Fellowships

The Attentive Heart and Its Apparatuses – Facebook, Bluetooth, WhatsApp


Ayesha befriended me at our Arabic preliminary class. An English literature student, she caught my eye in the university corridors as not many burqa-clad girls take admission in Jadavpur University. Recently, after five-six years when I found her using WhatsApp, we started exchanging messages. Last October, I was elated to see her using panjtan pak[1]as her display picture during Muharram. I thought I’d now get to know from a university educated woman what affect binds religion to technology. No, she was not a Shia but reaffirmed that “we, who claim to be Muslims, all mourn the death of Imam Husayn, the grandson of the Prophet. But, we, the Sunnis, do it differently. We are not so… physical”…

The Case of the Missing Data


In the previous post, I broadly discussed the primary findings from the five pilot interviews I conducted – issues related to data, and contextualisation of models. Here, I take the case study of Vinay’s team to examine the issue of data, and its implications for practice, in greater detail. Vinay is a professor of civil engineering from a reputed university in Bangalore, whose group works on transportation simulation and policies. I examine the process by which Vinay and his group overcome the lack of access to data, and the resulting practices that emerge. In this project, I use the lens of practice, borrowing concepts of Communities of Practice, and technology enactment – and in this post I lay the foundations of the same.

Idiot Box to Smart TV? – Televisual Aesthetics in the Digital Realms


In 1974, when Raymond Williams was formulating the concept of “flows” in television broadcasting, he thought of them as “the defining characteristic of broadcasting, simultaneously as technology and as a cultural form” (80). Dismissing the notion of commercials as “interruptions” in between televisual content, he was, instead, mesmerized by the seamless “flow” of American TV that weaved in programmes and advertisements into a rhythmic structure. Speaking of broadcast TV, John Ellis emphasized the significance of “flow” through “segmentation” and considered it as a distinctive aesthetic form of TV programming…

Identity and Download Culture: Revolution or Farce?


Caste is a systematic, oppressive structure that operates in the whole of Indian society as well as in my own location in Khandesh. This oppression exists within the strict binaries of identity and prevents liberation. The free market economy, in the context of ‘download work’, holds out the promise of liberation. This post narrates my story along with Akshay and Ganesh related to our ‘download work’. All of us belong to the Dalit – Adivasi community, and currently Akshay and Ganesh are employed in download work to support themselves and their families. ‘Download work’ becomes an option for livelihood, but does this work help them develop themselves more eclectically?…

The Quest for Bodoland: Social Media in the Time of a Separatist Movement – Part One


In the first part of this two-part post, I aim to give a brief political history of the Bodoland movement which lays the ground for the rise of social media that has come to both inform and participate in the political situation in the region. The growing role of social media, as I see it, continues to reach out to a larger audience who take an interest in the movement for numerous reasons. Popular social media websites like Facebook and YouTube, which I focus on, have become points of dissemination for various types of news and information, thereby making it a multi-purposive platform…

Mourning Martyrdom on Facebook: A Cyber Imagined Community


I was watching a video post on the Facebook wall of ‘Calcutta Azadari’ where religious practitioners were beating their chests to mourn the martyrdom of Imam Husayn and uttering his name in rhythm. A religious performance captured on camera doesn’t make us wonder anymore, thanks to television and the proliferation of channels. But in this video, the position of the camera person was curious. It is undeniably difficult to capture on camera the intense frenzy of mourning, but here, the video, shot by a member of the group with a handheld camera, gave the footage a compelling authenticity raising, at the same time, the question of how far a non-ritualistic act could be accommodated within…

Unbundling the Bundle: Distribution of Televisual Content via Broadband Services


In a stylistically treated advertisement of the Indian Premiere League (IPL) 2016, a group of youngsters in various environments like that of an office, college and home are hooked to their smartphones for latest cricket updates. The advertisement ends with the tagline “screen chhota hai toh kya hua, dil bada hai yaar” (what if the screen is small, we have a big heart). Furthermore, the tagline of IPL 2016 on hotstar is “jab jab cricket, tab tab hotstar” (Think cricket, Think hotstar). This commercial, that attempts to dismantle the television-cricket relationship and draws an association between cricket and hotstar…

Data, Contextualisation, and Simulation Design: Findings from Pilot Interviews


After completing my undergraduate degree in Computer Science and Engineering, I joined a research organisation which looked at infrastructure and policy studies, using gaming and simulation methods. A year and a half later, I was one of the co-founders of Fields of View, a research group using gaming, modelling and simulation methods to study cities. Over the course of the last few years, working on projects where computer simulations have played a crucial part got me interested in understanding where these technologies come from, who uses them, and how…

Gunda, an unexpected journey: Tracking Cinephilia Undead


The search for a trashy film can turn into a steeplechase of staggering emotions, a cinematic odyssey ranging from blasts of stunt and fantasy, through a landscape of the dismembered and the splattered, the violated and the avenged, oozing with sleaze and smut and insatiable appetites, intended seriousness, unintended ham handedness and such. Yet, at the end of it all it still opens out into a rather variegated terrain of discourses and counter discourses of cult, trash, the bad object and cultural detritus…

Data, Downloads and Gaming Dens: Digital Networks in Informal Settlements


My research over the last few weeks has dealt with exploring the networks of digital consumption in two of Delhi’s informal settlements – Govindpuri and Sundernagri. Both are JJ clusters[1] or squatter settlements[2] that sprang up in the 1970s, along what were then the fringes of the city, around the time of the Emergency[3] when mass slum clearing operations were undertaken. Personal accounts in my interviews have revealed how the lives of many of the residents there were directly affected by two major projects undertaken by Sanjay Gandhi [4]. The first was the ‘city beautification’ program that led to the eviction of thousands of families in JJ clusters and the second was the ‘population control’ program implemented through mass sterilizations, which were forced in many cases…