Monday, March 25, 2019

First Book Reviews out with Times Higher Ed & E&T magazine


Am thrilled to read these positive reviews of my new book "The Next Billion Users: Digital Life beyond the West" with Harvard University Press.  It is particularly wonderful to see one of the reviews emanate from the well read Times Higher Ed. 

I am also glad to see the Engineering and Tech magazine take this book up (as well as Tech Crunch a few weeks ago), which signals to me that the tech industry has a growing interest in broadening their worldviews beyond the technical aspects to that which is ethical, cultural and may I even dare to say, philosophical. I really am looking forward to future engagements with engineers, programmers and other stakeholders at the forefront of shaping our digital platforms.

Times Higher Education
“This powerful book explores actual online lives in China, India and Brazil and asks why many of us in the West are surprised and sometimes offended by the fact that the impoverished are just as committed as we are to the search for “moments of pleasure and joy." Click here to view this mention.

Engineering and Technology magazine

"Make no mistake. While we wring our hands in anguish over how we are somehow being let down by the fact that Dryden’s ‘noble savage’ is neither of those things, developers of social media platforms will be working out how to monetise the pleasure of the poor. Uncomfortable, myth-busting and compelling, ‘The Next Billion Users’ challenges our collective superiority complexes and questions the way we see technology in the connected world." Click here for the full review.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Podcast with Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)

The podcast interview with Nora Young from Spark Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is now out. You can listen to it by clicking here.
Porn and Cat Videos are Universal March 7: 2019 Podcast with CBC
As the number of people who are connected to the internet around the world grows, the 'next billion' users are likely to be in the developing world, young, with low incomes, and accessing the internet on mobile devices.
Payal Arora (Damjan Svarc)
In her new book, The Next Billion Users: Digital Life Beyond the West, digital anthropologist Payal Aroralooked at the way young users actually use the internet in a number of developing-world countries, from Brazil to Saudi Arabia. She argues that we in the West have a lot of preconceptions about how those users do — or 'ought to' — behave online.
Arora spoke with Spark host Nora Young.
The core of your book is that there's a belief in the west that people in the developing world are using the internet for research, education, to find work, practical things. Overall, what did you find when you looked into actual online practices?
The rest of the article can be found here. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Book talk at the 10th anniversary of Nantes Institute for Advanced Studies


It was an honor to give my book talk at the special occasion of celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Nantes Institute for Advanced Studies.  The overriding theme was to "Think the world differently."

It was a large gathering and nice mix of their past and current Fellows spanning 10 years, private sector companies and media persons brought together to discuss investment in the future of this region and its transformation brought by an influx of new technologies and people.

I spoke on my book 'The Next Billion users: Digital life beyond the West' By Harvard University Press as part of the “Digital culture, humanist culture” panel. The theme of this panel was as follows "Digital technology stupefies us with its promises and its threats, particularly for the humanities. Testimonials, demonstrations and viewpoints from the South to help us think differently."

There was a brief introduction by Françoise Rubellin, the director of the Institute and professor at l’Université de Nantes, moderated by Clément Lesort. It was definitely an ecclectic panel which made for an interesting cross disciplinary conversation: Jan Clarke (Fellow of the Institute, Durham University, England), Mylène Pardoen (CNRS, Institut des Sciences de l’Homme in Lyon), Paul François (architect and engineer, Laboratoire des sciences du numérique in Nantes), Jeffrey Leichman (Fellow of the Institute, Louisiana State University, United States), and Catherine Becchetti-Bizot (inspector general, ex-director of Digital Technology for Education).

Overall, great questions and as usual, the French impress me with their high stamina for long intellectual talks that can go on for hours without interruption, four course lunches with wine which made the talk post lunch rather challenging and of course, just pure interest in new ideas.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

New Book with Harvard Press out !

My US publicist clicked this photo at Barnes & Noble in
New York, Union Square
This month has been absolutely exciting as my new book 'The Next Billion Users: Digital Life beyond the West' with Harvard University Press has come out!

This is my first non-academic book, written for a wider audience interested in technology, society and globalization. After two years and multiple revisions later, guided by the brilliant ruthlessness of my editor, I have emerged with my sanity restored again. Now its time to reap the benefits and sit back and relax a bit. I had to really rethink what good writing is and to be honest, unlearn some seriously bad writing habits I picked up with my time in academia.

What is my book about? Check out the book cover which states...

A digital anthropologist examines the online lives of millions of people in China, India, Brazil, and across the Middle East—home to most of the world’s internet users—and discovers that what they are doing is not what we imagine. New-media pundits obsess over online privacy and security, cyberbullying, and revenge porn, but do these things really matter in most of the world? The Next Billion Users reveals that many assumptions about internet use in developing countries are wrong. After immersing herself in factory towns, slums, townships, and favelas, Payal Arora assesses real patterns of internet usage in India, China, South Africa, Brazil, and the Middle East. She finds Himalayan teens growing closer by sharing a single computer with common passwords and profiles. In China’s gaming factories, the line between work and leisure disappears. In Riyadh, a group of young women organizes a YouTube fashion show. Why do citizens of states with strict surveillance policies appear to care so little about their digital privacy? Why do Brazilians eschew geo-tagging on social media? What drives young Indians to friend “foreign” strangers on Facebook and give “missed calls” to people? The Next Billion Users answers these questions and many more. Through extensive fieldwork, Arora demonstrates that the global poor are far from virtuous utilitarians who mainly go online to study, find jobs, and obtain health information. She reveals habits of use bound to intrigue everyone from casual internet users to developers of global digital platforms to organizations seeking to reach the next billion internet users.

or, better yet, check out my TEDx talk on this book

Publicity of the book

Never thought I would be talking about my "multiple publicists" in the United States and the UK who are handling Asia, Europe, Latin America, US etc. What a team of fantastic hard working people at Harvard who are really dedicated to getting this work out. So far, some pretty cool interviews with (check out the hyperlinks for the full articles) BREAKER magazine The Boston Globe , and Tech Crunch. What is particularly cool is that I lived in both New York and Boston, the places where these first two media outlets are based.

What is particularly touching for me is the full length thought piece on my book in Vrij Nederland which is a reputable and major Dutch newspaper. It has been almost a decade since I moved from New York to the Netherlands, and now call Amsterdam my home. So this dutch endorsement means a lot from my adopted homeland.

My first podcasts came out with Monocle24 and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Also, thrilled to reach out to German readers via F.A.Z and Belgians via De Standaard among other outlets. Have got an east Asian book tour coming up in August, with my book getting translated into Chinese in 2021 by China University of Political Science and Law Press. Then early next year, will be in India. Can't wait for how this year will play out.


Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Talk at the International Film Festival Rotterdam on algorithms and media consumption


Studio Erasmus hosted an event at the International Film Festival in Rotterdam (IFFR) on how does Netflix affect our film tastes? Filip Vermeylen and I were interviewed about the impact of algorithms on popular culture and to what degree did we believe this new innovation was disruptive? Are platforms like YouTube and Netflix restructuring the film and television world? What does the disappearance of traditional 'gatekeepers' mean? And do we actually allow ourselves to be surprised in an age where our media use is analysed in so much detail to create new blockbusters?

This was really timely as I have been working on this for awhile now and especially with my new book, I argue that we need to start looking at the worlds majority of young people as legitimate consumers who happen to be outside the West and often in low-income settings. For too long we have had a condescending view that they are criminals and immortal as they consume pirated goods rather than delving into their taste, their desires and so on...check it out.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Interview with BREAKER magazine on blockchain and equality

Did another interview today for the upcoming book 'The Next Billion Users: Digital life beyond the West' with Harvard University Press. It was with BREAKER, a New York based magazine with a cool mission...

"Why BREAKERMAG? Because the world is already in tumult—and along comes a new wave of technology promising yet more change. Blockchain—which includes crypto-assets, ledgers that track those assets, and many applications—is upending whole industries, sparking radically democratic ideas, and creating a new elite. As this uprising gathers momentum, BREAKER Magazine is here to tell the stories of this space and to argue about where the world is going."

My interview was part of BREAKER’s Social Good Week, a series looking at ways blockchain technology can engineer progress and help humanity. This was a good exercise to sharpen my argument and apply it to blockchain and other so called technological novelties that are marketed as being game changers and major disruptors of our society. If only it was that simple...check the article out and then decide for yourself.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Boston Globe article on my upcoming book release

I have always been a fan of Boston Globe and the Spotlight movie reaffirmed my enthusiasm for their committed coverage for quality and courageous journalism. So was thrilled to have them be the first media outlet to cover my upcoming book with Harvard University Press titled 'The Next Billion Users: Digital Life beyond the West'. 

It's getting real now! Good to have the word out there about something I care so much about.

Check out the article on my book via this link

Aimee Ortiz from Boston Globe: January 10, 2019