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Technocolonialism: digital humanitarianism as extraction

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We are happy to annouce Dr Mirca Madianou as our first speaker of the term! The topic of the talk wil be ‘Technocolonialism: digital humanitarianism as extraction’.

What’s it gonna be about? Digital innovation, artificial intelligence, and data practices are increasingly central to the humanitarian response to recent humanitarian emergencies including refugee crises. In her talk, Madianou will introduce the concept of technocolonialism to capture how the convergence of digital developments with humanitarian structures and capitalist forces reinvigorates and reshapes colonial relationships of dependency. Technocolonialism shifts the attention to the constitutive role that data and digital innovation play in entrenching power asymmetries between refugees and aid agencies and ultimately inequalities in the global context. This occurs through a number of interconnected processes: by extracting value from refugee data for the benefit of various stakeholders; by materializing gender, race and social discrimination associated with colonial legacies; by contributing to the production of social orders that entrench the “coloniality of power”; and by justifying some of these practices under the context of “emergencies.” By reproducing the power asymmetries of humanitarianism, data and innovation practices become constitutive of humanitarian crises themselves.

Mirca Madianou is Reader in the Department of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London where she works on the social uses of communication technologies in a transnational and comparative context. Her recent and current research focuses on migration and humanitarian emergencies and their intersection with digital technology. She is currently completing a book on the role of digital innovation, artificial intelligence and data practices in the humanitarian sector. She is the author of Mediating the Nation: News, Audiences and the Politics of Identity and Migration and New Media: Transnational Families and Polymedia (with D. Miller) as well as editor of Ethics of Media (with N. Couldry and A. Pinchevski).

This talk is part of the Cambridge Technology & New Media Research Cluster series.

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