IRC17, Bengaluru, March 03-05, 2017


06. #SelfiesFromTheField

Last updated on Mar 04, 2017.


Notes from the Session


Description of the Session

Borrowing from the third provocation at IRC16, we propose a session on research methods to study, document and analyse work on Internet mediated interactions (IMI).

We define Internet Mediated Interactions (IMI) as any interaction enabled by the Internet. Such interactions can take place across diverse platforms or devices such as mobile phones, tablets, or computers. For example, booking a cab through Ola/ Uber is an IMI; virtual games are IMIs; collaborative document editing is an IMI, etc. With the definition of an ethnographic field site evolving over the past few years to include the Internet and virtual worlds, ethnographic research in IMI would involve studies of the people designing and interacting over such platforms.

We seek participation from early-career researchers and students currently pursuing research, or with experience only in studying IMI. The objective of the session is to share experiences of grappling with challenges which emerge in doing IMI centred research. Often, early-career researchers/students are simultaneously learning the domains they are researching, methods, and the doing of methods. Being early-career researchers ourselves, reflexive conversations with peers will enable sharing of ways to tackle these challenges, which are often commonly faced. Through the discussions in the session, we hope to facilitate conversations which steer away from the conventional understandings of doing methods.

The participants will come from academic and non-academic backgrounds, who have looked at IMIs in Indian contexts. This session will explore the following two sub-themes:

  1. Access to participants: Doing a study of IMIs poses challenges such as identifying interactions as IMI; or gaining entry into specific Internet-mediated spaces (which may or may not be openly accessible).
  2. Doing methods: Fieldwork raises questions of what constitutes doing methods. While conversations about methods often end prior to physically conducting fieldwork, doing methods can cause tension with text-book constructs of methods.

Session Plan

Our session focuses on research methods to study and document work on Internet Mediated Interactions (IMI). We define IMI as any interaction enabled by the Internet. The session provides a platform to share experiences and challenges faced in doing research of IMI. The speakers in the session are early-career researchers and students pursuing research of IMI.

The session will engage with ideas and practices informing research design, such as choice and selection of field sites; accessing these sites and participants, given the nature of these interactions, especially since the boundaries of the online and the offline are commonly blurred; transforming the way tools/methods of research get applied/used; along with raising pertinent ethical questions around informed consent, privacy, and the role of the researcher. While the session focusses on IMI, we hope that the learnings from this sessions would be of use and relevant across different methodological approaches and research domains.

The session will comprise of five presentations of ten minutes each, followed by a panel discussion:

  • Abhilash Maradwar, Ishan Sharma, Shubham Mallade, and Dr. Sachit Rao - Evaluating Twitter as a Feedback Mechanism for Addressing Customer Grievances
  • Dr. Anuradha Rao - Methodological Challenges and Choices in the Study of Internet Mediated Interactions (IMI): Ethnographic Experiences from Bangalore
  • Priyanka Ivatury - Conducting ethnographic research on online healthcare platforms
  • Sreelakshmi R - Mobile Apps and Urban Commuting
  • Sugandha Sehgal - Aesthetics of the non-normative female body in contemporary digital visual culture: Gender and Instagram

The session is organised and will be moderated by Kavitha Narayanan, Onkar Hoysala, and Oindrila Matilal.

Documentation Plan

The talks and discussions of this session will be synthesised for the working paper (for IRC17). In the working paper, we hope to develop working definitions for key ideas identified during the session (an idea inspired from Boellstorff et al., 2012). This working paper will act as a starting point for future publications. Also, the dissemination of discussions to a wider non-academic audience will be informed by suggestions from the participants.

Paper Abstracts

Not applicable.

Details of the Team

Abhilash Maradwar is currently pursuing his M.Tech at International Institute of Information Technology, Bangalore (IIIT-B). He obtained his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Computer Engineering from PVG’s COET, Pune..

Dr. Anuradha Rao’s research interests relate to the relationship between information and communication technologies (ICTs), urban civil society and socio-political change in India. Her PhD dissertation examined the perceptions and use of the Internet by civil society actors for civic and political engagement activities in Bangalore. She obtained her PhD in 2015 from the Department of Communications & New Media (CNM) at the National University of Singapore (NUS), under the supervision of Prof. Mohan Dutta. After completing her Postdoctoral Fellowship at CNM in December 2016, Rao has started on a writing project while teaching part-time at the department. She obtained her MA degree in Political Science from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi, and has previously worked for Public Affairs Centre (PAC), a not-for-profit organisation in Bangalore.

Ishan Sharma is currently pursuing his M.Tech at IIIT-B. He obtained his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Computer Engineering from IET DAVV, Indore.

Kavitha Narayanan is a Doctoral student at the International Institute of Information Technology-Bangalore (IIIT-B) in the Information Technology & Society (ITS) domain. She has looked recently at mobile-based digital platforms in the transport sector, which was presented at SASE-2016 at UC Berkeley and at the Great Transformation Workshop 2016 at NIAS, Bangalore. You can also read about it here.

Oindrila Matilal is a Doctoral Student at IIIT-B in the ITS domain. Her Master’s dissertation studied Internet addiction among students at a university in India. Her broad area of research interest is ICT enabled home-based work.

Priyanka Ivatury is a final semester student of the MSc. in Digital Society program at IIIT-B. She is currently working on her thesis where she will study the relevance of health records to patients at primary and community health centres and examine what the shift to electronic health records means for them. Her research interests are in the domain of ICT implementations in the public health sector..

Dr. Sachit Rao is currently an Assistant Professor at IIIT-B. His interests are in using the wealth of tools developed in the area of Control Systems and Theory in diverse applications.

Shubham Mallade is currently pursuing his M.Tech at IIIT-B. He obtained his Bachelor of Engineering degree in Computer Engineering from VIT, Pune.

Sreelakshmi R. is a final year student of the Master’s Programme at Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, majoring in Development Studies. Her final year dissertation is looking at the phenomenon of rideshare, among the more conventional options, for a comprehensive understanding of the impact that technological artefacts, i.e. mobile applications have on commuter behaviour in Bangalore. She is interested in working on policy making and governance.

Sugandha Sehgal has completed her M.Phil. and M.A. in English from the University of Delhi. She is currently teaching as an Assistant Professor in the Department of English, Jesus and Mary College. She is also a registered Ph.D. scholar in the Department of Visual studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Visual culture and gender studies constitute her areas of interest. For her doctoral research, she is working on digital cultures of gender and sexuality. Specifically, her work addresses the notion of ‘imperfect’ female bodies in social media cultures.


Boellstorff, T. (2012). Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method. Princeton University Press.