Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label social media. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Another review out on my book 'The Leisure Commons: A Spatial History of Web 2.0'

Kevin Driscoll a postdoctoral researcher at Microsoft Research, has written a thoughtful review of my book, The Leisure Commons, A Spatial history of Web 2.0 for the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing

Here are some excerpts from the review:
"Arora’s analysis of social media centers on a comparison with an older spatial technology that was also introduced with a bloom of optimism and collective imagination: the public park. For Arora, social media and the public park are both part of “the leisure commons,” spaces designed primarily for collective, nonutilitarian purposes such as play, relaxation, and socializing."

"One of Arora’s goals in The Leisure Commons is to put the critical study of social media in dialogue with the interdisciplinary body of research on urban parks. Readers will be quickly convinced by Arora’s wide-ranging exploration of park metaphors that the two fields share a number of core theoretical concerns.”

Click here for the full review

Monday, January 19, 2015

The City & South Asia: Digital romance in the Indian city

Nimmi Rangaswamy and I wrote a chapter on 'digital romance in the Indian city' based on our years of fieldwork in slums of India - on how the youth are engaging and participating on social media in ways that are creative, romantic and deeply social. This series, The City & South Asia is an exciting and accessible anthology of voices from diverse scholars on urbanism, South Asia and contemporary issues and developments in emerging markets. The best part is this is open access -what all scholarship should be in the 21st Century -good going Harvard University Press!

Digital romance in the Indian City

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

2 New Papers Out on First Monday: Museum 2.0 & the Fashion Blogosphere

What a wonderful day to see 2 of my Masters students get their thesis published as papers in one of my favorite journals - First Monday. This journal is one of the first open access journals dedicated solely to the study of the Internet. It has published excellent and pioneering texts from several renowned scholars such as Howard Besser, danah boyd, John Seely Brown, Edward Castronova, Paul Duguid, Nathan Glazer, Eszter Hargittai, Lev Manovich, Helen Nissenbaum, Trevor Pinch, and Richard Wiggins.

So proud of Jessica Verboom, and Kristina Sedeke, both wonderful young scholars and practitioners.

So the first paper by Jessica Verboom , 'Museum 2.0: A study into the culture of expertise within the museum blogosphere' is on how museums are addressing the rise of social media and how this challenges the notion of expertise in the art world. The abstract below gives a glimpse of what its about:

Abstract
While studies on popular culture have a more vast understanding of the impact of the participatory culture on experts and expertise, there is a dearth of literature on the impact of Web 2.0 on museums, which are established authorities within the cultural field. We aim to answer the following research question here: who are the experts and what is the nature of their expertise in the museum blogosphere? In addition, we look at the spatial culture on these museum blogs and its role in shaping expertise. We address this question by conducting a content analysis on a sample of the top ten ranked museum blogs, and find that new experts have entered the playing field and expertise is constructed in the personal and social context of an entertainment-oriented blogosphere. Click here for the full text

The second paper by Kristina Sedeke, 'Top ranking fashion blogs and their role in the current fashion industry' is about how the fashion industry is responding to the rise of the blogosphere and the new role of experts in this realm and their influence in this fashion arena.The abstract below gives a glimpse of what its about:

Abstract
Within the last decade, fashion has become more of a global industry catering to complex and transnational customers of diverse lifestyles, religions, and cultures which makes the recognition and identification with particular customers more complex. Simultaneously the radical change in communication allows users to participate, follow and discuss any trends and fashion news easily for any collection and purchase them online. In particular, the blogosphere has become a prime arena within which fashion consumers reside online, bringing to question who and what are the influencers within these new digital and cultural spaces in the fashion industry. Blogging in general is considered as a new form of online journalism, enjoying great attention of users, based on a personal and interactive approach, versus the standardized treatment through mainstream media. Fashion blogs are perceived as a street of fashion, as a source of authenticity and a display of the actual use of fashion by the general public. However, fashion bloggers are looked upon skeptically by the fashion industry as they may not have the proper expertise guaranteeing quality and credible reporting. This new cultural sphere continues to be resisted by established and well-known fashion brands and designers who do not incorporate them into their corporate communication. This is not to say that fashion bloggers are not influential; in fact, these amateur-experts have proven an impressive capacity to build up a wide audience following, and have even influenced mainstream media and the fashion industry. While we are aware of these trends, few studies have shed light on the nature and characteristic of this new cultural and online domain of the fashion industry. Thereby, this paper focuses on some of the most effective blogs and bloggers, delving into who they are, what kinds of strategies do they employ to attract a wide audience and what are the range of characteristics that make an effective blog. The aim of this paper is to enhance the understanding of this new cultural realm, especially in three avenues: identity of bloggers, the culture of space of their blogs, and their actual or possible use as a tool of fashion marketing and brand management. Click here for the full text


Monday, July 1, 2013

General Electric Panel on Cutting through the hype (Helsinki WCSJ 2013)

General Electric Panel Helsinki Finland June 26 2013 (WCSJ)


Just got back from Helsinki after speaking on the GE sponsored panel on energy at the World Conference of Science Journalists 2013 (click here for the live video recording of our panel talk). And yes, before you even go there, it is true that I'm not an expert on energy. In fact, ask me a question on wind turbines or solar energy or whether or not fracking is good or bad for the environment, and I would just advise you to Google these issues instead. So where do I fit in on a panel with Haydn Rees, the managing director of Clarke Energy or Rhys Owen, Deputy Editor of Global Water Intelligence or Tom Freyberg, the Chief Editor of WWi Magazine?

Simply put, there is no escaping the conversation of social media infiltration into all corporate spheres, including that of the energy world. In a forum such as this where science journalists are confronted time and again with the hype on citizen scientists and amateur journalism as somehow more authentic, there is need to talk about the impact of Web 2.0 on communicating science to the public. Today, science journalists are expected to be more flexible in their expertise, be able to move seamlessly through multimedia platforms and transform their language constantly to suit the needs of the diverse audience out there in the Twitterverse to the Blogosphere.


There is concern about reductionism and popularization of science and the compromise of the integrity of the science journalist as s/he views this as selling out to mass appeal. But as we see this play out, it is hardly a choice of amateur versus the expert but rather we need to view this new communicative landscape in its spectrum of pitfalls and opportunities. For instance, at the conference there was much talk about data checking departments being shut down due to budget cuts and the genuine concern by journalists on making sure their reports were cross-checked for errors and misinformation. Here, crowdsourcing can come in handy where citizens volunteer to do that for experts and lend to the vigor of the article rather than diminish it. (This is not to advocate for it replacing professional data checking but given the financial crisis within the field of journalism, this provides some solace to journalists looking to maintain their quality of reporting).

Also, when citizens take an interest in science through participation, this also increases the audience for science journalists. When there is personal involvement in the making of science news, this is bound to generate an interest in consuming such news. Also, science journalists need to view these amateurs as possible mavens, disseminating critical science through the numerous channels of mass media, framing it in numerous ways beyond that which is institutionally endorsed by the state and corporate entities. While by no means am I an uncritical enthusiast for the much talked about wisdom of the crowds and collective intelligence phenomena, I do see the potential in amateur involvement. What would be worse is public indifference to science where decisions are made through primarily emotion and not understanding of the ramifications of science in our daily lives.
What struck me was how much in common the art market has with the world of science. Currently, one of my research projects entails gauging the impact of social media on the traditional gatekeepers of the art world such as museums, galleries and art critics. Much like science journalists, art experts are far from redundant in this information deluge. Experts are very much entrenched to guide audiences through this maze of data online but what has changed is the nature of expertise in their communicating and networking abilities that requires re-addressing. Basically, the role of the science journalist as the primary interface in the golden triangle of the scientist, state and the industry is over. Today, there are multiple intermediaries due to the affordances of new media and the changing appetite of the public for more accessible science. There have been a number of studies that demonstrate that the public accesses their science and technology information primarily through the medium of entertainment such as the television (NSB 2008; Pew Research Center on People and the Press 2008). Social media platforms come second as a source for investigating more on specific science issues such as climate change.

Of course, this comes with a whole host of problems including the promotion of pseudoscience and the hijacking of the Google algorithm by concerted parties. That said, if we are to Google water and nuclear energy debates, what we get are a range of results that are not all corporate-oriented. For instance, the search results for water debates are biased toward conversations around water conservation in Australia and New Zealand while the nuclear energy debates seem to be driven by a non profit 'Do Something. Org.' In other words, it isn't necessarily the commercialization of algorithms that has pervaded as internet pessimists have predicted but rather a cat and mouse game between corporate, non-profit and other special interest groups that fight to dictate the search for science issues, shaping how the public constructs and processes them as fact.




Contrary to popular belief, this emphasis on public engagement cannot be credited solely to social media. In fact, if we are to look at public policy on science dissemination, well in the 1980s, from the UK to the Netherlands, there was a concerted effort to make science public and promote what is called as 'deliberative democracy.' In 1985, the Royal Society in London issued a report on The Public Understanding of Science, where it was the moral responsibility of the state to make transparent its expenditure by explaining science investments in layman terms and connect it to the everyday life of citizens. Or take for instance the Broad Societal Debate around Energy Policy (BMD) in the Netherlands in the early 1980s. The Dutch Parliament was instrumental in organizing broad societal debates pre-Facebook era on a range of science agendas including cloning, GM-food and xeno-transplantation.

This historical rootedness can be found even in the hype around big data. There is an overwhelming feeling that science journalism has been overtaken by the algorithmic mastermind that swerves conversation and factoids in the digital landscape of reporting. While undoubtedly the scale at which data is collated is unprecedented, it is hardly new. Citizens have been contributing information about their lifestyles, preferences and opinions through conventional media and the state and corporate entities have been gathering them in strategic ways to market and personalize articles of interest and frame science agendas that makes it more palatable to the public. Granted, big data is more sweeping and thereby gives us the impression of being more representative of the public. However, it is still the amassing of data from those within the system which leaves a large percentage of the global public that are undocumented and outside the radar to not be considered. Last but not the least, the role of science journalists is to convert this data into a narrative, to guide conversations on energy debates through their story telling. They need to use big data as a starting point of critique and analysis rather than factoids that create a grand narrative of critical science that pertains to our daily lives.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Capitalizing on Contested Identities in this Digital Age

I am currently at the West-Asia North Africa (WANA) Forum in Amman Jordan that is sponsored by the Nippon Foundation on the subject of Social Identity and the Regional Common. I spoke on the topic of "Capitalizing on Contested Identities in this Innovation and Digital Age" in the morning session on a panel that was comprised of some fascinating people listed below and Chaired by the Royal Highness El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan and Chairman of the WANA Forum.

  • Fredrick Chien, Chairman of the Cathay Charity Foundation, Taiwan
  • Mona Makram-Ebeid, Member of the Advisory Board to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces, Egypt
  • Munira Shahidi, Chair of the Shahidi International Foundation for Culture, Tajikistan
  • Omar Christidis, Founder of ArabNet, Lebanon
  • Munir Fasheh, Founder of The Arab Education Forum, Palestine
All these panelists talked about aspects relating to how this region could experience transition and the role of identity in this process. Below are some of my thoughts that shaped my speech on this topic where I extrapolated on the harnessing of contested identities for novel business opportunities in these emerging markets
......................................................................................


A professor I met a few years ago at a conference in India came to visit me in the Netherlands as she had just moved to Europe. She and I were having dinner when of course I asked her what prompted her to move. She shared the news that she married a man who was doing his postdoctorate research at a cancer lab that was situated in Leuven, Belgium. Of course I asked how they met. She went onto explaining that her parents did the work for her. They went online the popular matrimonial online site called shadi.com and looked for a man for her. But what guided their search? Well, apparently caste was of most importance. They looked for a man who was of the same caste as hers, Brahmin, the priestly upper caste and from Mangalore in the South of India. They also consulted the astrology charts. And of course, he was to be of good financial standing and have potential for earning. He fit the criteria. They then contacted him and expressed interest. He responded positively. She said things have changed though these days. ‘It’s rather modern you know,’ she said. She did not right away meet him like in the traditional arranged marriage classic scenarios where parents meet and approve or disapprove of the match. She instead started IMing him and skyping before they both decided that the families should meet. After a few months of digital romancing, they were happy to proceed to the next level. He flew down and the girls parents and her went to their house to make this formal. Shortly after, came marriage.

Now this seems to be an interesting case of multiple and contested identities, one may argue. To start with, there is a strong identity of caste, in this case the upper caste Brahmin or priestly caste. There has been strong belief particularly in the West that with modernization, education and globalization, these particularities and local practices will fade away. However, its far from gone. In fact, a few years ago, the digital boom in India not only created the typical outsourcing hubs but also e-entrepreneurship to satisfy social needs such as this which is highly lucrative. From one website a few years ago, this practice has burgeoned into several competing matrimonial websites such as Jeevansathi.com, 123Matrimonials.com, to IndianRishtey.com


And if we are to open a newspaper in India, you would see two to three full pages on horoscopes and astrology related matters. Then there is the regional identity as they both are Mangalorean and share the same dietary and linguistic and other social preferences. The tightening of community along regional lines has become more paramount in this fast changing world. Migration patterns and diaspora communities reflect this need to serve as a social glue. Localizing ones identity is becoming more of a pathway into tight and intimate communities to strengthen their social capital. And of course there is the upper class and well educated identity that comes with its privilege and international access and exposure as we can see here in this case where she is now part of this global diaspora. So from being deeply local to being highly international oriented, one can well rest a case that this is indeed a case of multiple identities.

 Now why would this be a case of contested identities? Did this professor demonstrate a struggle with these multiple identities? Did she express deep anguish with such different roles of being educated, international oriented and being traditional by subscribing to the arranged marriage through caste and astrology? There is belief that as education increases, so will our courage to dispel traditional practices that have anchored us or chained us perhaps.  There is belief that traditional practices evoked traditional identities which fragments us as communities, societies and nations and in this global era, it is paramount to move forward and not be entrenched in the old ways of belief and ritual. It seems that identity has found its way somehow on the evolutionary chart where the end point is something of ‘beige,’ where the starting point seems to be more of a spectacle of color.

Just to clear matters up, the professor was by no means troubled by these multiple identities. In fact, it seemed rather natural to her and social media was a mere facilitator of this seamless way of being. It appeared to be more content than contest in nature. Yet, others may perceive this as deep contradiction which brings me to another point. Identity is not something which is intrinsic and innate but that which is perceived by oneself and others. So why should it matter if someone else perceives this as a contested identity? It would theoretically not matter at all. However, practically, based on the position of the group perceiving it, it would matter a great deal or be of complete inconsequence. For those who have the power, be it governments, business groups, social groups of higher standing, policy makers, consumers, and the like, these issues can reach center stage. 

While undoubtedly the hierarchy of identities have had serious political, social and cultural ramifications, I focus on the side that has often been overlooked, its potential for innovation. Take business for example. Why wasn’t match.com , a company with 20 million members in 25 different countries, the platform that initiated shadi.com or other such Indian matrimonial sites and instead left a space for more home brewed Indian companies to enter the fray? That brings me to the third point which is that multiple identities can be seen as problematic say for documentation purposes, for surveys, for politics and interest groups, for sharing of resources and the like or can be seen as an opportunity. Stereotypes can offend undoubtedly but can also provide the opportunity to compete with company giants with narrowed worldviews.  In fact, local knowledge of caste and astrology and other categories that matter to the Indian demographic has been harnessed by local entrepreneurs. They have seen that in this information age, it’s not just about how much information is accessed but rather how relevant is this information to their target group that gives them a competitive edge. How information is indexed, searched for, organized and connected is very much a big business and essential if local communities are to stay competitive in this global and innovation era. So basically, diversity of identities, if harnessed and catered to rather than being looked at as mainly problematic can open new avenues and opportunities for business practice. Instead of balancing the traditional with the modern, we need to recognize that diversity is opportunity, not a hindrance. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

New Paper Out in the Current Sociology Journal: Typology of Web 2.0 spheres

My paper, "Typology of Web 2.0 spheres: Understanding the cultural dimensions of social media spaces" has come out in the Current Sociology Journal.

Abstract:

It has taken the past decade to commonly acknowledge that online space is tethered to real place. From euphoric conceptualizations of social media spaces as a novel, unprecedented and revolutionary entity, the dust has settled, allowing for talk of boundaries and ties to real-world settings. Metaphors have been instrumental in this pursuit, shaping perceptions and affecting actions within this extended structural realm. Specifically, they have been harnessed to architect Web 2.0 spaces, be it chatrooms, electronic frontiers, homepages, or information highways for policy and practice. While metaphors are pervasive in addressing and normalizing new media spaces, there is less effort channeled into organizing these digital domains along cultural lines to systematize and deepen understandings of its histories, agencies and communities. Hence, this article proposes a framework that reveals dominant cultural dimensions of Web 2.0 spaces through a five-fold typology: (1) utilitarian-driven, (2) aesthetic-driven, (3) context-driven, (4) play-driven and (5) value-driven. This effort capitalizes and transfers mappings of actors and networks from real to virtual space to capture and organize diverse cultural (re)productions.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

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

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 gained in bridging worlds of ICT4D and New Media studies. By negating online leisure in ‘Third World’ settings, our understandings on this new user market can be critically flawed.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

EUR fellowship grant 2012-2014 for the research proposal, “Virtual parks: Conceptualizing leisure spaces in the digital age”

Dr. Payal Arora, a member of The Erasmus Centre of Media, Communication and Culture (ERMeCC) has received € 135,000 from the EUR fellowship grant scheme for 2012-2014 to study the conceptualizing of leisure spaces in the digital age. For the next two years, the recipient of this grant Dr Arora will be investigating how real and virtual leisure spaces can be comprehensively framed through a historical, transnational and cross-cultural lens. This project has also procured a book contract with the Studies in Science, Technology & Society Series of the Routledge/ Taylor & Francis Group. The forthcoming book will be published under the title, "Virtual and Real Leisure Spaces: A Comparative and Cross-Cultural Analysis." In essence, the early 20th century birthed a radical phenomenon across several cultures and nations- the demarcating of certain public space for primarily leisure purposes. From India to the United States, urban parks became a symbol of democracy, openness, and freedom as they emerged from a protracted struggle to shift from the hands of the State or imperial powers to that of the masses. There was much euphoria about their unregulated and public character, reflecting a new age of modernization and civilization. Yet, over time, it has been revealed how contentious the process of shaping, regulating, and sustaining of public parks can be as well as its pluralistic and transcultural nature. Interestingly, the 21st century is celebrating the birth of another leisure space that shares this rhetoric of being open, free, universal, non-utilitarian, and democratic: social network sites. As the Net shifted from the hands of the State to that of the user, its leisure spaces have been looked upon as sites where regardless of gender, age, and/or culture, people commune, browse aimlessly, socialize and share their views openly. Yet, two decades later, usage of these online spaces reveal its deeply political, commercial and socio-cultural character that opens debates of critical concern on what constitutes as openness, universality and democratic as governments and corporations are finding ways to architect and manage these virtual geographies and, users are harnessing these sites for a range of activities.
Thereby, this project draws parallels between urban parks and social network sites, and aims to highlight the historicity and plurality of public leisure spaces and provide a much needed rootedness in this highly speculative media discourse. While social network sites have a short history, the study of underlying structures, networks and its cultures have been of core preoccupation in the sociological and anthropological field for decades. Urban parks, be it the classic 19th century parks or more contemporary theme parks, corporate parks, walled and community gardens, and commercial parks serve as spatial metaphors to reveal different aspects of new media spaces. Metaphors have been used strategically in the social sciences and humanities to unpack complexity and normalize novelty by extending the meaning of content/context to which it is applied. Here, urban parks as a metaphor serve as a powerful tool to construct and comprehend virtual space by overlapping the physical onto these digital domains. This capitalizes on the now much accepted notion that the Net has spatial characteristics in common with real-world places and how we comprehend geographic space reveal insights and lines of enquiry into how we spatially comprehend Web 2.0 spaces.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Re-Branding of Middle East Youth: Identities, Possibilities, Connectivities

It’s a good sign when you don’t use much of your carefully planned PowerPoint slides when interacting with the youth. Had a wonderful discussion with an engaged and critical group of Language students at the University of Jordan on new technologies, business communication and culture as well as with a significant number of youth who attended the Leaders of Tomorrow event at the King Hussain Cultural Centre organized around this topic. Granted, many seemed to come from a privileged background with impeccable English and an international exposure. This by no means discounts their perspective. In fact, given my experience in India and the fact that I’m a product of such privilege, I’m acutely aware of that thin line between belongingness and responsibility that the fortunate feel towards their immediate surrounding versus the feeling of affinity towards that of afar. It is much too easy to become civically disengaged from our context and I’d even argue that much of the youth, be it in Jordan or India or other such nations are unintentionally primed by the education system towards detachment (often through convent schooling and other postcolonial institutions that still serve as key places for good and cheap education). It takes a certain introspection to shift from ones monocultural perspective that is fostered within walls of privilege and group affinities. The notion of diasporas sweeten the deal with the hope that we still belong to a community, giving us that warm fuzzy feeling of placement and a legitimate way out from responsibility towards ones nation. It’s a double-edged sword really as this very same notion can foster strong ties, relationships, and connectivity that has been accelerated and enhanced through social media. We are not rational creatures by any means and much of our decisions are emotively and personally driven, leading a Jordanian entrepreneur in Amsterdam or an Indian born regional manager in Silicon Valley to establish their outsourcing hubs in their own home towns to be closer to family, friends and somehow feel that they’re not “sell outs” of their culture. Fighting the oreo image or the coconut label of being brown on the outside and white in the inside is hardly easy. We constantly hear about the “authentic” citizen, as if geographic situatedness in itself creates rootedness and a sense of nationalistic responsibility. Interestingly however, today it has become unfashionable to use the term “patriotism” when addressing this phenomenon, as it connotes a lemming-like behavior; the herd-like movement and choices that one is attributed to make when driven by this concept. However, this is stronger as ever and has manifested itself in business opportunities flowing back “home” through deliberate orchestrations within multinationals by migrants of all stripes and colors. The much touted brain circulation has been embraced over the brain drain fear as migrants flow with their ideas, connections, and opportunities across these cultures, creating bridges to new markets and new possibilities in one’s social and political life. What I sense from being in Amman and interacting with the youth here is that they’re at some interesting and undoubtedly challenging junctions right now: of wanting to get out and seek opportunities elsewhere and yet knowing somehow that this is their time of being here and capitalizing on the euphoric expectations that have emerged through the much hyped twitter revolution enveloping this region. That somehow, this is their time to reify this hype and make it tangible by leveraging on the hope and positive attitudes and investor-oriented mindset that much of the outside world has towards them. The youth in the Middle East have been re-branded. They know that; it’ now a matter of converting this brand into something that will be fruitful to them and their people. There is also a sense of more choices and making use of promising opportunities and yet, there is deep uncertainty and fear and lack of guidance in this virgin territory given that their comfort zone is to abide by plans that their parents and the government has for them. Being a leader of tomorrow out here would be a little easier if they had leaders of the past to guide them. The pressure is intense but fortunately they have each other and as long as they’re communicating, interacting and sharing, it has to get easier somehow…

Friday, December 9, 2011

Does culture matter? Business practices across the Netherlands and Middle East

A few months ago I was contacted by the Netherlands Institute of Beirut to see if I would be interested in talking about culture and business in the Middle East. This is part of their upcoming initiative to create bridges between the Middle East and the Netherlands, starting within an academic setting. Part of this commendable drive it seems to me is a response against this growing Islamophobia within Europe which is of course deeply troubling. What better way than to engage the youth across these borders in areas of common interest. I like the idea that instead of going there to be preachy about intercultural harmony and respect, that we choose a topic that the youth are genuinely engaged with and from there see how culture actually matters. So of course it’s of little surprise that the topic that youth in the Middle East seem to be interested in is that of business, social media and globalization. And for good reason. Like other young people across the globe, I believe they are more concerned about how to shape their identities online and are striving to capitalize on these new digital platforms to create collaborations and sustain relationships. Perhaps some of them want to embrace entrepreneurship and experiment with their ideas online given that they’re entering an economy that has little to offer them and instead of chasing unpaid internships indefinitely and pricy master and doctoral degrees, perhaps they can be drivers of their own fate. But of course it’s worth communicating ones skepticism about overplaying the role of social media in this process. Much like the over hyped role of twitter in the jasmine revolution, I definitely do not want to communicate that this is their digital ticket to liberation and freedom from the current economic plight. More importantly, I do not want to get stuck with exhausting notions of culture as nation bound which is common when one is doing a “bridging” of cultures where on either end of the spectrum lies the Middle East and the Netherlands. Before you know it, we often get ourselves wrapped up with the typical discourses on religion and values and social customs, exoticizing the other and walking away with a reaffirmation of difference rather than commonality. On the other hand, one does not want to discount it completely. So I was very excited to see the Economist article on the Magic of Diasporas where it talks about how the youth from emerging markets are leveraging on these digital platforms to circulate ideas and connections that foster trust and propels business opportunities. The bottom line here is that the migrant is not a dirty word and that current protectionist policy is doing more damage within borders by blocking flows of people (and thereby fresh thinking) from different cultures. It talks about how crossing real and virtual geographies enables creativity that is essential to staying ahead in the game. We need to shift from our monocultural outlook and comfort zone, allowing us to view the typical as something that could be exotic again. I liked the way it framed geographies of diasporas over nationhood, geographies of innovation and networks over the usual notions of class and culture. Anyway, I digress... So when I first started to prepare for these workshops at the University of Jordan and St. Josephs in Beirut, it started with a couple of innocent workshops with students. Now its grown to conducting workshops with the Leaders of Tomorrow, a non profit for the youth at the King Hussain Cultural Centre in Amman to the Chambers of Commerce in Beirut where I'll be addressing mainly business people from Lebanon. I am keenly aware of my dearth of knowledge of their context and their current practices. But that said, I believe that my vagabond lifestyle of moving from India to San Francisco to Boston to New York and now the Netherlands may be of some interest as well as the fact that I shifted careers quite dramatically and have leveraged on multiple social media platforms in my work and personal life to move ahead. I hope that by personalizing this talk and drawing from my range of cross cultural experiences in work and my private life, and providing ample opportunities for them to share theirs, we'll be able to jointly see what these bridges can look like…less nationalistic I hope and more about reproduced social practice that is shaped through certain policies and politics. Looking forward to this adventure...