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CEPT to set up centre to research role of Internet in social development

Pratyush Shankar,an associate professor of architecture at CEPT University in Ahmedabad had begun teaching a new course,“Cyber Culture” at the institute when news of the Jasmine Revolution began to filter out from Tunisia.

Written by Adam Halliday | Ahmedabad |
June 18, 2011 3:48:42 am

Pratyush Shankar,an associate professor of architecture at CEPT University in Ahmedabad had begun teaching a new course,“Cyber Culture” at the institute when news of the Jasmine Revolution began to filter out from Tunisia.

By the time the 35-day course was over,a new government was in place in Tunis and Sharkar is now thrilled that a full-fledged centre to research the role of Internet in social and academic developments will be established at CEPT this session.

“I thought to myself,‘This is going to be big! Just watch how the internet is going to make this different! and I was right,” said Shankar.

The establishment of the “Centre for Internet and Digital Technologies” will be supplemented by a weeklong workshop in August – “Locating Internets: Histories of the Internets in India” for academics from various disciplines,an effort the organisers hope will propel thinking on how Internet is now part and parcel of academia.

“When we give students assignments,the first thing they do is go to Google-uncle,” said Shankar,pointing out the Internet’s “knowledge-producing” role,a phenomenon academia is not entirely willing to accept as a formal part of the teaching process although teachers use it extensively as a tool.

Shankar calls himself a ‘non-techie’,though he uses Internet as part of his work profile: his students post their assignments on a server called “Sa-nity”,where he also uploads and archives work from previous batches. The latest plan is to form a blog where students will comment on the classroom teaching or discuss topics – ‘an after-class space’.

Nishant Shah,Director (Research) at the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in Bangalore who will assist the centre,said: “No one predicted the outcome of the Arab Spring,because everyone was looking at the way Internet was being used globally,not at the local level. We had the pink chaddi campaign,the anti-corruption calls of the Hazare camp,and those against sexual violence in New Delhi,but they were largely ad-hoc and temporary,and disappeared.”

Shah said the reasons could be factors like caste,religion,language and region.

He added: “During the Independence movement,two things were going on at the same time; there were mass movements where foreign clothes were burnt,khadi promoted and the like,which was buoyed by a very active print media that spread the information and ideas.”

Internet technology now is equivalent to the print technology of that time,he added.

Shankar,however,said that in India,Internet “is creating a binary society,dividing people who have online identities with those who do not”.

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