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"Conversation. What is it? A Mystery! It's the art of never seeming bored, of touching everything with interest, of pleasing with trifles, of being fascinating with nothing at all. How do we define this lively darting about with words, of hitting them back and forth, this sort of brief smile of ideas which should be conversation?" Guy de Maupassant

Monday, October 08, 2007

This is my last post on this blog. Radio Userland has served me well since I started blogging in 2003. I will post more details on the transition, at my new blog - for now I just wanted to make this announcement, and provide the new url and feeds.

New Blog URL - http://dinamehta.com/
Subscribe via RSS 2.0 - http://dinamehta.com/feed/
Subscribe via Atom - http://dinamehta.com/feed/atom/
Comments feed - http://dinamehta.com/comments/feed/

The new blog will also be called Conversations with Dina - it's just a new blogging platform - but the same old blog! I do hope you continue reading and feeding it.

My old blog will be archived at its old url (http://radio.weblogs.com/0121664/) and I will keep the archives going. Stuart, who has worked out the platform for Conversations with Dina on Wordpress has done some neato hacks - one that I love a lot is that the search function will not just search the new blog archives, but also my old Radio blog archives. And he has managed to transfer some of my posts over too. That's so cool!!! Lots more needs doing there ... and that will emerge I'm sure.



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Friday, June 29, 2007

Bloggy thought two. It's not worth it, if it's not searchable. Robert Scoble and Steve Rubel seem to feel so. Am actually feeling the contrary only because of my recent experiences with Facebook and Twitter. The other day, I was chatting with a young friend who is 18, and he told me a few things around Facebook. His dashboard and homepage is Facebook - all his social interactions happen around it, along with a few IM clients. He doesn't really use email very much. And most pertinent to this post, was his comment that he was disturbed that his whole family including aunts and grand-aunts could 'peep' into his entire life. In fact, it was so funny when he related a story about how an aunt actually sent his grandma some pictures of girls who wanted to 'marry' him. He's now got most of his family on 'limited' profile -- but his friends have full access to him!

I still believe that what you write or say or show on the web is there for everyone to see, read or hear, and I like that openness and transparency of the web. Still I am enjoying the levels of privacy that Facebook offers me. When I blog, I do sometimes (not when I am feeling particularly ranty) wonder whether what I write will come back to bite me some day or how people will view me as a result of what I write. I do feel more 'responsible' about what views I share on my blog - perhaps this happens when you have been blogging since 2003 and when your blog becomes your single-point public profile, for the whole world to see - family, friends, clients, potential clients etc.

But on spaces like Facebook and Twitter, I feel so much more comfort - I can rant, I can be silly, throw some food at a friend, hug someone else, share when I am upset or ecstatic. I don't ever 'think' too much when I am on Facebook - my mode is a more feely one. It's more about me and who I am. And less about my thoughts on a particular subject and less of the 'Dina' I want to project or promote or share around what I do.

I loved this comment at Steve Rubel's post by Ryan McKegney - it resonates:

"As Steve points out above, there are advantages to having a walled garden. In real life, I have a public and private life, but because of Google and the general openness of the web, the balance between public and private online is out of whack. The existing "private web" (IMs, email) has been largely static for the last half decade, but if it chooses to be, Facebook could be the next evolution of the private web. Facebook isn't just a walled garden, it is MY walled garden."


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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

For my generation, the internet has been life-changing. We know what we missed when we didn’t have it. We are completely smitten by new avenues to communicate and collaborate in new ways today. We get excited about YouTube and Flickr and Twitter and rush to try them out. We are buoyant and optimistic about the immense possibilities they bring us. We are so grateful that we can now communicate across geographies and time and are a mere fraction of a megabyte away from anywhere else in the world. For many of us, it's still a tool that's shown us a different way of life.  Assimilating this medium into our lives has given us new options.

For youngsters today, especially teenagers, it isn't an option really - it is their way of life. I keep looking for aha moments from them during my research studies – and I don’t seem to hear them. They don't take it as seriously as we do. They are not as grateful to it as we are. They do not talk about how cool YouTube is - they just use the services to check out the latest Gwen Stefani video - the video is their point of conversation rather than how cool the service is. When I ask them to imagine life without them, they simply cannot - they know nothing less. They're not delighted by 'free' as we are - growing up with this medium has made them expect it. There are few divisions between the techno haves and have-nots among them, as in our case.

They're tribal and tend to stick to their cliques and look within, safe in the knowledge that they can reach out when required. They don't try to maximize possibilities with the objective of seeing how far they can stretch the medium; even for the more geeky kids, it's a medium where they can express themselves and their creativity - they expect it to deliver on that and are not surprised or in awe that it can. They aren't that tickled when someone says "you're an absolute geek". They don't become geeks like us - they either are or not.

For them the distinction between an offline world and an online world isn't as stark as it is for many of us. For them, it is not transformational or an avenue for self-actualization, as it has become for many of us. Nor is it an empowering medium as it is for us - it's just a way of life.

I wonder if we were children when the internet had arrived .. would we have felt and behaved differently from kids today?


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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Stuff that's caught my eye recently:

  • Delete Your Bad Web Rep - bad idea I think .. we leave traces of ourselves when we put ourselves online. Against my belief in transparency and the open web. There's always good and bad .. and to hide the bad .. hmmm .. paranoia?
  • Alec Saunders on creating a meme through blogging:

    "In 12 months time, we've managed to insert an idea, which now has apparently a ton of currency, into a very old industry. We haven't relied on large marketing budgets, or heavy lifting PR campaigns. Instead, using just blogs and conversation, we set out to cause a change that would produce an environment that would be more conducive to our success, and the success of hosts of other companies like ours.

    And that, my friends, is why blogging is powerful."
  • Computing, 2016 - What won't be possible: "The new social-and-technology networks that can be studied include e-mail patterns, buying recommendations on commercial Web sites like Amazon, messages and postings on community sites like MySpace and Facebook, and the diffusion of news, opinions, fads, urban myths, products and services over the Internet. Why do some online communities thrive, while others decline and perish? What forces or characteristics determine success? Can they be captured in a computing algorithm?

    Social networking research promises a rich trove for marketers and politicians, as well as sociologists, economists, anthropologists, psychologists and educators. "This is the introduction of computing and algorithmic processes into the social sciences in a big way," Dr. Kleinberg said, "and we're just at the beginning.""

  • Am enjoying playing with Twitter and iLike ... first impressions - both are really easy to use, and fun! Twitter is amazing .. am currently experimenting with an SMS-Blog interface on a research project and I see lots we can do with a Twitter-like application. I see lots of potential for online campaigns and disaster information/relief as well.
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  • danah boyd shares what she means when she says "email is dead" in reference to teens. "Now, let's talk about youth. They have email accounts. They get homework assignments sent there. Xanga tells them that their friends have updated their pages. Attachments (a.k.a. digital Netflix/Amazon packages) get sent there. Companies try to spam them there (a.k.a. junk mail). Sifting through the crap, they might get a neat penpal letter or a friend might have sent them something to read but, by and large, there's not a lot of emotional investment over email.

    That said, take away their AIM or MySpace or SMS or whatever their primary form of asynchronous messaging with their friends is and they will start twitching and moan about how you've ruined their life. And you have. Because you've taken away their access to their friends, their access to the thing that matters most to them. It's like me taking away your access to blogs and email and being forced to stay at the office just because you showed up late for work.

    I'm part of the generation caught between email and IM where IM feels more natural but most of the folks just a little older than me refuse to use IM so i'm stuck dealing with email. Today's teens are stuck between IM, MySpace/Facebook, and SMS. There's another transition going on which is why there's no clean one place. IM replaced email for quite a few years but now things are in flux again. Still, no matter what, email is not regaining beloved ground."

  • Mobile Youth Trends - some excerpts from an interview with Nick Wright, a Research Associate at the Wireless World Forum, who is a co-author of the mobileYouth 2006 report :  "The relationship between youth and their mobiles is not necessarily based on being “fun, cool, or entertaining”. It’s a key social tool employed in the dynamics of the peer group. Youth consume mobile products - as they do others - to make statements about themselves and their relationship with their peers.

    Self-expression is such a key aspect of young people's lives that they would rarely choose a non-branded alternative over an identifiable brand. 98% of teens for example would choose a brand/logo designed T-shirt over a plain one.

    Mobile is most importantly a symbol of belonging to a group, both as a physical product (you must own a phone to be part of our group) and its communicative possibilities: texting is essential to youth not because of the content (very limited) of the texts themselves but because each text is a reaffirmation and a reminder that "I'm with you".

         And:

"However, overall it is fueling the more extrovert and allowing shyer teens to communicate more easily. One of the more interesting findings is that mobiles have come to take the place in youth culture traditionally held by cigarettes. They provide or allow private communication, the activity is carried out largely unsupervised and they effectively create a rare private space for youth to interact in."
  • Businessworld has a special issue on What India's Youth Wants.  No surprises there.  Needs simple registration to access the article.  From the opening essay: "What makes India's youth worth studying is evident; one of the world's hottest economies, a billion people, roughly half of them between the ages of 15 and 29 years, and rising purchasing power. It is a demographic gold mine for marketers and a case-study-in-progress of democratic capitalism. There is much happening to make us a happier, more chilled-out country. Why, then, are our young turning into somewhat moralistic people with limited ambitions?

    You could argue, of course, that we are jumping to conclusions based on some interviews and a survey. No survey, especially in a terrifically heterogeneous country like India, can fully capture the complexities and nuances of an entire generation. You could also argue that there is no harm in being anti-smoking, anti-drinking or traditional. That it is to the credit of their parents that this generation is less rebellious and bonds better with its elders.

    And maybe that is true. Maybe this, then, is this generation's way of rebelling. The fact is that in spite of the malls, media and the positive cheer surrounding us, India remains a poor, half-illiterate, difficult-to-live-in country. Getting the basics, a home in an area with decent electricity, clean surroundings, water supply, schools and so on, in any city is still a difficult and expensive business. Earlier generations spent decades trying to get just these. The young see no virtue in huffing and puffing over what they think are hygiene factors. They want to get them out of the way before they deal with some of life's more interesting pleasures - foreign holidays or alternative careers. So, they are alright doing a boring job (how interesting can call centres be?), not working too hard (over one-third do not think hard work is essential for success), and making money.

    This is a self-centred, goal-fixated generation that will, with full comprehension and at any price, secure its future. The sacrifices and martyrdom for a cause is not for them, unless it means signing an online petition or holding some candles (though 30 per cent of them are keen on a career in politics). No rough backpacking or exploring the world for them. This generation seems happier achieving the status quo their parents did, only faster. Their enthusiasm for life seems very rooted to the here and now, and the immediately achievable."

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

There was a short segment on India This Week on NDTV's 24/7 on Sunday which briefly touched upon the controversy surrounding the issuing of a notice by the State Government of Maharashta against an Orkut community. It wasn't much of an analysis as I had expected - some Orkut members talking of how and why they use it - too short a segment for anyone to really comprehend what was going on. I told my mum to watch it since I was appearing briefly .. her response after ... "I didn't understand a word!". So much for mainstream media picking up on issues!

What makes me a little mad is this writeup on the segment where they've quoted me as having said:

""Instead of paranoia, we need greater awareness for young people, and more effective legal measures for cyber crime," said Dina Mehta, new media researcher."

When actually, I said quite the contrary .. I spoke about what social networks are, a bit on how they have evolved, why folks use them and what value they bring, and on the the issue of 'moral policing' and banning communities. My take was very clearly that usually, these communities are self-correcting and you have the choice to select who you want to interact with, and what community you wish to take part in. If something or someone upsets you, you can counter it by debate and dialogue or report them in most of these communities, some have recommendations and user-ranking systems as well, and in that, they are self-correcting. So there is no need to police them -  how can you - are we policed thus in our physical worlds?

Moreover, the powers that issue these orders are naive to think that closing down a community will shut down voices on the internet.... they will spring up elsewhere on the web. If we are talking of moving to a networked world, with broadband plans and bringing access to the internet to many more people, how can we talk of this sort of censorship. My final comment was that those with authority to ban and censor have no understanding of how social the internet has become. They need to get in there, wet their hands, play .. only then can they truly understand how these newer social systems and norms of engagement actually work. Action then will be more informed as a result.

A no-brainer really.



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Thursday, October 12, 2006

From agencyfaqs! - I-Cube,2006 a report on Internet in India is out. The survey was conducted by IAMAI and IMRB International.

"It states that 32 per cent of the active users of the Internet in India rely on it as a primary source of information and research. In 2001, when e-mail and chat were the significant drivers of the Internet, this figure was only 20 per cent. The survey was conducted for the current fiscal amongst 16,500 households covering 65,000 individuals across 26 major metros and small towns in India, with an additional coverage of 10,000 businesses and 250 cyber café owners. The active users here are those who access the Internet at least once a month."

From the IAMAI press release

  • The survey reveals that there are 37 million Internet users in India, 23 million of them active users. Ever user category is defined as someone who has used the Internet at least once

  • This escalation in the number of active Internet users can be seen as a consequence of the new innovations that have taken place in the content space in recent times, in the form of online ticketing, weblogs, product information and preview sites

  • 11.6 million e-mail users out of the 13.2 Million Active Internet Users in the 26 surveyed cities
  • 2.4 million E-Commerce users and around 7.5 Million Chat users in the 26 cities as of March 2006
  • 32% of the active internet users use search as their primary application
  • The glamour of chat seems to be fading away even amongst the College Going segment, with Information search emerging as the 2nd most prominent reason for surfing Internet
Contentsutra has uploaded a couple of the charts from the report .. here's one that shows internet usage by demographics [chart from the post linked earlier] where there seems to be an inverse correlation between age and email usage:

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The numbers are still small .. despite our much-touted 200 million middle class in India, only 23 million active users in India! And penetration country-wide (rural and urban) is really low at 3.2% in 2006:

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Look at this for comparison - now 91 million mobile phone subscribers and 5.9 mln new mobile subscribers in India in August 2006 according to ZDNet's Research -- India has become the fastest-growing cellular market in the world, adding a net 5.9 mln cellular subscribers in August 2006, according to the Cellular Operators Association of India. The gain outstripped China’s increase of 5.19 mln subscribers.

I also wonder whether they've covered social media .. if free flow of information and exchange is going to be a strong part of innovation in India, social media has to be a part of it.Mohan Krishnan from IMRB says:

"There will be a change in the Internet dynamics. Applications like P2P, preview sites, streaming video and radio, as well as localisation of content, will outgrow e-mail and chat. Hence, innovative applications, making a user's experience simpler and fulfilling, will be required to sustain the growth of the number of Internet users."

Which makes me wonder ... what figures do they have about blogs and social networks if at all? Several people from the corporate world (read Ad Agencies, PR firms, even traditional FMCG companies) have asked me for statistics on blogs in India .. the fact is there really aren't any that are of any use. Some figures I have seen don't make much sense somehow.

I think its time an agency like IMRB looked at doing a large-scale survey on blogs and online social networking habits in India, and followed some of the great data generation practices employed by companies like Pew who shares reports and pdfs of questionnaires online. Why I feel its time for this is while there is much talk about blogs in India today, in corporate circles, in mainstream media - and people really are curious about this relatively new media. The sense I get is they are excited about the medium but dont understand it very well .. and few are willing to take that leap of faith without the numbers.

Some stuff that might be useful from the viewpoint of a company who is considering setting up blogs either a corporate blog, or blogs for brands, or then considering the potential to use the power of word of mouth (and pay for it :)) :

  • census of blogs in India - how many are there, drop out rates, active blogs, benchmarks for defining this space for future tracking, etc
  • demographics of blogs and bloggers - what demographic groups are blogging more, across states and cities, age, gender, lifestage, socio-economic status, income,
  • blog habits and practices - methods of blogging, connectivity, tools and content, extent and frequency of posting to and reading blogs,
  • blog ecosystems - usage data for feed readers, etc
  • extent of audio-video usage - producing content and consuming content
  • segmentation of bloggers and those on social networks - demographics/user archetypes/interests/topics
  • monetization of blogs - ROI on blogging and social networking (look at this attempt to calculate return on investment - ROI on blogging - link via email from Peter)
  • community/collaborative blogs
What other data would you like to see on the Indian blogosphere and social media scene?

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

"I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by Google" - New Scientist - Bruce Sterling. [link via Ethan]

An almost-real, funny-scary take on the internet from the eyes of a "miserably-happy" teenager. Here's an excerpt:

"My Dad - he's still alive, apparently - he sent me an email from China and said I ought to "recruit" Debbie into my "social group dynamics of online identity production". My Dad always talks like that. I haven't seen Dad face-to-face in six years. Look: I am a 17-year-old male, okay? I don't want to send Debbie any hotlinks and digital video. I want to take Debbie out! Maybe we could take some clothes off! But there isn't any "out" for me and Debbie. There isn't any "off", either.

Okay, I admit it: Debbie is insane. The fact that Debbie really likes me, that just proves it. Debbie ACCEPTS this sick state of reality. She EMBRACES it. We are doomed.

Imagine that Debbie and me somehow go out together. We want to network with our peer group, teenager-wise. I need to figure out what's hip and with-it and rebellious, and Debbie needs to know what the other cyber-Goth chicks are wearing. Is that okay? No!

It's not that we can't do it: it's that all our social relations have been reified with a clunky intensity. They're digitized! And the networking hardware and software that pervasively surround us are built and owned by evil, old, rich corporate people! Social-networking systems aren't teenagers! These machines are METHODICALLY KILLING OUR SOULS! If you don't count wall-graffiti (good old spray paint), we have no means to spontaneously express ourselves. We can't "find ourselves" - the market's already found us and filled us with map pins."

Also read Men standing around broken machines by Paul Ford, a short but well-written essay where he goes back to a much-older future:

"I think about the men because there are two futures: the near and wild future—the future of Web 2.0, the war on terror, and midterm elections—thrashing and blind like a baby mouse in the grass. And there is the other, much older future, which is basically an enormous, ever-widening archaeological dig. They're digging up old Roman bones, pilgrim gristle, and mysterious chunks of iron that may have been astrolabes. Shovels in hand, people fall over dead onto the piles of ancient coffeehouse newspapers and loose pioneer trash that they have themselves exhumed. Time passes; it could be a few days or a millennium. Someone digs them up and holds their skull in hand and wonders: what was the dig like then? There is nothing wrong with the newer future. Those who make it work for them will be powerful and rich. But that older future seems to have more room in it for those quiet, dry-eyed men. And I know I want, someday, to join their group as it stands frowning around a steaming car engine, each trying to figure out what went wrong."



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Sunday, August 27, 2006

I don't usually blog about movies, but this article in the Hindustan Times that shares reader responses to Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (KANK) (detailed story) roused my researcher instincts. The movie is the lives of Dev and Maya, who are both married to different people, who both yearn for something deeper and more meaningful, and for passion. They find each other, and as a result, it changes lives of all involved forever.

There's been a lot of media hype around the theme of extra-marital affairs in India as a result of the movie- while some (and that seems to be a minority) seem to feel there is no reason to stay in unhappy marriages, many others are of the opinin that it goes against our 'culture'. What intrigued me about the article in the Hindustan Times were two things. One, that those against the film tended to be from an older age segment, while those below 35 years felt it reflects trends in today's society. And two, on reading the quotes from readers there, my observation is that those who strongly raised their voice against the movie and also felt it was ahead of its times were mainly males, and those who feel that women are empowered now to decide whether they want to stay in a loveless marriage were females!!
[Disclaimer - this observation is based on just this one article]

"...A surfer named Deepak from Dubai wrote in to say: "KANK is a movie which not only undermines, but also insults Indian culture and values."

".....30-year-old Sabrina from Panaji sent us a very telling comment. She said: "I don't care for movies like KANK, especially if they come from a director like Karan Johar. But I can say this for sure: I would not hestitate for a second to walk out if my marriage is not working out. I am an individual with a life to lead, why should I waste it on a loveless relationship?"

"27-year-old Sangita, who wrote in from Arlington, Virginia, provided another interesting angle to this issue. She said: "This is a very complex issue. In the US for instance, women are a lot more empowered. They think of themselves as individuals and so don't hesitate to leave a marriage where there is no love or commitment. In India however, women don't think of themselves as an identity different from their husbands. So they suffer all marital discords and continue to be slaves to their negligent and uncaring husbands."

Art imitating life?



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Sunday, April 02, 2006

Mobbed - by MTV Networks Asia and Motorola. It is a digital entertainment platform which will be targeting youth in Asia-Pacific markets like India, Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Free downloads, chat rooms, blogs, contests, blurbs, games. Interesting to see the Mobbster Rewards chart - among other things, they are encouraging users to generate content by sending pictures or blogging - users earn 'moolah' (explained on the site: moolah is like money, except it's not. It's what you need to get Booty, which is the good stuff. Earning Moolah is easy. In fact, you can earn it just by hanging out at Mobbed.) everytime they send a picture or a blog post through their mobile phone via sms or MMS.

"Mobbed reinforces MTV's commitment to connect with our audience on every platform possible. Not only do we create fun and cool branded content that can be downloaded easily at the click of a button, such as the Mob Squad mobile animated series, but we also allow for user-generated content so youth can express themselves and take over MTV via the cutting-edge MMS to TV platform - Mobtage," commented MTV Networks Asia Pacific president Nigel Robbins.

[Source: Indiantelevision]




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JP Rangaswami, who's fabulous blog I only just discovered, articulates so succinctly, the Four Pillars underpinning the new world of information - Search, Syndication, Fulfilment and Collaboration/Conversation.

It's very difficult to share just an excerpt - read the full post for sure - still ...

"You create, publish, receive information that you never had before. Social information, cooking-pot information. You visualise it in ways you could never do before. You move it and share it and enrich it and aggregate it and disaggregate it using tools you could never have conceived before. And you do all this with presence and location and intention and mobility. You teach it and learn it and shape it and train it. You cleanse it and repair it and fuse it and melt it. The it is information. Yes, this is a blog about information :-)

And the you doing everything is not me nor my generation. All we are doing is preparing for Generation M and learning from them."



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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

One more for the Blank Noise Project Blog-a-thon 2006 :

Late last year, I did a study in Delhi among young college girls ... here are some of the things they had to say about their concerns around harrassment.

"It is not safe, we can't go out of the house after 8 o clock. You have to be covered from head to legs.It is a big problem for college girls"

"If you are wearing cut sleeves that is a problem, eyes are seeing you ...that is so pathetic, they pass comments"

"You can't come in auto, DTC bus. I had gone for tuitions and I had worn a skirt. I was in a rickshaw and the comments were so bad, 'wah chikni'... I never wore a skirt outside again"

"Can't go out for parties, brothers or cousins accompany us.Even at a disc, we girls are in the center and the cousins and brothers friends are surrounding us"

"If a girl goes to a normal disc there is a whole category of Jat males, if they hit upon her and if she refuses, they will bash her"

"In a disc if a girl goes alone and someone acts smart, we feel it is by mistake they have touched you, but they do it purposely, and if you say something they slap you"

"Its everywhere - and they don’t stop at anything - if the girl is continuously arguing with them, they will pick her up from home. So we keep quiet."

And this is a page from a Living Diary I had them fill up ... talking about activities that reflect who they are ... just look at the stress on the need to be tough ... fearless ... confident.

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I feel lucky for having grown up in Bombay. Of course I've had the comments and unzipped pants and groping hands in crowded places ... and I've often felt embarrassed .. but I haven't feared them. I learnt early, that the best way to deal with is make a loud noise ... and for a period of time, I thought that one of the most effective ways to make the perpetrator uncomfortable was to open your eyes really wide, make a point that others can see you and stare him straight in his pants .. it worked (don't try it when not in a crowd though)! Once, I even turned around and slapped the guy who's creepy hands were trying to curl around my breasts in a crowded bus ... he got off at the next stop. And its funny, the passengers in the crowded bus turned around to me and said you SHOULD do this ... that enraged me more ... what on earth were they doing, sitting by passively as they see one young girl after another being put through this? This is one of the points I hope this Blog-a-thon achieves ... lets be aware its happening, lets acknowledge it ... let us get involved - male and female - to stop it.

Being in Delhi as a woman, is a whole different feeling. Even now, as I approach the age of 40, I feel so uneasy about being out on the streets in Delhi or travelling alone by autorickshaw after 9 pm ... and even now, I hesitate to wear sleeveless tops or kurtas in Delhi. I don't drive in Delhi either ... although I'm so comfortable driving alone in Bombay even at 2 am. If my flight in to Delhi is delayed, I ask for a car to pick me up at the airport ... if for some reason I haveto use a cab late night, I keep one hand on a full deo spray I carry with me in my handbag.

I do many of these things because I don't want to attract attention to myself. I fear it won't stop at comments. I fear I will react .. and I fear the consequences of that reaction .... the young girls in my groups felt real fear too. My sister who lives in Delhi always asks me to call her up when I am leaving for home ... and gives me a call en route to her place too. ... "just checking you aren't being your sassy Bombay self, Dina".

I know I shouldn't .. but its just the way it is ... and I do feel real fear in Delhi.




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Thursday, March 02, 2006

Notable quotes on youth lives online :

"My generation draws the Internet as a cloud that connects everyone; the younger generation experiences it as oxygen that supports their digital lives." [Kevin Marks, epeus epigone blog, via Susan Mernit]

"The young will read anything on the internet. More so, they get their information from their peers rather than from the press. That means from blogs. These blogs may not be objective bastions of news reportage, but they do speak to the youth in a way few mediums ever do. It’s like learning about the world or the country from one’s buddies." [Sushila Ravindranath, Newindpress, link via Sambharmafia]

"Many teens are frustrated by the press' account of their behavior, but they have no voice. They are frustrated by their parents' fear, but they have no power. Parents are scared, and their fear is misguided. There are more actions against minors in San Francisco on a daily basis than there have ever been in the 3-year history of MySpace. More and more cases are failing to pan out. Yet, there are more kids on MySpace than in any single state. I wish i knew how to reach out to parents and say, "It's OK... your kids will be OK... just teach them trust and love." In statistical terms, MySpace is safer than going to school. It is safer than being in a car with your parents. It is safer than going to the mall. And yet, we are more scared because we don't understand it and we're afraid. This makes me so sad because this kind of fear is anxiety producing and culturally dangerous. :-(" [danah boyd in an insighful post about the recent controversy around the disappearance of two young girls, being linked wrongly to MySpace]



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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Day 2 - Digital Summit 2006.

Afternoon Sessions - Why Search is Hot, Impact of the Echo Generation.

Search Session - Some mention of blogs and tags. I missed the start of the sessions but got in when Rishi Behl, head of search, Yahoo! India was talking. He spoke of Yahoo! Answers and Yahoo's My Web that has built tags into search. They look interesting, will explore them later.

Ashutosh Srivastava - group M, CEO, South Asia - The Long-Term Market: Impact of the Echo Generation

He talks about 15-25 year olds. online transactions is small compared to markets like Hongking and Taiwan - but it is growing. Dream birthday gifts - mobile phones and laptop computers. In China, a study revealed that all in the age group of 15-25 are mobile savvy, and a lot of them are moblogging as well. When asked about buying behaviour, almost half had tried out some transaction through mobile. The American teenager is online too, but they are also simultaneously listening to music, reading, chatting on the phone, watching TV - so implications on how to market to those who multi-task.

Two-three broad trends --- looking for affinity groups, collective mindset, mass customizaton and expression. They are also highly networked - it is reflected in why people use networking groups, communities, blogs. They are also interconnected, and therefore influenced by what happens within these communities.

So there is potential for peer targetting ... its not easy though. Who is Superman ? There may be several, in their fields of expertise or interest. Networks can turn against you, as the Dr. Peppers' Raging Cow controversy. They are growing up in a different world, so we need to understand them. They are connected 'live' everywhere in the world, in your pocket. Miniaturization and portability are important for them. They are in control and determine what they want to consume. The challenge for marketers is to navigate them to what is 'hot' and what is niche - and drive them to their interest.

Online retailing is social, it is ritualistic, it is obsessive, it is decadent, it is manipulative, it is impulsive, it is everywhere (that's where mobile and wireless will help us). Shopping will not change - it will mutate.

Q&A - what do you think about mobile marketing? A - it could be spam, but if you want to be successful with them you have to draw them in and give them something of value in return. You also need their permission.

(an aside - i was Googling Ashutosh to find a link and discovered Tagit!)




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Sunday, January 15, 2006

I finally got around to doing some housekeeping on my blog. Have edited the categories and links - am hoping they will render alright. The nice thing is each of them acts as a separate blog - so readers can subscribe separately to specific categories that interest you!

Here they are - links and RSS feeds :

Weblog Home : (all categories) subscribe


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Saturday, October 15, 2005


Testing ... i think my blog is back :).

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Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Building Communities through Digital Storytelling

A picture named bridgesscreenshot.JPGBridges is a photosite bringing together a community of youth across countries like India, Nepal, Peru and Kenya through digital storytelling. They have a neat project discussion board too, where the community is encouraged to interact with each other. 

From their About Me page :

"BRIDGES to understanding gives voice directly to children around the world.

Our interactive online program connects middle school students in the developed world with their contemporaries in indigenous communities. Central to the program is digital storytelling mentored by professionals and created by students. We provide the tools and training that enable them to tell stories from their own lives and communities.

These stories are shared through this website where our students can engage each other, ask questions about each others' lives and collaborate on creating multimedia stories exploring their cultures."

[link via Scobleizer



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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Kid's Day at Work

Alex reports on Kids Day and India at Pitney Bowes :

...Showed them pics of cellphones, malls and offices and lots of things that look pretty similar in India as in the US, then pictures of things that look different. Fun to see their reactions. They all noticed the Subway in the mall, and they all recognized the well in the village and understood what it was for and that the villages don't necessarily have running water or consistent electricity. Some didn't believe the monkey wasn't in a zoo...

Tried to get them to think about what stuff they might invent for India (power lines and water pumps were popular answers, didn't necessarily expect them to think so broadly). And also talked about other countries they have visited. What was so nice though is how open minded most kids are. They were into seeing pictures of another country, could see the similarities and differences, but at the same time were somewhat unconcerned about the differences. I mean, they thought it was cool and interesting, but not weird or "why do I care."

I don't know...hit them with anthropology and other cultures at an early age and maybe we'll have less problems in the world? Or maybe they just liked the sodas and cookies in the back of the room. [
A Visible City]

I smiled as I read her post ... maybe 10 years from now I won't be faced with a blank stare, when I visit a supermarket in the US, and the check-out clerk looks at my credit card strangely and asks me where I am from - and when I say India, she looks blank and asks me to tell her two things that are famous so they can trigger India to her.  And I say Taj Mahal and Mahatma Gandhi - and she continues to look blank.  Maybe I should have said outsourcing :)? 

Its a wonderful idea to have a kid's day at work - any organisations doing it you know of?  Am going to spread the word here :)



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Friday, May 06, 2005

Visual Ethnography using Cam Phones

Also came across this article in the Feature, by Howard Rheingold, on how camera phones are fast becoming a personal storytelling medium.  Howard ponders :

"It looks like this newly ubiquitous device could be more about flows of moments than stocks of images, more about sharing presence than transporting messages, and ultimately, more about personal narrative than factual communication."

He then goes further into quoting from a paper delivered at a conference in Korea at the end of 2004, by Daisuke Okabe :

"Cameraphones enable an expanded field for chronicling and displaying self and viewpoint to others in a new kind of everyday visual storytelling......"

".......For example, the people they observed used streams of text messages to "inscribe a space of shared awareness of one another" -- an explanation for the preponderance of messages that conveyed no information other than what the sender was doing at the moment: "I'm sitting on the bus," or "I'm bored" or "I'm walking up the hill." The cameraphone study extends this framework by revealing how people's choices of images to share enables intimate social networks to share ambient information; but, "on the other hand, we are finding that users tend not to e-mail messages to one another, and prefer to share images by showing pictures on a handset screen." Hence, the communication device that used to transmit messages across distances is now also used to capture a flow of experience in order to add a visual element to face-to-face story-telling......"

I remember the time we would equip our subjects in studies, with disposable cameras to record moments in their lives.  We don't need them anymore with some of the youth target audiences. Especially in India, and many other Asian countries, where its hot for youth to own cam phones.  

Advantages are many ...

  • quicker
  • cheaper
  • much more real life and real time as you're using a tool that fits into their "culture of use"
  • easy to transmit via email or post on blogs or Flick'r- like applications
  • no researcher bias - the subject is the researcher    

The only bitch is the quality of photographs - I hope cam phone manufacturers get their act together providing cheaper but better quality imaging. 



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Monday, May 02, 2005

Disturbing Youth Voices

Youth speak through images :

"Jasmeen has some thought-provoking posts on her blog on street harassment - Blank Noise Project ... particularly startling is this mind-map created by an all girl group of 60 between the ages of 17-23 on 'public space'. The single overwhelming feeling seems to be violation - in different forms and of varying intensity ... discomfort, stare, anxiety, aggression, vulnerability, fear, groping, feeling sick..." [thanks Charu, for pointing it out]

A picture named the public space board.jpg

In another case, Ethan Zuckerman blogs about "this set of very disturbing images released by Human Rights Watch. A pediatrician, Dr. Sparrow usually gives crayons and paper to children to entertain them while she interviews their parents. When she gave crayons to children who've fled Darfur, the results were harrowing and powerful :

A picture named darfur2.jpg

"Without prompting, the children drew scenes of horse-mounted militiamen riding into villages, large airplanes dropping bombs, and gun-wielding men raping women. The children's drawings are a visual record of the atrocities committed in Darfur that aren't available through any other medium. Human rights workers have received extensive testimony about bombing of villages and rape as a weapon, but these drawings provide visual evidence that international media organizations have not been able to provide, as they've been blocked by the Sudanese government from travelling in Darfur. "

A picture named darfur 3.jpg

Ethan suggests that we our use blogs to draw attention to and amplify them. I couldn't agree more ... they need to be heard so desperately.



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Thursday, April 14, 2005

Bolt - Youth Hangout on the Web

Thanks Judith, for this link!

Bolt.com. boltdotcom

Right now there are 17, 827 people online over at the Bolt.com 'hang out'. Where categories range from Movies & TV to Sex & Dating, Gaming, Music, Style, Sports, American Idol, AIM Icons, Quotes, Ringtones, Game Revolution, Quizzes, Horoscopes, and TAG.

According to their about: "...  Bolt is the #1 youth hangout on the Web, bringing together 4.5 million young people each month to exchange ideas about everything from final exams to the war in Iraq. Bolt is the basement, park, college dorm, sidewalk café or the 7-11 parking lot - it's a place where young people come to meet others and talk about everything. Authenticity is at the core of all that we do... "

Bolt is located in Soho, NYC and is led by Aaron Cohen, CEO. They recently released a study on '
Youth Happiness' (pdf file link) with the subtext that it "Turns out High School and College Kids Are Actually Pretty Happy" with 67% of 15-22 year olds counting themselves as happy to very happy. Who knew?  [The Social Software Weblog]

Raj, Vikram ... are you listening



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Thursday, March 17, 2005

MVNO - Mobile Virtual Network Operator

Thanks Rohit for sharing this really neat link, the audio is here, and an excerpt of the text follows:

"P Diddy: I Am An MVNO

....... Recently, I was talking to someone, and they mentioned the term MVNO, and not wanting to appear stupid, I waited a few minutes if I could figure out what it meant. I thought it was a new artist or something. But then I asked, what's an MVNO? A mobile virtual operator, someone who sells the phone services without actually owning the network. And I thought, you mean, you could sell a phone service without owning the network? I'm in the wrong business...and then, it dawned on me....I am, an M V N O... and I might be the biggest.

What do I mean by that? I don't have the spectrum, I don't own the network infrastructure, I don't make customer service calls, but I do have subscribers. I have tens of millions of thee, subscribers, who spent billions of dollars every year on music, on fast foods, on cosmetics, on soda, and yes, on consumer electronics and wireless communications technology. I know where they live, what they like, what they eat and what they drink, I know what they wear, and more importantly for you, I know how to communicate to them, I know how to talk to them.

The reason why they're mine, I mean my subscribers, is because I know how to listen to them. About 90 percent of America are music listeners, but only about 15 percent of them are active record buyers. Although the record industry is having a tough time selling more records every year, the music business is bigger than ever. If there was no music, there would be no iPod, there would be no iTunes, there would be no MTV, there would be no BET, there would be no Clear Channel, there would be no XM or Sirius, and there would be no ringtones, no ringback tones. Nothing sells stuff the way music does..........."

 



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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Qualitative Research @ Work

For all who are wondering where i have disappeared to ... thanks for asking :).  I've been busy with ethnographies in the Delhi and Gurgaon areas, more around some government institutions in the country, understanding needs, identifying value propositions and testing prototypes in specific areas for a Client.

A picture named gurgaon_non_postal 049.jpg

And a really fun project with leading-edge youth in Mumbai and Delhi which involves a whole series of techniques - Living Diaries, Focus Groups, Contextual Inquiry, Personal Inventories and Sketches, Peer Hangouts and Hot-Spotting.  Oh how I love the colour !!!

A picture named stille01.JPG

A picture named stille2.JPG   

A picture named stille3.JPG

Off to Delhi again early Sunday morning. 

So much great stuff to read and catch up on in my news reader when I get back.    



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