Centre for Internet & Society

Details of a session proposed for the Internet Researchers' Conference 2022 - #Home.

Internet Researchers' Conference 2022 - #Home - Call for Sessions


Session Type: Presentation and Discussion of Papers

Session Plan 

“Don’t come to Burger King, let the King come to you! Order safe deliveries from our kitchen to your doorstep on Swiggy or Zomato. Stay home, stay safe”.

The above caption is from an advertisement by the popular fast food joint Burger King, during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Indeed, one would have come across many such advertisements, centering the safety of the customer, from restaurants and food delivery platforms during the pandemic.  Delivery platforms also reinforced this idea of ‘safe access to food from home’ through measures such as temperature checks and vaccination status of the delivery workers, option of no-contact delivery etc. Within such a context, the idea of ‘home’ acquired a certain valence, imbued with a sense of comfort that allowed for multiplicity of food options to be delivered within a short span of time, without compromising one’s safety. In this session, we propose to explore aspects of time, space, and home in the context of food delivery in the pandemic. While we explore time through the concept of ‘waiting’, we look at space through processes of simultaneous compression and rarefaction.

A cursory glance at any food delivery app provides the customer with a certain distribution of time- order placed, preparing order, order picked up, order delivered- all of which are significantly tied to how the process of waiting at home is approached and experienced by the customer. Additionally, the tracking option on the app with an icon of the driver mediates the waiting experience. Similarly, such processes of waiting are experienced by the delivery worker in different ways albeit through multiple delivery cycles outside of home. In any given delivery cycle, a delivery worker waits for the order to be assigned and waits for the restaurant to prepare the order. In addition to this, incentives and long distance delivery produce other forms of waiting for the delivery worker. This waiting operates simultaneously with rapid movement often required to ensure that the order is delivered to the customer who is waiting at home. These forms of waiting are integral to the order-delivery chain and they take place on multiple registers- shaped by the space of home and outside home.

Various food delivery apps also communicate to the customer the promise of delivering different cuisines from across restaurants at the tip of their fingers. Such technologies entail a collapse of space that the customer experiences which varies drastically from the spatial organization of these said options. Many aspects of the app interface are directed towards this compression- the manner in which multiple cuisines and restaurants are organized on the app, the tracking interface that signals an apparent proximity mediated by time frame. Real time experience of delivery often punctures this idea of a seemingly seamless process- glitches in the map showing faulty directions and specifically in the context of Mumbai, the space itself is characterized by traffic jams, climate events etc- reconfiguring space in specific ways.

Drawing on the above discussions, the proposed session will include two papers exploring dimensions of space, time and home. Both papers will be presented  In the first paper, (presenter's name) will discuss time in the context of waiting by asking how different modalities of waiting, experienced in the food-delivery process, are linked to the space of home and outside home. In the second paper, (presenter's name) will focus on space as a concept to understand how the perception of the compression of space in the app itself is animated in the order delivery process. Through both these papers, we attempt to explore how the idea of home itself gets restructured through the discourse of ‘staying at home to be safe’. Both papers draw on an ethnographic study conducted by the discussants in Central Mumbai.

Outline of the Session

The discussants will share a recording of their respective presentations of 15 minutes each (as stated in the call for papers). The session will begin with a short discussion between presenters for 20 minutes. This will be followed by an open floor discussion on the papers with the audience present for the subsequent 30 minutes.

Session Team 

Nisha Subramanian is pursuing a PhD in Anthropology at Ashoka University. Their work explores rights of forest dwelling communities and temporalities of justice and injustice within the space of the forest

Rhea Bose is pursuing her PhD in The School of Development Studies (SDS), TISS Mumbai. Her work looks at the intersections of cyberspace and queer theory. 


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