Data, Dispossession, and Facebook: Techno-imperialism and Toponymy in Gentrifying San Francisco

McElroy, Erin
Urban Geography

This article situates the 2015 rebranding of Zuckerberg San Francisco General within San Francisco’s technopolitical landscape. After Facebook’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg donated to the hospital, thereby acquiring naming rights, local toponymical tension percolated. This was in part due to Facebook’s gentrifying role in the city and the racial violence such processes constitute, as well as ongoing practices data colonialism. The latter includes Facebook’s attempt at pairing hospital data with user data in order to augment its scope into intimate and bodily geographies. In exploring the intertwining of gentrification and data colonialism, here I forge the concept of techno-imperialism as an analytic and as a point of departure in understanding Facebook’s multi-scalar impacts. As I suggest, the transformation of “The General” to “The Zuckerberg” indexes the company's techno-imperiality, as well as its efforts to mask its dispossessive impacts.