Habits of Living Thinkathon — Day 1 Live Blog: PechaKucha

Posted by Jadine Lannon at Sep 26, 2012 04:25 PM |
The Habits of Living Thinkathon (Thinking Marathon) is being hosted by the Centre for Internet and Society in Bengaluru, India, from September 26 to 29, 2012. The event brings together a range of multidisciplinary scholars and practitioners. The workshop aims to generate a dialogue on the notion of surrogate structures that have become visible landmarks of contemporary life, and produce new conceptual frameworks to help us understand networks and the ways in which they inform our everyday practice and thought.

The following are the summaries of the Habits of Living Thinkathon’s PechaKucha presentations. These are short introductions presented by the participants on their research interests and how they are grappling with the questions posed by the themes of the Thinkathon:

Rijuta Mehta
begins the discussion on a serious note by bringing up critical issues of violent Hindu nationalism and citizenship, demonstrating how community networks are being formed around injury from an imagined "other". She also argues that technology allows the soldier to become an agent of civic violence, and discusses how networks make civic malfunctions mobile. In a post-9/11 world, internet platforms have created spaces where global and local hate-speech can cross-pollinate. Rijuta grapples with a question posed online: Where is the Hindu Holocaust Museum? For Ritjuta, this museum actually is located in the networks that ask this question.

Joshua Neves continues the discussion by sharing his thoughts on producing a different kind of self-relationality through media archipelagos. Inspired by island studies, Neves encourages us to think of a set of relations between islands, an alternative cartography of relationships. Drawing from sources as diverse as ephemeral film festivals across the world, Neves ask us: what does it mean to become each others' reference? 

Maesy Angelina brings the discussion to the domain of popular culture. While people try to romanticize networks as a site of activist resistance, the reality of the situation is that the majority of tweets produced are about celebrities. Instead of viewing this as deafening banality of the masses, Angelina questions the claim that pop-culture consumers can only be mindless. She suggests that celebrities can actually serve as a medium for citizenship expression of the masses, especially in the Indonesian context. Celebrities may be surrogates for citizen practice. Her presentation encourages us to think about alternative discourses beyond the lexicon of the Academy and 'activism' as we understand it. 

Namita Malhotra follows by reviewing cultural texts produced in India, with a particular emphasis on how particular stories of India tie up with meta-narratives of technology. She shows how these texts provide a space in which we can think about our affective relationships with technology. 

Deepak Menon asks: how do we build knowledge networks? This is particularly pertinent for NGO groups like his own who are trying to do their work without necessarily getting into a donor relationship with the groups he works with. He is concerned with what happens to the networks if the donors move out. Deepak challenges us to think about important practical questions about networks, including the historical nature of networks, whether networks create knowledge that is network-specific, and how online networks differ from offline networks. 

Eivind Rossaak encourages us to think of archives in motion. Archives are traditionally viewed as working towards the preservation of objects and knowledge that are static in time — making the preservation of technological artifacts very difficult for this archival structure. In order to document ideas and items that are constantly in motion, archives need to be in motion, as well. To help us conceptualize this, he challenges us to think of YouTube as both an archive and a site of construction and knowledge creation. Elvind asks us: how do media and social websites forge new associations between 'human' and 'objects'? We have to redefine the notion of 'life' and 'person' to understand these phenomena and construct a new way of thinking about memory, archives, and identities.  

Saumya Pant speaks to us about surrogacy in India, and challenges the mainstream narratives of either understanding surrogacy as a reward or gift that only certain types of women can participate in, or as completely unnatural. To study this, she has spent the last two years recording the stories of Indian women who have been surrogates. Her methods include participatory theater, participatory photography, and life histories. This work is highly relevant, as India is set to pass new legislation on surrogacy in India. 

Renée Ridgway draws our attention to crowd-funding, the idea that 'big society' can function on volunteerism. In a crowd-funding structure, the social funding and subsidies traditionally provided by the state in a socially-democratic society begin to be replaced by groups of people contributing their wealth to particular projects. In this method of wealth distribution, those who need funding for projects solicit financial support from their friends and family in exchange for some kind of incentive (for example, an artist may produce small art objects in return for receiving funding). This solicitation usually takes place through the use of social media networks. Renee is concerned with how our social and familial networks become monetized in this structure of funding.

Oliver Lerone Schultz brings our attention to counterculture and how these are created by re-interpreting and queering networks. Countercultures can create contradictory space — images that queer and remask and create new alternative geographies. He points out that physical and social creations, especially images, are forms of networks that we create both socially and physically, and that images in particular can be sites of network creation. Everything, from thoughts to highways, can be seen as a node in a network. He is interested in how images relate to global networks, and how they are both created by them and represent these networks. 

Akansha Rastogi compels us to think about the artistic domain. She grapples with questions of networks and surrogacy by asking: how does one creates an exhibition, an archive of space? 

Gita Chadha remarks that the two major affects of modernity are the self and truth. Considering this, she asks: where do we position ourselves in a post-colonial context in feminist science? In the post-modern discourse, both nature and the body becomes completely plastic and unbound. Gita states that there must be a middle ground, especially in feminist studies. We must recycle lineages of thought and think critically of the feminist politics of surrogacy.