Governing the Future through Globalized Data Infrastructures

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Second session of the cycle “Ethics of Technologies and Infrastructures of Development”

  • Speaker 1Poornima Paidipaty, Lecturer in Comparative Political Economy, King’s College London


My work explores the history, sociology and politics of data and quantification. My latest research investigates the emergence of large-scale economic sampling in midcentury India, as part of a larger Nehruvian planning apparatus developed in the wake of decolonisation and Partition. This work explores the politics of economic inclusion by charting experiments in the construction of representative samples.


Poornima Paidipaty is a Lecturer in Comparative Political Economy at King’s College London. Prior to this, she was an LSE Fellow in Inequalities at the London School of Economics and Political Science, a Philomathia Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and a Harper-Schimdt Fellow in the Society of Fellows at the University of Chicago. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Columbia University. Her work examines the intersections of decolonisation, governance and modern social science in India.


  • Speaker 2: Antonia Walford, Lecturer in Digital Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University College London

Title: Globes, Planets, Territories: scaling the post-environmental condition


In this talk, responding to the title of the event, I explore what the 'scales' of contemporary environmental data infrastructures might be - spatial, temporal, and otherwise. I will sketch out what I have called the ‘post-environmental condition’ - drawing on Jenny Reardon’s diagnosis of a ‘post-genomic condition’ - in which we see a significant acceleration in the datafication of the environment: modelling data, remote sensing data, terrestrial and maritime sensor data, local environmental monitoring systems, citizen science data projects, are being ‘joined up’ through international databasing initiatives that claim to go beyond territorial and epistemological borders; Big Tech promises “AI for Earth” and the “Planetary Computer”, framing the earth as one global data and AI network. What is the right scale to critically approach these emerging, planetary data landscapes? Starting with some so-called “local” ethnographic work with data infrastructures, data technicians, and scientific researchers in the Brazilian Amazon, in this paper I investigate what the notion of scale means, and does, in such emergent data imaginaries. What scalar effects do we need to be sensitive to, as new horizons are presented, and old concerns slip from view; as aspirations for open data come up against complex geometries of appropriation; or as environmental futures are unfolded as if untethered to past violences? Are such terms as local and global, past and future, up to the task of describing the temporal and spatial configurations that seem to characterise this post-environmental condition?


Antonia Walford is a Lecturer in Digital Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology at University College London. She holds a PhD in the Anthropology of Science/STS from the University of Copenhagen (2013) and an MA in Social Anthropology from the Museu Nacional, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (2008). Her research explores the effects of the exponential growth of digital data on social and cultural imaginaries and practices

  • When ?

Friday 18 March 2022 from 2:00 pm until 4:00 pm on Teams

Free and mandatory registration: (registration deadline, Thursday, March 17 at 4:00 pm)


Photo caption : Meteorological tower, in 2010, maintained by the Large-Scale Biosphere Atmosphere Experiement in Amazonia, taken by Antonia Walford on her fieldwork.