Epistemic Consequences of Following Data from the Global South

Presentation at the 5th Digital Geographies Research Group Annual Symposium: Where next for Digital Geographies? Pathways and prospects, Online, 14.07.2021.

By following a video that failed to be published during the 2009 uprising in Iran, this paper follows data in a trajectory different from Western users’ everyday experience. It aims to critically debate the grand narratives of data capitalism that are mainly based on how data functions in Western societies. The research scrutinises the existing theoretical accounts on following things to examine their applicability to data as a thing. Following the traces of an unpublished video reveals an intricate assemblage of organisations, policies, laws, code, software, people, and platforms that could be shunned as a nuance, an example of undemocratic governance of the internet. However, this uncirculated thing narrates by no means an exceptional life for the data produced in the global South. The paper demonstrates how the politics involved in/instigated by moving things produce epistemologies that call for new conceptualisations of political digital geography. Consequently, disruptions in moving is not considered a failure in tracing, but rather a window to “imagine or develop alternative data assemblages” (Carter 2018:2). Although grand theories of data capitalism give us political tools to combat the growing profit-oriented attainment of data from users, failing to understand the dynamics of data’s journey will produce a naturalised homogenised universal image that leaves many realities of data out.

Carter D (2018) Reimagining the big data assemblage. Big Data and Society 5(2) https://doi.org/10.1177/2053951718818194

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