Decoloniality & The Digital: Confronting Techno-Seduction in the Digital Humanities
Techno-seduction is a theoretical framework I’ve developed to better understand the ways in which scholars and activists come to be seduced by the false promises of technological determinism. In “Digital is Dead: Techno-Seduction at the Colonial Difference, From Zapatismo to Occupy Wall Street,” I draw from the work of decolonial theorists to argue that the digital functions as a colonial identity construction that advances the logic of technological determinism and, thereby, technocratic capitalism. I look to recent social movements in order to examine their treatment of digital technologies, and I find that the sustainability of these social movements correlates quite convincingly with the methods by which they choose (not) to incorporate these technologies into their organizational frameworks.
The issue becomes concerned with velocity. In a capitalist framework, time is monetized to the extent that it nearly becomes synonymous with capital. And, especially considering the continued neoliberalization of university systems, we know academia lies not outside of this relationship, but wedged somewhere within it. The busier we stay—because time is money and a large part of our job as academics is to spend our time chasing money—the less we strategize our own tactics. The more we lift up aimless conceptions of “practice,” the deeper theory gets cast into the shadow of colonialism.
As I read more decolonial theory, which, at its heart, is often concerned with capitalist globalization, I am struck by how infrequently the digital—as an identity, as a series of devices, or as anything else—takes center stage. Does this suggest a level of disinterest on behalf of those interested in decoloniality? Perhaps, but I think there are clearly better, fuller explanations to be laid out, and this is the point of inquiry I wish to pursue more in-depth as the academic year rolls on.
Part of my job as a CHI Fellow this year is to build a digital project concerned both with history and culture, yet I view any such project as also necessitating self-reflexivity in a way that confronts the project’s own treatment of the relationship between the digital and the unique cultural context from which its content emerges. In short, context matters; subjectivity matters. These are hardly unprecedented or profound statements to make, for many reasons, but also because decolonial and postcolonial theorists have been centering subjectivity in their work for decades. And this, I think, is one reason why many decolonial theorists have resisted the temptation of centering the digital in our work, why we may have seemed “slow” in joining conversations concerning the Digital Humanities: because the digital presents a framework not nearly as revolutionary as technological determinists seem to think it does.