Where the Local Meets the Digital
International Seminar of the School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS.
January 7–9, 2016 http://smcs.tiss.edu/diginaka/
The advent of the digital and growing access to the Internet in India, along with the availability of cheap devices such as mobile phones has brought about an explosion of user-mediated creativity across various platforms, allowing for sharing, tweaking, co-creating and repurposing of digital media content in the public sphere. While the digital divide reproduces and intensifies various social hierarchies of gender, caste, class and region, one sees a simultaneous deployment of the digital by sections of society that previously were denied access.
The cellular phone has been an important accessory in this widening of access; its use by the urban and rural poor at individual and collective levels opens pathways for incorporation into cultures of consumption and political hegemony as well as for resistance and jugaad. The mobile phone is a platform for recording, editing and uploading images, for accessing 'pirated' media content, for engaging with social media and for resisting moral codes pertaining to age, caste, class and gender. Jugaad as a "pragmatic workaround" (Rai 2012)  and a "frugal disruptive innovation" (Rajdou, et al, 2012)  has become a widespread mode of engaging with uncertain and fluid media ecologies and economic imperatives not only for the resource poor of the global South but also for corporations caught in the cusp of highly competitive and shifting global flows. For the poor in the cities and small towns of urban India, and increasingly in rural areas too, engaging with the digital through the mobile has become an important part of the everyday, a means of communication, pleasure, and identity construction. Large informal grey markets, for hardware, software and various services (providing films, charging, repairing and refurbishing phones) respond to this growing engagement with the digital. The scant regard for notions of copyright and intellectual property makes the
production and consumption of popular media content a zone of contestation between audiences, the media industries and the state.
Along with its potential use for greater local articulation and sharing is also the use of social media and the Internet for trolling, harassing and stalking, particularly of those who resist dominant political and social codes. In recent times, feminists, secularists and activists, among others, have been subjected to and resisted hate speech, making social media an important terrain for the playing out of political struggles. Feminists have engaged with the idea that online spaces can indeed be as dangerous for women as real spaces. Scholars have also turned their gaze to the production and representation of the online self in a variety of ways.
Apart from this individual deployment of the digital, there is increasing use of these technologies by a range of movements, campaigns, local filmmakers and grassroots initiatives, with mixed and complicated effects. Ideological battles are waged on the Internet, as various interests use this space to marginalise oppositional viewpoints. Popular films in local dialects and idioms, made on shoe-string budgets, find their own niche audiences and modes of commercially viable distribution. Community radio and video are spaces not just for communication of "development messages" but also for subverting dominant flows of power and for granting access to voices hitherto denied media coverage. Internet journalism, in English and various languages, covers stories often neglected by the mainstrea
m media, which are read, shared and have the potential of going viral, thus countering the censorship of the corporate controlled market. As the boundaries between content producers and users become fuzzy, this growing subaltern and alternative digital and online activity also compels the conventional news media and mainstream cinema to rethink their forms, their modes of content delivery and their revenue models, thus complicating the role of the maker and the user, and the nature of texts. Corporate and state surveillance, data mining, censorship and deployment of digital technologies and algorithms for management of user behaviour and temper these possibilities for democratisation.
This three-day international seminar will merge this year with Frames of Reference, the annual graduate student seminar of the School.
Papers are invited, from scholars across disciplines on the following themes, and any others that fall within the rubric of local appropriations of digital technologies in the Indian context:
Subaltern Image-making Practices
Selfies and the Self
Community Media Praxis
The Mobile Phone and Jugaad
Internet Censorship and Regimes of Control
Informal Digital Markets
Rethinking Copyright and Intellectual Property
Social Media as a Space of Local Articulation and Contestation
Recycling and Repurposing Media Content
Satire as a Political Practice
Social Movements and Online Spaces
Feminist Technological Re-imaginations
LGBTQIA Initiatives and the Creation of Communities
Resisting Caste Hierarchies
Crowd funding of Alternative Production
Hate Speech and the Internet
Submission of a 300 word abstract (with 3-5 keywords) and a 100 word bio note to diginaka2016-Re5JQEeQqe8AvxtiuMwx3w@public.gmane.org: September 1, 2015
Notification of selection: September 20, 2015
Paper submission: November 20, 2015
Please clearly mention in your abstract if you are currently enrolled as a post-graduate student/research scholar in any university.
Student/research scholar paper presenters will be provided with free accommodation and hospitality for a maximum period of 4 nights. Other participants will have to pay a registration fee of Rs. 3000 to cover all meals and conference kit (accommodation not included). Limited guest house accommodation is available on campus. Daily registration fee for local participants (covering lunch, teas and conference kit) is Rs. 500.
The seminar will include invited plenary speakers. An edited volume and a journal issue of SubVersions (subversions.tiss.edu) are envisaged, based on the seminar papers.
P.S. Apologies for cross-posting and please do circulate to your contacts/lists _____________________________________________________________
* Naka: A Marathi word meaning crossroads or junction.
 Rai, A. (2012). On the Jugaad Image: Embodying the Mobile Phone in India. Postmodern Culture, Volume 23, No. 1, September 2012.
 Radjou N., Prabhu J., Ahuja S. (2012). Jugaad Innovation: Think Frugal, Be Flexible, Generate Breakthrough Growth. San Francisco, USA: Jossey-Bass.
DigiNaka 2016–International Seminar
School of Media and Cultural Studies
Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Deonar, Mumbai 400 088, India
Phone:+91 22 2552 566