Digital Geographies

From copper mining to data extractivism? Data worth making at Chile’s Data Observatory Foundation

The public–private initiative Data Observatory Foundation was created to make large databases, such as those of astronomical observatories, available to expand and transfer of so-called “data-centric tasks” to various domains and thereby boost the development of the digital economy, data science and artificial intelligence in the country. However, in this article, we argue that data-centric initiatives like the Data Observatory Foundation may prove to be defuturing or enacting exhausted futures that reproduce the historical extractivism and coloniality of power in Latin America. Through a qualitative case study, we analyze the narrative and economic technologies of justification deployed by the Data Observatory Foundation to justify the value of its data and the organization itself. We discuss how the narratives and economic relationships developed by the Data Observatory Foundation manifest national wounds and technological dependency that enact a data-centric coloniality. Whether by attempting to define data as the copper of the future or establishing cloud computing credits as new salary tokens in the development of artificial intelligence, the Data Observatory Foundation reproduces past mentalities within innovation circuits. Rather than replicating futures based on modern colonial extractivist logics, we propose expanding possible engagements with data and speculating alternative designs.

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Volume 41 Issue 3

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