IRC18: Offline, Kandbari, February 22-24, 2018


09. #CollectionAndIdentity

Last updated on Jan 15, 2018.

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Context of the Session

The hobby of collection or collection has several dimensions that make it an interesting site for studying the interactions between the offline and the online. The advent of digitization and the internet, has led not only to newer kinds of collectibles but at times, a change in their form - a book or a film, for instance, may now be collected as a soft-copy. A traditionally offline activity thus, undergoes transformation in the transition to online.

From a sociological standpoint, collection as a hobby has been connected to questions of class, culture, gender and technology. Hobbies such as philately and numismatics, have received a fillip with the advent of the internet even as the use of coins and stamps reduces; largely due to the same technology. Can the effects of technology in this case be classified in terms of broad categories such “beneficial” or "detrimental", if at all these boundaries can be defined? How are these shifts seen by collectors? What are the shared interests, passions and hierarchies between them? What are the competitions and conflicts? How do the activities of seeking, acquiring, storing, sharing, buying, selling or exchange which form an essential part of collecting, different in the offline and the online worlds?

Extending the notion beyond hobbies to collections in general raises new questions. Are we not, whether consciously or otherwise, both collections and collectors? Collections - not just of bone, sinew and body parts, but also of thoughts, memories, emotions, hopes and fears? Collectors - of objects, experiences, accomplishments and failures? Do these not form a part of our collective and individual identities? What are the overlaps and contradictions between the offline and online notions of identity? And more importantly, where do we as researchers, see ourselves as collections and collectors?

Session Plan


As researchers, we often tend to see ourselves as distinct from the object of research.

As the world we live in is transformed by information technologies such as the internet, there is a need to introspect and re-conceptualize our conceptualizations and methods of inquiry. Using the same perspectives (collections and identities) to approach both the observers and the objects of observation opens up this possibility.


To provide researchers insight into their respective areas of research.

I haven't thought the logistics through and am open to suggestions, here's what I can think of right now.

Things needed: Writing pads/paper - pencil/pens, projector, multiple cameras.


  • Introduction (15 mins): Reiterate the context and set the stage for the rest of the session.
  • Step 1 (15 mins): Participants are invited to look into their own areas of interest and to answer two questions. What are they collecting? - as objects and as thoughts/memories/emotions etc? What is the identity of their objects of observation and themselves? Five minute break for collating and categorizing the data.
  • Step 2 (15 mins): Based on the broad categorizations of the objects selected the participants are split into groups.
  • Step 3 (15 mins): Each group is shown a set of 10 pictures and videos (total 10 mins) based on the broad theme of their group. The group video is recorded as they observer the pictures and videos.
  • Step 4 (10 mins): The video is played back to the group.
  • Step 5 (20 mins): Open discussion on the insights or lack during the course of the session.

Session Team

Ravi Shukla has been involved with the world of software for over two and half decades in a diversity of roles, domains, technologies and geographies. Ravi's post-school education started with a Bachelors degree in Electronics, followed by a Masters in Computer Application. Thereafter he joined the fledgling Infosys in the Bangalore of the early 1990s. He worked in India and the US for about 14 years. During this period he taught Computer Science in Delhi University for a few years. Being bitten by the "academia" bug, led to a MPhil in Science Policy from JNU, followed by a Phd. During this period he managed to find a balance between software development and sociological research, taking a break only to write out the Phd thesis. This was followed by a year of full-time research and teaching, after which he returned to his home turf of technology. Ravi's diverse interests have had him playing in a mildly successful garage band, teaching school children in the Ladakh himalayas, diving in the Andamans and doing academic research broadly on the myriad interfaces of IT and Society continues.

Rajiv K. Mishra is a researcher with interdisciplinary training in the field of Computer Science, Data Communications, Sociology and Science Policy Studies. At present, he is a doctoral researcher in the Centre for Studies in Science Policy, School of Social Sciences, JNU. His thesis research tries to study and understand information systems and development with the case of UID (unique identity) and health Informatics in India. Before starting his journey in Social Sciences with a Masters in Sociology from JNU, he studied Computer Science in BIT Mesra, Ranchi and Data Communications and Distributed Systems in UCL, London. Apart from this he has love for teaching and has taught school childrens in Ladakh, and in Department of Sociology, Miranda House, Delhi University.

Mrutyunjay Mishra is a recognised expert in data-driven decision-making and a leading commentator on Indian consumer behaviour. He is the Co-founder of Juxt-Smart Mandate, a Data Sciences firm. Also, he is the Founding Member/Director of India Open Data Association (IODA), Janwaar Castle Community Organisation (JCCO), and CMEE at IIM-Lucknow (Noida Campus). In his career spanning more than 17 years, Mrutyunjay co-founded JuxtConsult and successfully merged it with Smart Mandate. Prior to that, he worked in a number of leading organisations including IMRB International (Kantar, WPP), IDC India (IDG Group), Convergys India Services, Annik Systems (Quatrro) and ASHA (a rural development NGO).