event

The Costs of Connection: How Data is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating it for Capitalism

June 2nd, 2021 - 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm PDT

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In this talk, Couldry and Mejias draw on their recent book, The Costs of Connection  (Stanford University Press, August 2019) to 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. Today’s transformations of social life through data must therefore be grasped within the long historical arc of dispossession as both a new colonialism and an extension of capitalism. Resistance requires challenging in their new material guises forms of coloniality that decolonial thinking has foregrounded for centuries. The struggle will be both broader and longer than many analyses of algorithmic power suppose, but for that reason critical responses are all the more urgent.

Middle aged white male with glasses

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. In fall 2018 he was also a Visiting Professor at MIT. 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 (co-authored with Ulises Mejias), Media: Why It Matters (Polity: 2019) and Media, Voice, Space and Power (Routledge 2020). nickcouldry.org

Middle aged male with glasses and beard

Ulises A. 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. In addition to The Costs of Connection (co-authored with Nick Couldry), 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). ulisesmejias.com

COMM230X: Digital Civil Society Speaker Series: This series provides a forum for scholars and community-based innovators to present their work, learn from those working on related issues from different disciplinary perspectives, and spark or nurture cross-disciplinary engagement around the big questions that animate the digital civil society Lab. Topics covered this quarter notably include polarization and social media, algorithmic audits, digital rights advocacy in Africa, transnational social movements, philanthropy and racial justice, misinformation and social protest.

This event is open to all members of the Stanford community and requires pre-registration with a stanford.edu email.

Speakers

  • Nick Couldry - Professor of Media Communications and Social Theory, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Ulises A. Mejias - Professor of Communication Studies and Director of the Institute for Global Engagement, State University of New York at Oswego