Centre for Internet & Society

This is a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference (IRC) 2016 by Sailen Routray and Khetrimayum Monish.



The discussion in this session will focus on the cultures of practices around digital / information networks. The objective would be to open up the understanding around notions of identity and rights in the context of governance on one hand, and the proliferation of various subcultures on the other. The objective is to try and understand the political and cultural imaginations 'of and as the public' enabled by internet and digital technologies. In this, we are trying to connect the whole discussion to the first two questions the conference focuses on:

  • How do we conceptualise, as an intellectual and political task, the mediation and transformation of social, cultural, political, and economic processes, forces, and sites through internet and digital media technologies in contemporary India?

  • How do we frame and explore the experiences and usages of internet and digital media technologies in India within its specific historical-material contexts shaped by traditional hierarchies of knowledge, colonial systems of communication, post-independence initiatives in nation-wide technologies of governance, a rapidly growing telecommunication market, and informal circuits of media production and consumption, among others?



Each discussant will present for 20 minutes after which the session will be thrown open for discussion amongst all the participants of the session.

Abstract I

Internet in India has led to the proliferation of practices and notions of governance and citizenship simulated by information networks and data. On one hand, the internet has captured the imagination of citizens and the reassertion of user agency; on the other, the experiences with the internet reflects the new ways of how the state imagines itself and the citizens. Hence, not only a critical mass replete with the possibilities of user agency, but also one aggregated by the state as part of a political project. Initiatives such as Digital India, the Aadhar project, rural internet and increased emphasis on mobile internet services are some of ways through which the logic of access and participation now operates. The paper will draw perspectives from four case studies in Assam - the Mahanagar Project (internet and mobile services), the National Register of Citizens (NRC) update, the Aadhaar Project and rural internet kiosks (Common Service Centers). With these, it focuses on the larger context of the cultures of digital practices; and techno-politics through the various sites and projects through which the internet operates in India.

Abstract II

Those of us who have jumped or meandered across to the wrong (or perhaps the right) side of thirty by now, first came to consume internet in what were called, and are still called, cyber cafes or internet cafes. Their numbers in big Indian cities is dwindling because of the increasing ubiquity of smartphone, and netbooks and data cards. The cyber café seems to be inexorably headed the way of the STD booth in the geography of large Indian cities. The present paper is a preliminary step towards capturing some of the experience of running and using internet cafes. With ethnographic fieldwork with cyber café owners and internet users in these cafes in the Chandrasekharpur area of Bhubaneswar (where the largest section of the computer industry in the state of Odisha is located), this paper tries to capture experiences that lie at the interstices of ‘objects’ and spaces - experiences that are at the same time a history of the internet as well as a personal history of the city. By doing so it tries to ask and answer the question - what kinds of publics does the consumption of the internet in spaces such as cybercafes create?



Escobar, Arturo, et al. 1994. Welcome to Cyberia: Notes on the Anthropology of Cyberculture [and Comments and Reply]. Current Anthropology. 35(3): 211-231.

Nayar, Pramod K. 2008. New Media, Digitextuality and Public Space: Reading "Cybermohalla". Postcolonial Text. 4(1):1-12.

Kurian, Renee and Isha Ray. 2009. Outsourcing the State? Public–Private Partnerships and Information Technologies in India. World Development. 37(10): 1163-1173.


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