Shaunak Sen

The Wager on Cinema: Screening 9 – Machines


The Sarai Programme invites you to the ninth screening of the film series titled, The Wager on Cinema : Rahul Jain’s Machines The respondents for this film are Prabhu Mohapatra, Shaunak Sen and Pallavi Paul. Date: 9 February, 2018 Time: 5:30 PM (Tea will be served at 5:00 PM) Venue: The Sarai Programme, Centre for the… Read More

The Wager On Cinema: Screening 1 – ‘Cities of Sleep’


  The Sarai Programme invites you to the inaugural screening of the film series titled, The Wager on Cinema. The series begins with a screening and discussion of Shaunak Sen’s ‘Cities of Sleep’. The respondents for the film are Nivedita Menon and Aman Sethi. Date: 12 February, 2016 Time: 5PM (Tea will be served at… Read More

Cell Phone Videos, Mobilizing Shame and the Image collisions


More cell phone videos have been shot, edited and uploaded online in the last 16 hours then the total number of films and TV shows produced in India in the year 1989. Cell phone videos in particular have had definitive impact in shaping much of recent history. From the ‘Arab Spring’, to Abu Ghraib to the Kajieme Powell killing to innumerable videos capturing mundane violence or corruption worldwide, cell phone videos are the dominant visible template of the real today… In this post I look at some recent ‘citizen videos’ and try and nudge towards changing relationship between the (sting) video document and issues of ‘truth’, ‘shame’ and transparency.

Social Media Research Workshop, October 11, 2014


Since March this year, seven short term research fellows have been involved with The Sarai Programme and carried out various studies on digital and social media. On Saturday, October 11, we are organising a research sharing workshop for the fellows to present and discuss their works with a selected group of discussants.

On Public Secrets, Forensics, and the Sting Fearing Virus


Corruption as many have pointed out, is a classic template for the ‘public secret’: that which insists on being commonly coded but cannot be enframed within official public narratives. The video sting short-circuits this logic – by hyper-playing the secretive act/gesture in loop ad nauseum across media platforms. The mundane act of corruption, otherwise part of one’s everyday, gets immediately recharged into an active moment of desecration. Institutions that aren’t routinely sacred suddenly get charged and re-sacralized when faced with the crisis of defacement. It is this ‘drama of revelation” that activates outrage (and subsequently the media event)…

Lives of Information Workshop – Recordings


The Sarai Programme organised the Lives of Information workshop to gather an inter‐disciplinary group of researchers to discuss information practices, cultures, infrastructures, and histories with a specific focus on post-colonial contexts. The workshop examined topics of colonial and post-colonial strategies of archiving identification, storage and informatic governance; bureaucratic cultures and politics of document and media forms; information infrastructures and networked politics; user-created content cultures and anxieties of mediated lives; and more. Here are the audio recordings of the presentations at the workshop…

Decoding the Big Indian Sting


I revisit the inaugural moment of Tehelka’s Operation Westend. Journalists Mathew Samuels and Anirudh Bahal, posing as arms dealers from a fictitious London-based company called West End International hawked a non-existent Defense product called ‘hand-held thermal cameras’ to the Indian government by bribing several ministers and top-level bureaucrats… This post also contains excerpts of interviews conducted with … [technicians] to outline common technical practices the ‘industry’ follows in carefully constructing and packaging sting operations.

Hashtag #StingOp: Truth, Low-Resolution and Post Social-Media Transparency


This project begins by considering the various (ever-mutating) physiognomies that have been deployed for the manufacturing of these video documents. It sketches the techno-material history of the production of the sting – from the changing optical devices used beginning with the large camcorders concealed in satchels used during earlier stings like Operation Westend, Gujarat riot stings etc. right up to the latest high-resolution spy-cams disguised in eye-glasses, diaries, calendars, ear plugs and various other innocuous seeming subjects to the complex processes in post-production. I am deeply interested in the careful technical packaging of the sting video … [and] the various post-production effects often deployed to accentuate the sense of authenticity/truth to the sting footage.

Short Term Research Projects in Social Media: Selected Proposals


The Call for Proposals for the Short Term Research Projects in Social and Digital Media attracted over 80 applications from all over the country, and it took a careful scrutiny of all the applications to reach our decision. We got applications from scholars as well as practitioners, young researchers and older, and proposals looked at a wide range of themes. Please take a look at the excerpts from selected proposals for this year’s Short Term Research Projects in Social Media.