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Title:Of mouse and men: Computers and geeks as cinematic icons in age of ICTD
Author(s):Pal, Joyojeet
Abstract:Since the early 2000s, Information and Communications Technology for Development (ICTD) has rapidly gained attention as an emerging area of scholarship as information schools increasingly diversify their interests into issues of socio-technical systems and technology adoption issues in the developing world. Research in ICTD while vibrant, has been largely restricted to issues around the use of information technologies towards a range of activities including eGovernance, computer-based learning, agricultural information systems. In this article, we turn to the under-researched discourse of technology in the developing world to probing at the a rather heretical questions of why people living in various forms of deprivation find hope for economic and social development in technology. Our starting point in this research is the outcomes of 196 interviews among rural Indians with no primary experience with technology, but a great deal of enthusiasm about using or training their children to use computers. We found that this enthusiasm about technology was primarily based on secondary sources of information, a large part of which was cinematic representation of computers and computer users in local movies. Investigating this in popular Indian film, we find a visible positive and highly aspirational discourse of technology both in the representation of technology users and the artifacts themselves, such as laptops or the internet, a trend particularly evident on comparison with western cinema. To discuss the issue of intentionality in this trend, we interview leading filmmakers in India and find that unconscious absorption of social aspiration into the scripting, and significant intent into the use of computers and computer users as symbols of modernity that filmmakers feel Indian audiences respond positively to. We propose that the use of India as a case for broader examination is important on two levels. First, regionally, India is a ‘leader’ in the ICTD movement both because of the symbolic value of its software sector despite the co-existing underdevelopment and also because it is home to a range of ICT-based initiatives aimed at bringing about developmental outcomes. Secondly, from the perspective of the future of ICTD within information studies, the role of media, especially popular film, in the construction of knowledge about technology is an important and under-researched area that this article seeks to take forth.
Issue Date:2010-02-03
Genre:Conference Paper / Presentation
Date Available in IDEALS:2010-02-22

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