Digital Infrastructures and Technoutopian Fantasies

My book chapter “Digital Infrastructures and Technoutopian Fantasies: The Colonial Roots of Technology Aid in the Global South” was published in Exploring Digital Humanities in India Pedagogies, Practices, and Institutional Possibilities, an edited collection by Maya Dodd and Nidhi Kalra.

My chapter explores Facebook’s unsuccessful attempt at offering the Free Basics initiative in India and examines the colonial paradigms about modernization, progress, and equality evoked by this initiative. I show how Facebook’s technoutopian promises about the affordances of (digital) technologies, particularly claims about equality, opportunities, and rights, predate the digital era and are reminiscent of British colonial discourse about Western modernity.

(If you would like to read the chapter but don’t have access to the book, please send me a message.)

Anti-Racist Feminist Digital Humanities

Anne Cong-Huyen and I are co-teaching a course on “Anti-Racist Feminist Digital Humanities” at HILT2020 at the University of Nebraska from 18-22 May 2020. Student scholarships are available.

Course Description

In the last few years, we have seen a resurgence of minority activisms, ranging from Black Lives Matter to the Me Too movement, from Standing Rock to Puerto Rico, even as white supremacist and xenophobic ideologies and policies have flourished. When silence can be tantamount to complicity, what is our responsibility as academics and what can digital humanities offer in this era of renewed political activism?

This course takes a historically grounded approached to apply anti-racist feminist praxis to digital humanities. Focusing particularly on labor, infrastructure, methods, and pedagogy, we will interrogate the silences and gaps in digital humanities as well as work to adopt and embed anti-racist praxis in our digital humanities work. These are some of our guiding questions our course will take: What can digital humanities practitioners learn from past and current liberation movements? How do we build and support anti-racist feminist movements and networks in our digital humanities work? How can digital humanities pursue community accountability and advocacy?

This is an introductory course and we will begin with foundational scholarship on anti-racist praxis as well as the disciplinary critique of digital humanities by #transformDH and #DHpoco. No prior coding experience is needed and readings will be provided. As scholars and librarians with backgrounds in Asian American studies and community organizing, we center scholarship and knowledge production from Black, Indigenous, Brown, and Global South scholars and activists. Each day will combine conversation and dialogue with hands-on activities. The goal of this course is to enable participants to reflect on and implement anti-racist praxis in their own scholarship, methodology, pedagogy, and labor practices. This course will be taught using Emergent Strategy & Anti-Oppressive Facilitation methods, practices drawn from community organizing that build care into their processes.

Participants will collaboratively build a guide and bibliography for anti-racist feminist digital humanities, with the intent of future peer review and publication.

Professionalization Workshop: Building a digital presence with WordPress

Graduate students who are interested in building a professional WordPress website are invited to attend this workshop on May 8, from 1pm-3pm in the Spencer Museum of Art. By the end of the workshop, participants will have set up their own website, and added a few key pages to highlight their research, teaching, and/or professional activities.

No prior web development skills are required. Registration for this workshop will be capped so please email workshop facilitator, Dhanashree Thorat (IDRH Postdoc), at dthorat[at]ku[dot]edu to register.

Data and Social Justice Workshop

Data and Social Justice Workshop
April 24th, 5:30pm at the University of Indianapolis

This hands-on workshop will introduce participants to the process of scraping Twitter and Facebook data for research. We will also examine two pre-collected datasets to understand what kind of data is collected by these tools, the politics of the social media platforms, and the kinds of Humanities questions we can ask of social media data. This workshop will have a particular focus on data related to social and racial justice as we have seen a resurgence of social justice movements in digital spaces in the last decade and there has been substantial scholarly interest in studying digital culture. Our conversation will also consider the ethical concerns regarding data collection, especially data related to political activisms. No prior technical skills are expected, and the workshop is open to all interested participants.

Thanks to Eduard Arriaga for inviting me for this!

Indy workshop

Decolonizing Data Regimes

Thanks to Kimberly Takahata and Alex Gil for inviting me!

Friday, April 19th
4pm in Studio Butler (208b)
Columbia University Libraries

Decolonizing Data Regimes
In this age of datafication, the quantification of human bodies, behaviors, and interactions has raised myriad concerns about ethics and privacy. My talk takes a media archaeological approach to sift through those prehistories which have shaped our contemporary digital landscape. Specifically, I historicize trends toward datafication in the context of colonial communication networks in the Global South. The data regimes we see today are premised upon a colonial geography and a colonial rhetoric of technomodernity, and to decolonize digital platforms we must take a long historical view on data ethics grounded in the Global South. My talk articulates some of these possibilities for postcolonial data interventions for digital infrastructures.

columbia talk

Keynote Talk at Network Detroit 2018

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.

Slides_Digital Infrastructures and Communities in Resistance