skip to content

Histories of Artificial Intelligence: A Genealogy of Power


Data Colonialism

Time: Wednesday April 21 @ 15:00-17:00 BST

Co-facilitated by: Richard Staley (University of Cambridge) and Mustafa Ali (Open University)


Ulises Ali Mejias questions how we might begin to rethink the logic of the digital network and question its ascendancy. In Off the Network (2013) and with Nick Couldry in The Costs of Connection (2019), Mejias raises the alarm about how the opportunity to 'connect' through digital means enables corporations to encode human behaviors surreptitiously. The latter book characterizes this phenomenon as foreshadowing the creation of a new social order, 'data colonialism,' that gives these organisations control over our ways of knowing, our means of production and our political participation. Colonialism might seem like a thing of the past, Mejias argues, but the historic appropriation of land, bodies, and natural resources is mirrored today in this new era of pervasive datafication. In response, Mejias calls to decolonize the internet and emancipate our desire for connection. We interrogate this analysis and call to action.

Assigned Readings:

  • Couldry, Nick, and Ulises A. Mejias. ‘Data Colonialism: Rethinking Big Data’s Relation to the Contemporary Subject’. Television & New Media, 2 September 2018.
  • Couldry, Nick, and Ulises Ali Mejias. ‘The Coloniality of Data Relations’. In The Costs of Connection: How Data Is Colonizing Human Life and Appropriating It for Capitalism, 83–112. Culture and Economic Life. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2019.
  • Mejias, Ulises Ali. Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World. Electronic Mediations, Volume 41. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013. [*Excerpts from.]
  • ‘Requerimiento’, 1510. American Beginnings: The European Presence in North America, 1492-1690. National Humanities Center Resource Toolbox.

Suggested Readings:

  • Harris, Steven J. ‘Long-Distance Corporations, Big Sciences, and the Geography of Knowledge’. Configurations 6, no. 2 (1998): 269–304.
  • Quijano, Anibal. ‘Colonialidad Del Poder y Clasi? Cacion Social’. Journal of World-Systems Research, 26 August 2000, 342–86. [*Please email us at the address given above for a version in English]

Join our Mailing List!

To receive further information on all our activities (and learn their online coordinates), please subscribe to the HoAI mailing list.

Email us at:

Join our Slack Channel!

To participate in conversations with scholars on topics related to your interests, please join our HoAI Slack Channel.