Territories of data: ontological divergences in the growth of data infrastructure (2022)

The construction of astronomical observatories in the Atacama Desert has prompted different actors in Chile to envision initiatives for promoting the expansion of data infrastructure. While such projects are usually seen as synonymous with development, Lickan Antay Indigenous activists affected by the construction of an observatory consider this situation the beginning of a new chapter in their history of territorial struggle. Building upon political ontology, this article argues that the growth of data infrastructures can underpin ontological divergences concerning the territory, i.e. what territory is and its relation with other entities.

To do so, it compares two divergent ontologies of territory emerging in the Chilean context. While the Natural Laboratories policy and the Datagonia project transform the territory into a source of economic resources affording opportunities for developing data infrastructure (assetized ontology of territory), Lickan Antay activists conceive of territory as a unitary whole made up by human and other-than-human interdependencies (relational ontology of territory). Based on a discursive-material analysis of interviews and documents, this article delves into the ontological dimension of data colonialism and proposes an infrastructural regime that does not reproduce terricide and is aligned with the flourishing of multiple worlds.

Lehuedé, S. (2022). Territories of Data: Ontological Divergences in the Growth of Data Infrastructure. Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society