49. Earth, Body, Soul: Theorizing the Digital from Mineral Extraction to Data Colonialism
victoria bernal, UCI; katrien pype, KU Leuven;
This panel invites papers that theorize the various harmful effects of digital capitalism and the ways diverse communities have responded to them. By 'earth' we refer to the extraction of rare minerals and the devastating effects of data centers and cryptocurrency on the climate, by 'body' we refer to systems of biometrics and facial recognition, by 'soul' we refer to the ways data is extracted about people's lives through cookies, and other methods of tracking social networks, behavior, interests, and preferences. While bitcoin mining and data mining emply the metaphor of mining, we use digital extraction as a conceptual tool for exposing and analyzing the extensive, often hidden harms of digital capitalism as it works on the earth, our bodies, and our souls. We hope to bring together research that addresses various practices of exploitation and experiences of inequality, while revealing new, creative responses to digital extraction in varous parts of the world. This panel, first, wants to bring together scholars who critically address the often obscured realities of pain, suffering, and alienation that undergird the material and institutional infrastructures of our digital era. Second, we ask panelists to be attentive to the new kinds of solidarities that emerge in different collectivities. How do these solidarities lead to new (or renew) engagements with human and nonhuman others? The panel thus will further our understanding of 'connectivity' in the digital era, by exploring hidden, malignant, exploitative, but also activist, future-oriented, and hopeful connections.