Decolonising Computing (?)

On 8th September ay 17.00 (UK time), via Teams (link) we host a keynote presentation by Syed Mustafa Ali (Open University), as part of the annual ACI Research and Enterprise conference at LSBU.  

Does computing need to be decolonised, and if so, how should such decolonisation be effected? Isn’t it somewhat of a stretch to describe computing as colonial, especially since colonialism as a phenomenon tied up with imperial structures of domination and settlement is a thing of the past? How can computing be colonial if the ‘age of empires’ is over, and we live in a postcolonial world? 

In this talk, I will argue that computing is colonial in some sense because, as a modern phenomenon, it is founded upon, and continues to embody aspects of, colonialism. While I concede that the relationship between computing and colonialism is historically contingent, and that it is in principle possible to disarticulate computing from colonialism, I maintain that it is unlikely that such disarticulation is likely to happen any time soon; on the contrary, I suggest that contemporary developments within computing and related fields point to an intensification of the ‘colonial impulse’ within mainstream computing, and point to some possibilities for resisting such developments. 

Dr Syed Mustafa Ali is Lecturer and convenor of the Critical Information Studies (CIS) research group in the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University. His transdisciplinary research focuses on developing a hermeneutic framework grounded in Heideggerian phenomenology, critical race theory and postcolonial/decolonial thought, and using this framework to explore how race, religion, politics and ethics are ‘entangled’ with various technological (more specifically, ICT) phenomena. In this connection, he has published work in the area of Decolonial Computing and Algorithmic racism, interrogating Trans-/Posthumanism, the discourse of ‘Big Data’ and internet governance.