The first DECODE symposium took place in Barcelona on October 16&17 2018. The event was held during the Open City Thinking Biennale, a project promoted by the Culture Institute of the Barcelona City Council (CCCB) that added to the already inspiring atmosphere of Barcelona. Hosted and organized by Francesca Bria and Evgeny Morozov, the international symposium sought to formulate an alternative political and economic vision of data ownership that is more democratic than the prevalent condition of surveillance capitalism.
In their opening remarks, the two hosts emphasized that they seek to articulate a new social pact on data: one that gives back control to citizens rather than surrendering to the monopolies of private profit-driven companies that tend to reduce citizens to users/consumers. It is no coincidence that the symposium took place in Barcelona, the city for which Francesca Bria works as a consultant for technology and innovation. Furthermore, with an activist as a mayor, Barcelona might be the right place to implement alternative, even progressive data related projects.
Most speakers focused on juridical and economic implications of corporate data sovereignty, in one way or the other. They all agreed that international legal frameworks need to adapt to the economic conditions of digital data driven capitalism. The absence of laws and regulations on data usage has been the most important parameter for the unprecedented accumulation of economic and political power of tech companies in the first place. The widely shared opinion at the end of the symposium was held that the EU might have lost its chance in the battle of creating a data infrastructure that can compete with the one of the US or China, but has an opportunity to establish frameworks that enable democratic politics to maintain control over a (market-)reality whose key resource – data – lies beyond its reach.