TMU Professor Ojelanki Ngwenyama Recognized for Research on the Dark Side of Technology
Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) honors Professor Ojelanki Ngwenyama with the esteemed Sarwan Sahota Distinguished Scholar Award for his extensive research on the social implications and risks associated with digital technology. This prestigious award recognizes Ngwenyama’s remarkable contributions to understanding the negative aspects of technology and its impact on society.
Ngwenyama’s interest in the dark side of technology emerged during his early years of research. By the time he completed his Ph.D. in 1988, he had developed a deep ambivalence toward technology, recognizing its potential to have adverse effects on society. His work has focused on studying the concept of the “digital risk society,” investigating how digitalization has transformed social life and global communities.
Over the past two decades, Ngwenyama’s research has shed light on various concerning phenomena, including digital entrapment, persuasive design techniques employed to keep individuals tethered to the digital world, and the rise of machine learning and its implications for decision-making processes. He highlights the alienating and destructive consequences of societal digitalization, as it removes humans from important decision-making and productive processes.
Ngwenyama’s research has brought attention to critical issues such as the manipulation of citizens and political processes, digital surveillance, predictive policing that infringes on freedom and liberty, labor exploitation through click work, and the environmental impact of unsustainable mining for rare earth metals required for digital devices.
Despite facing challenges in raising awareness about these issues, Ngwenyama has persistently pursued his research on the risks and implications of common technological elements, such as data collection regulation. His work has paved the way for a discourse around the darker aspects of digitalization, ensuring that these important conversations take place.
The Sarwan Sahota Distinguished Scholar Award was presented to Professor Ojelanki Ngwenyama during the Toronto Met Awards Gala on May 9, 2023.