Showing posts with label youth. Show all posts
Showing posts with label youth. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Opinion Piece: Why Role Models are a scam

Why role models are a scam

Why do we insist on role models for our children? Why do we need fiction to aspire to when reality with its messiness is a better teacher?
Every New Year starts with a media frenzy, offering us a buffet of role models. Reflective celebrities renewing their feminist vows in the post #metoo era. Ordinary heroes braving last year’s tragedies of hurricanes and terrorism. Past icons reviving in the history books. While the role models refresh every year, the idea of them as essential to our personal growth is unwavering.
What do we do when role models disappoint? The year 2017 saw a host of role models fall to the ground due to sexual misconduct allegations. Can Louis C.K make us laugh anymore? Is Charlie Rose still a brilliant anchor and Kevin Spacey still one of our favorite actors? Role models do not have the privilege of redemption. They are frozen as ideal types for us to emulate. When they lose their perfection, they appear no longer useful. We throw the baby out with the bathwater...
click here for the rest of the article.

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

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...

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.

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…