Blog Post

Datafication of borders and migration (webinar recording)

This May 2023 CERC in Migration and Integration workshop brought together scholars from different disciplines to introduce their research on digital technologies and datafication in migration and to discuss its ambivalent and contradictory role for migrants compared to refugees, as well as the unsettling consequences of the use of datafication in bordering and policymaking.

Digital technologies and datafied systems are increasingly used to surveil, control and manage migration, shifting the balance in the humanitarianism-securitization nexus. New automated systems from facial recognition to language detection have profoundly intensified and changed migration and border policies. Data driven technologies have rendered borders ubiquitous, multi-layered and mundane: the outside border control has become increasingly mobile, now travelling with and tracking migrated bodies after border crossings.

Datafication is often framed as a phenomenon that concerns everyone: in a highly networked digital world, datafication cannot be escaped. However, datafication does not treat everyone in the same way. Critical data studies have highlighted that automated social sorting is often based on categorizations and assumptions that echo existing social biases and historical power structures, as well as pervasive and accumulative surveillance of the already marginalized. While at the same time, data driven technologies also provide systems that support new forms of resistance and activism for people who are seeking asylum or who are on the move.  

Presenters (with links to research abstracts):

Datafication and borders

Chair: Younes Ahouga, CERC Migration, Toronto Metropolitan University

  • Deterrence and ignorance: agnotology at the border | Rine Vieth, Independent scholar Abstract
  • Varieties of failure in the datafication of international borders | Philippe M. Frowd, University of Ottawa, and Benjamin J. Muller, King's University College at Western University Abstract
  • The datafication of anti-trafficking: border securitization, automation, and the politics of ‘rescue’ | Rob Heynen, York University Abstract
  • Humanitarian experimentation with predictive technologies | Alphoncina Lyamuya, University of Southern California Abstract
  • Voice biometrics and the value of the sounding voice at the border | Daniel Leix Palumbo, University of Groningen Abstract

The history of datafication at the borders   

Chair: Koen Leurs, Utrecht University

  • Industrializing migration management in Canada and its implications for automated decision making | Nicholas Lee-Scott, Independent scholar Abstract
  • Smart Ellis Island? Tracing techniques of automated border governance | Philipp Seuferling, London School of Economics and Political Science Abstract

Datafication and the agency of refugees and migrants

Chair: Kaarina Nikunen, Tampere University

  • Coded as criminal: gang databases, border technologies, and colonial subjectivity | Michael Lechuga, University of New Mexico, and Sergio F. Juárez, Loyola Marymount University  Abstract
  • Digital refugees? Displaced youth’s lives in and against the digital border | Myria Georgiou, London School of Economics and Political Science Abstract
  • Datafication and digital witnessing infrastructure | Saskia Witteborn, Chinese University of Hong Kong Abstract

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