IRC17, Bengaluru, March 03-05, 2017


03. #StudentIndicUsageOnline
Students' Use of Indic Languages: Preferences and Problems in utilizing Digital Content

Last updated on Oct 31, 2016.


Description of the Session

Students make up a majority of the user population of the World Wide Web today, and their priorities, preferences and challenges with respect to the digital world drive key changes in the way the cyber world functions. This dimension is however, complicated in India, which is a linguistically rich country, with the influence of cultural and regional underpinnings on communication expanding to Cyber space.

Students today opt for an English medium of instruction while pursuing higher studies, but retain their affinity for their native tongue when it comes to free expression. This phenomenon creates challenges in terms of access and comprehension in an English-language dominated digital sphere and at the same time, also creates opportunities in terms of alternative forms of expression. Lack of fluency in English and inability to grasp the working of the internet is common among students from the rural areas. In contrast, students from urban areas are more comfortable using English, yet find communicating in their native tongue more meaningful, which gives rise to innovative forms of combinations of English and other Indic languages in their communicative expression.

The key questions that this session focuses on are:

  • How does the becoming-digital of the research objects challenge our current research practices, concerns, and assumptions?
  • How do we appreciate, study, and theorize the functioning of and meaning-making by digital objects in Indic languages?

This session aims to specifically analyze the utilization of digital space and information by students in their work and life experiences, with respect to two Indic languages- Hindi- a North Indian language, and Telugu- a South Indian language. It addresses three major concerns:

  1. Lack of appropriate digital content in Indic languages and the related challenges faced by students in work,
  2. Preferences for alternative forms of expression in Indic languages by students on social media in day-to-day life, and
  3. The forms of input, expression and digital content in Indic languages and the difference in approach towards use of Indic languages in cyber space between urban and rural students.

Session Plan

The team comprises of two members and the session of 90 minutes will be divided into three major parts:

  1. A joint PowerPoint presentation of 20 minutes by both the team members – detailing the existing forms of digital content in various Indic languages with respect to research objects and forms of expression/ content on social media platforms.
  2. Presentation of research papers by the members, aided by a PowerPoint presentation, with 20 minutes allotted to each member of the team.
  3. Interactive session with the audience of 10 minutes each - at the end of the joint presentation and each research paper presentation.

Documentation Plan

The documentation of the proceedings will be done via the audio-visual mode during the session.

The post-conference documentation will be done as a complete report in electronic format as well as print, in the form of a booklet. The booklet will detail the content of the presentations conducted during the session, with accompanying photographs, graphics and illustrations, the two research papers presented, and also document the interactive sessions with the audience. A summary of the entire session will be provided at the end to summarize the discussion and the findings.

It will address the following issues:

  1. The existing forms of digital content in Indic languages, relevant to students’ research and social media interaction,
  2. The opportunities and challenges that students come into contact with while utilizing digital content in Indic languages, and
  3. An analysis of current trends of Indic language use online by students and suggestions/ directions towards future possibilities.

Paper Abstracts

01. Sneha Verghese - Use of Indic Languages on Social Media among Urban Students: Forms of Input and Expression in Telugu

Communication on social media networks was driven by English, until the needs of an international user audience took over and forced the inclusion of several languages from all over the world. Facebook is now available in more than 70 languages, with an additional facility to translate text. Twitter is available in 56 languages, with a Twitter Translation Centre made available to assist users, to facilitate input of information. Both networks support several Indic language formats as well. This has given rise to the spread of use of Indic languages alongside English on social media, especially among students. For the youth of today, social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are the preferred ways of connecting with family, friends and peers.

However, despite having the ability to communicate solely in their native Indic language, students opt to communicate in English, or a combination of English and Indic language script, or a transliteration in English, and there is little clarity on the forms of input used. Other forms of expression, such as ‘trolls’ and ‘memes’ in Indic languages have also emerged, apart from simple text-based ‘posts’ and ‘tweets’. This paper aims to analyze the trends of use of Indic languages, specifically Telugu, on the Social Media networks –Facebook and Twitter, by students in urban areas via a quantitative survey of 150 respondents from Telangana, followed by a qualitative analysis using two Focussed Group Discussions consisting of four students each. This study intends to identify the strategies adopted by the students to communicate in their native language and the reasons for their preferences. This paper aims to identify the factors that influence the choices that students make when communicating in Indic languages on social media.

02. Shruti Nagpal - Mapping Issues with Students' Use of Indic Language: Social Context of Technology and Online Research Practices in Hindi

Students rely heavily on internet software systems for their everyday performance. And due to the increasing use of smart phones among students, the number of local language student users of Internet is rapidly growing every year. From booking cabs for commuting purposes, to getting their phones recharged and preparing for their presentations and research projects; internet weaves their fabric of everyday communication.

Through this paper, I attempt to map research experiences of students who are neither fluent in English language nor in the digital English content. Dealing with the issues concerning localisation of language, I aim to discuss the biggest roadblock in including students from Hindi speaking belt in online discussions in English. My main focus is to understand the issue of access to the research objects (technology itself being one) and question the very nature of ‘access’ not being only restricted to the ability to log in but also to participate, make choices, understand and know. My paper delves into the ways in which Hindi speaking students use internet methodologically and epistemologically. While doing that, I raise concerns related to the availability and usage of Hindi fonts and the issues in transliteration from the English language script as also the scalability issues of research and the process of triangulation. My study focuses on three things- students’ attitude towards digital methods of research, students’ own evaluation of the digital research practices in Hindi, and patterns of adaptation for online research techniques. Documenting students’ experiences of creating, searching and accessing digital Hindi content for research, through quantitative survey (of around 150 students) and two qualitative focus group discussions (with four students each), my paper critically evaluates the input mechanism and the related tools online as well as students’ preferences for using such tools.

Details of the Team

Sneha Verghese is a double post-graduate in Biotechnology and Mass Communication from Osmania University, Hyderabad, and is presently pursuing her PhD in Mass Communication and Journalism from Osmania University with focus on “Intercultural communication in Organizations”. A recipient of the UGC’s Junior Research Fellowship award, she has two research papers to her credit. She was earlier a recipient of the Junior Research Fellowship award from both Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and has worked in leading scientific research organizations in Hyderabad. She is a member of the Board of Studies, Department of English, Osmania University College for Women, as ‘Meritorious Student Alumna’. She is also a prolific writer and teacher, presently freelancing as a columnist for the Hans India newspaper. Her weekly column “Nature Narratives”, aimed at children and young adults, strives to elaborate scientific concepts through fiction. Her interests lie in the areas of Science writing, Intercultural Communication and Media Ethics.

Shruti Nagpal is a double Gold Medalist from two reputed universities of India at both graduate and post graduate levels in mass communication. Shruti is a PhD scholar with AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia and is currently working as an Assistant Professor with Vivekananda School of Journalism and Mass Communication, VIPS, Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi, India. A member of the Curriculum committee of Mass Communication of National Institute of Open Schooling, Ministry of HRD, India, Shruti is also a documentary filmmaker. One of her films On the Verge, produced by Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) has been screened at various national and international Film festivals. Her interests lie in the study of Digital Technology, Video Surveillance and Mixed Media Platforms of teaching and learning. She recently participated in a Master class cum workshop on Critical Internet culture with Media theorist Prof. Geert Lovink at CSDS, New Delhi in March 2016.