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Digital Exclusion: A Politics of Refusal for a Data-Driven Era

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Tellef S. Raabe.

Over the past few decades, the term “digital exclusion” has been linked to debates about access to internet infrastructures, adoption of internet-enabled technologies, and conditions of social and economic marginalization and historic forms of oppression. More recently, considerations of privacy and surveillance as well as political economic factors impacting processes of social and economic marginalization are adding to these debates. Taken together, these exclusionary problems amount to what Iris Marion Young (2002) referred to as “plausible structural story” (p. 15) of the disadvantage faced by marginalized communities when choosing to use or engage with technology.

But do these harmful accounts of exclusion obscure the agentic possibilities of self-exclusion in technologically mediated society? In this presentation, I reevaluate the idea of digital exclusion as a form of refusal of technologies’ seemingly inevitable uses and ends. Refusal does not mean anti-technology or imply wholesale rejection of digital devices, internet infrastructures, or internet-based technologies. Instead, grounding the discussion in postcolonial and feminist political theories and in field research focused on Our Data Bodies, I argue that a politics of refusal represents an affirmative take on exclusion. Refusal demands a critical analysis of historically negligent or harmful technology policies, practices, and institutions as a means for individuals and groups, especially members of historically marginalized groups—to collectively self-determine a technologically mediated world in which they wish to belong.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Technology & New Media Research Cluster series.

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