DataSyn is a free monthly newsletter from IT for Change providing concise and relevant analysis on all matters concerning Big Tech. Building on our strong tradition of deep research and policy engagement on the digital economy with a focus on the Global South, DataSyn delivers quality analysis in bite sized content to your inbox every month.
In an era where Big Tech has become the epochal problem, the spirit behind DataSyn is one of cautious aspiration, critical nuance, and despite everything...a relentless optimism about the digital being a means of equitable development.
Our (only somewhat) namesake, Project Cybersyn, was a 70s public technology initiative in Chile under Salvador Allende. Cybersyn was ahead of its time in encapsulating a powerful idea – that digital innovation could synergize the efficiencies of computing for an equitable and free society. In times when we are deeply aware of how state-controlled data can become a site of authoritarianism, we ironically think back to this short-lived, imperfect experiment to remind ourselves of how, even as we rightly fear the concentration of digital power in the hands of market or state, there remains the imperative to preserving a public, development-oriented role for technology.
Why Web 3.0 can be a hard pill to swallow
This month on DataSyn, we engage with the Web 3.0 discourse and unpack how the narratives of subversion and alternatives have been coopted to brand and promote highly speculative but ultimately status-quoist ventures. How do we rescue and revitalize the genuine promise of people-centered alternatives? Experiments in community-based data-stewardship from Latin America provide a cautious pathway of hope.
The tech takeover isn’t coming, it’s already here
As the forces of data, artificial intelligence, and rapidly proliferating frontier technology are moving swiftly to reorganize the foundations of our socio-economic life, the struggle to secure democratic control, equity, and public value within the emergent digitized landscape grow apace. This month, DataSyn brings you two pieces pitched on the frontiers of this struggle: first, an exploration of Big Tech ownership structures lending context to the recent commotion around the twitter takeover, and second, a critical engagement with the worrying trends in the digitalization of our food systems.
May Day: Labor's moment is here!
Commemorating the hard-fought struggles of workers in the platform economy, in this MayDay special issue, Datasyn brings you a confluence of key voices from around the world to analyze the wider politico-economic conjunctures of labor in the digital economy, as well as a reflection - drawing on our own past work, and insights from comrades - on the prevailing faultlines and issues within the movement.
The Murky Truth About Fintech Panaceas
As investors and global development organizations continue to sing its praises, this month in Datasyn, we explore the undercurrents of the rising fintech wave. We examine up close the regulatory blind spots that have allowed some of the sector’s most predatory avatars to flourish. We also probe the concerning modes of governmentality and developmental solutionism, within which key financial infrastructure in welfare is being surrendered to the hands of private actors, at great risks to citizen rights.
Can Competition Law Call Out the Monopoly's New Clothes?
In this issue of DataSyn, we explore the realm of competition law, and the complex challenges surrounding its application in an economic landscape that is a far cry from the industrial-era materiality within which its original principles were conceived. For our first piece, Shreeja Sen explores, if and how competition frameworks can move beyond market efficiency considerations to truly grapple with Big Tech’s data power and center the goal of market fairness. The issue also includes Burcu Kilic’s reflection on last year’s infamous move by Facebook in Turkey to enforce data sharing with messaging platform, WhatsApp, and the unexpected way in which it propelled effective antitrust action.
The Davos 2022 Roundup
In this special issue of DataSyn, we analyze the recently concluded World Economic Forum (WEF) taking into account its historical influence, emerging schemas in the Davos agenda, and alternative imaginaries that help reclaim our collective digital futures. This includes a historical and critical perspective of the multistakeholderism model that has come to define economic relations and contemporary digital discourse by Anita Gurumurthy. For our second piece, Kean Birch unravels the profound human cost of the assetization of daily life in the service of global capital, for the urgency of political will to stop the juggernaut in its tracks "because it's about who gets to own the future and how they do so." For our final piece, the DataSyn team spent the week tracking Davos to bring you a sharp and timely rejoinder to the clamor of unchecked corporate power.
2021 versus Big Tech: A Year in Review
For this special, year-end issue, the DataSyn Team reached out to 21 powerful voices from around the world, across domains of research, activism, and advocacy to capture the pulse of change in the battle against Big Tech. Reflecting on the year that was, the team also put together an illustrative essay chronicling stories of resistance against Big Tech over the past year. The issue also includes a fun smorgasbord of reading and media recommendations on technology, hand-picked by our experts that you can peruse through and savor for weeks.
From Sea to Cloud, a Cartography of Big Tech Control
This issue maps the Big Tech's appropriation of the material infrastructure of the internet, and the attendant policy implications such wholesale capture entails. We also examine the challenges of organizing in the platform economy, and how women workers are meeting the challenge under a new regime of the Deleuzian society of control dictated by dominant platforms.
Will Chinese Medicine Cure Big Tech excess?
The debut issue of DataSyn breaks ground by tracing the response of the Chinese state to homegrown Big Tech, drawing lessons for how to go beyond the Westphalian regulatory playbook. We also analyze worker-led platform initiatives and take a reality check on the pathway for alternatives.
This initiative is supported under the Fair, Green and Global Alliance.