Bookmark: "Colonised by data: the hollowing out of digital society"

Sebastian Greger


A summary of Nick Couldry’s Nov 2018 lecture “Colonised by data: the hollowing out of digital society” at the Institut für Internet und Gesellschaft (HIIG) Berlin. The lecture builds on the comparison of today’s digital economy with traditional colonialism:

Nowadays, according to Couldry, we are not threatened with violence in order to accept the terms of service, but there are still decisive parallels to historical colonialism. First, resources are being appropriated, now in the form of information about human experience and action. Second, social relations are being colonised, as they become “data relations” that aim to maximise data extraction for value. Third, the value created is concentrated in the hands of a few corporations. And fourth, there is an ideology that disguises the process and gives it a progressive, “civilising” frame.

Discussing data ownership, surveillance and equality, along with the relation to capitalism, the presenter comes to the conclusion that

[t]o stop these developments, we need to question their inevitability, challenge their necessity, and imagine possibilities of connecting with each other on other terms. […] The urgent task is to imagine different futures for the digital society.