Imperial Datafication: Towards historicising the modern global data economy

I am currently looking at the datafication practices of early corporations and companies, due to my interest in the data industries. The making of the modern global data economy in its present form can be traced back to histories of colonial capitalism (Cieslik and Marg├│csy, 2022). My research attempts to unearth modern practices of datafication set forth by British imperial industries engaged in building railway systems in its colonies spread across South and Southeast Asia, Africa and South America, among other regions. It excavates logics and practices of datafication by these industries and its linkages with transnational labour from the Indian subcontinent deployed in building imperial railway across Britain’s colonies. It proposes the idea of imperial datafication, piecing together academic literature and archival material. In doing so, my research looks at precedents to the present-day digital data economy by focusing on an earlier revolutionary communication and technology infrastructure — the railways — and the datafication that accompanied it. It investigates the amalgam of corporate power, expansionist states and trans/-national elites, helping us locate and extend our understanding of the role of labour in the making of the global data economy.