[CODATA-international] Digital Feudalism

Suchith Anand Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk
Wed Oct 23 04:53:09 EDT 2019

Are any list members attending RDA Plenary in Helsinki this week?

I came across RDA 14th Plenary - Unconference session on 24 October 2019 ( Thursday) at 15:00-18:30,  - part of the main RDA Plenary programme . Details at


It will be good opportunity to get inputs and ideas from more RDA colleagues to this discussion. If someone attending RDA Plenary can propose the topic on  Digital Feudalism at the unconference session , collate all ideas received back to  CODATA community maillist, it will help us to get more inputs/ideas from wider science community. Thanks.

Best wishes,


From: CODATA-international <codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org> on behalf of Suchith Anand <Suchith.Anand at nottingham.ac.uk>
Sent: 19 October 2019 15:56
To: codata-international at lists.codata.org <codata-international at lists.codata.org>
Subject: Re: [CODATA-international] Digital Feudalism

Thanks Mark for summarising and bringing together all key ideas from the discussions.  I will share this summary with wider science and data communities and request those interested to share ideas/inputs to join CODATA maillists and share their inputs, so we are able to collate all information for the International Science Council's initiative.

Digital Feudalism is going to affect everyone in our planet, so it is important  there are policy and frameworks to reduce Digital Feudalism. I think it is important to get opinions from all different perspectives to help us understand more - from scientists perspective, student perspective, educator perspective,  billionaire vendor owner perspective, government perspective, SME perspective, startups perspective, Parents perspective etc.

I came across two articles



So how can we contribute to develop policy frameworks to help reduce Digital Feudalism?

Sharing ideas helps us to develop collective wisdom to solve complex problems. I am grateful to everyone who contributed their ideas and inputs.

Best wishes,


From: CODATA-international <codata-international-bounces at lists.codata.org> on behalf of Parsons, Mark <parsom3 at rpi.edu>
Sent: 18 October 2019 01:52
To: codata-international at lists.codata.org <codata-international at lists.codata.org>
Subject: Re: [CODATA-international] Digital Feudalism

Wow! Thank you Suchith for inspiring such a wave of thoughtful conversation.

It seems that there are (at least) two major issues being discussed here. The first is the surveillance capitalism, rent seeking from personal information, and platform monopolization encountered in the "digital feudalism” discussed in the original Mazucatto article that Suchith shared. The second is the issue of “digital colonialism” where the privileged North extracts information from and exploits the marginalized South.

On the first issue, feudalism, I agree with Alberto and Falk, that we may be well served by revisiting Marx (with critique). I would also suggest that feminist theory can provide some insight here. Along those lines, I point you to a recent paper - Information Maintenance as a Practice of Care<https://doi.org/10.5281/zenodo.3236409> - and the community called The Maintainers<http://themaintaners.org/> who seek to address power imbalance and promote the practice of maintaining and repairing beneficent systems while disrupting nefarious (feudalistic) systems.

On the second issue, colonialism, I agree with Kassim, Fraser, Ross and others that building relationships and trust is key. A resource that can guide some of this has recently been released by the RDA Indigenous Data Sovereignty Group - the CARE Principles for Indigenous Data Governance.<https://www.gida-global.org/> Be FAIR and CARE!

Where the two issues come together could be really troubling. We already see Google and Facebook working to provide “free” internet or cloud services to developing countries. That should worry us all and I think it gets to Suchith’s initial concerns about equitable access and use of GIS.

Geoffrey, I’m pleased ISC is looking to tackle some of these issues. I would be interested in helping. I’m less pleased about the term 'data governance', but I think I understand the intent. I think the first question then needs to be *what* are we seeking to govern and why. I think Bob makes a really good point about the need to coordinate all the groups and initiatives, but Jean-Claude is right that we need to consider the data as a resource itself (although certainly not in an oligarchic, resource-exploitation model like OPEC). Falk wisely counsels us to be careful of noble aspirations mistakenly working within malign systems. Personally, I don’t see ’neoliberalism’ and ‘capitalism’ as malign systems per se, but there sure are some malign interpretations and implementations.

Finally, I can’t help but note that many of these issues would make excellent topics for CODATA’s Data Science Journal<https://datascience.codata.org/> :-).



Mark A. Parsons
Senior Research Scientist
Tetherless World Constellation
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
 +1 303 941 9986
1550 Linden Ave., Boulder CO 80304, USA

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