HAU

Online Gods: A Podcast about Digital Cultures

by Ian Cook and Sahana Udupa

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Episode 3: Digital Diaspora Politics and a Right Wing Twitter Superstar

In this episode we speak with Victoria Bernal about digital diaspora politics & Rishi Bagree about being a right wing twitter superstar

Episode 2: Media as Religion and Round Table India/Dalit Online Media (September 2017)

In this episode we speak to Angela Zito about Media as Religion and Kuffir Nalgundwar about Round Table India & Dalit Online Media

Episode 1: Big Data and The Ladies Finger (August 7, 2017)

In this episode we speak to Ralph Schroeder about Big Data and Nisha Susan about The Ladies Finger.

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About

Expanding across much of our world, Internet enabled digital cultures have marked the current times with a heightened sense of connectivity and instantaneity of information. If digital cultures are animated by the dialectic of the universal binary code and proliferation of particular cultural expressions, what pathways are available for anthropologists to explore the particularities as they emerge within historically conditioned contexts? Should ethnography become multimodal to examine the flux and flows of the dynamic digital cultures?

With the new monthly podcast series “Online Gods”, we ponder over these questions, and ruminate on what it means to do ethnography in the digital age by not only actively participating but also creating digital traces of our own. Moreover, we wonder if ethnography in a polycentric world is enabled by multimedia connections and conversations that can counter the problematic distinction between “home and field” of classical (colonial) ethnography. Temporal succession and spatial separation between ethnographic work (in the field) and writing (at home) is radically reconfigured by digital affordances. Journey “to” the field as a way to “discover difference” is muddled by digital media, and for good reasons. Fields have collapsed into homes and vice-versa in the continuous circuits of digital narratives. This could potentially overturn the normalization of alterity via the trope of “fieldwork” at “distant” places.

Embedded within the digital networks, “Online Gods” is a podcast series about digital cultures and its social-political ramifications. Featuring lively conversations with scholars and activists, it inhabits the digital to examine the digital.

Presented by anthropologist Ian Cook, “Online Gods” is a key initiative of the ERC funded project ONLINERPOL www.fordigitaldignity.com led by media anthropologist Sahana Udupa at LMU Munich. It is co-hosted by the HAU Network for Ethnographic Theory.

On one level, the title “Online Gods” signals the new forms of agency and confidence around networked action through peer driven publicity and coordination. It is easier for the common publics in the digital era to imagine political action that can circumvent and even subvert the filtering barriers of organized media and entrenched power. It is easier also to fall into the trap that assumes online activities can alone bring about radical changes. “Online Gods” signals the optimism and allure of online enterprise. On another level, the title indexes the political cultures of religion and identities that are increasingly inscribing the feelings of national belonging on online media. Faith and nation are inextricably intertwined on online media discourses. Online Gods—and project ONLINERPOL within which it is embedded—aims to capture aspects of this intermeshing.

Online Gods is part theoretical exploration into some of the key concepts in the anthropology of media, and part research into how increased online interaction is changing the public sphere. Taking India and the India diaspora as its focal point, the podcast continues in the great anthropological tradition of bringing the global and the specific into conversation with one another as it analyses what online cultures do to political participation, displays of faith and feelings of national belonging. Each podcast will feature news, a discussion with a scholar about a key concept and a chat with an online god—one of the key players in India’s e-public sphere.

We believe it is possible to be both sophisticated and yet comprehensible, and that the spoken form can bring forth an accessibility that is sometimes missing from the canonical written forms. We even wonder whether academic podcasting might herald a technologically-enabled return to the centrality of oral traditions in intellectual exploration—can podcasting weaken reading’s hegemonic hold on consumption of academic knowledge?

The podcast’s parent project ONLINERPOL is funded by the European Research Council Starting Grant Agreement Number 714285. At the core of our endeavor is the value of digital dignity—to study and advocate for spaces where political expression can expand in an enabling culture of contacts, without the fear of shame and intimidation.

“Online Gods” is one effort to foster an enabling culture of contacts by disseminating critical concepts that have inspired latest scholarly thinking on digital media. It is also a platform where scholars, activists and general interest publics can meet through the easy conversational format of the podcasts. Well in step with the digital tradition, we look forward to your comments and feedback. This can enrich our collective effort to secure a “home” for media anthropology that does not breed the “field” as a space of difference creation.

Sponsors:

  • HAU Network for Ethnographic Theory
  • Project ONLINERPOL