IRC17, Bengaluru, March 03-05, 2017


Not Few Not Weird: Growth of the Digital Voice

Last updated on Oct 31, 2016.

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Description of the Session

Why is the internet user considered an unvalidated member of the crowd, an amateur if nothing else? Why are we not able to deal with content contributions purely on the basis of their intrinsic value? Why do internet contributions need certification of institutions in order to be taken seriously? Surfatial’s session would examine the attitude towards existing cultural production on the internet - whether being digital/virtual induces wonderment and whether the ideas presented carry a cultural value.

Does new infrastructure always challenge existing cultural practices or can it be seen as an optional enhancement? Cultures usually evolve by adding on layers that don’t necessarily mask the integral form. History gets more interesting when its translucency is apparent. In a scenario where our focus is increasing on the availability and authenticity of records, open access to knowledge resources does not guarantee an engagement, immersion or a valuation. We are also driving our questions towards locating scholarship and expertise that transcend preconceived territories and are not bound by the finitudes of space/time and resource.

The session will have three elements that are intrinsic to our practice which is primarily carried out through digital synchronous collaboration over the internet. We will present one story, one study group and one sound track. The story that will be read/performed is produced through the collaboration of Surfatial’s members and is extended to further development through the format of a book with open comments. The study group section continues our interest in engaging with community contributions regardless of personal identities/expertise towards the development of ideas. The study group will explore three questions regarding the effects of digitisation in levelling institutional and non-institutional knowledge frameworks. The sound piece is our playground for artistic and creative indulgences to generate an entertaining amalgamation of the content we produce.

Session Plan

The session will include the following:

1. One Story (25 mins):

  1. The Adversary: This story will talk about three characters who have all experienced a museum and how they contemplate the impact of its structure on their own lives. The story specifically explores how institutions become shells of their own vision and intent, and how this situation could be addressed. The story will serve as an analogy for digital interventions which have the capacity to comment one meta layer above the content.

2. Study Group (45 mins):

  1. Question 1: Does the internet change our notion of expertise?
  2. Question 2a: Does becoming digital have an effect on the notion of information scarcity as experienced by users of nodal institutions?
  3. Question 2b: Is an institutional ability to dialogue with users still dependent on time and resources of the institution in question, thereby invalidating digital abundance?
  4. 4. Question 3: Could the emerging digital paradigm of not being able to forget history aid in freeing institutions?

3. One Track 20 mins:

  1. The Shape of the Universe - Our sound track would be a poetic exploration of the ideas and issues that the story and study-group explore. The track will bring together excerpts from the study-group conversation as subtexts to abstracted sounds and notes.

Documentation Plan

The Adversary will also be presented in the form of a physical notebook as well as an online collaborative document which will be open for commentary/tangential elaboration by all readers. Our sound piece will be available for listening on Soundcloud and the study group will be included in Surfatial’s archive.

Paper Abstracts

Not Applicable.

Details of the Team

Surfatial is a trans-local collective that operates through the internet. We use conversations to aid learning outside established structures. We are concerned with enabling disinhibition through the internet, for expressing what may not be feasible in physical reality. We organise internet-based audio conferences called study-groups where we deal with philosophical questions and a self-reflective exchange of individual experiences. We have previously presented our work at Soundphile 2016, Delhi; play_book (in collaboration with Thukral & Tagra), Gurgaon; CONA, Mumbai, Mumbai Art Room and CIS (Bangalore). Our upcoming engagement is with ZK/U, Berlin.

Surfatial is Malavika Rajnarayan, Prayas Abhinav, and Satya Gummuluri.