Imperica.com has recently published an interesting article about Payal Arora’s research into social computing in the central Himalayas.
The impact of connected digital media on western society is well-documented. From the early days of Usenet and IRC to the contemporary, vibrant interest around Twitter, Facebook and many others, it has been matched by commentary, books, and the growing importance of new sources to report on constant innovation – such as Mashable and Techcrunch. For consumers and for business, it is a phenomenon that has completely transformed society and allowed the world to shrink, to be faster, and to be more accessible.
For developing communities, their own journeys will be different. If there is a much smaller digital legacy – no telecommunications infrastructure, no 16-bit computers – then much of what we in the west consider to be de rigeur and readily available within society will turn out to be completely new. The ways in which these communities approach, use and develop themselves in terms of digital adoption may deliver interesting, and perhaps very different, results.
That is certainly the case in an area new to digital communication – such as the Himalayas, where Payal Arora spent much of her time researching digital uptake. The stories of how these remote communities, new to digital communications, built a network of cyber cafes that changed the lives of their people is documented in her new book, Dot Com Mantra.
Reviews of Dot Com Mantra:
‘A towering piece of research and writing, imbued with theoretical and methodological vigor, and sensitively illuminating the intersections of digital media and human ingenuity in the Central Himalayas. A must read.’ Arvind Singhal, University of Texas at El Paso, and Clinton School of Public Service, USA
‘In every age, innovative technology has been met with an awkward mixture of enthusiasm, indifference, scepticism and hostility. The advent in our time of cheap, mobile computing and cellular telephones has drawn a similar response, especially in the international development community. In Dot Com Mantra, Payal Arora goes beyond the familiar juxtapositions to show how poor individuals and communities actively negotiate their engagement with twenty-first century technology, documenting the conditions under which they use, abuse and reject it in their everyday lives. The result is a book that is fascinating in its own right, but also highly instructive to a new generation of development policymakers, in rich and poor countries alike, caught between an imperative for easy answers and the reality of messy complexity.’ Michael Woolcock, World Bank
About the Author: Payal Arora is Assistant Professor in International Media and Communication in the Department of Media and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam, The Netherlands.