Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Internet. Show all posts

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.


Friday, April 22, 2016

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 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

New Book Out! Crossroads in New Media, Identity and Law: The Shape of Diversity to Come


After our highly interdisciplinary conference on The Shape of Diversity to Come at Erasmus University Rotterdam in 2013 where we had a phenomenal line up of keynote speakers including Saskia Sassen, Julie Cohen, Chandran Kukathas, Jos de Mul, and Emmanuel Melissaris, we decided that we should have a book out that really takes on interdisciplinary thinking on this issue, exploring tensions as identity and law confront new media developments.

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.

Enjoy! 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Excited to be an ITS Global Fellow in Rio this July!

I have been working for over a decade on the intersection of new communication technologies, social activism, the public sphere and policy. While I have much fieldwork experience in India in this area, I would like to gain a sustained comparative perspective with another emerging market to extend critical understandings across a wider cultural context.

Early last year, I initiated a small comparative project on perspectives on privacy among youth from the slums in Hyderabad,India with youth in favelas in Belo Horizonte and Rio, Brazil. Given that much scholarship on digital privacy pertains to concerns in the West, I saw this as an opportunity to delve into an underrepresented context for a more cross-cultural and transnational dialogue on privacy. Besides, our understandings on ‘digital privacy’ need to go beyond the online realm, and explore the diverse social norms and spheres these private behaviors inhabit.


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!

Dot Com MantraFortunately, 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’).

However, what continues to be amiss is more critical and empirical work on how effective collective governance is pioneered, managed and sustained via digital platforms across cultures and contexts, with particular attention to emerging economies in the global south. Brazil is an excellent context to explore such an undertaking given its high connectivity and usage of social media, controversies on apps like Secret and wide socio-economic and cultural diversity.

Very much looking forward to meeting the ITS Team, my co-fellows and experiencing Brazil for the first time!
 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

New Publication out on Digital Leisure and Slums of Urban India

Nimmi Rangaswamy from Xerox Research Labs in India and I have been working for some years now on this theme and topic of digital leisure in the global South. We have been arguing for a shift in perspective on internet behavior of emerging market consumers, particularly those who are marginalized socio-economically. Instead of looking at their behavior through a mainly utilitarian lens, we argue that even (or arguably especially) the poor engage with new technologies for more social, playful and entertainment ends. 

Here is our paper published by the International Journal of Cultural Studies that substantiates this argument with fieldwork data in urban slums of India, validating our call for a new approach in examining digital practices among these 'newbie' consumers of the global south. 

The abstract for this paper is as follows: 
The wild and the everyday point at once to twinned aspects of life and, in this article, to a technological imaginary drawing upon the use of the mobile internet in urban slums of India. The article responds to the rather untethered way, from the point of view of state regulation, in which the telecom market in India has devolved to include poor populations, stoking a repertoire of unconventional daily use of the internet by youth living in slums. This article serves to locate the ‘wild and everyday’ as a specific sociocultural space in relation to use of mobile Facebook among young populations invisible to mainstream research on internet and culture. While development, as conventionally understood, is not focused on purposive outcomes of digital leisure practice (romance, play, entertainment), we argue that online engagements such as these are powerful precursors to ecologies of learning, reconstituting our understandings of global and mobile internet practice.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

NIAS Grant -Exploring the Democratization and Globalization of the art world in the Digital Era


My colleague Filip Vermeylen and I have been working for a number of years on the extent to which the internet serves as a game changer in the art world. We have already published quite a bit on this, including our article on 'the end of the art connoisseur?' and 'digital art markets.

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'sDuke's Visual Studies Initiative to the Swiss Institute for Art Research.

NIAS venue-Netherlands
We keep hearing how academia pays only lip-service to interdisciplinary work, especially in grant acquisition. Yet, we persisted as we believe that it is essential if we are to find some original answers to these hyped and revolutionizing notions on how the art world is transforming with the onset of new media technologies. So we applied to NIAS (Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study) , a wonderful venue with a rich intellectual heritage, to host a workshop on this topic.

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

New partnership with Microsoft India Researcher bears fruit


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

Another review on my book "Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas"

The Australian Journal of Anthropology (ISI/SSCI Indexed journal) Dot Com Mantra: Social Computing in the Central Himalayas P. Arora. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2010. xv + 172 pp. Illustrmap, bibliog., index. ISBN 978-1409401070. £50.00 (Hc.) Arora’s book offers an ethnographic answer to a common question in development studies: can new technologies transform other cultures effectively and for the better? Not surprisingly for an ethnographer, her answer is a critique of the technological determinism inherent in this question. She focuses on the introduction of computers in Almora, a town in rural northern India where a long-standing web of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) has steadily tried to influence people’s behaviour. Computers are but one of the technologies that NGOs hope will transform these farmers’ and villagers’ lives. A pastiche of types of organisations are introducing computers in the central Himalayas—some strikingly hands-off educational NGOs, some government-sponsored projects for farmers and some for-profit cybercafes. Each merit a chapter in this ethnography as Arora turns to different sites throughout this village where computers have been introduced by NGOs or entrepreneurs. One might expect that farmers would find computers, and in particular the Internet, very useful tools. After all, the internet can allow them to see how people are pricing the items the farmers are growing over a much wider geographic area than word of mouth reveals. The Indian government decided to provide computers in the name of village empowerment and introduced one-stop shops to make available a wide range of agricultural information to local farmers. For a variety of reasons, these government computer kiosks proved too cumbersome to use for farmers. Without mediators between the farmers and these far-flung markets, the farmers cannot turn this information into action. The kiosks were placed in inconvenient locations, forcing farmers to travel to even more places to complete all their errands. They could print out government forms, but still had to wait in line to hand in the forms. And the computers often broke down, with only the private cybercafe owners, that is, the kiosks’ rivals, equipped to fix them. For all of these reasons, the government computers never became widely used. In addition, Arora deftly illustrates a tenet familiar to science studies scholars: it is not the objects but the networks they condense that shape efficacy and whether the object will be adopted or not. Computers presuppose infrastructures and networks, and when these do not exist, the computers will not be useful in anticipated ways. For similar reasons, an educational aid project failed in Almora as well. An NGO had convinced the Indian government and World Information Technology and Services Alliances to support a Hole-in-the-Wall project—computers would be placed in public walls available for any child to play on them. The idea behind this is that without teachers or schools, the children would be able to learn a large number of computer skills through experimentation. If instruction is discipline, as Foucaultian scholars of education would have it, no instruction is putatively freedom. While this project appears to have been successful in other locations around India, it was a resounding failure in central Himalayan towns. Arora argues that the failure is because of a complex absence of infrastructure. ‘In other words, the act of learning without conventional school constraints is contingent on the support of institutional, social and other factors, making it less ‘‘free’’ in that sense’ (p. 103). The public computers required supervision, not to assist curious children, but to prevent vandalism and to make any necessary repairs. In other Indian communities that could afford to provide such support, the computers were sought out by children over time. When Arora turns her attention to the entrepreneurial computer centres throughout the town, she finds relatively thriving businesses, in part because the owners are eager to provide the repairs and support lacking for the other projects. But what precisely are the services these cybercafe´s provide? After volunteering for a month at one of these centres, Arora determines that these computer centres are often extensions of the nearby schools for the students who enter. Yet in what sense are these centres extensions? The students learn how to produce documents that are collages produced by cut and paste. School projects are fulfilled through practices that in other contexts would be seen as plagiarism. Arora wants to put this label aside and focuses instead the skills one must develop to create these collages. She discusses how the upper-caste school girls convince the computer centre employees to manipulate keyboards on their behalf (perhaps so they can avoid touching caste-contaminated keyboards). Creating these documents require skills and coordination, a considerable degree of social coordination. Yet by sticking resolutely to only what takes place within these computer centres, she ignores the other ways in which this social coordination takes place. How are these documents received within the school grounds? Do teachers approve of these pastiches? Are some pastiches considered better than others? If Arora had not been writing so resolutely for a development studies audience, she also might have addressed questions about plagiarism that anthropologists invariably explore these days, that is, what ideas about authorship circulate among these school girls, within the school and within the town itself to accommodate this type of contextualisation? Dot Com Mantra can be used effectively in upper-level development studies courses and technology studies courses to explore how technologies such as computers travel. The sentences are a bit too dense and unwieldy for lower division students, at least in my university. Another caution: the price of the book is a bit steep, which course instructors should take into consideration. Ilana Gershon, Department of Communication and Culture,Indiana University

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

After inventing the WWW, where do you go next?



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

Plagiarism: Moral hazards or strategies for the 21st century?


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

Do I need to join the Korean boot camp too?

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.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/18/technology/18rehab.html?em&ex=1195621200&en=ae5b633804a5ee6b&ei=5087

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

The future of the past: Digital evidence or new media fabrications?

If only the dead could talk, they would tell us what really happened… and sometimes they do. Rodrigo Rosenberg, a lawyer in Guatemala was murdered on May 10th 2009 by an unknown gunman. However, he continues to talk through YouTube, channeling his blame towards President Alvara Colom and others for his death. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxZptUp9a44&feature=fvst

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.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z114wnwXtQ

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?