Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Friday, April 22, 2016
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 sphere, leisure space, virtual activism, online privacy, digital labor, and globalization of virtual networks. Media and communication scholars will appreciate this insight, which illuminates and compels readers to analyze and theorize the rhetorics of the public sphere, digi-tality, and leisure space through a new heuristic vocabulary.”
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
So we are proud to now share the volume publised by Palgrave called Crossroads in New Media, Identity and Law The Shape of Diversity to Come. Here, you will find provocative chapters by Sassen, Cohen, Vermeylen, deMul, and more!
In a nutshell, this volume brings together a number of timely contributions at the nexus of new media, politics and law. The central intuition that ties these essays together is that information and communication technology, cultural identity, and legal and political institutions are spheres that co-evolve and interpenetrate in myriad ways. Discussing these shifting relationships, the contributions all probe the question of what shape diversity will take as a result of the changes in the way we communicate and spread information: that is, are we heading to the disintegration and fragmentation of national and cultural identity, or is society moving towards more consolidation, standardization and centralization at a transnational level? In an age of digitization and globalization, this book addresses the question of whether this calls for a new civility fit for the 21st century.
Sunday, April 12, 2015
While fieldwork continues in these two contexts through research assistants and guided by excellent local mentors (Nimmi Rangaswamy in India and Laura Scheiber in Brazil), I recognized the need to immerse myself further into the working dynamics within the Brazilian and ICT policy context so as to serve as an effective project leader. As luck would have it, The Institute of Technology and Society put out their annual call for Fellows for 2015 offering,
"...an intensive 4-week program for our fellows, which includes visits to the biggest technology companies operating in Brazil, the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (CGI.br) and visits to São Paulo and Brasília, including representatives from the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Culture and Congressmen who are advocating for policies related to internet and technology."
Now that would be perfect for me to gain an overview of the Brazilian context regarding internet usage, privacy and ICT policy!
Fortunately, I was selected as one of the six fellows for this year to go there! This serves as an ideal and timely opportunity to create new and long term collaborations and future publications. For years now I have been approaching this area from simultaneously a policy and grassroots practice angle. For instance, my first book in 2010, ‘Dot Com Mantra: Social computingin the Central Himalayas,’ juxtaposed social practices with new technologies in rural Himalayas with technology policy in India regarding e-health, e-agriculture and e-learning initiatives. Since then, I have written extensively on democratic aspirations and collective participation through social media across cultures, manifesting in constructs such as the digital commons or what I term as the ‘leisure commons’ and the ‘cultural commons’ (e.g. see my 2014 book on the ‘Leisure Commons: A spatial history of web 2.0’).
Very much looking forward to meeting the ITS Team, my co-fellows and experiencing Brazil for the first time!
Thursday, April 2, 2015
Thursday, April 10, 2014
It has been an exciting journey so far working with someone from a completely different discipline -cultural economics and art history. Perhaps because of this unusual mix of bringing Media Studies with Art Economics, we have had quite an adventure in our invited lectures, be it at 'Sotheby's, Duke's Visual Studies Initiative to the Swiss Institute for Art Research.
In a nutshell, our workshop intends to explore contemporary trends on digitization in the art world and market of the twenty-first century and focus on the visual arts as it is exhibited, discussed and traded online. Thereby, this workshop questions how and under what circumstances the internet gives rise to new and democratic forms of art product consumption and knowledge circulation, and how the specific characteristics of the digital medium,the audiences and cultural contexts contribute to this novel phenomenon. Hence, our objective is to fill an important gap in the framing of the cultural commons today. We are aiming for an interdisciplinary workshop inviting people from the fields of art history, communication and media, anthropology, cultural economics, and sociology of the arts. The outcomes of this workshop will not just be theoretically relevant but also of practical use for public art institutions under tremendous pressure to be less exclusive and more economically viable.
So will keep you guys posted on the outcome of this workshop that is planned for November of this year!
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Nimmi Rangaswamy from Microsoft Research Labs India and I have been working on creating momentum in shifting the focus of ICTs for International Development (ICT4D) research towards a broader and less utilitarian perspective. Over the years, it has been interesting to see how Nimmi and I through our independent anthropological fieldwork were coming to a similar conclusion on the need to pay attention to "leisure" behavior of Internet users in emerging markets if we are to genuinely understand the multiple dimensions of new media practice in the global South. For instance, her research with Kentaro Toyama on cyberkiosks revealed the following:
From field ethnography, we find that urban youth slang and speech styles do not lag behind in villages. Neither do communication styles and channels. Instant messaging is immediately embraced by younger kiosk operators. Fan clubs of matinee idols bring in youth fashion and trends along with film music. Most popular films and film music are released within a month in hub-towns. Cassettes, pulp-film magazines, and even VCDs are snapped up quickly by rural consumers. We found in one case, that women from a village in Tamil Nadu flocked to a rural kiosk where an online celebrity chat was organized with the director of a contemporary soap opera. (Rangaswamy and Toyoma 2006: 5)
Around the same time, my book "Dot Com Mantra: Social computing in Central Himalayas" (Ashgate Pub) amassed evidence of a range of primarily leisure practices that users engaged in at cybercafes in rural Himalayas challenging notions of how rural people would be driven to use these new tools for mainly socio-economic mobility.
So naturally, when Nimmi and I connected at the ICTD conference in London 2010, we schemed up ways in which we could work together. Since then, she has served as a guest lecturer for my course on ICTs and International Development over the last 2 years. Also, we recently submitted a panel for ICA, a commentary piece for review at the ITID journal and are currently working on a book proposal on this very topic. It is indeed exciting when one finds a collaborator who one can seamlessly work with!
So its good to know that all this effort is starting to pay off with the recent acceptance of our article for publication "Digital leisure for development: Reframing new media practice in the global south" by the Media Culture & Society journal.
Below is the Abstract of this paper and as you can see, this is really a call for a shift in research. We hope its useful to those in this field !
Photoshopping of newlyweds, downloading the latest movies, teens flirting on social network sites and virtual gaming may seem like typical behavior in the West; yet in the context of a village in Mali or a slum in Mumbai, it is seen as unusual and perhaps an anomaly in their new media practice. In recent years, some studies (Ganesh, 2010; Mitra, 2005; Author removed, 2010; 2012; 2nd Author removed 2012; Kavoori, Chadha & Arceneaux, 2006) have documented these leisure-oriented behaviors in the global south and argued for the need to emphasize and reposition these user practices within larger and contemporary discourses on new media consumption. Yet, for the most part, studies in the field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) have duly relegated such enactments as anecdotal. This is partly due to the fact that much of this research is driven by development agendas with a strong historical bias towards the socio-economic focus (Burrell & Anderson, 2009). Data that is not directly addressing project-based outcomes is sidelined. However, as emerging economies globalize and urbanize exponentially, and their users become more critical consumers and creative contributors of digital content or ‘prosumers’ (Bruns, 2008) and arguably free laborers (Scholz, 2012) instead of classic development beneficiaries, a paradigm shift is needed in approaching this new media audience with a more open-ended, explorative and pluralistic perspective.Thereby, this commentary piece serves as a call to rethink new media practices in the global south by looking at the implications and impacts of ICTs as leisure (entertainment/pleasure/ play) artifacts in the context of developing economies and emerging markets. We believe this line of inquiry is timely and enables a strategic bridging of the new media studies and development communication domain. Despite studies yielding insightful commentaries on ICTs in this arena, we believe resource constrained environments generating rich usages that are not overtly utilitarian have remained hitherto unexplored. A critical movement is needed among scholars focusing on emerging economies to re-conceptualize the mobilization and serviceability of ICTs to extend beyond a conservative understanding of developmental value. This will help in focusing on the heterogeneous and life enhancing aspects of technological use encompassing both experiential and purposive elements of ICT adoption: their interplay with systematic/systemic ecological constraints to provide an analytical and descriptive study of the technology spectrum and use in these contexts.
To illustrate our argument, we offer some critical points of contention that need addressing and new avenues for research if we are to rethink, reframe and refresh our thinking on Web 2.0 enactments in the global south.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
Sir Tim Berners-Lee is the keynote speaker at this ICTD conference happening here in London. The Michael Jackson in the computing world, Sir. Tim Berners-Lee has been credited for inventing the World Wide Web, launching the first basic communication via the Internet in 1989. So...he appears lost on stage, as if he walked into the wrong conference. A tech-geek at heart, it seems he is compelled to connect his general fabulous geekiness to starving children in Uganda. And sadly he tries. He brings up in some circular way this farmer in rural India who makes decisions on drilling the land and sowing the seeds and something about rainfall and er...as if he just had a crash course on farming ..farming for Dummies 1.0. And just when you wonder where its heading, he miraculously ties this to accessing the Internet for empowerment, a point already beaten to death not just at this conference but for the last decade in the ICTD field.
Okay, so while he may not be the development guru (nor does he claim to be which is the redeeming aspect here), he becomes more engaging when he actually starts to talk about his toys, his nerdy state of being and more. He talks about the creative process, particularly on how scientists inhabit the fuzzy world of stories and inspiration: "I spend a lot of my time in an anecdotal world." While nothing new per se, it is nice to be reminded that data often does not inspire, it often justifies...it's the after and not before of the creative process.
When asked (surprise surprise) as to what is the future of the www, a member of his www consortium reveals that voice technologies is where the www should be heading to. Seems so intuitively obvious given the high illiteracy rates around the world yet it is amazing how voice-based technologies has not taken off at an unprecedented scale; wish they talked more about this as to why this hasn't yet happened. Instead, questions concerning wikileaks seems to infuse the auditorium space, tying this to security, walled gardens, regulation and open vs proprietry software. Nothing too revealing in these discussions and predictive in terms of its place in this interdisciplinary conference.
So, post-keynote talk, I land up chatting with some Microsoft guys who are researching on search techniques. They tell me that they've heard Berners-Lee talk every year as a keynote speaker at the WWW consortium and apparently, he uses the same speech year after year after..year! Hard to beat the www idea huh? So just a tip here- if you're going to do something epic in life, just hope this happens later rather than earlier in your career. Of course, we often don't know a moment is epic until after the fact. This explains why often the initiation of epicness is marked by the mundane such as the testing of the telephone call by Bell saying "Mr. Watson come here, I want to see you" to Berners-Lee's first web address "Info.cern.ch" explaining the WWW project. So next time, you may be better prepared when you confront your own 5 minutes of fame...
Monday, May 3, 2010
My book chapter/ case study on academic plagiarism just recently came out - "Copycats of the Central Himalayas: Learning in the age of Information."
Basically, I spent about 8 months in Almora, a rur-town in Central Himalayas, investigating what people do with the Internet. Given that cybercafes had sprung up relatively recently, I volunteered to work for one in exchange of playing witness to internet usage. It was amazing as I really actually pictured people to be using it for the usual browsing and entertainment oriented stuff. Instead, I became an active accomplice to plagiarism by college students - open, active, ingenious plagiarism! Of course as soon as one says "plagiarism," academics and others get all hassled about it, frothing in the mouth about it immorality, the decline of this generation and more. Rather than focus on the "pathological" reasons why students do what they do, I thought it would be worth stopping and asking how on earth did these students learn to do what they do! To know where to look, how to look, how to assemble information strategically and create an entire thesis out of other people's material is a talent in itself..not trying to glorify plagiarism but am trying to emphasize the "learnings" that go on with new technology which begs us to question what is learning in this day and age!
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Apparently I fit the description of an addict; apparently I’m truly at-risk…or so the New York Times article on Korean bootcamps for cyberaddicts informs me. “They spend at least two hours a day online, usually playing games or chatting. Of those, up to a quarter million probably show signs of actual addiction, like an inability to stop themselves from using computers, rising levels of tolerance that drive them to seek ever longer sessions online, and withdrawal symptoms like anger and craving when prevented from logging on.” Sounds really familiar…of me checking my email every five minutes, of me getting all worked up that I don’t have access to the Net the other day, preventing me from watching the latest SNL spoof…my life had almost come to a stop. I guess my membership to this club should be confirmed then? But 2 hours really? Is there a super-membership as I believe I break a higher bar than that.
South Korea, with their savvy Net loving citizens are now in a crunch. They need to wean their population off the Net juice so to speak. Kids are dropping out of school it seems just to stay online…or worse, “dropping dead.” The government saves the day. Rescue camps have sprung up all over the place by the government to remind their people that pottery and drumming are not such bad alternatives. Seriously though, going by this, many of us with Net access are spending such time online, making us more the norm than the deviant entity in society. If kids are dropping out of school, lets focus on how schools are engaging/disengaging them versus shifting all the blame to online compulsions. The same behavior seen by them when they grow up will be perceived as having a great “work ethic.” After all, I don’t see boot camps springing up anytime soon for worker bees online…
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
This digital expose of claimed corruption and conspiracy is becoming a common phenomenon. In India, the Tehelka news magazine revealed tapes implicating Gujarat minister Narendra Modi and other politicians for the mass killings of Muslims in the infamous Gujarat riots in 2002 through their taped confessionals.
On a less grisly note, who could forget the Mexican Zapatista movement, an armed revolutionary group in Chiapas, Mexico that brought their movement into the international limelight through the strategic use of the Internet. Their desire for indigenous control of their local resources became an international topic of contention seemingly overnight.
Yet the proof is not necessarily in this digital pudding apparently…authenticity of these videos is being questioned and continues to be questioned by the accused. That’s not surprising really. Legally, digital evidence seems to have less impact that one might expect. We know that not all that goes into print is “truth” so why should digital media be any different? Yet it is…the feel of authenticity through allowing us to relive moments of the past, of allowing us to transport ourselves to the moment of confession, of recognizing the humble efforts of the “small” guys in this drama is no small feat. While the legal battle continues, the seeds of doubt have been planted. But is that enough really? How can new media become powerful tools of justice? What does it really take?