Decolonizing ‘Datafication’ Discourse

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

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Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK), presented a paper in the panel on ‘Colonising and Decolonising Data’ at Data Justice 2018, an international conference hosted by the Data Justice Lab at Cardiff University May 21-22 2018.

Here is the title and abstract:

Decolonizing ‘Datafication’ Discourse

It has been claimed that the ‘datafication’ of society has resulted in the emergence of a new set of power dynamics requiring investigation and critique. While conceding that the paradigm of ‘Big Data’, coupled with other developments such as the Internet of Things, data mining and deep learning, indeed gives rise to changed sociotechnical formations, building on arguments made in connection with the proposal for a ‘decolonial computing’ (Ali 2014, 2016, 2017), I suggest that this claim needs to be interrogated with a view to exploring the continuity through change of power relationships between different groups in the world system. Adopting a critical race theoretical and decolonial perspective, I want to draw attention to certain ‘silences’ / ‘erasures’ in discourses associated with the ‘critical’ literature on algorithm/data studies which tend to be framed, tacitly or explicitly, against the backdrop of a world system understood as capitalist / neoliberal, thereby obscuring its origins in racialized colonialism, a long durée project that continues into the post-colonial era through the persistence of ‘coloniality’ – that is, structuring colonial logics. Notwithstanding a certain rhetorical overkill of the ‘datafication’ discourse by its proponents – a form of deception that arguably affords rhetorical power to hegemonic coloniality – such developments can – and do – contribute to maintaining, expanding and refining modern/colonial domination. For this reason, I argue for the need to consider both the rhetoric and the techno-scientific socio-material reality and affordances of ‘Big Data’ and associated developments engaged by both its proponents and critics alike.

For example, there has been a tendency within critical data/algorithm studies to focus on methods obscuring issues of ‘positionality’ – that is, racialized location within the world system – and resulting in such discourses being framed in tacit Eurocentric-universalist terms. For this reason, such discourses must be complemented with a decolonial ‘meta-critique’ disclosing the abstract, homogenizing biases informing such narratives. Similar problems arise in connection with discourses involving ideas such as the ‘Big Data divide’, ‘data colonialism’ and ‘surveillance capitalism’, the latter referring to an ‘emergent logic of accumulation in the networked sphere’. In this connection, I want to suggest that if the analytic frame is shifted from capitalism to racialized-coloniality, it is more useful to think about such developments in terms of ‘surveillance colonialism’ and an emergent logic of domination in the networked sphere, such logic standing in a (re-)productive relation vis-à-vis historically prior yet persistent logics of coloniality and affecting differently-marked bodies located in different geo-political locations differently. I further maintain that a shift in frame from ‘surveillance capitalism’ to ‘surveillance colonialism’ provides the means by which to decolonially-interrogate developments associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) and their mobilization in ICT4D discourses; on this view, the IoT needs to be understood in terms of a refinement of the logics of domination, an ‘iterative’ shift away from overtly political strategies of control embedded in ‘participatory’ ‘aid’ projects, to one involving domination through the dissemination and embedding of standards and closed-source platforms along with what might be described as ‘data settler colonialism’ via non-human technological proxy, viz. sensor devices as ‘digital settlers’ originating in ‘the core’ of the modern/colonial world system and embedded in ‘the periphery’ – a case of ‘from boots on the ground to bits in the ground’.

Finally, I want to argue for the need to interrogate how justice is framed in calls for ‘data justice’, and the nature of the relationship, if any, between such calls and related calls for compensation / reparations vis-à-vis the ongoing ‘legacy effects’ of European colonialism.

REFERENCES

Ali, S.M. (2017) Decolonizing Information Narratives: Entangled Apocalyptics, Algorithmic Racism and the Myths of History. DTMD 2017: 6th International Conference. In: IS4IS Summit Gothenburg 2017 – Digitalisation for a Sustainable Society, 12-16 June, Gothenburg, Sweden.

Ali, S.M. (2016) A Brief Introduction to Decolonial Computing. XRDS, Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students – Cultures of Computing 22(4): 16-21.

Ali, S.M. (2014) Towards a Decolonial Computing. In Ambiguous Technologies: Philosophical issues, Practical Solutions, Human Nature: Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Computer Ethics –Philosophical Enquiry (CEPE 2013). Edited by Elizabeth A. Buchanan, Paul B, de Laat, Herman T. Tavani and Jenny Klucarich. Portugal: International Society of Ethics and Information Technology, pp.28-35.

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‘White Crisis’ and/as ‘Existential Threat’, or The Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali at the CenSAMM AI and Apocalypse Symposium 2018

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK), delivered the following paper at the Conference on Artificial Intelligence and The Apocalypse organised by CenSAMM (Centre for the Critical Study of Apocalyptic and Millenarian Movements), a new initiative of the Panacea Charitable Trust in Bedford, UK, which took place 5-6 April 2018:

‘White Crisis’ and/as ‘Existential Threat’, or The Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence

Interested viewers can watch the presentation which is available on YouTube:

Complete recordings of the two days proceedings (talks, panel discussions etc.) are available here.

Peace

Islamic Counter-Racist Thought Food #63

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Consider this:

What happens when the barbarians at the gates either wish to reject pedagogical dependence or elect to construct alternative spatio-temporal horizons? (p.105)

Extract taken from Pasha, Mustapha Kamal (2017) “Decolonizing The Anarchical Society.” In ‘The Anarchical Society’ at 40. Edited by M. Carr, A. Humphreys and H. Suganami. Oxford: OUP.

Peace

Islamic Counter-Racist Thought Food #62

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

Consider this:

The habit of thought which defines the world, or society, as a totalizing system … tends to lead almost inevitably to a view of revolutions as cataclysmic ruptures. Since, after all, how else could one totalizing system be replaced by a completely different one than by a cataclysmic rupture? Human history thus becomes a series of revolutions: the Neolithic revolution, the Industrial revolution, the Information revolution, etc. [emphases added].

SOURCE: Graeber, David (2004) Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology. Chicago, IL: Prickly Paradigm Press, pp. 43-44.

I should like to suggest that the above extract is usefully put into conversation with the following extract from an important work by the Tiqqun collective which mounts a devastating case against the totalizing systemic logic of cybernetics, regardless of whether the latter manifests socially, politically and economically as late neoliberal capitalism or any of the allegedly ‘resistant’ forms of ‘Leftist’ political-economic formation, viz.

What the socialists all have in common, and have for two centuries,
which they share with those among them who have declared themselves to
be communists, is that they fight against only one of the effects of
capitalism alone: in all its forms, socialism fights against separation, by
recreating the social bonds between subjects, between subjects and objects,
without fighting against the totalization that makes it possible for the social
to be assimilated into a body, and the individual into a closed totality, a
subject-body. But there is also another common terrain, a mystical one, on
the basis of which the transfer of the categories of thought within socialism
and cybernetics have been able to form an alliance: that of a shameful
humanism, an uncontrolled faith in the genius of humanity. Just as it is
ridiculous to see a “collective soul” in the construction of a beehive by the
erratic behavior of bees, as the writer Maeterlinck did at the beginning of
the century from a Catholic perspective, in the same way the maintenance
of capitalism is in no way dependent upon the existence of a collective
consciousness in the “masses” lodged within the heart of production. Under
cover of the axiom of class struggle, the historical socialist utopia, the
utopia of the community, was definitively a utopia of One promulgated by
the Head on a body that couldn’t be one. All socialism today – whether it
more or less explicitly categorizes itself as democracy-, production-, or social
contract-focused – takes sides with cybernetics. Non-citizen politics must
come to terms with itself as anti-social as much as anti-state; it must refuse
to contribute to the resolution of the “social question,” refuse the
formatting of the world as a series of problems, and reject the democratic
perspective structured by the acceptance of all of society‘s requests. As for
cybernetics, it is today no more than the last possible socialism [emphases added].

SOURCE: Tiqqun. The Cybernetic Hypothesis.

Islam is neither totalizing system nor humanism.

Islam is the existential power-transaction between the human and God/Allah.

Peace

BOOK: (White) Imaginary Futures

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.

IF.jpg

I have almost finished reading the outstanding work Imaginary Futures: From Thinking Machines to The Global Village (London: Pluto Press, 2007) by white Marxist male, Richard Barbrook. IMHO, the work makes for a veritable tour de force and is essential reading for those interested in decolonizing computing vis-a-vis understanding how (white) visions of the future repeatedly – or rather ‘algorithmically‘ – inform and inflect the present, not to mention for Barbrook’s useful, yet highly Eurocentric, account of the Cold War origins of computers, ICTs (information and communication technologies) and the Net. (For a brief discussion of the ‘algorithmic’ nature of White Supremacy / Racism, interested readers are invited to check out the following extended abstract by Dr Syed Mustafa Ali, Lecturer in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University: “Transhumanism and/as Whiteness“.)

Interested readers can download a copy (PDF format) of the book here.

A highly useful overview of the book was presented by Barbrook at Warwick University in 2011 and is available for viewing on YouTube:

One of the most interesting sequences of slides appearing towards the end of the presentation is the following:The Futures.JPG

From a Counter-Racist / decolonial perspective, I am immediately led to ask who is this we that Barbrook is inviting to invent new futures? I should also like to suggest that for non-white VoRs (Victims of Racism / White Supremacy), the wording of the first slide (on the left) should be replaced with the following:

Those who do not remember the [White Supremacist / Racist] future [that shapes the White Supremacist / Racist present] are condemned to [have the White Supremacist / Racist future] repeated [on them]

Peace

BOOK: Sultan vs Dracula

Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance

The following work by non-white (attempted) Muslim writer, artists and poet Razwan Ul-Haq arrived in the post this morning:

Sultan vs Dracula

The book, which is 400+ pages long, can be purchased direct from the author for £7.99 (+ postage and packing) from here. The author also has a blog on Islamic sci-fi.

Here’s an advert for this interesting Islamic Counter-Racist, decolonial and ‘post-Orientalist’ re-imagining of the Dracula story as appears on youTube:

Interested readers are invited to check out the following earlier blog post in connection with the above book:

The Vampire Culture of The Psychopathic Racial Personality

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