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An essay written by Ramon Amaro for his talk at Het Nieuwe Instituut on the Thursday Night Live! series about Decolonising Design.

I’d like to point out that these examples remain within the field of representation, where a problematic is generated, as Deleuze would argue, when a logic of discreetness (in these terms, data) remain indifferent to their relational contexts. This type of design ‘thinking’ is vulnerable to fixing relationships into finite understandings and equivocal conceptions of being(23). To critically understand the interaction between humans and data is an attempt to reveal racisms and other violences, as well as return to the relationships that comprise of their social circumstances. Ultimately, what I wish to articulate is that data-driven technologies do not just represent identity, they shift and supplant logics of governance to recialise and re-inser t power over certain individuals.

It would do us well to consider what a process of decolonisation might mean in this context. To do so would first necessitate a critical look at our reliance on reason, generalisation and calculation as a means of understanding the world. However, it would also require alternative frameworks of resistance that mark new methods of governance and power. In as much as data is a continuation of a historical logics of practice, as Luciana Parisi asser ts, attention must turn to the 'use-meaning' of data in order to fully articulate the meanings that are embedded in collective practices(24). To do so is to advocate for a more expansive distribution of knowledge through a logics that can detangle reasoning from its naturalised forms. In other words, we must ask ourselves what hypothetical conditions are necessary to divorce ourselves form the primacy of data and instead enter into a design space that can unravel tendencies towards generalisation and preemption in favour of a new, more contingent relationship with the digital — a relationship that can decolonise and bring life back into the autonomy of being.


1 Rob Kitchin, The Data Revolution.

2 Rob Kitchin, The Data Revolution, 113.

3 Ian H. Witten, et. al., Data mining: practical machine learning tools and techniques.

4 ibid.

5 Rob Kitchin, The Data Revolution, 179.

6 P Langley, “Toward a unified science of machine learning,” in Machine Learning, vol. 3, 253–259.

7 P Langley, “Toward a unified science of machine learning,” in Machine Learning, vol. 3, 278.

8 Gareth James, et. al., An Introduction to Statistical Learning: With Applications in R.

9 Susan Schuppli,“Deadly Algorithms,” at AUTONOMY / AUTOMATION. Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL.

10 Fox D. Harrell, “Algebra of Identity: Skin of Wind, Skin of Streams, Skin of Shadows, Skin of Vapor.”

11 Lisa Gitelman and Virginia Jackson, “Introduction” in ‘Raw Data’ Is an Oxymoron.

12 Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, 210.

13 Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 32.

14 Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 84.

15 Frantz Fanon, A Dying Colonialism, 97.

16 Paul Gilroy, Against race: Imagining political culture beyond the color line, 36.

17 Paul Gilroy, Against race: Imagining political culture beyond the color line.

18 Miriam Sweeney, “Not just a pretty (inter)face: A critical analysis of Microsoft’s ‘Ms. Dewey’.”

19 Latanya Sweeney, “Discrimination in Online Ad Delivery,” in Queue, vol. 11, no. 3.

20 Thomas G. Dietterich, “Learning at the Knowledge Level.”

21Anti-surveillance clothing aims to hide wearers from facial recognition, available at 04/anti-surveillance-clothing-facial-recognition-hyperface

22 Mahmood Sharif, et. al., “Accessorize to a Crime: Real and Stealthy Attacks on State-of-the-Art Face Recognition,” accessed at https://

23 Henry Somers-Hall, Hegel, Deleuze, and the Critique of Representation, 3.

24 Luciana Parisi, “Automated Design and Computational Reason.”

Thursday Night at Het Nieuwe Instituut
Luca Napoli

Thursday Night Live! is a weekly programme of lectures, screenings and discussions on architecture, design and digital culture. Developments and critical insights are discussed by thinkers, designers and makers from the Netherlands and abroad.