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


03. #Cyberflesh

Last updated on Dec 25, 2017.

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Context of the Session

The main focus of this presentation is to trace multiple embodiments that emerge at intersections of online and offline worlds. In particular, posturing offline experiences to create constructs of celebrity, blurring boundaries between online and offline realities in a ‘hybrid’ game, and the use of memes in vernacular political propaganda -it brings to light techno-negotiations that are emblematic of contemporary social life.

Through the presentation we will attempt to unearth multiple engagements with online spaces in specific settings which generate unique subtypes of ‘internet publics’. For instance, the monetization of stardom on social media which now takes place through constant uploads of everyday life creating a consciously designed “happy-go-lucky” bubble of stardom on online platforms. Sensational news media coverage will too come under scrutiny for its part in creating an urban legend and generating ‘virality’ for the lethal Blue Whale challenge. Further, we will explore how meme collectives in Assam have emerged as a critical element in the perpetuation of specific agendas by preferential propagation of local events and icons thus leveraging online provocation to consolidate offline political culture in Assam.

The presentation is a cohesive narrative of these online phenomenon that sculpt offline realities. The online and offline can no longer be read as binary polarities in opposition to each other, but must instead be understood as modes in dialogue with, and affecting one another. The session will aim at accounting for online-offline dynamics of social lives of internet publics that inhabit different mediated spaces from news media to niche blogs. It will also address the lack of an existing critical vocabulary to read such scenarios, particularly in small towns where social media has acquired recent omnipresence, and in regions with a contested position within the larger national discourse.

Session Plan

Using individual case studies, the session will investigate the central role of social media in experiences of embodiment and aspirational role-modelling in the contemporary techno-reality. The status of contemporary research that engages with online-offline realities, where the internet serves as a partial field-site as well as the method for primary investigation comes to light when we explore how media events play into the dynamics of the creation of a meme, a celebrity, and a gaming phenomenon. The presentation will illustrate Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) tools such as the Internet Community Text Analyzer (ICTA) which we utilise in order to undertake virtual ethnographies, mine data from virtual communities, and also use to segregate big data into data sets for further study.

The first presenter will visibilize the otherwise invisible labour of creating a celebrity, through a case study of Sonam Kapoor’s social media presence. The second presenter will trace the repercussions of sensational reporting in news media through a case study of the lethal Blue Whale challenge. The third and final presenter will explore the propagandist territory of meme collectives originating in Assam that target peasant activist, Akhil Gogoi, to understand the part played by them in creating targets to further their own agendas. Each case study is a part of our larger body of work and will be accompanied by a presentation. After the individual presentations we will move on to a round table discussion based on common themes and concerns that emerge from our individual research objects and methods. We will then open the floor to questions.

Each case study will be discussed for a duration of 15 minutes, while the concluding statements drawing our arguments together will take an additional 15 minutes, leaving half an hour for the roundtable discussion.

Session Team

Akriti Rastogi is a PhD candidate at the Cinema Studies department of the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Her current work proposes to trace the design of monetization channels of cinema effects in a new media environ. She has previously worked as a radio broadcast producer at All India Radio, New Delhi.

Ishani Dey is working on her PhD in Cinema Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her current project seeks to analyse some of the ways in which the body-technology ensemble has changed with the rise of the digital. While every new image making technology since the mid-nineteenth century has reconfigured the human body, this project is dedicated to understanding the implications of twenty-first century digital technologies and the internet on bodies that inhabit the screens of the ‘post-cinematic’.

Sagorika Singha is a doctoral candidate in the department of Cinema Studies, School of Arts and Aesthetics, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Her areas of interest include cinema, subculture, queer studies, technoculture, post­-cinema, new mediascape, and digital societies. Her ongoing doctoral work virtually reimagines the contested region of North-east India following the arrival and popularity of mobile media and media-sharing technologies.