Since it made its first appearance in mainland China at the end of 2019, the COVID-19 virus has rapidly spread across continents. It is the first global health emergency to intersect the datafied society—a techno-social order modelled on the systematic data collection and analysis about people and processes. This talk starts interrogating this novel hybrid terrain, exploring the main challenges it brings about and reflecting on how they may affect liberal democracies in particular. It identifies a number of risks associated with the datafied society that the pandemic has forcefully brought under the spotlight, such as the surge of unquestioning positivism and the normalization of surveillance. It asks what consequences these developments might have on political agency in particular. Finally, it exposes the novel forms of divide(s) the pandemic is making apparent, including invisibilized populations and emerging data divides.
Stefania Milan is Associate Professor of New Media and Digital Culture. Her research explores the interplay between digital technology and participation, and activism and social movements in particular, cyberspace governance, and data epistemologies. She is the Principal Investigator of the DATACTIVE project, funded through a Starting Grant of the European Research Council (Stg-2014-639379). She holds a PhD in Political and Social Sciences of the European University Institute, and a Master in Communication Sciences from the University of Padova, Italy. Prior to joining the University of Amsterdam, she worked at the Citizen Lab (University of Toronto), Tilburg University, Central European University, and the University of Lucerne, Switzerland, and the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies (European University Institute). In 2012, she founded the Data J Lab (currently inactive). Stefania is also Associate Professor (II) of Media Innovation at the University of Oslo, and a research associate at the Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology and Society (Tilburg University), the Internet Policy Observatory of Annenberg School of Communication (University of Pennsylvania), and the Center for Center for Media, Data and Society (Central European University). Stefania Milan is the author of Social Movements and Their Technologies: Wiring Social Change (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013; released in paperback in March 2016), and co-author of Media/Society (Sage, 2011). Her work has appeared in a variety of peer-reviewed journals, including Information, Communication & Society, the International Journal of Communication, Internet & Policy, the Internet Policy Review, Social Media + Society.