has materialised in the West African landscape and what the spatial consequences of its production, consumption and storage are. Link
Elisa Giardina Papa
Elisa is an Italian artist whose work investigates gender, sexuality, care and labor in relation to neoliberal capitalism and the borders of the Global South. Elisa will join us tonight to talk about her work ‘Cleaning Emotional Data’, which focuses on the new forms of precarious labor emerging within artificial intelligence economies. In the winter of 2019, Elisa worked remotely for several North American “human-in-the-loop” companies who provide “clean” datasets to train AI algorithms to detect emotions. The work emerged from this experience and looks at the global infrastructure of microworkers who “clean” data to train emotion-recognition algorithms—providing another entry point into questions around digital colonialism. Link