Thursday, March 2, 2017

Speaking on Digital Cultures at Collège des Bernardins in Paris


This international conference at the Collège des Bernardins was on the topic of "L’humain au défi du numérique". Basically, it focused on digital & cultural diversity. Following the work of Milad Doueihi, the Chair of the Collège des Bernardins on "The human being with the digital challenge", the study day "Numerique & Diversité culturelle" proposes to examine the digital experience in other regions of the world and the possibility of thinking differently, using different methodologies and categories of thought. Can we still study digital culture, or produce an audible discourse on it, without systematically discussing the issue of digitization, encoding, mapping, data and usage? The meeting of computer science with the human and social sciences seems to have tightened the perimeter of the latter. The suspicion that weighs since their origins on their scientificity and their social utility is thus based, at a time when public funding is always demanding more "results" applicable.

Faced with an institutional restructuring in progress, which imposes laboratories a hard model of scientificity, the colloquium "Numerique & Diversité culturelle" draws from diverse voices. What should a number of academic disciplines (anthropology, communication, etc.) and actors (artists, engineers), usually little understood, have to tell us about digital culture? How does the latter, for example, work our perception of ethnic groups? What relationships do we have with these "non-human" robots? What are the alternatives to western platforms, such as Google or Facebook, and what new culture do they create? Etc. The notion of "diversity" is thus to be understood in two ways: diversity of approaches to studying digital culture; Diversity of its "inhabitants", which deserve our attention.

To respond to this program, the colloquium "Numerique & Diversité culturelle" of the Collège des Bernardins brought together international actors whose work focuses on several issues (activism, robotics, standardization of Internet standards, etc.) and Other parts of the world, such as Asia, the Middle East or India.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

New article out on Facebook love and digital privacy

My article is out with Laura Scheiber in the Media, Culture and Society Journal on Facebook love and digital privacy. The open access paper is titled, “Slumdogromance: Facebook love and digital privacy at the margins.” This article is about  how Facebook has consolidated its position as the one-stop-shop for social activity among the poor in the global South. Sex, romance, and love are key motivations for mobile and Internet technology usage among this demographic, much like the West. Digital romance is a critical context through which we gain fresh perspectives on Internet governance for an emerging digital and globalizing public. Revenge porn, slut-shaming, and Internet romance scams are a common and growing malady worldwide. Focusing on how it manifests in diverse digital cultures will aid in the shaping of new Internet laws for a more inclusive cross-cultural public. In specific, this article examines how low-income youth in two of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) nations – Brazil and India – exercise and express their notions on digital privacy, surveillance, and trust through the lens of romance. This allows for a more thorough investigation of the relationship between sexuality, morality, and governance within the larger Facebook ecology. As Facebook becomes the dominant virtual public sphere for the world’s poor, we are compelled to ask whether inclusivity of the digital users comes at the price of diversity of digital platforms.
This article can be accessed here

An additional treat came from responses to the article by Catalina Toma, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Ramina Sotoudeh (Princeton University), Roger Friedland (New York University) and Janet Afary (University of California, Santa Barbara).

Toma in her paper titled, “Developing online deception literacy while looking for love" argues with the following:

Payal Arora and her colleagues argue that Facebook has become a widely-used tool for finding romance in the global south, especially among marginalized youth. Yet this reliance on Facebook opens users up to the possibility of deception, forcing many to develop a dynamic online deception literacy. In this response paper, I unpack the notion of online deception literacy by reviewing the existing social scientific literature on this topic. I discuss (1) the prevalence of deception in online romance: (2) people’s ability to detect online deception; (3) the cues people use to detect online deception; and (4)
the usefulness of those cues in accurately gauging deception. I highlight avenues for future research, especially those inspired by the experience of marginalized users in the global south.


Sotoudeh, Friedland and Afary in their paper titled "Digital romance: the sources of online love in the Muslim world" summarizes the following:

Arora et al. find that young Indians use Facebook to find romantic partners and interact with the opposite sex outside of the circle of people they know, while Brazilians more commonly use it as a tool to keep in touch with friends whom they know offline. The authors attribute this to the more conservative nature of Indian society, especially its widespread disapproval of ‘immoral’ courtship behaviors in public spaces. Facebook, they argue, and social online platforms, in general, create an alternate public sphere that allows for the recalibration and regendering of norms and interactions. In such places, the digital space becomes an alternative public arena for young people to interact, court and love. They argue that the Internet creates an alternative public space in
conservative countries where physical public sphere is too restrictive and does not allow for young men and women to meet, interact and engage in courtship practices



Thursday, January 12, 2017

My TEDx video out on 'Who is in charge of the future of the Internet?'



Brief Description of the talk 
What do we really know about half of the world’s population who live on 2 dollars a day? How does their digital usage shape the future of the internet? If we have been paying attention in the last five years, we will see that much of what the poor are doing online are far from our traditional understandings fed to us over the decades. Instead of the much celebrated media stories of farmers checking crop prices, rural women searching for health information and the deprived youth learning math through mobile apps, Arora will take you on a different journey, one infused with sex, romance, socializing, and gaming. She pushes us to move past our preconceptions of the poor if we are to understand what the digital future will look like.