The Costs of Connection: how data is colonizing human life and appropriates it for capitalism

Hosted by the Department of Media and Communications

Online public event


Professor Nick Couldry

Professor Nick Couldry

Professor Ulises Ali Mejias

Professor Ulises Ali Mejias

Mutale Nkonde

Mutale Nkonde


Dr Bingchun Meng

Dr Bingchun Meng

Nick Couldry and Ulises Ali Mejias will discuss their book, The Costs of Connection: How Data Colonizes Human Life and Appropriates it for Capitalism.

Couldry and Mejias argue that the role of data in society needs to be grasped as not only a development of capitalism, but as the start of a new phase in human history that rivals in importance the emergence of historic colonialism. This new "data colonialism" is based not on the extraction of natural resources or labour, but on the appropriation of human life through data, paving the way for a further stage of capitalism. Today’s transformations of social life through data must therefore be grasped within the long historical arc of dispossession as both a new colonialism and an extension of capitalism. Resistance requires challenging in their new material guises forms of coloniality that decolonial thinking has foregrounded for centuries. The struggle will be both broader and longer than many analyses of algorithmic power suppose, but for that reason critical responses are all the more urgent. New forms of solidarity are needed that help build connection on different terms from those currently on offer.

Meet our speakers and chair

Nick Couldry (@couldrynick) is Professor of Media Communications and Social Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and from 2017 has been a Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.  He is the author or editor of fourteen books including The Mediated Construction of Reality (with Andreas Hepp, Polity, 2016), Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice (Polity 2012), Why Voice Matters (Sage 2010), and Media: Why It Matters (Polity: October 2019).

Ulises Ali Mejias (@UlisesAliMejias) is Professor of Communication Studies and director of the Institute for Global Engagement at the State University of New York, College at Oswego. He is a media scholar whose work encompasses critical internet studies, network theory and science, philosophy and sociology of technology, and political economy of digital media. He is the author of Off the Network: Disrupting the Digital World (University of Minnesota Press, 2013).

Mutale Nkonde (@mutalenkonde) is the founding CEO of AI For the People (AFP), a non-profit communications agency. Prior to this Mutale worked in AI Governance. During that time she was part of the team that introduced the Algorithmic and Deep Fakes Algorithmic Acts, as well as the No Biometric Barriers to Housing Act to the US House of Representatives. She started her career as a broadcast journalist and produced documentaries for the BBC, CNN & ABC. She now also writes widely on race and tech, as well as speaking at conferences across the world and currently is on a fellowship at the Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford and an affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center of Internet and Society at Harvard.

Bingchun Meng is an Associate Professor in the Department for Media and Communications at LSE. Her research interests include gender and the media, political economy of media industries, communication governance, and comparative media studies. She has published widely on these topic areas on leading international journals. Her book The Politics of Chinese Media: Consensus and Contestation was published by Palgrave in early 2018.

You can order the book, The Costs of Connection (UK delivery only), from our official LSE Events independent book shop, Pages of Hackney.

More about this event

The Department of Media and Communications (@MediaLSE) is a world-leading centre for education and research in communication and media studies at the heart of LSE’s academic community in central London. The Department is ranked #1 in the UK and #3 globally in the field of media and communications (2020 QS World University Rankings).

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A podcast of this event is available to download from The Costs of Connection: how data is colonizing human life and appropriates it for capitalism.

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