This article is part of the Global Perspectives, Media and Communication special issue on “Media, Migration, and Nationalism,” guest-edited by Koen Leurs and Tomohisa Hirata. In line with the focus of this issue, we are interested in the ways in which open data is progressively used to construct indicators of the state’s performance in the form of race-ethnic categories. These data initiatives are typical for the ongoing quantification and datafication of society. Through APIs (application programming interfaces), both governmental bodies and third parties are given direct access to data, as well as the ways in which these data are structured. This infrastructure affords the appropriation of statistics concerning the national origins of Dutch citizens for new purposes. Through this data, race-ethnic categories are repurposed to measure the living conditions in the Netherlands, effectively keeping people with non-Dutch roots in the migrant category for up to three generations. To show how this process unfolds in the Netherlands, we investigate two web applications, the Allochtonenmeter and the Leefbaarometer, that make use of race-ethnically constructed data. We will argue that for a more complete understanding of the processes at play in the Dutch “data assemblage,” we need to enrich critical data studies with a postcolonial perspective. In this article, we consider race to be a verb rather than a noun, signifying a process or an action, as this takes away the necessity to communicate a nonessentialist perspective on what is raced, since the object of racing can be different in each new location, situation, and technical context. Our focus is therefore on how human characteristics such as nationality, ethnicity, or class are raced through data-driven processes and in relation to a particular history and culture in the Dutch context. In this light, we find that datafied systems do not merely report on particular groups in society but rather actively produce hierarchical distinctions between these groups.

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