Thanks to the planning committee of the Network Detroit 2018 conference for inviting me to keynote at this conference
My talk description and slides are below.
In 2016, the United Nations reaffirmed that Internet access had become crucial to human rights in the digital age, and advised governments to both provide and expand access to the Internet to all citizens. In a moment when social media activism (ranging from the Arab Spring to #BlackLivesMatter) has reinvigorated community mobilization and political action, it seems even more crucial to remedy the global digital divide. This talk historicizes contemporary attempts to develop digital infrastructures, and traces how initiatives to improve Internet access in the Global South are often mired in racial ideologies and colonial histories. Far from being apolitical systems with inherent benefits of equality and progress, digital infrastructures (and social media platforms enmeshed in them) can perpetuate violence against marginalized people and work against their political, economic, and social interests. Yet, I also strike a note of cautious optimism: while digital infrastructures can not resolve social inequalities, they have been powerfully leveraged by marginalized people in movements for social and racial justice. In taking a postcolonial approach to digital humanities, I ask how digital humanities scholars can become community partners and advocates in not only shaping infrastructural development but also participating in existing movements for social and racial justice in our communities.