Centre for Internet & Society

This is a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference (IRC) 2016 by Maitrayee Deka, Adam Arvidsson, Rohini Lakshané, and Ravi Sundaram.



Up till now digital technologies have mostly served to create new markets opportunities for the large capitalist monopolies like Facebook, Apple and Google that dominate the global information economy. But what happens when the potential for disintermediation and market making that comes with digital technologies hit the bazaars for of the worlds 'other economy,' what Ravi Sundaram has called 'pirate modernity.' Indeed this is already happening in two inter-related ways.

First, the availability of cheap, copied or pirated digital goods like Shanzhai cell phones or pirated video games support a reinvigorated bazaar economy made up of small traders who eek out a living while providing informational goods to the broad popular market segments that large brands do not cater to. This is already an emerging phenomenon in India, Africa and large parts of South America, but similar forms of what Gordon Mathews and his colleagues call 'globalisation from below' are gaining an influence in Europe as well.

Second, the potential for disintermediation on the part of digital technologies like WhatsApp today and blockchain technologies in the near future provide a technical infrastructure for strengthening the organizational basis of such bottom-up markets and enable them to strengthen their standing vis-a-vis capitalist monopolies. Can the 'pirate economy' launch its own institution, its own capital markets and its own brands?

In this session we want to explore the future of bottom-up markets. What happens when traders on Delhi’s electronic bazaars can bypass middlemen connecting directly to their Chinese suppliers via WhatsApp; what happens when informal financial circuits like Hawala networks start operating blockchain technologies? Extrapolating from research on what is going on know we want to collectively imagine what the future might bring. What sort of economic social and, importantly political consequences might these changes bring about? How can we theorise this emergence and how does it challenge and force us to rethink basic categories like capitalism, markets and agency?



The sessions will start with presentations on traders in Delhi's pirate bazaars, blockchain and the democratization of financial markets, impact of mobile connectivity on business and family interaction, and relationship between peer-to-peer, pirate economies, and large media corporations within cultures of circulation. The presentation will be brief (about 20 mins.) and will serve to open up discussions and constitutions form workshop participants.

Discussions will be centred on:

  • What are interesting areas of study in understanding how digital technologies are changing the balance of power in the digital economy in India?
  • What is the potential of digital technologies in relation to the mediation and transformation of bottom up economic processes in contemporary India?
  • What are the new forms of injustices and/or imbalances are arising form these transformations?
  • What is the political potential in digital disintermediation in relation to markets, beyond the ‘official paradigm of ecommerce and Uber-like platforms?





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