Deployed

by Anand Jha last modified Apr 04, 2012 10:56 AM


Name(s)
Anand Jha
Location
Bangalore, India
Age
30
Profession
Information Architect, Artist

Video Proposal

Bangalore (India) is home to a lot of technology start-ups. A lot of geeks, who find it limiting to work for corporations, are driving a very open source-oriented, frugally-built and extremely demanding culture. While their products are standing at the bleeding edge of technology, their personal lives, too, are constantly driven on the edge; every launch being a make or break day for them. The project would aim at capturing their story, their frustration and motivation, looking at the possibilities of Indian software scene moving beyond the services and back-end office culture into a more risk-prone but more passionate business of technology.

Video Genre

Documentary

Interview

What do you understand by the term Digital Native? Do you consider yourself one? Are there factors that contribute to identifying oneself with the term?
Digital Natives are those who are comfortable with a part of their social and professional lives being spent over digital ecosystems. I consider myself one. Considering that this digital ecosystem is still out of reach for many people belonging to the other side of the digital divide, I feel there are clear socio-economic and geographic fault lines differentiating those who are digital natives and those who aren’t.

There is a perception that the digital native is typically a Young, White, Male, American – a geek hooked to his gadgets and apathetic about social issues. Comment.
Stereotypes exist for a reason. The developed countries of Europe and the Americas are the early adopters of digital technology and there will be a trickledown effect on the rest of the world. But the point about digital natives NOT being concerned with social causes is the part I do not agree with. The Internet has been the springboard for several people’s movements across the globe. I remember stumbling upon riseup.net and Pirate Bay in 2005, and most of what the Web is made of today has been politico-social in nature, including the FOSS frameworks that empower it. These are the very same youngsters who initiated these movements.

Can digital natives from developing nations create an impact with digital activism?
Yes they can help attract attention to issues but this has to be matched with onsite campaign. With most of the television and print media being controlled by mega-corporations or funded by them, I see a lot of people consuming information from the P2P information channels. I rely mostly on mailing lists, news forums and video channels run by popular activist networks. I was once involved in managing and running such a mailing list, now I am just a consumer.

How effective is digital activism in comparison to traditional forms of campaigning?
Digital campaigns definitely have an impact as a lot of the traditional media outlets are now reflecting information from popular internet broadcasters-aggregators. But I still remain skeptical about the kind of issues that receive focus and how effectively these campaigns contribute to non-urban bases.

What would you say to critics who label digital native campaigns as ‘slacktivism’?
There is a certain audience on Facebook, and most of them are consumerists: they consume godmen and grocery with the same active passive behavior, with little time and patience to get into details and interdependencies. Their responses are also pretty moralistic and shaped up by the same assembly line thought processes that induces them to make the most important decisions of their lives through a template. I am a bit scared about the enthusiasm of “doing something”. People have spent entire lives understanding a lot of these issues that come from public spaces before they make even the slightest intervention. That degree of sensitivity and integrity is required for any solution to evolve. I don’t see that happening with online activism.

Are we seeing a trend where digital natives are more involved with local (neighborhood) causes than with global issues such as environment, poverty, corruption?
I wish there was a trend like that. From where I see it (and I am limited by what I can see). I guess people are broadcasting less and less about local issues. Social Web has still not been able to translate the neighborhood camaraderie into a digital forum buzzing with activity. And since the broadcasts are about generic topics concerning the globe, most of the momentum fizzles out. Often local issues also inspire a more physical behavior….I don’t know if the web is a space for contemplation or for action, especially when we talk about local issues.

Comment on the role of ICTs in fostering citizen action.
Access and agency are two important words that come to my mind. More people should be able to use ICT and in ways that suit them. Localization is still underserved in India. Accessibility in terms of most of the online media being inaccessible to senior-citizens, more demanding of high bandwidth, less on anonymity, English being the dominant language online, etc., are some of the problems that we face. I feel the real potential of such an ecosystem has still not been realized; there is a lot of space for people to start working on. Also, the question of what informs people and how, who is curating information and creating viewpoints and manufacturing opinions, how can information be true to its context and yet not sound like propaganda are frameworks that need rethinking and resolution.

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