Data (De)Colonialism

Facilitated by Paola Ricaurte Quijano


noun, plural in form but singular or plural in construction, often attributive
da·​ta | \ ˈdā-tə ˈda- also ˈdä- \ (sounds)
Paola Ricaurte

Dada is not given.2
Data is a social construct.
It does not exist prior to our conceptualization.
As such, data is the result of a specific way of categorizing reality,
a way of giving meaning to reality.
We create and produce data every time we label or frame reality with certain lenses.
Datafication is the process of quantifying the world.3
Datafication is the quantification of life.4
Life as data.
Classify, compute, and analyze.
Datafication is the basic input for interpreting reality and our interactions at a massive scale.
A new rationality is haunting the world, a rationality based on data.5
Our social life (our thoughts, relationships, subjectivities, futures) are data sources.6
Every aspect captured is a data point.
Life, in any of its forms, Earth beats, and outer space, are converted into data flows.
Data assemblages are knowledge assemblages. Knowledge is power.
Those who control data, control knowledge, control social life.
In an asymmetric world, data assemblages amplify historical forms of colonization.7
Dispossession, exclusion, expulsion of the social life
Bodies, territories, subjectivities, intersubjectivity,
practices, materiality and immaterial worlds
Those who are different have no gain.
The way we live,
The knowledge we produce,
The things we think and feel,
Our lives, our bodies, our fears, our imagination,
The way we relate to those who are different,
Our relationship with Nature.
Coloniality through data implies violent forms of domination.
Can we dismantle power asymmetries that exclude world’s knowledge, racialized bodies, and destroy nature?
Can we reclaim our data futures?


2 data (n.)

3 Cukier, Kenneth Neil, and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger. “The Rise of Big Data.” Foreign Affairs, May 2013.

4 Mejias, Ulises A., and Nick Couldry. “Datafication.” Internet Policy Review, November 29, 2019.

5 Ricaurte, Paola. “Data Epistemologies, The Coloniality of Power, and Resistance.” Television & New Media 20, no. 4 (May 2019): 350–65.

6 Couldry, Nick, and Ulises A. Mejias. The Costs of Connection: How Data Is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating It for Capitalism. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2019.

7 Íbid.

8 Íbid.

The Facilitator

Paola Ricaurte is an Associate Professor in the Department of Media and Digital Culture at Tecnológico de Monterrey, Mexico City and a digital rights activist.

She was a fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (2018-2019) and an Edmundo O'Gorman fellow in the Institute for Latin American Studies (2018), Columbia University. Her work focuses on the critical study of digital technologies. Her publications include Data Epistemologies, The Coloniality of Power, and Resistance (2019), Youth and Digital Culture: Critical Approaches from Latin America (2018), Pedagogies for the Open Knowledge Society (2016), Challenges to collective action in the post-Snowden era: visions from Latin America (2015), Control societies: techno-surveillance and civic resistance in Mexico (2014. She was the author of the Freedom on the Net report for Mexico (2017). Together with Nick Couldry and Ulises Mejías is the founder of Tierra Común,, a network of activists, citizens and scholars who work on interventions for data decolonization.