IRC22 - Proposed Session - #DigitisingCrisesRemakingHome

Posted by Admin at Dec 31, 2020 12:00 AM |
Details of a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference 2022- #Home.


Internet Researchers' Conference 2022 - # Home - Call for Sessions

Session Type: Panel Discussion

Session Plan

The session is planned as a panel discussion between three scholars on three distinct, interconnected notions of home – specifically the home as a dwelling unit, an administrative unit (such as a municipality, a city, or a state), and a country (or a nation state) in the context of India. We intend to parse these ideas within the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to discuss notions of ‘safety’, ‘trust’, ‘support’, and ‘access’ by examining the digital turn in all three kinds of ‘home’. The session will open with the scholars speaking to each other, and laying out the central ideas. The conversation between the three scholars will act as provocations to enable a larger discussion with other attendees.

In 2020, when the first Covid-19 lockdowns began, the internet was discussed as a space of solidarity, of meeting, entertainment, work, and of support. But soon it became evident that access to such spaces of solidarity or support was not necessarily equal. While for some it was almost non-existent, for many others it was limited or regulated. In the Indian context these differences only stood out further due to unequal access to infrastructure, healthcare, and even basic necessities such as food that was starkly apparent in the long march of several thousand migrant workers from cities back to their ‘homes’ in rural areas at the height of the Indian summer.

At the national level, the digital response to the pandemic was most palpable. The use of contact tracing through apps such as Aarogya Setu, the CoWin portal for vaccinations, and the often arbitrary use of drones, facial recognition, and artificial intelligence have raised questions about surveillance, inclusion, and how useful technology can be in assisting a public health crisis. Often such responses reflected a law and order response to what has been a public health crisis. On the other hand, the establishment of Vande Bharat missions to bring stranded Indians from around the world ‘back home to India’ presented a very different idea of home.

Administrative units at the state and local levels had differing procedures and interventions. Many attempted to follow the guidelines and interventions laid out by the central government, others introduced their own digital solutions but soon found that these were not enough to actually deliver governance during the pandemic.

This session will explore the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of the digital becoming the default mode of managing the pandemic–or any sort of threat. We ask if the idea of ‘home’ as a ‘safe space’ had ever really been so and whether the pandemic exacerbated existing exploitative mechanisms within a ‘home’ – be it the dwelling, the city, or even one’s country. We also intend to discuss issues of access, surveillance, privacy, vulnerability, the burdens of care-work, the exploitative extraction of data, and divergent understandings of consent frameworks within these three axes of the idea of the ‘home’.


Session Team 

Vidya Subramanian is Raghunathan Family Fellow, South Asia Institute, Harvard University. She is an interdisciplinary scholar whose research interests lie at the intersection of technologies and societies. Her current research investigates the changing nature of citizenship in the technological society we now inhabit. Focusing on India, her research is loosely framed by two large issues: the first is the colonisation of the everyday so-called real world by the digital; and the second is how power permeates and is implicated in such technologies.

Kalindi Kokal is Post Doctoral Fellow, Centre for Policy Studies, IIT Bombay. She has a doctorate in law from the Martin Luther University, Halle-Wittenberg, Germany. Her doctoral work centred on understanding how non-state actors in dispute processing engage with state law. Her dissertation is an ethnographic study of dispute-processing mechanisms in two rural communities in the states of Maharashtra and Uttarakhand in India. She works on understanding how the manner in which people actually experience state law coupled with their perceptions of dispute resolution and state courts underscore the need to explore broader understandings of law and dispute resolution.

Uttara Purandare is PhD Researcher, IITB-Monash Research Academy. She is pursuing her PhD in Public Policy under a joint programme offered by IIT Bombay and Monash University. Her area of research is smart cities. Looking specifically at the intersection of technology, gender, and governance, Uttara’s research focuses on how safety and surveillance are constructed by the smart city rhetoric and the role of private sector firms in governing the smart city. The COVID-19 pandemic and the technologies that have been introduced by national governments and smart cities purportedly to curb the spread of the virus have raised interesting questions about privacy and citizens’ rights during a crisis. Uttara is presently exploring some of these questions within the Indian context.