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Towards a Terrestrial Internet: re-imagining digital networks from the ground up

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Towards a Terrestrial Internet: re-imagining digital
networks from the ground up
Marcela Suárez Estrada & Sebastián Lehuedé
To cite this article: Marcela Suárez Estrada & Sebastián Lehuedé (2022): Towards a Terrestrial
Internet: re-imagining digital networks from the ground up, Tapuya: Latin American Science,
Technology and Society, DOI: 10.1080/25729861.2022.2139913
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/25729861.2022.2139913
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THEMATIC CLUSTER: THE POLITICS OF DATA IN LATIN
AMERICA: TOWARDS A TERRESTRIAL INTERNET
Towards a Terrestrial Internet: re-imagining digital networks
from the ground up
Marcela Suárez Estrada
a
and Sebastián Lehuedé
b
a
Freie Universität Berlin, Lateinamerika-Institut, Berlin, Germany;
b
Centre of Governance and Human Rights,
University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
1. Introduction
The expansion of digital infrastructure is having material and concrete impacts on society
and the environment. This phenomenon is rendering obsolete binary distinctions
between the physicaland the virtualworlds. Giving a step further in this discussion,
the articles comprising this Cluster trace the emergence of an imaginary that approaches
territory as an actor actively shaping the development and governance of the internet.
What we call the Terrestrial Internet is emerging from Indigenous, Afrodescendant, fem-
inist and worker groups in Abya Yala (Latin America) envisioning alternative imaginaries
as digital infrastructures expand in their contexts. In dialogue with science and technol-
ogy studies (STS) and Latin American critical thought, we argue that this imaginary con-
ceives of the internet as an earthly development whose material expansion is spurring
novel human and non-human alliances and frictions, as well as colonial forms of territorial
occupation. The articles that make up the Cluster were invited to respond key questions in
times of terricide: What are the power dynamics of the disputed spaces that support the
internet? What are the eects of such dynamics on territories and their various ways of life
in Abya Yala? What imaginaries are put in motion as a response?
The emergence of the internet was accompanied by claims on its alleged cyberor
virtualcharacter, as if it would be a realm dierent from the physicalworld.
However, phenomena such as the increasing extraction of lithium to build so-called
greentechnologies (Peña 2020) and disputes over the vast volumes of water required
to cool odata centers (Hogan 2015;Hu2015) are rendering such deterritorialized ima-
ginaries obsolete. The concrete and material character of the aforementioned phenom-
ena were overlooked in initial accounts of the impact of the internet, but are becoming
now increasingly relevant for understanding the range of inequalities and politics associ-
ated with the development and expansion of the so-called network of networks.
Looking at the materialization of these trends in Abya Yala,
1
this Cluster develops the
Terrestrial Internet imaginary by drawing on a series of articles chronicling varied
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/
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cited.
CONTACT Marcela Suárez Estrada marcela.suarez@fu-berlin.de
1
Abya Yala is the name that the Kuna-Tule people living in what is currently Panama and Colombia gave to the Americas
before the Spanish invasion. It means land in full maturity(Muyolema 2001).
TAPUYA: LATIN AMERICAN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY
https://doi.org/10.1080/25729861.2022.2139913
encounters of Indigenous, Afrodescendant, feminist, and worker groups with digital tech-
nologies. Unlike dominant imaginaries, the Terrestrial Internet draws attention to the
ways in which the territory can become an active agent shaping the development and
governance of the internet. For example, the territory can provide material components,
such as fruit shells for the development of alternative networks (Zhang, Porto Araujo, and
de Assis Nunes 2022), as well as favor forms of tactical practices employed to resist algo-
rithmic control that attend to the particularities of the local context (Tironi and Albornoz
2022). Certainly, the specic types of relations that are emerging between the internet
and the territory are not determined but rather open to empirical investigation.
However, what is clear from the articles comprising this Cluster is that imaginaries ignor-
ing the terrestrial character of the internet run the risk of becoming impervious to relevant
sources of social injustices and ignore alternatives ways of conceiving the internet.
Compared to previous imaginaries highlighting the total or relative virtualcharacter
of the internet, we suggest that the Terrestrial Internet has four particularities. First, this
imaginary is emerging from groups who historically have been deemed as backwards and
not legitimate sources of technological innovation, such as women, Indigenous, Afrodes-
cendant, and working-class groups. Second, the Terrestrial Internet puts a special empha-
sis on the politics that emerge from the multiple forms of interaction between the
territory and the material infrastructure that makes up the internet. Third, the Terrestrial
Internet highlights that territoryinfrastructure interactions can generate novel forms of
human and non-human alliances and resistance. Finally, this imaginary foregrounds the
intrinsic connection between the internet and dynamics of material extraction and terri-
torial occupation taking place in Abya Yala since the Spanish and Portuguese invasion
more than ve centuries ago.
While the Terrestrial Internet is stemming in a bottom-up fashion, we also connect its
emergence with discussions held in science and technology studies (STS) and Latin Amer-
ican critical thought. On the one hand, this imaginary echoes Bruno Latours call for
acknowledging the terrestrial as an active agent, rather than as the mere background
of history and politics (Latour 2018). At the same time, the Terrestrial Internet can be
seen as a new stage in the struggle for balanced forms of coexistence that have criss-
crossed Abya Yala since the invasion by the Spanish and Portuguese empires (Escobar
2018). While not absent of conicts and tensions, we argue that these two lines of
thought can help understand the context and characteristics of the internet imaginary
emerging from the contexts explored in this Cluster.
As a whole, this Cluster accounts for the impact on the territories and diverse forms of
life from our growing digital society. Along those lines, we have welcomed papers that
contribute with interdisciplinary perspectives by critically exploring, connecting,
testing, and putting into dialogue the terrestrial politics with other theoretical contri-
butions in Abya Yala. These articles oer an account in their own way of the creation
of the territoriality of the internet but also of the conicts that such a process can engen-
der. The articles go beyond the internet as an abstract and neutral space and, rather, poli-
ticize it by tracing its connections with multiple spatialities in the disputed territories,
rendering visible social frictions and new spaces for agency and resilience. As this
Cluster shows, the Terrestrial Internet makes it possible to give a wider and more inclusive
account of the politics of data and digital technology in Abya Yala, and potentially other
contexts as well.
2M. SUÁREZ ESTRADA AND S. LEHUEDÉ
In the following sections, we introduce the Terrestrial Internet and describe the contri-
butions to this Cluster. First, we review how dierent imaginaries have conceived of the
relationship between the internet and territory. After that, we unpack the notions of ter-
restrial politics and territory as developed in STS and Latin American critical thought
respectively. In Section 4, we pinpoint the Terrestrial Internet and characterize it as a
material, rough, and colonial imaginary. The article closes with a summary of each of
the contributions to this Cluster.
2. Territorializing the internet
The articles of this Cluster delve into a particular but nonetheless urgent aspect surround-
ing the internet how is that dierent actors imagine the relationship between the
earthly, material, and concrete territories and the internet, including the latters data,
cables, algorithms, and other components. Merely posing this question already constitu-
tes a signicant move. In the sixties, the group of technologists from the West Coast of the
United States who envisaged the internet imagined it as belonging to a cyberor
virtualrealm detached from the rules governing the physical world. As John Perry
Barlows famous Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace states: Cyberspace con-
sists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself Ours is a world that is both every-
where and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live(Barlow 1996, para 6a). Such a vision
still informs internet imaginaries up to this day. While the cloudsuggests a sublime
space of data storage and processing (Mosco 2014), Articial Intelligencedirects the dis-
cussion to abstract questions about humane and robotic ways of thinking (Ricaurte 2022).
Yet, the above deterritorialized internet imaginaries have started to recede as the
impact of digital technologies and their infrastructure become clearer to dierent
groups worldwide. A new imaginary highlighting the intertwined character of the internet
and territory has started to gain traction in this context. As Latour (2011) points out, the
greater the digitality, the greater the materiality. The maritime space where underground
cables pass (Starosielski 2015); the aerial space of the signals from satellites and antennas
(Sánchez Miguel 2016), as well as those spaces rich in the raw materials and natural and
human resources have all become relevant actors shaping the sustainment and growth of
the internet (la_jes 2018; Peña 2020). Furthermore, data centers will continue to multiply
in the coming years in Abya Yala, requiring great amounts of resources such as energy
and water, materials and metals for devices, cables, and antennas. Human resources
are also intensively needed, such as Facebook moderators or workers without social
benets for various platforms such as Uber or Deliveroo (Grohmann 2020). Likewise, elec-
tronic waste is more and more a problem in the region (Fernández, Vicente-Mariño, and
García de Madriaga 2017; Gil 2015). Such infrastructure projects and forms of resource
extraction are likely to result in arduous social conicts between private companies, gov-
ernments, and social collectives, and call for taking seriously the question of the relation-
ship between the internet and land.
Deterritorialized imaginaries also fall short on acknowledging how disputes over data
control can turn to conicts over bodies and territories (Busconi 2018; Trevilla Espinal and
Peña Azcona 2020). For example, the deployment of surveillance technologies and algo-
rithmic forms of governance in the COVID-19 pandemic in Abya Yala brought about forms
of bodily control that did not respect human rights and challenged informational self-
TAPUYA: LATIN AMERICAN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY 3
determination (Hernández Rivera 2021). The materiality of the politics of data can render
visible on the one hand the surveillance and control of bodies and, on the other, the
impacts of such disputes on social collectives. Certainly, technologies have helped to
articulate social collectives for political transformation with a common objective, for
example, to defend territories (Erpel 2018). However, these same systems have been
used to monitor, trace, and intimidate activists leading to a process of transformation
in Abya Yala.
Contributing to the debate on the relationship between the internet and territory, this
article pinpoints an imaginary that we call the Terrestrial Internet that is emerging in light
of the concrete eects of the frenetic expansion of digital infrastructure in Abya Yala. As
we describe in Section 4, this imaginary not only rejects binary distinctions between the
virtualand the physicalworld, but also goes further than observations over the inter-
twined character of the internet and territory. Based on the experience of Abya Yala, the
Terrestrial Internet arms that the internet relies upon, and is constantly shaped by, the
territories in which it gets deployed. As we unpack in section four, this imaginary high-
lights the material dimension of digital infrastructure, the new alliances, and frictions
that emerge as such an infrastructure expands across the region following a colonial
impulse(Dourish and Mainwaring 2012).
It is important to note that the Terrestrial Internet does not necessarily depict an emer-
gent or alternative internet, i.e. a new network of networks that can replace the one that
expanded in the eighties and the nineties. Instead, we call the Terrestrial Internet an ima-
ginary because we want to identify the evolving ways in which dierent groups conceive
of this global network and how such contested conceptions enable or foreclose design
and governance choices (Kee 2017; Mansell 2012). For example, while for some the inter-
net can represent a set of protocols (Mueller, Mathiason, and Klein 2007, 244), others
might see it as an opportunity for capturing global markets (Zuazo 2018). Such imagin-
aries are far from abstract: they are based on concrete experiences, generate resistance,
and can orient the development of hardware, software, and policies. In fact, and as we
discuss in this article, imaginaries can draw attention to, or obscure, the physical-material
infrastructure underpinning the internet and its concrete eects on the environment and
communities.
3. The terrestrial, territory, and body-territory
The Terrestrial Internet is informed by the empirical cases analyzed in this Cluster, but it
also obtains inspiration from conversations taking place in the eld of science and tech-
nology studies (STS) and critical thinkers and social movements in Abya Yala.
On the one hand, Latour (2014,2018; Latour and Weibel 2020) has argued for a terrestrial
politics that transgresses the idea of Earth as a planetary unit comprised of two kinds of
spaces: the global and the local. For Latour, terrestrial politicshas the task of breaking
with this unifying perspective to explore the dispersion between the various sites and pos-
sibilities. Hence, geopolitics is re-signied by transcending the focus on the activity of
humans in an apparently passive and unitary earth that is outside or below and over
which dominion is exercised (Latour 2014). In Latourian language, such a move would
imply shifting from a human-centered to a terrestrial politics. This movement connects
the two territories that according to Latour are commonly disconnected: the one in
4M. SUÁREZ ESTRADA AND S. LEHUEDÉ
which we live and the one on which we depend to subsist, but which normally remains
invisible and not politicized. In this Cluster, we refer to terrestrial politics to connect the
internet to the territories that it depends on to subsist. Along these lines, we claim that a
terrestrial approach to the internet can help explore some of the struggles brought
about by the expansion of digital technologies in the territories that make up Abya Yala.
Yet, there are reasons to think that Latours terrestrial politics do not speak to Abya
Yalas historical experience and struggles. To begin with, Latours emphasis on the unpre-
cedented character of the climate crisis can serve to obscure how dierent actors, such as
Indigenous and Afrodescendant groups, have resisted the terricidal practices of states and
companies for centuries. Furthermore, Latours work has been criticized for ignoring Indi-
genous voices sustaining alternative ontologies of the world and the planet (Todd 2016).
In line with Lehuedé (2022) and Tait Lima, dos Reis Peron, and Suárez Estrada (2022)in
this volume, the Terrestrial Internet also connects to the concept of territory circulating
among Indigenous, Afrodescendant, feminists, peasant, and other groups in struggle,
as well as critical thinkers in Abya Yala. For these groups, territory holds multiple mean-
ings. Broadly speaking, territory constitutes a shorthand for the system of relations
whose continuous reenactment recreates the community in question(Escobar 2018),
but also a form of grouping and resistance against extractive capitalist modernity
(Svampa 2015). Under this vision, territory is made up by an entanglement of humans,
plants, animals, and inorganic elements whose coexistence and interdependency
enable particular environments and ways of living (Blaser and de la Cadena 2018). For
feminist mobilized groups, the eects of territorial occupation are also felt on the
body, which depends on, and is also part of the territory itself; hence the use of body-ter-
ritory (Gabón 2018). Such a complex and multi-layered understanding of territory con-
trasts with the one that emerged in European modernity and colonialism, where it
came to be seen as a bounded space subject to the sovereignty of the nation-state
(Elden 2010). In fact, alternative ways of referring to digital sovereignty emerging in
Abya Yala are not linked to the nation-state but to the social resilience to the continuity
of colonial structures of power through digital technologies (Guerra, Suárez, and Cerratto-
Pargman 2022).
One of the rst conclusions that come to the fore when looking at the internet from the
perspective of the terrestrial and territory, is that territory has not been a primary concern
of internet designers and developers. Had it been so, the internet would have incorpor-
ated an attentiveness to how ecologically threatening activities such as large-scale
mineral extraction can aect nature and the communities that are part of it. More pro-
foundly, though, these two concepts call for a signicant shift in the emphases of internet
studies by focusing on the areas that the internet depends on and the struggles taking
place in those contexts.
It is important to note that the combination of the Terrestrial and territory is not absent
of contradictions. While the Terrestrial emerges vis-à-vis the unprecedented character of
the climate crisis, territory privileges a longer time frame in which the erosion of the Earth
connects with centuries-old history of territorial occupation. These concepts also entail
dierent political projects in the context of terricide, i.e. the systemic destruction of Indi-
genous worlds and ways of living in harmony with the environment (Millán 2020). While
the terrestrial calls for imagining new ways of living, territory sees the preservation of
TAPUYA: LATIN AMERICAN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY 5
Indigenous ways of living as a necessary step to re-establish a world in which many worlds
can coexist (Zapatista Army of National Liberation 1997).
Based on the contributions to this article, we consider that the contradictions arising
from the employment of the terrestrial and territory reect some of the tensions that
mark the current times of critical digital research and practice in Abya Yala. For
example, in their resistance against the construction and expansion of a data-intensive
astronomical observatory in Chile, Lickan Antay activists mobilize arguments pointing
to both ancestral and sustainable development discourses about the relationship
between local communities and the environment. Rather than an essential contrast
between the terrestrial and territory, we advocate for the consideration of both concepts
as relevant in Latin America; however, and following Aymara/Bolivian Rivera Cusicanquis
ideas (2018), such a combination should not simply dissolve these concepts into a
hybridnotion that erases their dierences and underlying histories and geographies.
4. Material, rough, and colonial: pinpointing the Terrestrial Internet
As a whole, the articles of this Cluster chronicle the emergence of an imaginary that we
call the Terrestrial Internet in which the territory becomes an active agent shaping the
development and governance of the internet. In this section, we delineate this imaginary
by focusing on the actors formulating it and spelling out its material, rough, and colonial
character.
One of the rst things that stand out when it comes to the Terrestrial Internet concerns
the actors formulating it. The dominant imaginaries of the internet, such as the deterritor-
ialized one we introduced earlier, have historically been envisaged by actors based in the
Global North, and more specically the West Coast of the US, which is where most proto-
cols and devices have been designed (Turner 2006). However, research conducted in Abya
Yala has also highlighted the role of computer scientists, policy-makers, and hackers in
majority world regions whose work has reproduced and challenged existing imaginaries
(Chan 2013; Medina, Marques, and Holmes 2014). The articles of this Cluster expand the
actors at stake in the imagination of the internet by turning to groups that modernity has
presented as backwards and therefore not able to imagine viable technological futures,
i.e. women (Haraway 1991; Light 1999), Indigenous (Escobar 2018) and Afrodescendant
(Mavhunga 2017) groups. In the case of this Cluster, Lickan Antay communities in the
Atacama (Lehuedé 2022), Afrodescendant communities in Brazil (Zhang, Porto Araujo,
and de Assis Nunes 2022), women defending their land and communities vis-à-vis extrac-
tive operations (Tait Lima, dos Reis Peron, and Suárez Estrada 2022) and platform delivery
workers (Tironi and Albornoz 2022) become fruitful sources for re-imagining an internet
that nurtures rather than depletes the territory.
Arst relevant point sustained by the Terrestrial Internet is the material character of the
infrastructure that makes possible the production and transmission of data across the
planet. Instead of abstract and virtual, this imaginary emphasizes the multiple ways in
which the internet relies on the territory, which include the extraction of metals and min-
erals to build digital devices, water that cools increasingly powerful data centers, and the
deployment of physical components such as subsea cables. In this way, the internet
becomes an active participant in the geophysical phenomena that sustain the planet
(Parikka 2015). Importantly, though, such a material dimension is also intimately
6M. SUÁREZ ESTRADA AND S. LEHUEDÉ
integrated with human and social processes since it is understood that the land both
enables and depends on these ways of living. Looking at an example within the articles
of this Cluster, materiality can point to the connection between territory and body
when extractive operations, of which technology companies are reliant, come to aect
both the environment and the health of women resisting in Abya Yala (Tait Lima, dos
Reis Peron, and Suárez Estrada 2022). As Velho and Uretas co-edited Cluster in this
same journal indicates, the Terrestrial Internet unearths the dark side(2019, 429) of
infrastructure in Abya Yala with a focus on the material impact of the construction and
growth of digital components.
A second tenet of the Terrestrial Internet concerns the alliances and disputes that
emerge as the internet and its infrastructure get deployed in the territory in short,
the internets and territorys rough rather than frictionless character. In this regard, the
Terrestrial Internet rejects deterministic accounts and considers that the frictions under-
pinning the expansion of internet infrastructure can encompass the establishment of alli-
ances but also spur resistance. On the one hand, an example of collaboration or of
comraderies is the way Afrodescendant communities have relied on baobab trees
fruit, the mucuas, as a device for transporting the hardware components of the Baobáxia
network (Zhang, Porto Araujo, and de Assis Nunes 2022). For Zhang, Porto Araujo, and de
Assis Nunes, such collaborations brings humans and non-humans (baobab) together as
agents responsible for the collective survival and well-being of the networked commu-
nities(Zhang, Porto Araujo, and de Assis Nunes 2022, 13). On the other hand, other con-
tributions highlight cases of resistance emerging with the deployment of technology.
Such resistances can comprise attempts at manipulating digital data so as to put forth
a particular trending topic on Twitter for a political campaign (Piña-García and Espinoza
2022) or tactics carried out by platforms workers in order to game gig economy platforms
such as Uber (Tironi and Albornoz 2022). In some cases, resistance can also get directed at
undemocratic forms of infrastructure expansion, as it is the case of Lickan Antay activists
in the Atacama Desert carrying out protests and relying on the memory of the elder to
oppose the expansion of data-intensive scientic machinery (Lehuedé 2022).
Anal point foregrounded by the Terrestrial Internet is that the disputes surrounding
the internet, which revolve around both narratives and material-physical components, are
tightly connected with the global structures of power brought about by European colo-
nialism. The cases discussed in these articles reveal some of the multiple forms of coloni-
ality, or the continuity of colonialism through other means (Lugones 2007; Quijano 2007),
underpinning the internet. Abya Yalas colonial experience is tightly tied with the for-
mation of a capitalist world economy based on the extraction of raw resources in the per-
iphery that are processed in the core. This dynamic, present in the mining and agriculture
industries to this day, has relied on a territorial occupation that imposes a single world
and keeps spurring forms of resistance by communities preserving their beliefs and econ-
omic systems vis-à-vis the pressure posed by states and private companies. As Lehuedé
asserts, data infrastructure can reproduce coloniality through the reduction of a pluri-
verse, where dierent worlds coexist, to a universe, where only a single world of capitalist
and modern contours is allowed to thrive(Lehuedé 2022, 14). The Terrestrial Internet
shows how such forms of extractive approaches to territory reproduce in times of
digital connection and ignite the development of alternative technologies based on
the genealogy of resistance of oppressed groups.
TAPUYA: LATIN AMERICAN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY 7
Because of the above, our formulation of the Terrestrial Internet can help expand the
range of politics depicted by the recent decolonial turn in the study of data and technol-
ogy (Couldry and Mejias 2019). So far, aspects such as the expansionist ethos of ubiqui-
tous computing (Dourish and Mainwaring 2012), the mass-scale extraction of data
(Couldry and Mejias 2019) and the deployment of tech for goodprojects in majority
world regions (Oyedemi 2021) have been studied as reinforcing colonial hierarchies. On
this front, the Terrestrial Internet incorporates a new set of actors since this imaginary
is not emerging from academia, hacker communities or digital rights advocates but
rather from dissenting groups in Abya Yala facing the eects of the expansion of
digital infrastructure and engaged in the development of alternative forms of connec-
tivity. In addition, the Terrestrial Internet implies a particular attentiveness over the phys-
ical and material practices and infrastructures that make up the internet. No account of
the coloniality of digital technologies would be complete if it ignores the bottom-up for-
mulation of internet imaginaries and the material character and impact of technical
infrastructure.
In sum, the Terrestrial Internet constitutes an imaginary that, unlike dominant ones, is
emerging from dissenting groups in Abya Yala concerned with the physical-material conse-
quences of the expansion of the internet. This imaginary depicts new forms of alliances and
resistance emerging in the territory and that cannot be disassociated from the power
dynamics imposed during European colonialism. Such an imaginary is a generative one in
the sense that it not only describes a form of domination but also enables alternative
futures. In times of the terricide, the Terrestrial Internet oers an opportunity to design
and develop global networks that peacefully coexistwiththediversesetsofactorsthat
make up the territory, that are not based on extraction but on collaboration and that
nuture rather than erode the shared Earth. This Cluster also includes a piece reviewing two
books that are particularly relevant to think about the materiality of internet infrastructure.
5. Contributions
The contributions to this Cluster can be split into two main groups. In the rst group, we
nd articles looking at the way the internets material infrastructure connects with long-
standing forms of domination and resistance in Abya Yala.
In The Terrestrial Internet from the Quilombos: The Transatlantic Evolution of Baobab
from Colonial to Digital Capitalism,Shaozeng Zhang, Mariana Ribeiro Porto and Carolina
de Assis Nunes analyze the development of Baobáxia, a digital network for sharing com-
munity-produced content. The emphasis on the materiality of this network, which is
expressed in the relevant role of baobab trees, gives an account of viable forms of resist-
ance to the predatory exploitation of resources in digital capitalism.
In the same line, Sebastian Lehuedés article Territories of Data: Ontological Diver-
gences in the Growth of Data Infrastructurecritically examines data infrastructure initiat-
ives in Chile, which span from the dry Atacama Desert to the cold Patagonia. These
initiatives are analyzed in relation to broader histories of territorial struggle involving Indi-
genous communities in Abya Yala. In particular, Lehuedé argues that the design of digital
infrastructure tends to rely on the territory as an asset, which contrasts with relational
views held by Lickan Antay communities aected by the deployment of a data-intensive
observatory.
8M. SUÁREZ ESTRADA AND S. LEHUEDÉ
The article Terrestrial Politics and Body-Territory: Two Concepts to Make Sense of
Digital Colonialism in Latin Americaby Márcia M. Tait, Alcides Eduardo dos Reis Peron,
and Marcela Suárez Estrada contends that the materiality of exploitation in the data
society is not limited to bodies but also includes territories. Seeking to make sense of
digital-fuelled colonialism in Abya Yala, the authors conclude that the concept of body-
territories can contribute to Latours proposal for a terrestrial politics by rendering
visible the power relationships on territories that sustain digital society.
A second group of articles examines more closely the role that control over the data
and algorithms underpinning social media and gig economy platforms has in giving
rise to novel power dynamics. Histories of attempts by the state to dominate the
public sphere and worker resistance emerge as relevant phenomena of the Terrestrial
Internet. Furthermore, both studies contribute with robust empirical evidence that chal-
lenge the apparent division between the online and oine politics of data.
The article Coordinated Campaigns on Twitter During the Coronavirus Health Crisis in
Mexicoby Carlos Piña and Armando Espinoza lay bare that governments are also part of
the politics of data by sponsoring campaigns of manipulation of public opinion to serve
their political agenda in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. This article describes
how astroturng works on Twitter and develops a framework for its identication in
other contexts.
The article Surveillance and the Ecology of Frictions in Platform Urbanism: The Case of
Delivery Workers in Santiago de Chileby Martin Tironi and Camila Albornoz gives evidence
of spaces of resistance and friction to platform capitalism by Uber workers. Through an eth-
nographic depiction, the authors contrast universalistic claims of algorithmic control for-
mulated on the basis of the Global North with vernacular and friction-producing
practices such as multimapping and account rentals carried out by exploited workers.
Finally, Finding Ones Way in Media and AI: Metallurgy and Mappingby Héctor Her-
nández closes this Cluster. In this manuscript, Hernandez reviews two books: A Geology of
Media by Jussi Parikka (Parikka 2015) and The Atlas of AI by Crawford (2021), that contrib-
ute with concepts and theoretical frameworks to explore the materiality of technology
and thus with their politics linked to specic territories. As he writes: The tactile
screen, the sleek casing of a smartphone or even the governance of articial intelligence
renders visible the complex materiality of that technology.
Acknowledgements
We would like to thank Tapuyas Editorial Team for the opportunity to collaborate with them in this
Cluster. We would also like to thank the authors for their enthusiasm and valuable contributions.
Finally, special thanks go to Ana Valdivia for her valuable feedback.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the author(s).
Notes on contributors
Dr Marcela Suárez Estrada is a Research Fellow in Political Science at the Institute of Latin American
Studies at Freie Universität Berlin. She also holds a PhD in Political Science from the Freie Universität.
TAPUYA: LATIN AMERICAN SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY 9
Her areas of specialization are violence and politics, sociopolitical dynamics of new technologies,
governance, knowledge asymmetries, technofeminisms, and digital culture. Her current research
project is entitled Feminist Politics and the Fight against Violence in the Era of Digitalization
and is nanced by the Berlin Equal Opportunities Program.
Dr Sebastián Lehuedé is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Centre of Governance and Human Rights, and
a Technology & Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University.
Sebastiáns research focuses on the governance of digital technologies, which he approaches
from a global social justice perspective inspired by Latin American decolonial theory. His current
project examines the geopolitics of digital rights, interrogating the extent to which the work of acti-
vists in Latin America can speak to the visions and needs of the local context vis-à-vis discourses and
funding emanating from the north.
ORCID
Marcela Suárez Estrada http://orcid.org/0000-0003-2412-5214
Sebastián Lehuedé http://orcid.org/0000-0003-0432-8727
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