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Showing posts from 2016

New Release: My UN Commissioned Report on Innovation in the ICT's in Education sector

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In February of 2016, I was approached by UNESCO to come up with a report to advise the UN Education Commission on the role of prizes in shaping innovation in the education sector. After months of research, and evaluation, I was thrilled to learn that the report made its way into the policy pathway. This paper was prepared for the International Commission on Financing Global Education.

Basically, here is the executive summary for the report. If interested, click here to get access to the final report.

The use of prizes to stimulate innovation in education has dramatically increased in recent years, but, to date, no organization has attempted to critically examine the impact these prizes have had on education. This report attempts to fill this gap by conducting a landscape review of education prizes with a focus on technology innovation in developing countries. This report critically analyses the diversity of education prizes to gauge the extent to which these new funding mechanisms le…

Keynote Talk at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland

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I will be giving a Keynote talk at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland on November 30th 2016 on the topic “Databased democracies in the Global South.” This is a development studies symposium to explore contemporary themes and approaches in development studies with the advent of big data. The symposium is intended to draw scholars doing cutting-edge work on the intersection of digitized databases and democracy in the Global South. This is vital in the field of development studies today (and in the social sciences more generally), but which has not received much attention. So, in a nutshell, my talk is about how democracy is being shaped today in emerging economies through digital media. Here is an abstract of my talk: Democracy is an aspiration and a continuous struggle, particularly in post-colonial contexts. The instrument of datafication, the documentation of social life, has been used for the longest time to control subjects during the colonial days. Today, these instruments in…

Another review out on my book 'The Leisure Commons: A Spatial History of Web 2.0'

Kevin Driscoll a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research, has written a thoughtful review of my book, The Leisure Commons, A Spatial history of Web 2.0 for the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing

Here are some excerpts from the review:
"Arora’s analysis of social media centers on a comparison with an older spatial technology that was also introduced with a bloom of optimism and collective imagination: the public park. For Arora, social media and the public park are both part of “the leisure commons,” spaces designed primarily for collective, nonutilitarian purposes such as play, relaxation, and socializing."

"One of Arora’s goals in The Leisure Commons is to put the critical study of social media in dialogue with the interdisciplinary body of research on urban parks. Readers will be quickly convinced by Arora’s wide-ranging exploration of park metaphors that the two fields share a number of core theoretical concerns.”

Click herefor the full review

4 conferences, 3 cities, 2 countries: Nice wrap up for a sabbatical

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The month of June served as a nice wrap up of my almost yearlong sabbatical that started in New York and ended in Germany. Four conferences, three cities and two countries (Japan and China) – indeed was a true roller-coaster ride. The end of this sabbatical is reminiscent of my start where I launched it as a NYU Steinhardt Fellow in New York, my old stomping grounds where I spent ten years of my life, including my doctoral days of trying to get in as much New York at the price of as little sleep as possible.
Nobody warns you on the work that goes into organizing a sabbatical and the psychology of dislocation that comes with it, both liberating and disorienting at the same time. Giving up your home, moving to different countries, being confronted with a long to-do list of writing on a daily basis mixed with the classic promise of finding yourself on a beach somewhere sipping pina coladas. Well, the latter did not happen but instead of beaches, I managed to escape regularly for hiking i…

Review of my paperback out: "The Leisure Commons: A Spatial History of Web 2.0"

When we write books, it seems to take forever and yet, once published, it is amazing how quickly it disappears from our horizons as we move to the next project. The academic rat wheel I guess. So it is always a pleasant surprise to encounter a positive review of one's book, reminding one of all the energy and passion that went into the makings of the book.

My recently published book, The Leisure Commons: A Spatial History of Web 2.0  was reviewed for the Journal of Popular Culture by Kiranjeet Dhillon of University of Wisconsin Milwaukee.

Here is an excerpt: “Readers will value Arora’s argumentative advances from chapter to chapter. Arora thoroughly explains and articulates The Leisure Commons and appeals to a vast inter-disciplinary audience of media, rhetorical, visual culture, critical/culture studies, history, and geography scholars. In particular, media and rhetorical scholars will find that Arora’s metaphorical framework offers insight in regards to the digital public spher…

New paper out on big data and the global South

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My paper, "Bottom of the Data Pyramid, Big data and the Global South" has been published in the International Journal of Communication, an open access journal. This work is a build-up from the blog that I wrote earlier on regarding this topic for  Discover Society as well as a couple of keynotes I gave in 2015 at the Technology, Knowledge & Society Conference in Berkeley and IS4IS Summit in Vienna. 

Basically, this paper argues that so far, little attention has been given to the impact of big data in the Global South, about 60% of whose residents are below the poverty line. Big data manifests in novel and unprecedented ways in these neglected contexts. For instance, India has created biometric national identities for her 1.2 billion people, linking them to welfare schemes, and social entrepreneurial initiatives like the Ushahidi project that leveraged crowdsourcing to provide real-time crisis maps for humanitarian relief. While these projects are indeed inspirational, th…

Project leader for an UNESCO Report on prize-based incentives for innovations in ICT's in Education

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In the next few months, I will be working on a UNESCO commissioned report on prize-based incentives to foster innovation in the area of ICT's in education. This is indeed timely as there is much hype on mobile-based learning and educating through gamification, particularly in developing countries. New technology again promises to come to the rescue by circulating hope in the midst of chronic failures in schooling in these contexts. With a majority of people in the global South gaining access to mobile phones, there is much proclamation that learning is now literally at their fingertips.


Since we cannot afford to have another 'lost generation' as the state fails the youth, funders are taking on the neoliberal approach to education, using financial incentives to capitalize on new ICT's to provide engaging and relevant e-content for these emerging platforms of learning. But are these incentives working to attract the best innovations in this field? What constitutes as su…