Showing posts with label Amsterdam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amsterdam. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Talking to Tech: Keynote at EMERCE Next in Amsterdam

Wonderful experience speaking as one of the few academics in a room full of young tech entrepreneurs at the EMERCE Next event in Amsterdam. I gave a talk based on my new book 'The Next Billion Users' published by Harvard Press earlier this year. I spoke about the myths that aid agencies and tech industries perpetuate about these new user groups based on their biased understandings of them and rooted in little empirical evidence. Worse yet, even in the face of vast evidence that contradicts these worldviews, this thinking still persists so I hope I was able to disrupt a little bit these conventional approaches. I got questions on Article 13 on copyright policies under the new GDPR which indeed is so far from the world of media piracy in developing countries. I emphasized how we need to look also at why these policies are barely enforced based on historical and unfair media business models in the global south. Other questions grappled with the ways the "West" and the "Rest" are the same and yet different and so how can we build tech going forward?

I learnt a lot from this conference that "brings the technology from tomorrow to today" and how "pioneers and experts, innovators and early adopters talk about the success of ML, VR, AI, IoT, AR, Blockchain and Quantum in marketing and business."

1. Academia has a Pessimism Bias while the Tech world has a Hyper-Optimism bias.

2. When asked how do you know you’re "doing good," Jip Samhoud of Samhoud Media said that it’s about writing down your values and knowing in your heart you are making the world better. Clearly academic discussions on Ethics and Tech have NOT made inroads with young tech peeps.

3. A big part of the blame falls on the shoulders of academia. We urgently need to find common ground/ language with the tech world that speaks about "growth hacking" instead of "surveillance capitalism"; that looks at the future through data maximization instead of data justice.

4. Academia and the Tech industry can be mutually beneficial: Scholars work slow and steady; thereby offer critical/ ethical guidelines. Tech peeps move fast and disruptive; thereby they offer insight on customer desires, needs, demands that scholars should give weight to in their theorizing. We can help them be more reflective while they can help us be more empathetic to the market.

5. Learnt that EU H2020 are funding data analytic entrepreneurs who are innovating and solving problems for the car industry (e.g. Media Distillery) on the taxpayers dime. We should use EU money to pioneer solutions to bridge the growing data inequality that corporations would never fund. I start to wonder what the market of venture capitalism looks like and if taxpayers are indeed subsidizing innovation, what kind of shares and benefits do the tax payers receive when these innovations get adopted and monetized by the private sector?

Anyway, was enlightening...

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Motivational Speaker for Gemeente Amsterdam Diversity Program

I cannot emphasize enough how much I love Amsterdam. It really feels like home for me and that's saying a lot given that I have moved so much since I was a teenager. From India to the United States (San Francisco, New York and Boston), I finally came to the Netherlands about a decade ago. So, was really happy to get an invite from the Gemeente Amsterdam (the Amsterdam municipality) to give a motivational talk for a program they have initiated a few years ago to improve diversity and support those less represented in positions of power.

Of course, usually I associate the municipality with paying my taxes and water bills and all the tedium of city governance. Had to block that Pavlovian training temporarily as I went about participating and speaking about my life story to this wonderful group of young mentees and mentors of this diversity program.

This mentoring program is in partnership with a wonderful organization called ECHO which is an expert organization on diversity policy. It links students/fresh graduates of color to professionals in the public and private sector. It’s a two way street where mentees learn from the professional experience of their mentors and the mentors learn from the challenges mentees face and hopefully reflect on their own blind spots. The idea is this process will hopefully contribute to more diversity and inclusion in the participating organizations.

My motivational speech was part of the closing session. It was good to not speak about academia for a change and focus more on how I got to where I got through the numerous experiments, failures with careers, hopping careers and countries and through this whole process, discovering myself. I spoke about the pressures of being a "token" as an Indian woman in the Netherlands and the responsibilities, privileges, and roles we play to represent entire communities whether we like it or not.

This kind of talk really keeps me grounded and am glad I got an opportunity to do it. 

Friday, April 12, 2019

Book launch at Athenaeum bookstore in Amsterdam

Seems like these days I am having a lot of "first" moments. My first studio talk with BBC, which will be broadcast in the next few weeks and then my first talk at a book store. Had my book launch at the Athenaeum bookstore  in Amsterdam. Was such an interesting experience. Completely casual and intimate. A load of chairs and comfy couches clustered tightly together so you could have a real conversation with people. The audience was eclectic from retired people, tech entrepreneurs, media agencies, students, academics, and just folk interested in the topic. The format was smart - Tina Harris, an anthropologist from University of Amsterdam engaged me in a conversation before we opened it up for questions. Nicely done overall. What better way to officially launch my book than to do it in such a lovely setting in my favorite city that I call home now!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Public talk on Decolonization, Resistance and Creativity

I will be speaking on a public panel event on "Big Data from the South: Decolonization, Resistance and Creativity" organized by Stefania Milan, the PI for the DATACTIVE ERC project at the University of Amsterdam and Emiliano Treré at the Data Justice Lab, Cardiff University. The wonderful panel of speakers include Nick Couldry (London School of Economics), Merlyna Lim (Carleton University) and Ulises A. Mejias (State University of New York, College at Oswego).

The premise of this panel is based on the fact that datafication has dramatically altered the way we understand the world around us. Understanding the so-called ‘big data’ means to explore the profound consequences of the computational turn, as well as the limitations, errors and biases that affect the gathering, interpretation and access to information on such a large scale. However, much of this critical scholarship has emerged along a Western axis ideally connecting Silicon Valley, Cambridge, MA and Northern Europe. What does it mean to think datafication from a Southern perspective? This roundtable interrogates the mythology and universalism of datafication and big data, moving beyond the Western centrism and digital universalism of the critical scholarship on datafication and digitalization. It asks how would datafication look like seen… ‘upside down’? What problems should we address? What questions would we ask?

This panel is part of a bigger workshop on ‘Big Data from the South: Towards a Research Agenda’, held in Amsterdam on December 4-5.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Keynote speaker at University of Amsterdam MA Graduation Ceremony

Each year the University of Amsterdam MA program in New Media and Digital Culture invites a keynote speaker to address and motivate students and families at their graduation ceremony. I will be giving a keynote for this year’s graduation ceremony, reflecting on the future of new media research. The graduation ceremony takes place on Wednesday August the 30th, 2017, in Amsterdam.

My talk is titled, “In Search of the Exotic in Digital Culture.” This comes at a time where tensions run high between groups; identity politics is pervasive. Boundaries are formed online and circulated strategically as truisms, fueling divisive cultural spaces online and offline. I will talk about the notion of the exotic and its colonial underpinnings as an efficient mechanism to frame entire publics. Exoticism was a critical tool to justify what I call the 3 Cs -to Control, to Convert and/or to Conserve and how this continues to play out in today’s digital era.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Communes. Communities. Cults

A few colleagues and I went out for dinner some time back and bonded over the usual small talk of renting and work and relationships. One of my colleagues made the conversation rather spicy by telling us that he lived in a commune in Amsterdam where there were about 10 people and that they often had dinner together in the evenings. He admitted that it was partly due to the cheap rent that drew him to this commune as much as the ideals. This got me thinking of a commune I encountered in my fieldwork two years ago when writing my book. I had gone to the Central Himalayas for research where I encountered the Mirtola ashram, a place where people voluntarily left their 'material' life behind in the cities and dedicated to living a simple and 'honest' life through the tilling of the land, growing their own produce, living with and within nature and praying to the Gods through a ritualistic practice every evening. Within a matter of months, much infighting began. Some did less and some did more. In this forced egalitarianism, hierarchies pushed forth. A leader was born to maintain harmony amongst equals. Irony was born.
And then my mind wandered further into my past when I was eighteen and left home to join a Marxist artist community in Kerala, an unusual and heady state in the South of India which has been uniquely a voluntary communist regime within the larger capitalistic space of India. This community in a way was a small slice of the larger Kerala ethos of high education, strong emotion and deep political leanings. We all pursued our art on the side while we earned our living through odd jobs of sorts. I taught in Mary Roy’s school at that time, the mother of the now famous Arundhati Roy, the Booker prize winner of God of Small Things. There was something magical about living with artists…the passion and sharing of resources, ideas and inspiration; jointly marveling at fireflies that took over the skies at night as the electricity went out as part of our daily routine, and of course, sharing common indignation on the state of reality – the roads, the price of rice, the traffic jams, the soulless commute, the burdened families, the dowry system. Until, one day, we got the rude awakening that our commune was not sufficient to protect our kind from the common worries of the day when we came home one day to see our artist friend lying on the ground with his wrists slashed, blood gushing around him. He survived but the commune did not. One went to Mumbai and became a professional artist; another went to join another commune called Auroville, the City of Dawn in an adjacent State; another became a founder of a business, abandoning all art, while another became a web designer. Myself, I left for San Francisco to pursue my art, hoping to become a muralist or painter.
When I went to San Francisco, I lived in Tenderloin for the first two years. In 1996, this was the blind spot for cops where in principle, there seemed to be a live and let live agreement between the authorities, the prostitutes, and drug dealers. On my second day, my apartment was broken into. At the end of the week, my roommate got harassed by the local gang, pushing her off the edge, making her head back to New Jersey where she came from. Yet, behind this all, a communal feeling was formed. I got free muffins from the café next door; I got a free pass into the nightclubs around there and was protected by the watchful gaze of the bouncers and pimps around. It seemed that my ticket into this commune was my waitress and immigrant status and my artist naiveté. Today, there is little chance that I’d get entry into that same commune regardless of their familiarity with me. I no longer belong.
So one can’t help but think about what makes a commune and why is that different from a community? When does a commune become a cult? What does it take for a commune to be a commune and what is its staying power? Why do people have this need to share certain ideals over others and what is the role of economics in this social membership? Is economics really at the heart of this? Or are these micro experiments on reconstructing society the way we’d like to see it, an artistic product shall we say? As we move and (re)settle, year after year, often propelled by jobs, families and/or passion, how many of us continue to desire and seek for communes and more importantly are willing to commit to the larger rules of someone else's game?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Here we go again! TEDx Amsterdam mania and fanaticism renewed

Let’s just get this out of the way. Yes, I am still a hardcore TED groupie. Okay, I did not spend all of last year crossing the days off the calendar but did engage with tremendous foreplay - the communication process building up to next week’s TEDx Amsterdam event. Creating the profiles of this years’ speakers to release to the press flirted with my senses, compelling me to look them up on Wikipedia, YouTube and other digital platforms, consuming them voraciously in their presentation style and novelty of their ideas. Almost started to stalk some of them on Twitter but my saner part was kind enough to remind me that I really don’t have much in common with Computer-mediated Epistemology or Musical Cognition in the long run. Ah but that is why this event, a gathering of artists, designers, scientists, architects, technologists, and activists is so unusual and addictive – the adrenaline rush of immersing into unknown territories and specialties with just one common thread –ideas worth sharing and worth pursuing. As an academic used to being surrounded by the usual suspect fellow scholars, this is refreshing and indeed how I believe new ideas often truly emerge.
This year will focus on the theme of “human nature” and will kick start with the “living brain,” the Dutch National Ballet rendition of the human brain through dance form. I also did not know until a few days ago while creating Jim Stolze's profile, the founder of TEDx Amsterdam, that he is the European ambassador of TED and that he did this fascinating study about how the internet positively impacts happiness. Also I have to admit, I am morbidly curious of Tinkebell, a controversial Dutch artist best known for handling animals in her work where she actually made a handbag from the fur of her cat. In the age of the YouTube cat video fandom, this is rather hard to get away with!
And what has changed with our communication team since last year? Well, it will be an exciting reunion as we have digitally engaged much through this year and will be nice to bond in our Press Corner again. Rumor has it that we have special lap pillows to not burn our thighs off with our laptops. Also, not sure if this year Fokke and Sukke can tease us on being Mac heads as I will be breaking the chain with my run of the mill PC due to a certain incident involving drowning of my MacBook Air with a bottle of water.
Evidently some people one may argue, do not deserve to be part of the Mac Commune but I do feel liberated though from the cult with my 'damn if I care' laptop. What is definitely an exciting new intervention is working with Louise Fresco, a former UN director and sustainability expert to come up with the days’ summary of good ideas and happenings. All in all, same place, same time, round the clock idea immersion from 9am to 9pm...the promise of a supreme high is just around the corner!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Fokke n Sukke does a number on us Tedhead bloggers

Granted, my profound ignorance of Dutch cartoons mitigated a little only due to self-centrism. Having learnt that us TEDx bloggers from the TEDx Amsterdam event (that recently wrapped up on Nov 30th) was covered by two specimens that don't wear pants, it piqued my attention for sure. Fokke, a run-of-the-mill duck wearing a small sailor's cap is accompanied by Sukke, a canary bird that wears a baseball cap backwards but apparently rocks the boat with their supposed tails that coincidently resemble male genitalia. But thats not all that they rock. Their benign disguise is coupled with politically incorrect humor and barbed sarcasms targeted at posers such as us TEDheadders, a subculture of The Economist reading, Mac hugging, Jon Stewart loving type of groupies.

So, Fokke & Sukke is a Dutch comic strip created by writer and illustrator Jean-Marc van Tol, and writers John Reid and Bastiaan Geleijnse and is published in the daily broadsheet NRC Handelsblad. These guys even won the Stripschapprijs, the Netherlands’ premier cartoon award. So no doubt then it is flattering that our esteemed little creatures decided to focus (albeit mockingly) on us bloggers given the numerous distractions going on at the TEDx event.

So the translation for this goes something like this..based on my pigeon Dutch:
Sitting down in the press balcony with pen and paper

Sukke! Everyone uses an apple! (holding onto their pen and paper)
Shh! Careful or they'll realize that we don't know shit about nanotechnology!

I m sure its more acidic when translated correctly...but hey, nothing like getting immortalized by a bunch of furry creatures that are still not extinct.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Reporting from TEDx: Muthoni the Drummer queen

Performance by Muthoni, the drummer queen
Starving artists, rich recording labels…that’s how the cliché goes. Microfinance, usually reserved for talk on farmer loans and such is now making waves into the world of the music industry. Fans are putting their money where their mouth is, enabling start-up capital to aspiring musicians from developing countries around the world. The clincher here is that musicians do not give up ownership or control of their music rights.

microfinance + music + digital media= Muthoni the drummer queen!

for more, check out TEDx Amsterdam site: Moving to the microfinance beat!

Reporting from TEDx: replaying Darwins journey + the circus as conference

Sarah Darwin talks about Darwin's journey replayed today
Like the usual family pressure is not enough, having Charles Darwin as your great great grandfather must hardly be an easy feat. That said, rather than hide from it, Sarah Darwin embraces it openly and audaciously retraces the “emotional” journe, as she calls it, of the HMS Beagle. A biologist herself, Sarah describes how she and her family set sail round the world on the Dutch clipper Stad-Amsterdam, starting at the same port where Charles Darwin embarked around 178 years ago...
Check out the TEDx website for more:
Sarah Darwin: Following in your footsteps great great granddaddy!


Peter van Lindonk's talk on demanding creativity as ground for unity for stimulating ideas
It’s about time someone added chutzpah into conferences! Aren’t most conferences about remembering the lines but forgetting the theatre of it all? Peter van Lindonk, the co-founder of the annual PINC-Conference, knows this better than most people as he rounds up people in Amsterdam around one theme and one theme only: creativity. PINC stands for People Ideas Nature Creativity and unites people on passion over content. Of course, there’s something to be said about embracing passion over discipline; think about De Bono, the creativity guru who was a physician, author, inventor, and consultant or Bucky Fuller, the American engineer, author, designer, inventor, and futurist who pioneered “spaceship earth.” What they all have in common is this irreverence for compartmentalizing ideas by discipline.
Peter van Lindonk: Pocket full of passion

TEDx Amsterdam's Photogenic moments...

Becoming the Press at TEDx: the hoopla around it

Green bordered Press Passes and RESERVED written on red velvet seats...its nice being the Press! Cookies and koffie; polaroids being taken to give some kind of instant energy feeling; long-bearded men, probably all eco-warriors or physicists... spotted! Admittedly, as we blog away with our Apple computers in a row (with every other minute checking Facebook), we're deeply concerned about more pressing issues such as what we should do with our goodie bags post conference when we go for the after-party to Chicago Boom! Such are the troubling times we live in.

Other issues do seep in such as what can we say about someone whose claim to fame is that she is the great great granddaughter of Charles Darwin...ok, but what about it? And of aliens on and fake snow falling on a man who has come from Africa in his native costume, saying that this is the first time he has left his hometown and he receives unanimous applaud...because??? One is tempted to see this as condescending, and sensational but we resist for we're "Press" and as reality goes, we're representing TEDx that is representing Amsterdam/ The Netherlands that is representing a host of sponsors from Philips to Sonoma to Microsoft. And such struggles are punctuated by umpteen cups of coffee and organic sandwiches packed with biodegradable forks and knives and recycled napkins. Even the garbage cans seem to communicate some holistic citizen kind of message like Save the Planet or some such, disorienting us and compelling us to debate on whether we should drop our empty bottles of water into it lest we get accused of well, misusing disposal bins.

And if this isn't enough, TED speakers share the stage with a man in a box of ice, aka the IceMan, Wim Hof, the world record holder, adventurer and daredevil who immerses himself regularly in ice. And he does so again, but this time on the TEDx stage for an audience and Press who have been over this day, trained slowly but surely on becoming accustomed to the strange, the weird, the different...and as our host aptly calls him, the icecube on a stick!

Live blogging at TEDx...

Blogging live on Alef Arendsen:
Even trendy renewable energy requires PR. Granted, Al Gore helped to make climate change a topic again. But for the most part it’s been all about what you can do for the world and not for yourself. The New Motion, a company about “electric mobility powered by renewable energy,” turns this around. “If we want to create lasting change, we have to accept the premise that we act on self-interest,” says Alef Arendsen, one of the co-founders. For more, check out the TEDx blog site:
Alef Arendsen: Fixing my problem fixes yours

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The politics of the floating gay

The floating gay parade, 80 boats with specific themes sailed along the Prinsengracht/ Amstel river canal with Lady Gaga ruling the airwaves. Cher managed to seep in a little but gone are the days of Madonna and Barbara Streisand. While no doubt an enjoyable spectator sport, there were some troubling trends. For instance, the energy on the boats lay low (my benchmark = NYC and San Francisco gay pride parades). You start to think about the relationship between the parade participants or “actors” and the crowd or the “audience.” Usually, in such parades, the line between the spectator and the spectacle is blurred, with the run of the mill you and I dressing up with stringy pink wigs, rainbow socks, to sometimes a full blown, out-of-the-closet costume. And you your life depended on it. Your vocal cords compete with the likes of a newborn baby. Yet, at the Amsterdam parade, there was a sober quality where the audience barely even cheered, let alone waved at the floats that went by. A beer and camera in hand, they waited diligently for each boat to have their say as they clicked away, almost voyeuristically so. You wonder how much of that played into the energy on these boats as you saw even the S&M boat with black leather shorts and straps retire on the boat, some barely shaking their hips. Was it the physical distance that created a psychological distance? Are street parades more high energy because proximity creates accountability? It is theatre after all, where small productions are more "involved" and "involving" than say, a Broadway musical perhaps? What was also strange was the United Colors of Benetton themes..niche boats like "Mensa gays," "Jewish gays," "black gays," to "gays for ING" and more. What happened to the rainbow unity, at least just for 1 day? And not to forget, the commercialization of these boats, of ING and ABN to the police and political parties all showing their progressive side, hoping to get a slice of the DINK (Double Income No Kids) population. There was also a “Fight Cancer” boat…seriously? Isn’t this a mission confusion statement here? Is this where gay parades are heading to – niche markets, competing causes, and spectator sport? So as I joined the masses in clicking away, I contribute to pictures speaking a thousand lies.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Queens day: Happy cows are here again!

Will power...what a burden! We sweat the small stuff a lot. We have to constantly exercise our Will to abstain from that extra slice of pie, from being "uncool" by wanting to stay home on a Saturday night watching Youtube, or just calling home to check in. Individualism can suck sometimes. Blame is rarely distributed. There's a reason why we say "exercise" your's pure and simple work. Sometimes, however, society orchestrates an opportunity to take a break. And BREAK it is!
Queens day in the Netherlands is one such moment in time! Thousands of people blind you with their orange glory as they sweep through Amsterdam. High on pot, techno and a vague reminder of being Dutch AND low on foot-estate, the mob has come to celebrate their Queen Beatrix and her conveniently timed birthday. (although born on January 31, the weather and her highness pushes this date to May 30th, allowing for orange neon bikinis, rave street parties and blood sporting bargaining at the freemarket!).

People have little choice but to be cattled around. And in that haze of second hand smoke, an idea dawns...cows have it good.

There's a reason they look so blissful. Someone is exercising their Will for them! Isn't that part of the appeal of voluntarily joining a mob of pushing and shoving people moving aimlessly around the city, (in)voluntarily subjected to a random set of sensory overload all in the name of the Queen? For a change, we have a legitimate excuse to let go of our Will.

Will is willingly let go of...moo to the queen!