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Watch lecture Nick Couldry: The Emerging Social Order of Data Colonialism

On 12 June the Datafied Society and the Centre for Humanities hosted the lecture The Emerging Social Order of Data Colonialism: Why Critical Social Theory Still Matters! with Prof. Nick Couldry (London School of Economics and Political Science). The event was moderated by Prof. José van Dijck. Repondents were Prof. mr. Janneke Gerards, Dr Koen Leurs and Prof.dr. Frederik Borgesius.

This lecture explored the question of social order, and in particular the social order of our lives with data. This theme is the connection between Couldry’s previous books (including Media Society World and The Mediated Construction of Reality) and the book he has recently completed with Ulises Mejias: The Costs of Connection.

Social order

Drawing on the work of Norbert Elias, Couldry explained how the concept of social order is the most useful way of approaching the current transformations of the social world, but that in thinking about order, social theory must also hold onto a human and ethical perspective, in considering the consequences of a new social order for everyday life.

Data colonialism

From this starting-point, he moved on to outline an analysis of what is going on with Big Data today, and made the argument, developed in The Costs of Connection, that we are entering a new phase of data colonialism. The term ‘data colonialism’ highlights the appropriation at the heart of the emerging social order, which is based on the extraction of human life by capital through the processing of data for economic value. In this main part of the talk, links were made to the social theory of Karl Marx, as well as to postcolonial and decolonial theory. Who stands to gain from the new social order of data colonialism? In what ways does it compare with the opening of historic colonialism? What are the implications for a critical legal approach to data extraction and use?