Call for Essays: Offline

Who is offline, and is it a choice? The global project of bringing people online has spurred several commendable initiatives in expanding access to digital devices, networks, and content, and often contentious ones such as Free Basics / internet.org, which illustrate the intersectionalities of scale, privilege, and rights that we need to be mindful of when we imagine the offline. Further, the experience of the internet, for a large section of people is often mediated through prior and ongoing experiences of traditional media, and through cultural metaphors and cognitive frames that transcend more practical registers such as consumption and facilitation. How do we approach, study, and represent this disembodied internet – devoid of its hypertext, platforms, devices, it's nuts and bolts, but still tangible through engagement in myriad, personal and often indiscernible ways. The [email protected] programme invites abstracts for essays that explore dimensions of offline lives.

 

Offline

Does being offline necessarily mean being disconnected? Beyond anxieties such as FOMO, being offline is also seen as disengagement from a certain milieu of the digital (read: capital), an impediment to the way life is organised by and around technologies in general. However, being offline is not the exception, as examples of internet shutdown and acts on online censorship illustrate the persistence and often alarming regularity of the offline even for the ‘connected’ sections of the population.

State and commercial providers of internet and telecommunication services work in tandem to produce both the “online” and the “offline” - through content censorship, internet regulation, generalised service provision failures, and so on. Further, efforts to prioritise the use of digital technologies for financial transactions, especially since demonetisation, has led to a not-so-subtle equalisation of the ‘online economy’ with the ‘formal economy’; thus recognising the offline as the zones of informality, corruption, and piracy. This contributes to the offline becoming invisible, and in many cases, illegal, rather than being recognised as a condition that necessarily informs what it means to be digital.

Who is offline, and is it a choice? The global project of bringing people online has spurred several commendable initiatives in expanding access to digital devices, networks, and content, and often contentious ones such as Free Basics / internet.org, which illustrate the intersectionalities of scale, privilege, and rights that we need to be mindful of when we imagine the offline. Further, the experience of the internet, for a large section of people is often mediated through prior and ongoing experiences of traditional media, and through cultural metaphors and cognitive frames that transcend more practical registers such as consumption and facilitation. How do we approach, study, and represent this disembodied internet – devoid of its hypertext, platforms, devices, it's nuts and bolts, but still tangible through engagement in myriad, personal and often indiscernible ways.

Call for Essays

We invite abstracts for essays that explore social, economic, cultural, political, infrastructural, or aesthetic dimensions of the "offline". Please submit the abstracts by Sunday, September 02.

We will select 10 abstracts and announce them on Wednesday, September 05. The selected authors are expected to submit the first draft of the essay (2000-4000 words) by Friday, October 05. We will share editorial suggestions with the authors, and the final versions of the essays will be published on the [email protected] blog from November onwards. We will offer Rs. 5,000 as honourarium to all selected authors.

Please submit the abstracts (300-500 words) as a text file via email sent to [email protected], with the subject line of "Offline".

The essays, for example, may explore one or more of the following themes:

  • Geographies of internet access: Infrastructural, socio-political, and discursive forces and contradictions
  • Terms, objects, metaphors, and events of the internet and their offline remediation and circulation
  • Minimal computing, maker cultures, and digital collaboration and creativity in the offline
  • Offline economic cultures and transition towards less-cash economy
  • Offline as democratic choice: the right to offline lives in the context of global debates on privacy, surveillance, and data justice
  • Methods of studying the "offline" at the intersections of offline and online lives

Please note that the scope of essays need not be limited to the topics mentioned above but may address other dimensions of offline lives.

 

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