Thursday, May 31, 2018

EM Opinion Piece: The academic frontier

The academic frontier

By acknowledging that the academic frontier isn’t as fair as it would like to appear, maybe we will be kinder to one another as we plod ahead.

Payal AroraAcademia is all about marking territory. Grab hold of a trending topic and make it yours. Invent a term, coin a concept and hope it sticks. Knowledge is propertied. Sometimes the game gets vicious. Predatory. Perhaps a senior scholar in need of renewal may prey on the work of their doctoral student or younger colleagues. A ‘rock star’ academic can encroach on well established and poorly marketed scholarship and brand it around him or her. A major grant can buy an emerging scholar a ‘reputation’ overnight that others have spent years struggling to build through the long road of committed research.
This is no free market. Scholars from less wealthy institutions and countries struggle to be visible, to be heard and often to hold on to the ownership of their ideas. In desperation, they may put their work on ResearchGate or Academia.edu, hoping that this new digital frontier plays to a different set of rules. In reality, they may be read but not cited due to their relatively unknown status. Worse yet, their ideas may be appropriated by others and published with the right kind of dressing up.
Click here for the rest of the opinion piece.

New article out in the International Journal of Communication

I am thrilled by this new article with my former Master's student Linnea Thompson, one of the brightest students I have come across over these years. A dream collaboration which went smoothly and resulted in a publication with a top tier journal in the Communications field - the International Journal of Communication

We got to present this in Manchester for the Digital Economies workshop organized by Richard Heeks, a fantastic platform for sharing this work.

The article, Crowdsourcing as a Platform for Digital Labor Unions is about how crowdsourcing is used as a tool to reconfigure relations between outsourced factory workers and corporations through innovative platform designs and the challenges that ensue. Below is the full abstract and link to the full paper:


Global complex supply chains have made it difficult to know the realities in factories.
This structure obfuscates the networks, channels, and flows of communication between
employers, workers, nongovernmental organizations and other vested intermediaries,
creating a lack of transparency. Factories operate far from the brands themselves, often
in developing countries where labor is cheap and regulations are weak. However, the
emergence of social media and mobile technology has drawn the world closer together.
Specifically, crowdsourcing is being used in an innovative way to gather feedback from
outsourced laborers with access to digital platforms. This article examines how
crowdsourcing platforms are used for both gathering and sharing information to foster
accountability. We critically assess how these tools enable dialogue between brands and
factory workers, making workers part of the greater conversation. We argue that
although there are challenges in designing and implementing these new monitoring
systems, these platforms can pave the path for new forms of unionization and corporate
social responsibility beyond just rebranding. 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Interview on Internet Romance Fraud on BBC's Why Factor


I was interviewed for this BBC podcast some weeks ago  on internet romance scams in India. I am around 11:18 min onward.The topic for this podcast is ‘Romance Frauds.’ I was invited to share my research on internet romance scams in low income communities in India where young males are being scammed by fake profiles of attractive women as they get on Facebook through their mobile phones. In contexts such as these where dating is forbidden to the extent that even talking to a girl can impact her reputation, Facebook promises romance for these teens as well as new ways to being deceived and even exploited.

Basically, this is the synopsis of the episodeWhy do people fall for online romance frauds? With false online profiles, doctored photographs, and convincing background stories, online fraudsters target people who are looking for love and online relationships. Once they have hooked their victims, they set about stealing money from them. But what convinces people that their new relationship is so realistic that they become willing to hand over large amounts of money to someone who they may never meet. Shari Vahl explores why people fall for such frauds, hearing the stories of two women and the online relationship they believed would bring them a new future – and which turned out to be an costly false hope. Shari hears from cyber-psychology expert Monica Whitty and people hacker Jennifer Radcliffe, as well as from police in the UK and USA. What are the hooks that these international criminal gangs use to defraud their victims and what happens when victims discover that the truth about their online relationship.




Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Internet academic scams: why do scholars fall for them?

The open access initiative, whilst being a worthwhile alternative to exploitative publishing models, has also opened the doors to bogus journals and other predators.
Last year I received an email from someone who claimed to be part of a foundation that  tackles romance scams. It started like this:
“To Dr Payal Arora,
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is X. I am also a victim of a cyber crime, a romance scam stemming from Nigeria. The reason I am contacting you is to bring attention to cyber crime, more specifically romance scams. Cyber exploits of this nature target mostly women, to lure them emotionally. Exploiting that vulnerability is what the con artists know best…As we speak, I am preparing for a trial to be heard in Abuja Nigeria…”
What did this person want from me?
She wanted me to be on the board of her cybercrime foundation to raise money. She shared the names of prominent academics and professionals already on the board.
While this email appeared legitimate, what struck me was how closely the text of the email resembled a paper my colleague and I had just published a week before on Internet romance scams. To be sure, I contacted one of the board members and got this as part of his reply:
“…I should say I do not know the person you are talking about and I have yet to be contacted for anything related to such. As it sounds, I think it is not legitimate since this is an obvious lie.”
Admittedly, this email was not an instant delete for me.
In retrospect, this was an impressive feat by what I call the “Internet academic scammer.” To use the language from my publication and customise the email accordingly, invoking real experts for the board for the purpose of credibility, was altogether brilliant. Not to forget, how could we miss the irony here on ‘scams?’
Click here for the full article

Monday, April 23, 2018

Opinion Piece: EM Magazine

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Keynote talk at the University of Saltzburg


I have been invited to deliver a keynote address for the Democracy and (Des-) Information Society: On the Function and Dissemination of Big Data, Fake News and Conspiracy Theories” Conference to be held at the University of Salzburg on April 26th, 2018. This conference investigates "fake news" and the growing influence of social media and search engine technologies on political life. Among other things, the conference will focus on the following questions: Which forms of disinformation exist and how do they differ? Is there actually a new quality of manipulation? What opportunities, challenges and limitations are associated with big data analysis? How do digital technologies and the practices they facilitate change the culture of communication and knowledge production in democratic societies? Which forms of foreign and self-regulation are meaningful and desirable in order to put a stop to disinformational tendencies but at the same time make use of progressive potentials of new communication technologies?




I will speak about the major fault lines in worldviews between groups of people to a point where entire publics have become incomprehensible to one another. By going beyond the usual Western examples and worldviews, I will situate common conversations on hate speech, fake information, trolling and other hostile activities within the Global South. This talk will examine closely the “fringe,” “authentic,” and “safe” digital cultures, drawing on contemporary examples like the media circulation on Rohingas by Buddhist extremists in Myanmar, lynching by cow digital vigilantes in India, favela rebranding and the pacification campaign in Brazil to the building and global circulation of the “Nigerian” romance scammer.

This conference is timely as there is much hype in the media on fake news without actually qualifying what constitutes as fake and real and who gets to narrate these framings.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Opinion Piece: EM magazine