An online infrastructure as ongoing project commemorating people on the move

commemorating people on the move

This project aims at commemorating people who have died or disappeared during their migrations. The research questions at the centre of this project are the following: How to acknowledge and document this vast community of people? How to visualize “the dead back into the social order” (Parra et. al. 2020, 86)

with respect for ethical concerns? How to enable individual and collective mourning over and with the dead? How to activate social and legal shifts from anonymity to identity, from invisibility to visibility, from disempowerment to affirmation?

an online infrastructure

To enable these commemorating gestures, an online information infrastructure is designed and developed. An important challenge is the alignment of different modes of knowledge production in an interdisciplinary research team. Another challenge is to design an information system architecture enabling public-specific interactions, taking into consideration the specific socio-cultural contexts in which the data are embodied. This entails a flexible, transparent, non-extractive data collection protocol, privacy by design, and language bridges to ensure a sustainable and collaborative information system.

ongoing project under continuous construction

Whereas the research project is funded for three years, it aims to install an ongoingness.

We hope that the online infrastructure activates an ever-expanding collaborative practice, jointly dealing with questions of documentation, responsibility and commemoration. Joining the project as an ‘actor’ or a ‘user’ means becoming part of a continuous construction site.

principles of design

The point of departure is a list of cases and events, which involves data of deceased and dissappeared people during their migration towards or within Europe. The list’s columns sizes are fixed to fit on an A4 sheet of paper. We depart from this list and seek to connect with other forms of documentation and commemoration, creating space and time for multiple views and practices to be shared.


By non-extractive we mean that we do not impose a database are a design on a ‘target group’. Rather, we sit together with communities and organisations involved and investigate together what the project can mean for the migration communities. For this reason, we organise multilingual encounters, in view of sharing expertise and knowledge.

In this context, we refer to the manifest-no, a declaration of refusal and commitment. (Cifor et al. 2019)

Here are two excerpts of the full declaration:

"We refuse the naturalization of data as what is simply ‘off gassed’ by a thing, object, or interaction. We commit to treating data as a resource to be cared for and cultivated, beyond a colonial extraction logic (as something to be constantly mined, extracted, captured).

We refuse reductionist practices that view people as data points in order to embrace the whole person. We commit to the requirement of recognizing personhood as a feminist data value.

We refuse to accept that data only matters when it is big, abstract, digital, aggregated, machine-readable, and instrumentalized for the market. We commit to valuing other forms and materialities of data that privilege accountability and legibility to users and community, and examine data at and across all of its scales."


In this collaborative practice, all decisions are taken together, and in consensus with all the involved migration communities and organisations. All choices that are (to be) made regarding the technologies that are used are made explicit. Time and space is created to discuss these choices collectively.

For this reason, the research team will keep the technology apparatus as understandable and sharable as possible.


The result of this collaborative endeavour is a hyphenated database. We will trace and activate opportunities for collaborations in a network of interconnectivity. However, the experience, expertise and practices of the involved communities and organisations will be respected in its autonomous functioning.

This hyphenated thinking is inspired by Donna Haraway’s notions of “tentacular thinking” and art-science-activist worlding (Haraway 2016, 31–34). It indicates a reaching out to one another, while respecting each other’s diversity of practices and expertise. The hyphenated position of everyone involved in the multilingual encounters is made clear from the start. The hyphens indicate that knowledge is not produced in one fixed center, but in relationality. It is exactly in the connecting hyphens that productive knowledge resurges.

principles of use

public-specific interactions

moving-with an online infrastructure