IRC17, Bengaluru, March 03-05, 2017


19. #DigitalIdentities
The Translation of Digital Identities into, from, and between Kannada, Hindi, Assamese and English

Last updated on Mar 04, 2017.


Notes from the Session


Description of the Session

The key focus of the session is to explore the relationship between digital identities and language from the perspectives of users. “Digital identity” is often a cohesive term, subsumed in debates on privacy, data mining and/or surveillance but identity is diverse, fragmented and performed, even more so linguistically. How are interpretations of digital identities constructed in different Indic languages; how do they morph between these languages and how are they interpreted both by the interviewer working in this area, and by the interviewee sharing their thoughts and behaviours on digital identity? Are there differences between languages, and if so what are they?

We believe the session will therefore address all three provocations.

  • How does the becoming-digital of the research objects challenge our current research practices, concerns, and assumptions?

    Our research addresses this because we will be asking questions of research “objects” around digital identity – the definition of this will be phrased and interpreted by themselves (as well as interpreters, coders and researchers) so will address practices, concerns and assumptions.

  • How do we appreciate, study, and theorise the functioning of and meaning-making by digital objects in Indic languages?

    The meaning-making of digital identity is hard enough in English. A core aspect of this research will be how is has been interpreted in the languages of the “research objects” (and again, through our interpretation also).

  • What research tools and infrastructures are needed to study, document, annotate, analyse, archive, cite, and work with (in general) digital objects, especially those in Indic languages?

    While we will conduct interviews and transcribe them, we also aim to take still photographs and short video. It will be interesting in these interactions to analyse portrayals and performances of digital identities. We will also discuss from a practical, research prospective, what it is like to work with data in multiple languages.

Session Plan

We will kick off the session with a discussion of findings from ongoing research on the creation and use of government ID and other platforms, including Aadhaar in Karnataka and Delhi, and the NRC database in Assam. We will also examine what the designers and implementers of initiatives focused on ‘the digital’ see as the role of language in their work. The rest of the session will be organized through multiple break out groups that will explore how language shapes users’ constructions of their identities in the digital space, including both state-based and private social media platforms. An important question we will discuss is how users and researchers have interpreted ‘identity’ in various languages.

Documentation Plan

We will use a shared etherpad. We can discuss the post-conference essay/documentation but we suggest posting documentation on the IIITB and Caribou Digital websites (to be decided), in agreed languages.

Paper Abstracts

Not applicable.

Details of the Team

This session will be convened by IIITB and Caribou Digital.

Dr. Anjali K Mohan is an institutional expert with a doctorate in e-governance. Her broad areas of practice and research include public policy, organizational and institutional frameworks, governance and ICTD. Her work with governments is largely informed by stakeholders who think and operate in Indic languages.

Harish Boya is a post graduate student in user experience design at the MIT Institute of Design, Pune. He has 5 years of industry experience as a designer & a developer. Harish’s skill set includes design strategy, user research, visual design, Information architecture, user interface design, and usability testing. He leverages these skills to integrate user goals with business goals, to design and develop better solutions. Harish is currently working as a Research Intern at IIIT Banaglore for the Digital Identities project.

Dr. Janaki Srinivasan’s research examines the political economy of information-based development initiatives. She uses ethnographic and archival research to examine how ideologically diverse entities deploy information and information technologies towards achieving their varied visions of development in India. Janaki is a lapsed physicist and has a doctorate in Information Management and Systems from UC Berkeley. She is currently a faculty member at IIIT Bangalore and is also leading the Digital Identities research project there.

Khetrimayum Monish Singh is an independent researcher currently associated with The Centre for Internet & Society, New Delhi. He works on digital infrastructures and the impact of data-driven legislations, practices and analytics on individuals, communities, and groups, especially immigrants and marginalized populations, with regard to access, security, and welfare benefits schemes; and questions of identity and differential treatment of citizens/residents immanent in database infrastructures.

Dr. Sarita Seshagiri has over 10 years of experience in the corporate, having worked as a user researcher in Motorola Labs, Nokia Research Centre and Samsung Research and Development. Prior to this, Sarita did her Masters in Political Science from JNU, Delhi and Doctorate in Political Science from NUS, Singapore. Presently, she is a visiting faculty at IIIT, Bangalore and is involved in the Digital Identities project that is being undertaken jointly by IIIT-B and Caribou Digital Network.