Ulises Mejias - Data and the Paradox of Plenty

In his upcoming talk, Ulises A. Mejias, Professor of Communication Studies, agues that the notion of data as a non-rival resource is an illusion.

As part of the next TechDo Guest Colloquium, hosted by the Weizenbaum research group Technology, Power and Domination, Ulises Mejias will present his work on “Data and the Paradox of Plenty: A Decolonial Critique of Data as a Non-Rival Resource”.
Not too long ago, we were told that the internet created a non-rival data commons based on a post-capitalist sharing economy. Today, as we witness the levels of data extraction required to train predictive machine learning models, we must acknowledge that the romanticized notion of data as a non-rival resource has turned out to be an unsustainable illusion. This illusion must be understood in a historical context, which the theory of data colonialism can help us do. Using this framework, we can see that the true ‘tragedy of the commons’ is that the sharing economy has become the gig economy, and that non-rival data has become training data for corporate AI products that undermine our welfare. In short, when it comes to data, we are facing a new ‘resource curse’, a residual paradox from colonial times, where the wealthiest in resources become the poorest in economic opportunity. Addressing these challenges will require a creative application of decolonial thinking.

The TechDo Guest Colloquium, hosted by the Weizenbaum Research Group Technology, Power and Domination, is a series of presentations by the working group's scholars and associated researchers who deal with questions of power, domination, and democracy in digitalized societies. The talk is organized as part of the research network "Digital Societies in Latin America", which brings together multidisciplinary researchers who address the social implications of digital technologies and societies with regard to Latin America.

You are welcome to join us for a networking gathering with drinks and snacks after the talk.

Prof. Dr. Ulises A. Mejias is Professor of Communication Studies at the State University of New York at Oswego. His most recent book (co-authored with Nick Couldry) is "The Costs of Connection: How Data is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating it for Capitalism." He is also a co-founder of Tierra Común (tierracomun.net), and has been named a Fulbright Specialist from 2021 to 2025.

Please register via E-Mail at techdo[at]wzb.eu

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