Sunday, February 24, 2019

New Book with Harvard Press out

My US publicist clicked this photo at Barnes & Noble in
New York, Union Square
These months have 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 , Tech Crunch. and TechCabal. What is particularly cool is that I lived in both New York and Boston, the places where these 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. Another article which came out recently is in the NRC which is an amazing paper with an impressive liberal legacy in the Netherlands.

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 to see 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.