The complex relationship between society and technology provides much fodder for thought. Today, some of the problems that arise from new technology range from ideological battles being waged in digital spaces to new cultures of surveillance and resistance. Some of these issues will be explored in detail at an international seminar organised by the School of Media and Cultural Studies (SMCS) at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Called ‘DigiNaka: Where the local meets the digital’, the seminar will be held from January 6 to 8.
“Every year, we host an annual graduate student seminar, ‘Frames of Reference’. This year, we thought of bringing students, research scholars, professionals and senior academics together,” says KP Jayasankar, Dean at SMCS.
The seminar’s sessions will reflect diverse approaches to digital media. Some celebrate the new possibilities that have emerged for marginalised groups. Others point out how newer technologies reinforce older hierarchies. The presenters come from varied academic backgrounds and geographical spaces. Topics under discussion will range from ‘Love Jihad’ to cable operators in Patna, community media initiatives to queer dating websites and more. “We wanted to look at local negotiations of the digital world. The word ‘naka’ was chosen because it suggests an informal street encounter. It is a place where interactions take place,” says Anjali Monteiro, Professor at SMCS.
Monteiro and her collaborator-husband, Jayasankar, will speak at DigiNaka about how digital video has enabled grassroots activists to advance their causes. Their documentary film Naata is about Waqar Khan and Bhau Korde who worked with the Mohalla Committees of Dharavi after the 1992-93 riots in Mumbai. Some clips from it will be shown at the seminar. The two activist friends, Khan and Korde, have also produced video and other media materials for conflict resolution.
In their session, ‘The Place of Affect in Digital Media Activism’, Monteiro and Jayasankar will examine the use of digital video by the residents of Sion-Koliwada in their struggles against eviction by big builders. These are Mumbai citizens, who do not play by the rules of documentary filmmaking. They did not learn at a film school, or apprentice with a filmmaker. And yet, have used the technology available to them in innovative ways. These ordinary citizens have invented their own idiom, drawing from Bollywood as well as local performance traditions.
Another session is by Abhija Ghosh, whose research focuses on the digital afterlife of romantic film songs from the nineties. She will use the example of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge to discuss fan sites, memes, gifs and song lists created around the nostalgia of shared experience.
Nikhil Titus will speak about the gradual disappearance of video parlours and single screen theatres that serve those looking for cheap entertainment in Mumbai. The arrival of multiplexes has led the owners of these exhibition spaces to find ways of being relevant. They now look for new content, design posters differently, rename films and produce DVDs with selections of scenes from different films.
Another interesting paper is by Ankita Deb, who will talk about how film corporations like Shemaroo, Venus and Ultra are using digital platforms to build new consumption patterns. Today, their YouTube channels showcase successful films from the yesteryears using the same medium that is used by those engaging in film piracy. But the incentive that these corporations offer is digitally enhanced images of better quality. For details, see: smcs.tiss.edu/diginaka/
The author is a freelance writer
Nikhil Titus will speak about the gradual disappearance of video parlours