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Motivational Speaker for Gemeente Amsterdam Diversity Program

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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. I…

Speaking on panels at the Amsterdam Privacy Conference

Amsterdam Privacy conference kicks off this weekend. Am doing a number of presentations at this conference which makes this quite a hectic few days to come. To start with, I am presenting with my co-author René König on "Imagining the “diversity algorithm: Alternatives in ideological governance and their challenges." Basically, we bring together two discourses and fields of study that have rarely intersected – sociology of diversity and computing studies to arrive at new understandings of the challenges that we face in the embedding of ‘diversity’ as a value in the design of net-based technologies. Our paper maps tensions among different diversity-driven cultures alongside the challenges that come with operationalizing them through technological design. This demands a re-examining of what constitutes as exclusion and inclusion, what is boundary-making for fair representation, is visibility empowering, and other such critical questions.  The fact is that diversity is a rising…

Social media campaign on diversity launched with students

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The diversity discourse at Erasmus University Rotterdam has been polarizing and is now tremendously heated. While these discussions go ahead, few students appear to be participating or driving these conversations. Hence, my organization Catalyst Lab alongside a group of highly driven masters students from the Erasmus Faculty of History Culture and Communication (ESHCC) have come up with a social media campaign to engage students on this very topic, supported by the faculty.

After all, we know so little about what diversity means to the youth. Working closely with young student film makers, comedians and with targeted mentoring and guidance by professional media people,this week ‘Diversify,’ this student led initiative has now gone live!

Click here to follow the campaign and see what youth think about diversity through their own narratives, personal experiences and identities. What is astonishing is how honest these students have been on topics that are very sensitive and way under-di…

Opinion Piece: EM Magazine

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Look who’s talking! The burden of representationAs we trudge along in the line of scholarly duty, shall we dare to ask, who do we actually represent? Levien WillemsePayal Arora 17-04-20182 minute read Who do you represent when you write and speak? Even talking about yourself cannot be confined to your life, because people draw meaning from your lived experience in ways that are out of your control. This is the trade-off for listening. When you write, you filter reality. When you speak, you become a proxy for your ‘kind.’ It is natural to process the world through learnt cues.
When you are in a position of authority, what you say and do becomes ‘truth.’ Academics are in the business of making truth. There is much hubris involved in dedicating our lives to becoming the voice for the voiceless. During the colonial days, anthropologists were enlisted to unravel the mysteries behind the ‘exotic’ subjects in occupied regions of the world and filter these understandings in ways palatable to the…

Opinion Piece: EM magazine

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COLUMN Going beyond the vagina dialogues ‘There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support each other,’ argues Pip Jamieson, a female tech founder. But what is being supportive? My partner and I moved to a new apartment recently. We decided to have our neighbours over for drinks. One of them is a pregnant dentist. Over the course of the night, she confessed that she had gone part time. She immediately said that she was aware that too many Dutch women go part time and that that’s considered a problem, but she was happy. I could feel it was difficult for her to explain her situation. A week ago I was in New York for a conference. I met up with a good friend who was celebrating her promotion to Research Director with a top multinational architectural firm. She was in her late sixties and was feeling great. She spoke about how some of her clients had propositioned her. She said the flirting was all in good fun though and she would never trade that kind of banter for anything in …

Opinion piece out -Erasmus Magazine

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From October 2017, I will be writing a monthly opinion piece for theErasmus magazine. This is quite a refreshing change from my academic writing. I wonder how many academics like myself miss just writing to a lay audience on issues that are of general interest. anyway, looking forward to this new writing journey.

Of course, as luck would have it, I had to start with a bang on the controversial debate on "diversity" taking place on campuses in the Netherlands and as I see, worldwide. While the discussion has got heated, I must say this opens up opportunities to organize public forums for debates on this topic which I hope will happen. Here goes

Open letters, closed conversations?
If we want true action on diversity at our university, we need a sustainable equity that outlives identity politics, says Payal Arora. It's her reaction to an open letter to the EUR community on diversity, written by some university members.

Speaking on Digital Cultures at Collège des Bernardins in Paris

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This international conference at the Collège des Bernardins was on the topic of "L’humain au défi du numérique". Basically, it focused on digital & cultural diversity. Following the work of Milad Doueihi, the Chair of the Collège des Bernardins on "The human being with the digital challenge", the study day "Numerique & Diversité culturelle" proposes to examine the digital experience in other regions of the world and the possibility of thinking differently, using different methodologies and categories of thought. Can we still study digital culture, or produce an audible discourse on it, without systematically discussing the issue of digitization, encoding, mapping, data and usage? The meeting of computer science with the human and social sciences seems to have tightened the perimeter of the latter. The suspicion that weighs since their origins on their scientificity and their social utility is thus based, at a time when public funding is always de…

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

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After our highly interdisciplinary conference on The Shape of Diversity to Comeat 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 interpenetr…