In this paper, Katarzyna Cieslik and Daniel Margocsy use historical examples to show how resource and personal data were extracted, accumulated and commodified by colonial empires, national governments and trade organizations, and argue that similar extractive processes are a present-day threat in the Global South. The decoupling of earlier and current datafication processes obscures the underlying, complex power dynamics of datafication. The historical perspective shows how, once aggregated, data may become imperishable and can be appropriated for problematic purposes in the long run by both public and private entities. Using historical case studies, the paper challenges the current regulatory approaches that view data as a commodity and frame it instead as a mobile, non-perishable, yet ideally inalienable right of people.

Download open access paper here: Cieslik, K., Margocsy, D. (2022). Rule by Data: Datafication, Power and Control in the Development Project.  Progress in Development Studies.

Social Science Research for the 21st Century - Progress through Partnership