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Showing posts with the label international development

Book launch at Athenaeum bookstore in Amsterdam

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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!

Invited talks in Delhi, Manchester and Paris

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What a packed but exciting month. Just came back from New Delhi after a stimulating workshop with a group of interdisciplinary scholars and activists at the IIIT Delhi campus. This international Symposium on Digital Politics in Millennial India is part of a larger project on politics in digital India by Sahana Udupa at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München. Here, I spoke about the impact of datafication and bots in the political life of low-income communities in India. While these talks were going on, the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University staff and students were on strike due to policies from the government that was infringing on their academic autonomy. There were also a number of scholars from the United Kingdom who were also in the midst of the largest academic strike over pensions and the growing privatization and commodification of education. This was a humble reminder about how knowledge is deeply political and how we need to continuously struggle to keep it protecte…

My EUCxInspire talk on 'Silicon Valley's New Laboratories'

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The video of my talk for the EUCxInspire event "Seeing the Unseen" is out now. Check it out. 

New partnership with Microsoft India Researcher bears fruit

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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 …

Paper out in the 'Development in Practice' Journal on INGO Organizational Culture

My article on INGO organizational culture and its shaping of the microfinance development project is now out in the Development in Practice Journal. Click HERE for the full article:

Title  "Your kool-aid is not my kool-aid:" ideologies on microfinance within an INGO culture


Abstract Development investigations focus on synergies of institutional cultures for policy and practice. International non-governmental organisations (INGOs) currently enjoy a privileged position as harbingers of world culture unity. While there is contestation on INGOs as monolithic entities, few studies delve into the voices of actors within INGOs to provide for a more pluralistic perspective. This paper separates the actors from their institution by examining their different socio-cultural takes that drive them. This emphasises that as projects and visions come and go, institutional actors draw on their own philosophy that does not necessarily mirror their institution’s stance. Here, the focus is on on…

New Paper out in the Asian Journal of Communication

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Title of Paper: The folksong jukebox: singing along for social change in rural India
(Download PDF)


Abstract: In designing digital literacy content for marginalized demographics, we need to garner local resources to structure engaging and meaningful media experiences. This paper examines the socio-cognitive implications of a novel edutainment product in rural India on learning, stemming from an e-development initiative funded by Hewlett-Packard. This product encapsulates a multiplicity of media forms: text, audio and visual, with social-awareness folk themes endemic to the locality. It uses the karaoke ‘same language subtitling’ feature that won the World Bank Development Marketplace Award in 2002 due to its simple yet innovative application that has proven to have an impact on reading skills. The product strives to combine cultural regeneration, value-based education, incidental literacy and language practice through entertainment. The paper investigates how this product addresses enga…

New Paper out "Leisure Divide: Can the poor come out to play?" by The Information Development Journal

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My paper on "The Leisure Divide: Can the poor come out to play?" has just got published by the Information Development Journal Here's the Abstract: As billions of dollars are invested in mitigating the digital divide, stakes are raised to gain validity for these cost-intensive endeavors, focusing more on online activities that have clear socio-economic outcomes. Hence, farmers in rural India are watched closely to see how they access crop prices online, while their Orkuting gets sidelined as anecdotal. This paper argues that this is a fundamental problem as it treats users in emerging markets as somehow inherently different from those in the West. After all, it is now commonly accepted that much of what users do online in developed nations is leisure-oriented. This perspective does not crossover as easily into the Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICT4D) world, where the utilitarian angle reigns. This paper argues that much insight can be gain…

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-spo…

The ICTD conference kicks off with marital discord between practitioners and academics

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The ICTD conference for 2010 goes all Harry Potter on us, hosted by Royal Holloway, University of London. This university, started in 1886 and financially backboned substantively by Thomas Holloway who made his millions from patent medicine, is a fascinating site to hold the conference in. While we're immersed delightfully within the history of this educational space, we're confronted with the future of this relatively newly created ICTD conference space. Its a response to the persistent frustrations of the disconnect between academia and practice. It's about making "relevant" academia, to network these seemingly disparate groups in a fruitful manner and create sustainable thinking through interdisciplinary means.

So it is of little surprise that the conference launches with a panel of practitioners and moderated by Tim Unwin from Royal Holloway, University of London. In true academic self-flagellation, Tim remarks that only practitioners can truly "guide t…