Posted in information, new media, rural, technology, villages

New Media and Real India

“The real India lives in her seven hundred thousand villages” – Mahatma Gandhi

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If this were to be true then to understand the true role of New Media in this nation, it only seems fair to know what the real India thinks of New Media.

But…

I begin with a finding. I found that as I searched on the internet for what rural India thought of New Media I didn’t find any satisfying answer. Every write up about rural perception of New Media was written, revised and interpreted by an urbanite. This urban perception on what rural India thought, seemed to largely lean toward justifying a statistic that he/she may have collected from that region.

Where money rests, so does power. Hence because the upper middle class of the nation control the media, industries and foreign relations they tend to become the face of India. Although, rural population consists of close to two-thirds more population than the urban, there isn’t much voice being heard or even being spoken by this majority.

Payal Arora in her research postulates that ‘information poverty = rural poverty’. Is it possible that we have risen to a day were it is the dearth of information and your incapacity to access it that defines your status in society? Poverty, I assume is when you feel just as poor as people judge you to be. Does rural India really feel this information poverty? And if they don’t, then they do not feel as poor as we judge them to be. Could it possible that they are not in as much thirst for information as we think they are? Maybe, there is a contentment that already prevails there. Thus, in this case making information available to them and almost enticing them to use it, would be creating a demand and not catering to a need.

I’d like to draw a parallel between the process of information gathering before new media and the process of food gathering before the age of food growing. In both these processes of gathering one goes out, seeks, finds, gathers and returns. And each of these stages has a deep physical and emotional process that man is pushed into, because of his imperative need. Also, the process enables the gatherer to encounter with other people, other physical environments, other thoughts and perceptions which lead to gathering information/food becoming a rather holistic experience. But today, the availability of instant information which new media now makes possible, robs man of this experience of gathering information.

It is an age old belief that we tend to value something more preciously when we’ve gone into lengths in order to possess it. Could it be possible that making information available so easily also leads to lowering the value of it?

As I see it, New Media has reached its puberty stage in urban areas. I use the word ‘puberty’ because, with puberty I associate high emotions, questioning nature, rebelliousness, speed, disasters and through it all a growth. And that seems to be exactly what is happening with New Media in most metropolitan cities today. With rural areas it is still a new born baby where it is still finding its own ground to stand on.

In the journal ‘The machine to aspire to: The computer in rural south India’ by Joyojeet Pal, he states that after conducting a detailed study in the villages of south India he observed that owning a computer itself brought the family a social upliftment. Joyojeet Pal said “Specifically in schools, where this research was conducted, we found that computers played a much larger role than just as a delivery mechanism for digital educational material since they represented an aspirational artifact to children and parents alike.”

Ever since New Media spilt into urban areas, urban landscapes have been through dramatic changes. It began with adoption of new media into different professional areas and eventually it made its way into our personal lives. Soon it started getting involved with how we physically operate and now interjects even into our mental and emotional spaces.

A shift in mentality can be observed in how cities began with a concept of consistent and steady growth and development which has now transformed into a culture of ‘consume it while it lasts’.

Cities are supposed to have fast and efficient transportation and connectivity. Interjection of New Media in cities brought in a whole new dimension of speed, transportation (of information) and connectivity (inter and intra city).

How does such a medium of New Media affect a rural region? Is the rural India really looking for new dimensions of speed and connectivity or are they looking at enhancing their already existing lifestyle? If so, what is an enhanced lifestyle for them?

Although New Media in terms of availability is available to all, it definitely is not accessible to all. New Media requires equipment and knowledge of how to use it which can only largely be afforded by the urban class of society due to their higher standards of living accompanied with education. In today’s world the inability to comprehend or use new media technology can almost cut one off from a major dimension of society and isolate them into a world of ignorance.

As per Census in 2011 it was found that 377.1 million people are urbanites as opposed to 833.5 million living in rural spaces. Now, is this large majority empowered with the knowledge of new media usage? Education itself has not reached homogeneously across this nation. Education is the only tool that can bring about a new understanding in a mass method. Although out of curiosity, for convenience and maybe even desperation there are those rural people who have managed to understand the know-how of new media usage to certain extent.

From this entire research processes, one thing stands out clearly. New Media has thrown the real India into a dark corner and thrust them deeper under the heavy blanket of discrimination and inequality? Because, while New Media attempts to represent itself as a platform that is strongly non-discriminatory in terms of who accesses it, in reality, it seems to have brought about a whole new dimension of poverty, reinforcing the stark differences between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’.

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