Last updated on Oct 31, 2016.
The digital divide is a huge concern in India. This digital divide has many facets including the absence of socially-culturally relevant content, non-availability of enabling infrastructure, high cost of access and digital illiteracy but one of the most important divide emerges from the power and dominance of the English language on internet, which limits the emancipatory possibilities of new media. This has serious consequences for democratic participation and mobilisation as the emerging digital public sphere is not equally accessible and participative for millions of citizens in India.
While it was expected that the emerging digital public sphere or “networked public” will be more democratic, accessible, participative and empowering (Benkler, 2006; Shirky, 2008; Papacharissi, 2010; Boyd, 2010), it has turned out to be less equitable and participative, a narrow and hierarchical public sphere which is against the idea of a vibrant, open, free and participative public sphere as argued by the German scholar Jurgen Habermas and which is crucial to free debate-discussion and public action in democracy.
Clearly mere infrastructure development is not the solution to bridge the digital divide. It requires open, free, democratic and accessible internet in all aspect including more socially-culturally and representative content in Indian languages and dialects and also content created by women, dalits, adivasis, minorities and marginalised groups of hierarchical Indian society.
It is heartening to note that slowly but surely powerful subaltern voices in Indic languages have started emerging on the internet and its many platforms. These voices are playing a crucial role in making the digital public sphere more democratic, participative and argumentative. But the Indic digital public sphere is also polluted and threatened by the majoritarian trolls who are spreading communal and vicious propaganda messages, rumours and lies, abusing the marginal voices, posing a huge challenge.
This panel will delve into the various aspects related to the internet and Indic languages, through a theoretical prism as well as take into account the ground reality. It will also examine and analyse the Indic content created by marginalised groups, which is available on new media especially on social media. The panel will discuss its implications for Indian democracy. Other aspects would include topics raised by scholars such as Burgess (2007) which include ‘vernacular creativity’, remediated in the new media context, the socio-technological shaping of participation in digital culture and the implications for cultural citizenship.
Each panelist will speak on any one the above-mentioned themes for ten minutes, raising issues and challenges specific to that area. This will be followed by a discussion on appreciating and theorising the functioning of and meaning-making by digital objects in Indic languages. With the proposed panel having scholars whose first languages include Hindi, Assamese and Bangla, the discussions centring around vernaculars should be having a first-hand feel of the digital divide in the context of Indic languages.
It is proposed that to involve Indic language speakers, we may use updates on Twitter in at least Hindi, Assamese and Bangla, with appropriate hashtags in the respective languages.
Each panelist will write a 3000-word research paper on the themes identified for the panel discussion. All the papers will also be converted into infographics and explanatory multi-media presentations for further dissemination. It would be useful to have translations of all the papers into regional languages.
Dr. Anubhuti Yadav is Head of the Department of New Media and Information Technology at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. Her work in the area of educational media won her four national awards as best script writer and researcher for the series, on women achievers, career counselling and media literacy, conceived, directed and scripted by her.She is a leading expert and an active promoter of media literacy in India. Dr. Yadav is also a keen researcher and has conducted research in areas like media literacy, media education, women & media, media & children, entertainment education, Informational and communication technology, Open Educational Resources and New Media.
Dr. Sunetra Sen Narayan has about 25 years’ experience related to communications, spanning advertising, print journalism, documentary film production and teaching. She has been educated at Delhi University where she studied economics and Pennsylvania State University where she earned her Masters in telecommunications studies and her Doctorate in mass communications. She is currently Associate Professor at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. She has teaching experience both in India and the USA. She is also the editor of the academic journal Communicator. Prior to this she has been a print journalist, writing on business and travel in India. She has recently authored the book: Globalization and Television, a Study of the Indian Experience 1990-2010, Oxford University Press (2014) and co-edited India Connected: Mapping the Impact of New Media, Sage Publications (2016).
Shalini Narayanan, D.Phil., is an independent Media Consultant and Trainer with two and a half decades of experience in the government and non-government sectors. Her area of interest is new media and its impact on governance. Her academic papers on new media have been published in journals of repute. She joined the Indian Information Service (IIS) in 1990 and took voluntary retirement in 2013. During her career, she held vital posts in All India Radio, Doordarshan News, Directorate of Advertising & Visual Publicity, Employment News etc. She also headed the IIS Department at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication. She has been awarded Best Professor Teaching Advertising Management by ABP News, National B-School Awards 2013. She is the co-editor of the book India Connected: Mapping the Impact of New Media, Sage Publications (2016).
Dr. Anand Pradhan is Associate Professor of Journalism at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, IIMC, New Delhi. He has a master's degree and Ph.D in Journalism and Mass Communication from Benaras Hindu University (BHU), Varanasi. Before joining IIMC as Assistant Professor (Hindi Journalism) in 2003, he worked in the News Services Division of All India Radio as Assistant News Editor. He regularly writes opinion pieces on politics, economy and the media in leading newspapers and magazines. He is member of AEJMC and IAMCR.
Shashwati Goswami is an Associate Professor at IIMC since 2008. She is an accomplished Radio as well as Print Journalist from Assam. She teaches Radio Journalism, Radio Production and Development Journalism. Her research interest includes Media Policies, Development Communication, Public Health Communication, Broadcast Media, Media Theory, Conflict Communication etc. She has travelled to many countries on academic and professional assignments.