This is a blog post I wrote for the Intelligent Cities Tumblr account. The blog is part of course at New York University’s Wagner Graduate School of Public Service exploring the intersection of urbanization and ubiquitous computing in the 21st century. It is taught by Anthony Townsend.
India’s Tribal Citizens Use New Cell Phone Technology to Produce Local News
This example of technology usage is one of the most humane and cost-friendly approaches to innovation in the urban space that I have seen. When compared to other projects on networked urbanism—- like Rio de Janeiro’s command center or the techno-utopias being developed in Korea—-it is clear that this is much more grounded on people’s actual needs.
One might argue that the insertion of these technologies in such marginalized communities serves commercial interests and thus bypasses the real needs of the people. Yet the framing of the problem and the solution developed might be of interest for future, civic-oriented, technology development projects.
This mobile phone news application recognizes the severe economic limitations of poor communities. It also helps empower these communities by being respectful to their language and ways of life. The idea of crowd-sourcing news at a local level has gained huge traction during the last years. The problem is how to do so without furthering the status-quo.
India is known to be at the forefront of SMS social networking. In this sense, this is project is clearly built upon that. However, I must ask: what other ways did the community have of sharing local information before? They must have developed other forms of doing so—that weren’t digitally based. After all, they needed to “stick together” to live through external pressures. How will this new technology affect the dynamics? Will it do if for better or worse? Who owns the content of what’s being shared? Can someone eavesdrop? All of this are important questions left unanswered by the video
.(The video was shared by fellow student William Winston in Faye Ginsburg’s Media Ethnography class)