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Diversity and Neocolonialism in Big Data Research: Avoiding Extractivism while Struggling with Paternalism

Publication Type : Journal Article

Publisher : SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England

Source : Big Data & Society

Url :

Campus : Amritapuri

Center : Amrita Mind Brain Center

Year : 2023

Abstract : The extractive logic of Big Data-driven technology and knowledge production has raised serious concerns. While most criticism initially focused on the impacts on Western societies, attention is now increasingly turning to the consequences for communities in the Global South. To date, debates have focused on private-sector activities. In this article, we start from the conviction that publicly funded knowledge and technology production must also be scrutinized for their potential neocolonial entanglements. To this end, we analyze the dynamics of collaboration in an European Union-funded research project that collects data for developing a social platform focused on diversity. The project includes pilot sites in China, Denmark, the United Kingdom, India, Italy, Mexico, Mongolia, and Paraguay. We present the experience at four field sites and reflect on the project’s initial conception, our collaboration, challenges, progress, and results. We then analyze the different experiences in comparison. We conclude that while we have succeeded in finding viable strategies to avoid contributing to the dynamics of unilateral data extraction as one side of the neocolonial circle, it has been infinitely more difficult to break through the much more subtle but no less powerful mechanisms of paternalism that we find to be prevalent in data-driven North–South relations. These mechanisms, however, can be identified as the other side of the neocolonial circle.

Cite this Research Publication : Helm, P., de Götzen, A., Cernuzzi, L., Hume, A., Diwakar, S., Ruiz Correa, S., & Gatica-Perez, D. (2023). Diversity and neocolonialism in Big Data research: Avoiding extractivism while struggling with paternalism. Big Data & Society, 10(2). 

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