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, July 30, 2010

D2 | The Robocall

Personalized Advertisement: Unsolicited telephone marketing calls

“Hello is that Direct Marketing Callups Inc? You didn’t call at dinner time today and I’m just wondering is everything is ok over there?”

Technical: Robocall is a term for an automated phone call that uses both a computerized autodialer and a computer-delivered pre-recorded message. The implication is that a "robocall" resembles a telephone call from a robot. Robocalls are often associated with political and telemarketing phone campaigns, but can also be used for public-service or emergency announcements.

Telemarketing though has been negatively associated with various scams and frauds, and with deceptively overpriced products and services.

Use deceptive tactics, with computer recorded messages saying things like "Don't panic but this is your final notice" or "We have already attempted to contact you through the mail."

Intended to incite concern or fear in the potential customer.

Terms used to describe: Annoying, Nonsense, Fake

Using this form as a medium?

Playing with new forms of messages? Subverted messages?

Thursday, July 29, 2010

D1 | Heterotopic : Foucault

We are in the epoch of simultaneity: we are in the epoch of juxtaposition, the epoch of the near and far, of the side-by-side, of the dispersed. We are at a moment. I believe, when our experience of the world is less that of a long life developing through time than that of a network that connects points and intersects with its own skein.
  • Exploring spaces of otherness
  • Neither here or there
  • Simultaneously physical and mental

Like the space of a phone call or the moment one sees oneself in a mirror.

The person you hear does not exist in the phone call, but the voice is generated by a real object/ source.

Connecting two people/spaces ,
Sharing Information >
  • Messages
  • Experience
  • Habitat
  • Sensorial
  • Haptic
All this facilitates by the unified transmission
A new media: The Optical Fiber?

The multi sensorial presence

Refrences : Ashok Sukumaran

'In recent work I have been exploring the intersection of spaces of living, and technologies being ‘embedded’ within them. The technologies themselves range from imaging and distribution systems to transport and other infrastructures. I am interested in the thresholds of visibility, distance, administration and doubt that we encounter here.'

'The projects themselves are an adulterous mix of software-based art, conceptual practices, telematics, early and pre-cinema, site-based performance, and architecture. With this approach I try to bring, often with others, a broad range of thinking: new and old ideas, as well as low-, hi- and no-tech, to "new media " conceptions of virtuality, networks and participation.' - Ashok Sukumaran

A project on the creek in Sharjah, from where a large number of ships leave for ports in Somalia.

This arrow of trade (in which Foucault's heterotopic ship is not an escape from but an entry into the space of conflict) is our subject. It offers an opportunity to think about how the "business of business" may be better than the business of war, and how a "free port" created in Somalia by the lack of a customs regime, mirrored by Sharjahs' "cheap port", produces a "free trade" not governed by the WTO. With conflict up ahead and economic crisis at its tail (and pirates in the middle), this movement of goods and their sailors may trace old trade routes, but maps out something new: a contemporary landscape of new and used objects, labour, charcoal (the only bulk item on the return journey), Asian and African diasporas, and giant wooden ships being built in Salaya, Gujarat.

The project consists of two parallel pieces: Wharfage, a book containing two years of port records related to the Somali trade;
and Radio Meena, four evenings of radio transmissions from the port in Sharjah, which broadcast in a 5+ kilometre radius songs, commentary, phone and ship radio conversations with ships in Salaya, in Bossaso and enroute, and accounts from Gujarati sailors, loaders from Dera Gazi Khan and NWFP in Pakistan, Sikh truckers, Iranian shopkeepers, Somali trading agents. All of whom spoke hindustani (hindi+urdu) as a common language.

The project is ongoing, video material and annotations from a recent trip to Salaya is here:

Wharfage is a CAMP project invited by the 9th Sharjah Biennial, 2009.
As part of the program "Past of the Coming Days",
curated by Tarek Abou el Fetouh.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

3 Generations

The Telephone: Scenarios, Experiences and Insights

Family 1 : These are three generations of the same family:

Generation 1
: G. Lakshminarayanan
Age : 84, Asst. manager (Retd), Reserve Bank of India.
Besant Nagar, Madras.

  • The very first telephone conversation was an official one, it was an extension line to my desk. I would require to make and answer precisely 3 -4 calls a day.
  • Never felt the need to write a letter or own a telephone. All my family and friends lived in the same city. I might have received about ten letters in all post retirement.
  • At the age of 50, I got a telephone for my residence because my youngest son was a stock broker and needed the facility.
  • It was a very typical ITI dial telephone which was placed in the drawing room, close to the entrance, accessible to everyone. No particular hierarchy I can remember, when it came to using the phone.
  • Initially, I did not feel the necessity of the technology. I never used the device. The very first time from home was to inform my son who was out of station whether his letter had arrived or not.
  • A very expensive affair which cost Rs.3000 to just get a subscription for 4 months. Would only be used if it were an absolute necessity. My son himself might have only made a hundred phone calls in those first four months.
  • It was definitely a symbol of affluence in the society. A device that a majority in most other areas in the city would not own. A time in which the vast majority used public booths.

Generation 2 :L. Sriraman
Age:62, Delhi

The idea of personally possessing a device through which i could call anyone at my fancy was thrilling and idea of having it at home for my family excited me.
Apart from that the fascination involved in using a telephone for the first time faded away very quickly as i was very frequently using the facility at my office.
My relation with all modern evolving technology has always been purely necessity based.

Generation 3: S.Badrinath
Age:28, Delhi/

The first phone call :I would often hear my parents speak about their telephone calls, months before i could finally use it. I was in the 8th std when i first saw my friend make a telephone call to another friend. It took me quite some time to gather the money to go make one myself from a public booth.
There was a lot of excitement and anticipation in spite of people describing the experience many times before.
The first step was making sure that the other person could hear you. It was not a given for me back then. I was screaming the first time i made the call. The booth owner asked me to calm down. For some reason it never felt unreal because i had already heard about to so much before making the first call. The first few calls to all my friends were just to test what they sounded like on telephone and derive some sort of satisfaction out of the process.
  • They finally installed the telephone the day I got my tenth standard exam results, just to inform relatives and friends about my score.
  • We never really had anything to say on the telephone. I cant remember a single intense conversation on the telephone. I maintained a phonebook with all my friends contacts even if i were not going to use it regularly. Again it was about the craze.
  • It was a very strong social symbol, one of the reasons it pushed my parents into getting one for the residence. they also used it to keep a tab on me, as I used to stay alone at home after school.
  • Personally, for me it was always about the craze of using a new technology. I have always had this dying urge to test and possibly own the latest technology, especially when it came to communication.
  • I think from the time I first used a telephone, my needs have changed and I primarily use my phone only to communicate whats necessary these days. Its not as much about the craze anymore.
  • I dont like the feeling of being contactable all the time. Feels like i don't have a space for myself.
  • At the same time there is this insecurity, the need to know is everyone you care about is alright.
  • This insecurity has always existed, it just that we don't have the patience to handle it anymore.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

the telephone THEN v1.0

Exploring ideas around the telephone 'then'. This is first draft and there are many sections such as stories, experience, needs, meaning which require further research and interviewing people.

The First phone call

How did it first feel to hear someone you know through a box ? To hear something live and yet personal, did the distance decrease, was it even believable? Need to talk to and explore what this first experience meant to the person of that era.

Research Questions | Directions

This is weeks old material from my log which i had not shared on the blog.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Media flow v1.0

Initial mind map dealing with technology/media flow over the past 50 years in India. (Indian middle class context). Also trying to identify the nature of this shift and map its future, hypothetically.

This is in the process work, hence incomplete.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Fractal spurts

The beginning has been very fractal in nature, spiraling out in every possible direction. Trying to see opportunity everywhere. Although that is what i am averting from doing now, its happening subconsciously.
In terms of research i am trying not to stick to the brief right away as i am still talking to people and receiving feedback.


Was given a reading called 'Gramophone, Film, Typewriter' by Friedrich Kittler that threw many insights on the future technology, the unification of media & transmission i.e Optical fiber networks.

'People will no longer be able to make sense of their senses'

The reading also gives a brief history of the tools used to record time. The Change in nature and value of information.

...there are more points i shall add later .

She also wanted me to include printing technology in my list....old and new economies that still survive.


I had approached Jyothsna, an ethnographer/faculty who is on my review panel and discussed my idea. She had suggested a few reads that would help me with the research approach.

Qualitative Researching - Jennifer Mason

Kinship, Family and Marriage in India - Patricia Oberoi


Asked me what my stand was as an artist.
Was I going to make a statement, go on to prove that statement through research, facts, data and then towards its aesthetic/form/representation


Start rambling through hard core data, involving in rigorous research and then arrive at conclusions that can be transformed into artistic statements.

I think I have been inclined towards the former approach from the moment I have envisioned this project. Now that he has brought it up, I will need to resolve it for myself with greater clarity.