As individuals, families and communities, we all respond to change differently. We accept or resist it, we sometimes settle for a compromise, evolving to accommodate change.
Although recognized, change is not as often realized.
As we gravitate towards an era where we turn more unmindful and impervious to this condition, it is perhaps imperative to question the equations that structure in our lives.
What is essentially dispensable and what is not.
Immediately after independence, driven by the need to build a strong economy, the Indian government implemented economic policies that promoted industrialization, import substitution and the growth of the public sector through central planning that failed, creating a macro¬economic crisis, curbing the country’s economic growth immensely. This is debatable as many economists argue that the emphasis on building the public sector enabled equitable growth and the building of infrastructure that laid the foundation for economic liberalization 45 years later.
The decades that followed independence were characterized by a pride in Indian goods and a collective desire to contribute towards to the economic development of the young nation. This aspiration was embodied in slogans such as ‘Be Indian, Buy Indian’ a carry over of Gandhi’s call to boycott foreign goods and embrace Swadeshi. Thrift was a virtue and saving an imperative. Middle class families tended to make do with what they had rather than hanker for what they could not afford.
Sixty years after independence the mood is completely different. The year 1991 saw the beginning of a new era of globalization that began with the liberalization of the Indian economy. Economic reforms, disinvestment in the public sector and impetus to foreign direct investment opened the country to foreign trade and privatization of many sectors.
The arrival of global brands, increased investment in telecommunications and easy availability of credit resulted in increased consumerism across the Indian middle classes. The ‘Make Do’ perspective gave way to ‘Must Have’. All these changes lead to the Indian middle class household becoming a platform for technological experimentation. The privacy of the middle class home as well as the public space was invaded by a series of evolving tools and technologies.
Growing up in my grandparents’ home during this period, I was oblivious to not just the fact that we functioned differently but had distinctly different experiences and relationships with technology in spite of subconsciously accepting our differences and establishing a healthy rapport.
From there, I tried to find these instances and the spaces within which our differences manifested. After going round the clock, observing our lives, I started coming across tools… both simple and complex tools that guided both our activities through the day and our lives.
One such space I explored was communication, specifically transmission of sound, the first form of live communication and the tools that enabled it. Something about the way my generation and my grandparents’ generation has been socialized, combined with this new communication technology generated various interesting interactions between individuals, communi¬ties and the tools itself. Interactions that reflected our dispositions, perspectives and practices.
The phenomenal rate of change has prevented us from questioning, comparing, judging and reflecting on even the most elementary activities we engage in.
This compilation is a study and representation of such technology mediated interactions that took place over the past fifty years in the Indian middle class household.
Stories about interactions tell us how these were key in shaping our social and personal lives, redefining our values and constructing “middle class culture”.
Friday, September 24, 2010
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Friday, September 3, 2010
Sunday, August 29, 2010
To most people at that time, the telephone was purely a necessity. Nobody understood how the device worked or bothered to unravel the technology behind the so called 'miracle' of instant distant communication.
'Let anything change, I just need the red and green button, thats all'
- It was sort of difficult to feel connected over the telephone. One had to literally scream over the line, especially for trunk calls.
- As a child I was not even aware of the word 'hello', never knew it was an english word which meant something. Hearing it being used to start a conversation on the telephone, I assumed one could not start a conversation without a hello, almost as if the person on the other side would not respond without a hello.
- Most of the conversation around the telephone then involved the instrument: its quality, durability and color. There was an obsession behind owning a telephone of the color one preferred, probably people thought it represented themselves, something more personal.
- People used to book for colors in advance and wait for it. Ironically after all the effort involved in procuring a phone of their preferred color, they would cover the telephone with a piece of cloth, in comparison to today where features are given more importance and nobody bothers covering the landline at home.
- Unlike today there was close watch on time back then. He remembers his father starting a timer the moment the pulse started.
- The wires used to be all around and over the house as nobody bothered concealing them. Sometimes the wire was a lot longer than required so that it could be moved around the house.
- He says the older phone call experience is like the family sitting together watching television .
- Father gained respect amongst the tenants as he allowed them to use the device purely out of goodwill. It also helped him connect a outer circle of people(those who contacted his tenants), helped build relations with relatives of tenants.
- Another interesting thing he mentioned was how people in the house, especially children learnt about different languages (basics of response) just through receiving phone calls for neighbors.
- The first device he bought when he went to the states was a telephone. Something that was planned even before departure.
- His first mobile phone was forced upon him by his management in spite of him not wanting one. Hates being traceable all the time. Feels there is an increase in expectancy, in terms of having to be answerable all the time.There is an expectation to stay in touch, leading to many assumptions which further leads to misunderstanding.
- Only during high school was i ever allowed to receive personal phone calls. The only one then being one from my friend Sowmya inviting me to her residence for group study.
- While doing my engineering, i used to stay in a hostel which only had one telephone.
- Parents would need to inform the attender that need to speak to their daughter. The attender would scream out your room number and name from the verandah. Phone calls were very short and purely need based.
- My father, being from the ITI would usually somehow figure a way out fix the minor problems related to the telephone by himself.
- He would make us answer phone calls he did not wish to answer or was not sure of. (Lack of caller id). He would also ask us to search from a number in the directory.
- Call engaged numbers continuously till answered. We were even taught to identity the nature of the call from the ring.
- As children we used to make prank calls in his absence to the police station and other relatives. The police once even threatened to come home and take action.
Mr.Vasanth Subramaniam, Age 40
- Seldom uses the telephone for personal conversations. Prefers face to face interaction.
- Collecting the directory was a major task every year, it was must and had to be done immediately.
- People had issues with the placement of the telephone pole. Nobody wanted it in front of their houses.
- Nobody emphasizes on durability of the devices anymore. The device need not last so long when the features change so rapidly.
- we were once at the mercy of the government ot provide us the service. Today, the customer is the king.