media, information, the contemporary
Announcements, Fellowships

Short Term Research Projects in Social Media: Selected Proposals 2016

The Sarai Programme is committed to developing a public architecture for creating knowledge and creative communities. In keeping with this commitment, we seek to develop a community of scholars, writers and practitioners who are motivated to make the materials and outcome of research available for public access and circulation, with the understanding that an imaginative engagement with social experience will be best fostered by a sharing of information, ideas, research materials and resources. We see our system of Short Term Research Projects as a resource that will be built on by many people working whether individually or in groups, but with a sense of collective endeavour and public purpose.

The Call for Proposals for the Short Term Research Projects in Social and Digital Media attracted over 90 applications from all over the country, and it took a careful scrutiny of all the applications to reach our decision. We received applications from scholars as well as practitioners, young researchers and older, and proposals looked at a wide range of themes. The applications testify to an emerging research interest in developments in the last decade, as researchers and practitioners strive to reflect on the contemporary histories and techno-material practices opened by social media in India. Due to limited resources, we were unable to support many interesting proposals. We encourage those interested in the field to keep track of lectures and workshops and other work Sarai is planning to develop in the area of social media.

Please see below excerpts from selected proposals for this year’s Short Term Research Projects in Social Media.

Digital Identities: The Online Circulation of Bodo VCD films and Music Videos

Ankush Bhuyan

This project aims to capture the current moment where social media intersects with VCD films and music videos, in their entirety or in the form of clips available online, and questions of Bodo identity. What is it to be Bodo? How does social media play a role in the formation and the consolidation of identities? Can the use of technology and aesthetics in the VCD films and music videos provide some insight on the above questions? Through this study I hope to shed some light on the use of social media that may link to larger questions from the region regarding identity, culture and circulation of mediatised images within a political movement.

Media and Mobilization: Digital Media and the Shia Public Sphere in West Bengal

Epsita Halder

I look at how the multifarious ways of consumption, reception and re-enactment of digitized texts open up various possibilities to contextualize Shia communities on how to become a community, shattering monolithic assumptions. My project tries to locate digital culture in Shia districts of Bengal to understand identity formation of the community after the advent of new media. Engaging with this new visual-aural piety of these diverse modalities of transmission and reception, I locate, trace and analyse the new efforts to identify contemporary Shia communities.

A Practice Perspective on Technologies used in Transportation Studies

Onkar Hoysala

In this project I consider one area of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) research – modelling and simulation. The questions that will guide my research include: How are transportation modelling and simulation (M&S) software, which are often developed for contexts outside of India, shaping the practice of model and simulation designers in India? How do the structures embedded in the technologies by design, shaping the outcome of the M&S work being carried out? How are the social structures around the use of these technologies (the context) shaping the practice? What structuring resources (such as vocabularies, for example) are emerging around the use of these technologies, and how? Do these resources get reified in daily practice? What is the nature of the reflexive relationship between practice of the M&S designers, and the M&S technologies? How is the practice of the M&S designers shaping the technologies? How is the contextualised practice of the M&S designers in Indian contexts shaping the domain of ITS itself? How is the practice shaping the social structures?

Broadcast to Broadband: Televisual experiences in the Age of the Digital

Ritika Pant

With the Indian audiences being constantly exposed to transnational television content in the form of popular TV series like Game of Thrones, House of Cards or even Zindgai Gulzar Hai and Humsafar, they have found newer ways to watch, post, distribute and react to this content through the online medium. Television content is no more limited to a television screen but expands to multiple screen formats including mobile phones, laptops or tablets. The viewing also takes place in mobile environments as opposed to the fixed space of a living room. Moreover, the content that is originally produced for television audiences, when consumed via the online/digital medium, transmutes televisual aesthetics and produces a new kind of aural and visual experience that is specific to contemporary convergence culture. This project, thus, seeks to engage with the interactions between an older medium of broadcast (television) with a newer means of distribution (internet) and explore how this new interface is introducing us to the “post-broadcast” moment.

‘Culture of Downloading’ in Khandesh region and the Story of Transfer of Media: An Auto-Ethnographic Study

Shiva Thorat

The small business of ‘copy-paste’ and transferring media material into memory cards of mobile phones is common to small towns like Shirpur and in larger cities like Pune, Mumbai. Today you can find boards of ‘yaha pe gaane, movies download kiye jate hai’. (we download songs movies into the memory cards) in Shirpur. The current study seeks to explain what kind of equations and notions of society associated with these ‘downloading workers’ and their consumers.

Incrementality in Digital Consumption within Informal Urban Settlements: Tracing Purchasing Patterns of Mobile Technology through Mobile Recharge Kiosks

Swati Janu

The research aims to analyze the patterns of mobile technology purchases – data recharge and offline media download on phones – through phone recharge kiosks in informal settlements. These kiosks dot every major junction and main street in most informal settlements, much like kirana or neighborhood stores. Acting as community hubs, many of them provide other services such as mobile repairs or cylinder gas refills. Connecting this network of local entrepreneurs are the middlemen who are the sales agents of different service provider companies. Through research on the mobile recharge kiosk owners, the sales agents and the customers who frequent the kiosks – the research aims to present the network of pre-paid mobile technology spread out in informal settlements. The analysis of this network is important to delve deeper into the incremental nature of its consumption.

The Returned: The Rise of B-movie Cinephilia

Vibhushan Subba

More often than not B-movies have been discarded as ‘trash’, ‘sleaze’, ‘porn’ and put down for their ‘bad taste’ and ‘horrifying’ content. It has existed in the shadow of the Bombay mainstream film as a marginalized figure, eking out an existence in the obscure recesses of cinematic ecology. However, the transformation of the visual culture from analog to digital has given birth to a new breed of cinephilia centered on a love for the obscure, the disreputable, the discarded and the forgotten. Born completely on the internet this cinephilia lives through fan pages, YouTube channels, Facebook and Twitter pages, blogs and underground screenings. This project seeks to track the creation, nature and evolution of this cinephilia -which has produced a mobile and alternative archive- in order to understand the altered relationship between the producers of content and digital technology and stage a debate around censorship, ownership and alternative histories.