Home Essay/Articles SPECIAL ARTICLES / ISSUES / TOPICS OF THE YOJANA (AUGUST)
SPECIAL ARTICLES / ISSUES / TOPICS OF THE YOJANA (AUGUST)
Wednesday, 23 October 2013 07:10


SPECIAL ARTICLES / ISSUES / TOPICS OF THE YOJANA (AUGUST)


1. Democratisation of Information

2. India and the Ascendency of the Global South

3. Explosion in Digital Space: Opportunities and Challenges for India

4. Social Capital Creation Through Social Media

5. Social Media and Political Communication in India

6. Social Media: Reconstructing the Fourth Pillar

7. Social Meida in Education— Help or Hindrance?

DEMOCRATISATION OF INFORMATION

Recognizing that we are increasingly a nation of a connected billion people, this Government is committed to democratising information and building a unique public information infrastructure in the country. This infrastructure will leverage ‘ICT to revolutionise our current governance and service delivery paradigm.

Networks such as the National Knowledge Network, which connects Universities and Research Institutions, and the Rural Broadband Network, which connects Panchayats, will emerge as the new highways for connecting ideas and disseminating knowledge. Initiatives such as Aadhaar and the National GIS will enhance policy planning to make it more efficient and effective, and numerous applications riding on this ICT infrastructure will unleash unforeseen innovation at all levels of the citizenry. As and when this new infrastructure

becomes ubiquitous, connecting people and ideas in an ever faster manner, we will witness a generational change in our current processes towards openness, accessibility, transparency, accountability and decentralisation - essentially ‘democratisation of information’. And this democratisation of information will challenge established structures of power built on the premise of information control to change towards a new paradigm of a more transparent and accountable society.

A central piece of this emerging dynamic is the role social media will play in the process of democratising the information regime. Citizens everywhere are already connecting, interacting, sharing and expressing themselves in the alternative space of social media. These platforms, which started at the fringes, are now increasingly getting embedded in mainstream culture and inspiring actions and reactions in our physical world. The Arab Spring is just one of the examples of how this new media is shaping activities in the world of realpolitik.

In fact, social media is fast emerging as a powerful and unparalleled tool to share information, shape opinions, connect people across domains and cultures, bring participation, and above all to communicate as never before. Social media can become a very effective policy tool for Governments if they learn to leverage it in the best possible manner. Governments across the world need to communicate more effectively, engage citizens, garner feedback on policies and programmes in real time, and demonstrate a commitment to a more participative governance model. In all these areas social media platforms can offer the right interfaces and tools. Further, as internet penetration increases manifold and it becomes more localised, social media will enable more and more people to get connected.

At our office we have tried to capitalise on social media platforms for disseminating’ our message and communicating to people in real time.

We have held two press conferences on Twitter to engage communities, journalists and the public at large and answer questions on specific themesrelated to our work. At one of these conferences we got about 2000 Tweets in a matter of 45 minutes – we had participation from more than 150 locations, largely from India but also from Europe, Middle East, UK, South East Asia and other parts of the world.

Periodically we post videos and information related to our work on several of our websites and on YouTube. After we hosted the Global Innovation Roundtable 2012, where heads of innovation policy from Governments across the world were invited, we held a virtual press conference on Twitter to share the discussions and outcomes of the Roundtable. We have also initiated a lecture series on the National Knowledge Network which connects all higher educational institutions in the country, where lectures from one physical location are beamed to universities across the country. Finally, we have developed in partnership with the US Government an Open Government Platform to place Government data and documents in the public domain. This is now operational with more than 400 data sets and can be accessed at www.data.gov.in.

Apart from our office, many other initiatives in the Government of India are committed to harnessing social media. An ever increasing number of Ministries I organisations are on social media platforms including the Ministry of External Affairs, the Planning Commission and the Prime Minister’s Office. For instance, the Finance Minister conducted a Google Hangout to explain the Budget to the people of the country, a first of its kind at the national level. The Planning’ Commission has also taken some creative steps towards leveraging social media which was demonstrated in its efforts to communicate the 12th Plan via Social Media. The Deputy Chairman and Members of the Commission discussed the plan and answered questions from the public on a Google Hangout for the first time. The Planning Commission in collaboration with our office also organised a Hackathon on the Plan to receive feedback, visualisations, animations, etc. on the subject matter of the 12th Plan. This Hackathon also highlighted the power of this medium to crowd source creativity, talent and new solutions.

This is just the beginning. Social media is still at a very nascent stage and communities across the world are just beginning to understand the potential of this medium to impact discourse and communication. For instance, current methods of communication in Government could change to leverage Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, along with traditional methods such as press releases etc.

Further, as traditional media becomes increasingly dictated by monetary decisions and establishment structures, social media will emerge as the more untainted voice of the citizens and will truly be the people’s platform, with the power to transform their transactions and interfaces with Governments.

 


INDIA AND THE ASCENDENCY OF THE GLOBAL SOUTH

The Elevation of a Jesuit from Argentina to the highest rank of the tradition-bound Roman Catholic church - arguably one of the most conservative and orthodox institutions of the established world order - is the clearest sign for believers of that faith of the ascendency of the global South. For followers of other faiths and non-believers, however, this dramatic shift was highlighted yet again by another more secular ritual: the release of the 2013 Human Development Report (HDR) by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Aptly titled The Rise of the South: Human Progress in a Diverse World the Report notes: “For the first time in 150 years, the combined output of the developing world’s three leading economies- Brazil, China and India [BIC] - is about equal to the combined GDP of the longstanding industrial powers of the North - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States [six of the original G-7].” The global South is generally understood to be countries that do not belong to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), with one or two notable exceptions, such as Chile.

The narrative of the rise of the global South is not new; it has often been foretold. Jim O’Neill of Goldman Sachs in a 2001 paper entitled “Building Better Global Economic BRICs” predicted the ascent of the primarily southern economic powerhouses of Brazil, India and China, with Russia being a curious inclusion. Similarly, the formal establishment of the G-20 in 1999-2000 by members of the western G-7 club acknowledged the fact that this exclusive club could no longer protect the international economy from systemic vulnerabilities without including the bigger emerging southern market economies, like India. This was recognition not only of the growth of the bigger economies of the global South but also the role that they play in sustaining the global economic growth. While the advent of both the G-20 and BRICS marked the ascendency of the global South it did so only in terms of GDP and not human development.

In contrast, the HDR looks not only at GDP but also measures the human development index (HDI) of a country based on education, health, gender inequality and income parameters. In doing so the HDR puts human security on par with the traditional notions of state and economic security. In this context, the Report’s findings are revealing: apart from matching the combined GDP of the G-6, the BIC countries have also dramatically improved their HDI scores. India’s overall HDI score, for instance, rose from 0.41 in 1990 to 0.554 in the latest Report.

However, even more significantly, in addition to the BRICS, at least 40 other countries of the South made gains on their HDI scores between 1990 and 2012. These countries were as varied as Bangladesh, Benin, Columbia, EI Salvador, Gambia, Laos, Uganda, Vietnam, as well as countries either recovering from or still in the throes of violent turmoil, such as Afghanistan, Egypt, Myanmar, Rwanda and Tunisia.

In fact of the 132 countries with a complete data series only two - Lesotho and Zimbabwe - had lower HDI value in 2012 than in 1990.

In addition the Report also records the rapid rise of the middle class in the global South from 26% to 58% between 1990 and 2010. By 2020 it is estimated that of the 3.2 billion projected global middle class population as many as 1.7 billion (over 53%) will be located in Asia-Pacific region alone.

Moreover, within this region, China and India will account for more than 75% (about1.3 billion) of the middle class population, with related consequences of higher consumption.

In terms of income the worldwide proportion of people living in extreme poverty fell from 43.1 % in 1990 to 22.4% in 2008, with the BIC countries making the most impressive strides in reducing the proportion of their “income poor” population. China has made the most striking reduction from 60.2% in 1990 to less than 13.1% in 2008 while Brazil’s reduction was from the relatively higher base of

17.2% in 1990 to 6.1 % in 2009. In contrast India is the laggard that marked a decline in its “income poor” population from 49.4% in 1990 to a mere 32.7% in 2010. In fact, India is a straggler amongst the BIC and even the BRICS countries. Its overall HDI ranking of

136 (out of a total of 186 countries) is not only the lowest among the BRICS but is 15 places behind its closest BRICS partner-South Africa, which ranks at 121. India also comes in last among the BRICS in all of the other HDI indicators, except two - women’s participation in national parliament and maternal mortality ratio.

Its adult literacy rate of 62.8% is way behind even South Africa’s 88.7% and only 38.7% of India’s population is educated up to the secondary education - again, the lowest among BRICS countries.

India also has the highest infant mortality rate; highest death rate of children under the age of five; and the highest number of underweight children among all the BRICS countries. India’s gender equality ratio is worse than every country even in South Asia, except Afghanistan. What are the reasons behind India 1S relatively poor ranking in key HDI indicators?

To address this question, it is important to understand the factors that led countries to improve their HDI standing. These are revealed in the 2013 Report, which identifies several crucial elements.

First, countries that have improved their HDI standing did so on account of three principal drivers: “a proactive developmental stage, tapping of global markets and determined social policy and innovation”.

Ideally a proactive developmental stage will lead to policies that are “based on long-term vision and leadership, shared norms and values, and rules and institutions that build trust and cohesion”. In addition, policies for investing in human development and capabilities should not be regarded as “an appendage of the growth process but an integral part of it”. For instance, there is a clear correlation between public expenditure on health and education and rapid economic growth. In reality, however, the development and implementation of policies is likely to be uncertain, especially in large and complex societies, like India.

Similarly while global markets and foreign direct investment (FDI) have played an important role in wealth generation that alone is not adequate to enhance the HDI ranking of countries. This is particularly evident in the case of FDI into countries rich in natural resources but relatively poor in human resources: for instance, between 2003 and 2009 many resource-rich African countries which grew economically on account of FDI inflows still notched up some of the lowest non-income HDJ values. On the other hand, successful integration with global markets requires investment in people, institutions and infrastructure. As the HDR notes: “Without investment in people, returns from global markets are likely to be limited”. Thus, there is a direct co-relation between the need to enhance HDI standing to draw the maximum benefit from integrating with the world economy.

Moreover, countries that have deliberately pursued social policy and innovation, especially public investment in health and education, have sustained rapid growth. Coupled with this, “growth has frequently been much more effective at reducing poverty in countries with low-income inequality than countries with high-income inequality”. Indeed, policies that promote social equality among different

religious, ethnic and racial groups and inclusion of those on the economic fringe “can underpin longterm economic growth by supporting the emergence of a healthy, educated labour force”.

This echoes almost exactly the India Human Development Report 2011 which also argued “investment in health and education can enhance human functioning ... and further economic growth”.

Based on its HDI assessment of states the Indian HDR also stressed the need for promoting social and economic equality on the grounds that “poorer states are so because there are large proportions of the excluded social groups (who are generally poorer) living there; conversely, in the poorer states the different development programmes do not reach the targeted population” of economically and socially deprived sections.

Thus, there is a close co-relation between the need to build national consensus for long-term policies on the one hand to ensure the gradual but deliberate integration with the world economy and on the other to invest in domestic human development to take full advantage of the opportunities provided by the external openness.

Without this two-pronged approach neither economic growth nor human development can be assured. Such an approach calls for political leadership at the highest national level.

Finally, South-South cooperation, which for most-of the 20th century was a mere slogan, is emerging as a vital factor not only in the economic growth of poorer countries but also the human development of their populations. This cooperation is evident at several levels. At the ideational level the less developed countries can learn and benefit from the success of the emerging economies of the South; their experience is more relevant to the developing countries than the experience of the OECD countries. At the practical level, South-South cooperation in investment, finance, technology transfer, and trade were key new factors in facilitating the economic growth of the global South.

One indication of this is the rise in South- South trade from 8.1 % in 1980 to 26.7% of total world trade today. In addition nearly half of all remittances sent home by emigrants from the South come from workers living in other developing countries.

Similarly growth in low-income countries would have been lower by as much as 1.1-percentage point between 2007 and 2010 had China and India registered a fall in growth rate similar to that of developed economies. Moreover, global South countries have increased their share of global FDI to 50% and, as an example, nearly half the financing for infrastructure projects in Sub-Saharan Africa over the past decade came from countries and regional funds of the South. Similarly, the BICs have emerged as the largest donors outside the OECD. Moreover, the development assistance from the South often, if not always, comes without conditionalities (unlike most OECD assistance) and is mostly used to build much-needed infrastructure.

 


EXPLOSION IN DIGITAL SPACE: OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR INDIA

There’s a new nation on earth with no defined geography. It is spread across the globe and is less than ten years old. It apparently had one billion people in 2012, making it the third most populous country on the planet after China and India. It has been calculated that “it took the population of modern humans about 200,000 years to reach that number”. This nation exists only in cyberspace and it is called Facebook. Facebook’s larger-than-life presence in digital media, which is itself defined as “the creative convergence of digital arts, science, technology and business for human expression, communication, social interaction and education”, is a phenomenon that is being emulated and imitated the world over. It is inspiring new forms of human interaction, a phenomenon described as social media networking.

India can seize a series of opportunities while harnessing the progressive aspects of the exponential growth of social media-although a substantial section of the country’s population is yet to benefit from access to the internet- even as this exponentially-growing phenomenon has a distinct downside, since it has been (and can be) misused and abused to spread rumour and discontentment.

The flipside of the social media as an empowering and democratizing force is its potential to spread chaos, confusion and anarchy. Like other developing countries, India will have to not just bridge the overall digital divide and the urban-rural hiatus in the use of the internet but also find an appropriate balance between the positive and negative aspects of the social media, between their benefits and their challenges.

Social media has been defined as “a group of Internet-based applications that .... allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” “Furthermore, social media depends on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content. It introduces substantial and pervasive changes to communication between organizations, communities and individuals. “To appreciate the significance of those statements above one needs to take a quick look at a certain set of reasonably well-authenticated statistics relating to internet usage and penetration that pertain to June 2012. If one compares these numbers with a similar set of figures pertaining to the situation that prevailed twelve years earlier at the beginning of the new millennium, internet use globally has grown by over 560 per cent in this period. Still, the penetration of the internet in the total population of the world is just over 30 per cent; in other words, two out of three individuals on the planet still have not used the internet, leave alone benefit from it. In Asia, which currently accounts for over half the world’s population, internet growth has been in excess of 840 per cent over the last twelve years. Asia currently accounts for almost 45 per cent of internet users the world over and India contributed under 12 per cent of this number in the middle of 2012.

In the early 2000s, software developers enabled end-users to move from a static and rather passive viewing of pages on the world wide web to more interactive, user-generated content within what were online or virtual communities. This resulted in what was termed Web 2.0 but more importantly created the phenomenon we now call social media.

Social media includes the ability and the facility to discuss, create, cooperate on, share and modify information in text, image, audio and video forms among users of social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, Linkedln, Pinterest, MySpace, Soundcloud and a host of other similar sites. While it may be true that social media has led to what is called the “democratization of the internet” and most significantly preserved the ideals of free speech and expression, it is equally true that it has also created a lurking monster which seems to be growing in strength. With the availability of the internet on the rapidly burgeoning number of mobile hand-held devices like smart phones and tablets, the sense of immediacy in virtual socialising has increased manifold. Not only has inappropriate content for impressionable and young minds become easily accessible, it has consequently allowed persons with reprehensible intentions to use the medium for various nefarious purposes. Cyberbullying, cyber-stalking, rum our-mongering are only the tip of the tail of that menacing monster.

Let us consider what happened when ethnic clashes between the indigenous Bodo tribe and Bengali Muslim settlers broke out in the district of Kokrajhar in Assam on July 25, 2012. Mainstream media, after choosing to not fully report on the ground realities of the clashes, were subjected to pertinent questions and adverse criticism· on social media on their silence and/or inadequate coverage of the situation, offered various and perhaps curious reasons for this lack of reportage. While social media did step in with users reporting from the affected areas, and information about shelters, hospitals, relief facilities also being made available on many websites, the flip side was that vicious and unwarranted rum ours too were transmitted via social media. These rumours, which began to circulate in early August via social networking sites as well as through mobile telephony and messaging, caused panic among India’s north-eastern ethnic people who were located in southern and western India, mainly in Bangalore but also in Chennai, Mumbai and Pune. The Indian Railways had to cope with an unprecedented rush of these people wanting to go home as soon as possible as they had “heard” that Muslim fundamentalists would target them in retaliation for the clashes that had taken place in particular areas in Assam where Bodos live.

This negative aspect of the social media has to be placed in a wider context. There is one view that argues that the concept of the right to offend is increasingly being countered by the notion of the right to feel offended at everything. The question then arises as to whether freedom should come first and ethics second. Why should Article 19(1)( a) of the Constitution of India be restricted by Article 19(2)? Article 19(2) of the Constitution of India lays down what are considered “reasonable restrictions” on the exercise of the provisions of Article 19(1)(a) which specifies that freedom of expression is a fundamental right of every Indian citizen. The problem essentially is one of defining who decides what is “reasonable” and what is not. If it is the courts of law that decide, one would not have too many reasons to complain. However, the definition of what is a “reasonable restriction” to the right to freedom of expression is decided by various sections of society (from the law enforcing authorities to fundamentalist groups) under different circumstances

and often in an arbitrary manner, thereby causing situations of chaos and confusion. One can provide the following examples to illustrate this contention: Shaheen Dhada and Rinu Srinivasan, two young women from Palghar near Mumbai were arrested in January after Shaheen posted a comment on Facebook wondering why there should be a bandh-like situation in Mumbai following the death of

Shiv Sean leader Bal Thackeray and Rinu had “liked” the comment. The case, was later dropped and the two police personnel who had arrested the women were transferred.

Cartoonist Aseem Trivedi was arrested on sedition charges in September 2012. His cartoons offended people in power.

Social media has also tarred reputations of public figures, infringed laws of privacy, copyright and other human rights through user-generated content. Yet it has in no way deterred the growth of this phenomenon which threatens to replace and outdo traditional media whether in India or the rest of the world. Despite criticism that social media has adversely affected personal communication whereby

people no longer seem to find the time to talk to each other in the old-fashioned, face-to-face way, the digital space keeps throwing up newer and more engaging means of social networking. One of the main drivers of social networking and the growth of social media is mobile telephony.

A C Nielsen’s The Social Media Report 2012 assesses that “More people are using smartphones and tablets to access social media .... With more connectivity, consumers have more freedom to use social media wherever and whenever they want.” According to the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report, the number of social media users in urban India reached 62 million by December 2012. Nearly three out of four (74 per cent) of all active internet users in urban India use the social media.

Some of the other key takeaways from this report are: Active social media user base in India: 32.5 million (82 per cent of the active mobile Internet base)

• A higher proportion (82 per cent) of mobile active Internet users access social media, as compared to that accessed by the total active Internet base (72 per cent)

• Considering the top 35 cities in India, 77 per cent or 18.2 million of the active mobile internet users (out of a total of 23.6 million) access social media, second only after e-mail (83 per cent)

• Average frequency of social networking access using mobile internet: seven days a week

• Facebook is the leading website accessed by 97 per cent of all social media users in India

• The growth in the number of social networking users can be attributed to the rising internet penetration in India, through increasing affordability of smartphones and consequent mobile internet use.

While evaluating social media usage by different devices, it is interesting to note that there are about 39.7 million active mobile internet users in urban India or almost half the total active internet base. It should be noted that these mobile internet users belong to the overall general active internet user base of 80.2 million individuals.

In fact, social networking is considered the main internet activity done on a mobile phone which is mentioned by exactly one-third (33 per cent) of all respondents, just a bit lower (32 per cent) mentioned for email.

Indians spend an average of approximately 30 minutes every day on social media. Of these numbers, the maximum users are young men (84 per cent) and college-going students (82 per cent).

It is interesting to interpolate this data with the country’s 2011 census statistics. India has more than 50 per cent of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65 per cent below the age of 35. It is expected that, in 2020, the average age of an Indian will be 29 years. The census indicated 74 per cent literacy among the entire population with the male literacy rate at 82 per cent. With cheaper  mobile devices becoming more easily available, it can be safely assumed that internet usage — and consequently social media networking - will show quantum leaps in the next few years in India.

The IAMAI report Social Media in India 2012 states: “Social networking through mobile phones is an ever increasing phenomenon observed today. With mobile penetrations reaching very high levels, and an increasing number of individuals owning feature-rich phones or even smartphones that allow Internet access, social networking is rapidly penetrating the India active internet user base.

Affordable mobile internet plans additionally serve rising usage levels.”

While all this sounds very promising, it is not yet clear how far social media can possibly influence current public opinion on a mass scale the way television and even print media has and still does. Gautam Benegal, artist and freethinker, says in a recent post in Facebook: “Netizens -- as opposed to ci tizens — will only become a significant vote bank that will be taken seriously by our leaders  if computers and internet enter every home, and voting is possible online. Until then netizens will only be howling away.”

Research in India shows a gap much along the lines of the rural-urban divide - those who have access to the internet and those who don’t, perhaps more appropriately called the netizen-citizen divide.

The earlier mentioned fracas in Bangalore and the impulsive and impromptu gathering of thousands at India Gate in Delhi last December protesting against the gang-rape of a young woman are but exceptions. (At the same time, not all Indians are oblivious to the manner in which social media has been used in popular movements, for instance, in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and in Shahbag in Dhaka.) At present, more than a third (34 per cent) of the social media networking users in India are based in the top eight metro cities, even as less than a quarter (24 per cent) are from small towns with populations less than 200,000 each while another 11 per cent  resides in even smaller towns. According to the IAMAI, 72 per cent or 58 million people who are active internet users are in urban India. It is telling that the first internet in India report (I-Cube) of 2006 did not cover any rural area while the 2012 report covers only the “top 35 cities”.

However, without internet access, social media or networking would not have a leg to stand on were it not for the amazing growth of mobile telephony in the country. By June 2012 there were more than 900 million subscriber identity modules (SIMs) in India, up from a mere 10 million in 2000. Forbes magazine’s Elizabeth Woyke wrote in June 2011 that “India will pass China to become the world’s largest mobile market in terms of subscriptions.”

Budde.com, which claims to be the largest telecommunications research site on the internet, has stated: “A number of factors have been responsible for the amazing growth in India’s telecom sector; apart from the obvious booming economy and the rapid expansion in the country’s middle class, the growth drivers include low tariffs, low handset prices and most notably a highly competitive market

created by the government and the regulator”. It also mentions that the mobile market in India was likely to expand at an annual rate of between 10 per cent and 15 per cent over 2012-20l3" and that digital subscriber line (DSL) fixed-line broadband services were slowly losing ground to non-DSL platforms, most notably wireless broadband platforms. “The impact of mobile broadband was finally starting to filter through the market and in the medium term this was expected to lift broadband penetration significantly”.

DO YOU KNOW?

What is Bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a kind of virtual token which is being used by some people as a kind of currency. Currently there are about 11 million Bitcoins in existence. The Bitcoins are represented by a unique online registration number. The process is called ‘mining’ in which a computer solves a mathematical problem with a 64 digit solution. With each solution the computer’s owner is rewarded with 25 Bitcoins. About 3600 Bitcoins are created every day through the programming done by computers. Bitcoins can be received only by the persons who have Bitcoin address. The Bitcoin address is generated by a string of 27-34 letters and numbers which acts as a kind of virtual post box to send and receive the Bitcoins.

The original Bitcoin software was developed by one Satoshi Nakamoto. It started as an obscure project in 2009. Since it is believed to have value for exchange, it is also seen as some kind of currency.

However, it is a volatile and rather chaotic currency because of the lack of liquidity and a central monetary authority. Its demand and supply balance is uncontrolled. Bitcoins are vulnerable to manipulation and speculation in the absence of any large exchanges where buyers and sellers can find each other. However, some web sites act as Bitcoin exchanges. Due to the anonymity of the creators of Bitcoin, it is also used in a number of illegal transactions like drugs and smuggling.

What is trolling?

Trolling is posting of inflammatory or objectionable material on the internet. Trolling involves sowing hatred, racism or creating any other anti-social feelings. Trolls like to promote fighting. Their objective is to provoke others. They make others feel insulted and angry. It is an anti-social activity as the persons indulging in such activities violate the etiquettes, courtesy and consideration for the

feeling of others. Trolling on Internet and posting of irresponsible and abusive material shows that a person indulging in such an activity has no sense of social responsibility. Such behaviour can include posting jokes or comments that may incite violent behaviour online or offline. Trolls often hijack debates on online forums and try to impose their views on those who dissent by coercion or by using abusive language. Trolls generally express extreme opinions that tend to incite people and generate abusive online discussion.

 


SOCIAL CAPITAL CREATION THROUGH SOCIAL MEDIA

Social media means different things to different people. It can be used for hobby or as a serious and effective business tool. Behind every organizational success story in this media is a lot of patient planning and a sharp focus on getting things right - putting all the right elements in the right way in the right place at the right time. Like any other technology or facility, social media technology or facility too becomes good or bad depending on how it is used.

In this article we forecast the evolutionary path likely up to the year 2020 for the ICT -ambience as well as the social media shaped by it and show how the enhanced or new features of this media can be well utilized to create social capital in the process of socio-economic development of the country.

Evolution of ICT-Ambience for Social Media

Formal technology forecast exercises carried out by the author in the past four years had predicted the IT-ambience supporting the social media, among others, up to 2020 in terms of Converged Mobile Handset (CMH), Bandwidth Enablers, Fourth Generation Long term Evolution (4G-LTE), Nanotechnology, web 3.0, Mobile Intelligent Agents (MIA), Cloud Computing and Reusable Component Software. These are briefly outlined below.

Converged Mobile Handset

By 2020 there will not be a Personal Computer (PC) hardware industry as we know today. The evolution of smartphone and tablet is poised for a Convergence into a single ‘Converged Mobile Handset’, which will incorporate in it full mobile phone functions as well as high end PC compute functions. Asterisk type creative PBX will result in an open source telephony platform which will be highly customizable with a wide compliance with standards and include service features of voice-mail, hosted conferencing, call queuing and music on hold. This will be scaleable from a few to a few hundred phone users.

The compute power of a high end PC will be actuated by callable apps depending on the problem environment on hand. All the seven more important intrinsic features required for a ubiquitous social media will be available: processing power, quality and power of graphics, broadband multimedia, full internet access, content handling and organizing capability, real time multimedia transaction ability, portability and affordability.

Eventually every citizen will own a CMH if we target for the use of ICT for evolution of a nationwide utilitarian social media. Bandwidth Enablers While promoting a nation wide social media, one of the technological hurdles encountered will be the availability of bandwidth. First and foremost, economy of bandwidth utilization requires a phased but sure transition from analog to digital, eventually digitalizing every conceivable application touched by the network. The second imperative will be the utilization of the bandwidth with least wastage. The third is the broad-basing of the spectrum outside the essential defense spectrum. The fourth and more difficult one to enforce is the prioritization of applications.

Many approaches are evolving along different technologies for addressing these problems. We will, in the next few years, have a mature technology in the Ultra Wide Band (UWB) with EM waveforms of instantaneous fractional energy bandwidth using radiating pulses that are very short in time and transmitted using an ‘impulse radio’. In the context of a large social media, an efficient ‘Medium Access Control (MAC)’ can be introduced to allow multiple users to share a common resource. Another attractive technology is the optical wireless communication which does not need spectrum allocation.

Fourth Generation Long Term Evolution

The 4G-LTE can work on l.2 Mhz to 20 Mhz as well as GSM frequencies with carrier frequencies in the range 20-160 Mhz. It is based on Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplex (OFDM) modulation, which is highly resistant to multi path interference. A new antenna technology called MiMo increases the throughout several times. The 4G-LTE utilizes the allotted spectrum without waste.

4G-LTE enables the users to take the centre stage by fulfilling most of their needs at low cost. Using this, an adaptive, universally accessible, and easily configurable social media network can be built which can cope with unprecedented complexities through self-organized local controls. Though the network elements may vary considerably in type and characteristics, we can host highly interdependent and integrated applications. Despite the variety of network technologies and services using them, seamless mobile communication can be made by the user, for reaching personal services anywhere anytime over all access networks and devices. The user can be guaranteed adequate security and privacy of communication and transaction. With the availability of such facilities, the user can build context and situation awareness, personalization and semantic services into their applications along with a proactive service provisioning, which are essential for a nationwide social media.

Impact of Nanotechnology

If nanotech development accelerates at the current level, it will have substantial impact on ICT, many of them conducive to the social media. Current capital investment in nanotech is over $2 Billion, but R&D investment is ten times this. The world wide nanotech product industry exceeds $ 30 billion.

Indian nanotech export is now about $ 100 million with over 50 companies actively involved in it. Nanotech operates on the scale of molecules and molecular clusters and so will reduce the size and power consumption of ICT systems substantially. In ICT, its impact will be more on memory and storage devices, displays, central processing unit parts and sensors. Wireless devices and Wireless Communication systems are expected to experience its profound impact by increasing the speed and memory several times and decrease energy consumption. Both CMH and Wireless Systems will experience a positive impact. Though toxicity concerns are there, solutions are in sight.

Web 3.0 and Beyond

Some of the major limbs of Web 2.0 are: social book marking, social networking, content aggregation, wikis, mash ups and cloud computing.

Here, we had a new media paradigm-Social Networking and a new technology paradigm Micro blogging. Social networking is a social structure made of individual and/or organizations, which are connected by one or more specific types of social interdependencies such as friendship, membership, likes, dislikes, common interests, beliefs, knowledge and the like. It increases the level of interactions between like-oriented people. Micro blogging is a multimedia blogging that enables one to send brief text updates or micro media and publish them for viewing by anyone if public, or by a restricted group of one’s choice if private.

In Web 3.0, the CMH, the email and the TV could all produce feedback that can be conveniently incorporated on any blogging platform, thereby giving a seamless integration that can give access to blogging for the masses in the society as a necessity and not only as a hobby. Live blogging will become common place and bring the world of conferences and gatherings wherever you are and whenever it is convenient to you, with just a CMH in your hand. This will make the conductors of such meetings & conferences to bend their back to attract their virtual crowd.

Web 3.0 expands the web 2.0 features while it introduces new features like the semantic web in which the meaning, i.e. semantics, of information and services on the web is defined, making it possible for the web to understand and respond to the request of people and automatic gadgets to use the web content. With semantic features of the 4G-LTE, the 4G & Web 3.0 evolutions will take place synchronously.

With CMH becoming a universal object of possession by everyone, carried with them at all times, several new creative services will become possible. For example, the services of mobile devices, Geographical Positioning System (GPS) and webbased data can be combined in a convenient manner like the Location Based Services (LBS). LBS can identify the location of a person or object like a friend, associate or a nearest facility like ATM, including the ready display of a properly oriented local map.

Access to real-time data including real-time events of your interest happening will become prevalent an Web 3.0, which can become a  valuable asset in social networking. Real-time search is also possible in which the data being searched is updated almost instantly or very frequently, including soft search like opinions of a selected group or popularity indexes apart from hard searches which are based on hard established facts.

If more relevant individual experiences are crucial in the social media, more personalized information is called for, thereby impinging,

sometimes, on the identity and privacy of individuals, especially when such data can be linked and correlated through a Universal Identity (UID) system like Aadhar. Web 3.0 has technological solutions to obviate the need for ‘throwing the baby along with the bath water’. For example, open ID is a Web 3.0 type concept similar to Aadhar which provides a single digital identity for users that can be used all over the Web. Over 50,000 Web sites, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Face book permit users to sign in using open ID. The present levels of security that apply to online banking innovation including ‘Online Paperless Money Transfer’ is getting incorporated into Web 3.0 to give the required secure, convenient, seamless web expenence.

Web 3.0 will move well beyond simple keyword searches by increasingly making use of semantic technologies to give a smarter search environment suiting the volume and complexity of the social databases. The earlier success with Search Monkey of Yahoo, Rich Snippets of Google, Bing Semantic Engine of Microsoft, among others, have encouraged the evolution of more powerful search engines on Web 3.0.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) pioneered the ‘Linked Data Project’ to link together Web-based resources, that were not linked previously or were inaccessible as part of a Open Data Movement, exemplified by Wikipedia. The potential importance of this and similar projects to sociological analysis and research hardly needs emphasis. This is one of the tools in the initial efforts linking several hundreds of data sources on the social, economic and demographic descriptors of the cities, towns and villages of India. This  will assist researchers working on the creation of social capital through policy frameworks and inclusive development initiatives. The pioneering projects of W3C are supporting our efforts by shaping Web 3.0 with the objectives of : Web for everyone, Web content accessibility as openly as possible, providing web security as much as an individual desires, enabling a web on everything, providing an expanding coverage of mobility, providing interactive expanding coverage on the semantic paradigm over the web. This will metamorphose websites into web services which is sine qua non of the feasibility of our goal.

Web 3.0 is already there but evolving the features outlined above among others and steadfastly galloping towards 2020.

Mobile Intelligent Agents

The volume and complexity of information content in society is staggering because we are dealing with individuals and groups of individuals with enormous diversity with highly time-dependent changes. To cope with this, web 3.0 provides what is called ‘Intelligent Agents’, which are software programs that operate unattended, usually on the internet. They are called ‘bots’ which make copious use of artificial intelligence (AI) and mimic human behaviour, but with a speed of several orders of magnitude higher. They can learn, make decisions and interact with other intelligent agents autonomously. They can employ ‘data mining’ techniques intelligently for searching and discovering basic facts and relationships from a large mass of data.

MIA proffers a new paradigm to internet itself. In general, MIA are programs that can migrate from host to host in a network autonomously time-wise and location-wise. A mobile code provides a single general framework in which distributed, informationoriented applications can be implemented effectively and conveniently affording the provider the flexibility to provide their users with more useful applications and features. Availability of a mature, flexible and useful enough MIA is slated only near about 2020.

Evolving Features of the Social Media

The social media ecosystem comprises of interactions , activities, transactions, and behaviors among a group of individuals with certain common identities and interests who can be together called a ‘Community’. They share online opinions, information and knowledge utilizing conversational media like brief texts, pictures and audio and video clips. In as much as the social media and web  2.0 were closely related, though not synonymous, Web 3.0 evolution described above already characterizes the social media tools, services and applications that are evolving - with the traditional categories of engagement : Communication, collaboration, Education and Entertainment. The social media categories enabled by these categories of engagement on Web 2.0 that we are already familiar with, viz., social networking, Web publishing, microblogging, live casting, virtual reality constructs, Mobility, Interpersonal Transaction, Sharing and Creation of Still Pictures and Audio-Video Clips, Content Aggregation, Content Search, Really Simple Syndication (RSS) of Content and Gaming, are not only made more versatile, user-friendly, ubiquitous and powerful for creative applications and services in Web 3.0, more social media categories are getting added, each with their own characteristics, strategies and tools.

Mobility combined with compute power in the CMH is enabling all these categories in the social media ecosystem to be accessed via the CMH, spawning more powerful and versatile tools than Jott, SMS.ac, air-G, Brightkite, Call Wave and the like which we presently use.

Not only the traditional web publishing of texts like e-mail, web pages, blogs and wikis, but also texts, audio and video in combination can be done using the CMH. There are apps for professional editing and formatting in numerous fonts including mathematical symbols. Several people in a community can collaboratively publish a common theme to professional standards. For example, you can go to the sophistication of collaboratively creating a documentary movie using only the CMH and Web 3.0

Micro blogging, a cross between blogging and text messaging, which expresses your thoughts short and purposeful, is an economy of communication that Web 3.0 will continue to encourage but with greater facility through semantic features and AIsupported ‘help’ to make it short while being more purposeful. Reactions from a number of followers will be reverse-tweeted automatically as gists again

by AI & semantic supported tools & can be automatically broadcast to all responders almost instantly creating an environment for a sophisticated Delphi-type approach. This can be a very effective decision-making tool to the limits of transparency.

With Web casting, which broad casts information online, you can create live content on CMH and distribute or stream over internet or Broadband Community networks more dynamically on Web 3.0 than ever before, even in 3D or Virtual Reality form. Syndication with a single click can send your content to your followers soon after publication with vastly superior media aggregators and social bookmarks supporting you. With semantic and AIbased search, engines, we will have the means to cope with the Information and knowledge explosion.

It is with this that the complexity and diversity of the society, so characteristic in our country, can be addressed. The Web 3.0 based social Media is an appropriate and adequate tool for the creation of social capital and hence social wealth through development which respects inclusion, individual capability maximization, optimum utilization of scare resources, appropriate and timely decision making and bottom-up planning.

Instrument for the Creation of Social Capital

These social media features can give new applications and instrumentalities which can create social capital in a variety of ways. To understand this, we redefine social capital in a delimited manner suiting the context of the social media.

The definition of social capital in general can be nebulous. We can narrow the context to the optimum use of the Web 3.0 based social media with an illustrative subset of applications: inclusion, capability maximization and bottom-up planning in a socially complex & diverse environment. In this context we can narrowly, but with more clarity, define social capital as a function of negentropy connoting the magnitude of disorder to order transition with ‘order’ denoting sustainable shared knowledge & norms of reciprocity, trust and positive values in a network of relationships between individuals and/or communities which shape the quality and quantity of

interactions. Here, we consider social capital as a function of only the human capital consisting, among others, of knowledge, skills and attributes creating personal, social and economic wellbeing as well as the Network capital qualifying interactions which increase community wellbeing. From the development vantage, we consider the components as communitarian, Institutional, Network and also

Synergy integrating the previous two. For our delimited applications we can consider social capital as bridging the social and economic perspectives so as to give a better direction for development.

The levels of social capital that can be considered are: Individual Informal Social Groups, Formal organizations, Communities and National. Within the further delimited context of social media, we use, people and content to find each other through efficient searches afforded by Web 3.0 and make the best use of its tools for the management of content.

Social media on Web 3.0 as an enabler of inclusive education and training for information, knowledge and skill’ acquisition will also give a new meaning to e-learning and life-long learning, the essential paradigms of the knowledge age. Semantic Web based e-learning will drive distributed computing, collaborative intelligent filtering and 3D (and 4D with time added) visualization and interaction based on CMH amenable to multi-touch screen technology. Self-organization and personalization features will be emphasized. Mash-up and cloud computing integrated into Web 3.0 will make elearning more independent of centralized institutional websites. This will make any-time any-place virtual class room and virtual teacher based e-learning a reality with smart solutions to web surfing, content management, and learning management. On top of all these the cost of education and national human resource development will plummet down.

Combined with cloud computing and Reusable component software technologies, the above Web 3.0 based e-learning tools can also lead to the assessment of intrinsic capabilities of all citizens, design a personalized capability enrichment programme and deliver it on the CMH. In general this can be used for a widespread Human Resource Mobilization scheme to empower all citizens inclusively.

Conclusion

In a country as diverse and complex as India is, a properly restructured and prioritized social media can act as a catalyst for the creation of the social capital in step with the creation of the economic capital, synergetically reinforcing each other. While acknowledging that the concept & definition of the social capital can be nebulous & daunting a well delimited contextual definition is possible, as illustrated here with reference to the social media.

The by and large predictable developments in ICT to the end of the decade are likely to transform the social media into a social network capable of handling India’s diversity and complexity to the extent we can intelligently mobilize it through technological innovation and development which are germane to our social problems and applying these to grass root necessities with proper a priori analysis of ground realities.

Social media can decrease the social capital through entropic applications or can increase it through negentropic applications. Controlling the media can not give sustainable gains in the long run. But, putting into the stream of social media far more applications which increase the social capital than those that decrease it, however, can.

 


SOCIAL MEDIA AND POLITICAL COMMUNICATION IN INDIA

Social media has emerged as a vital tool of communication and has created new ways of mobilizing public opinion and encouraging participation in political and civic activities – ranging from joining online petition and social groups, posting short messages on Twitter, expressing supports through blogs and uploading videos on YouTube. The recent WikiLeaks disclosure online of US foreign policy clearly demonstrates the disruption caused by social media, which is now forcing the mainstream news media to turn to political blogs and citizen-users for materials. Such disruption has enabled citizens to discuss and share political information with friends and networked citizens, and critically monitor the actions of governments and corporate interests. This has also posed a profound challenge to the state about how to regulate social media and face user-generated challenges. At the same time, the uneven level of access of different social groups to new media, a phenomenon known as digital divide, has raised concern about the limitations of its democratic potential.

Can social media be used for an effective political communication in India where access to Internet is still limited? To what extent political parties and candidates as well as oppositional politics are using social media for political campaign? Is it possible to reach to the non-internet users through social media? Before answering these questions it is important to look at some of the statistics about the internet penetration and social media uses in India. A report by the Internet and Mobile Association of India shows that as of June 2012, there were 137 million claimed Internet users: 99 million in urban cities and 38 million in rural villages. Of these 137 million Internet users, III million (80 million in urban cities and 31 million in rural villages) are active Internet users, i.e., they use the Internet at least once a month.

In terms of percentage, only about 11.4 %of India’s population uses internet, which might not be considered significant.

Similarly, in their recent report entitled “Social Media in India - 2012” estimates the number of social Media users in Urban India at 62 million as of December 2012. The report also reveals that the internet users are spreading fast in areas beyond the top eight Indian metros as one third of the social media users are residents of smaller towns with population of under 500,000, while a quarter of them

are residents of towns with a population of less than 200,000. However, it is estimated that majority of the social media users use it for entertainment than for political activities, although we do not have data on the behaviour of internet users. The small percentage of the internet users and the users activities on social media, have led many political analysts to discount the capacity of the social media in having any significant impact on political communication. However, one needs to look at the recent uses of social media for political communication before ignoring its credibility.

In the recent assembly election in Gujarat, the chief minister Narendra Modi effectively used the social media to connect with online citizens. Besides being active on Twitter and Facebook, Modi also went for a live chat on Google plus with netizens. By going online for live chat, he became the first Indian politician to do so. Through his social media campaign, he was able to capture the first time voter, the youth, who certainly are more attuned to digital culture. At the same time, the middle classes are also quite active on social media.

Similarly, it is well known that Anna Hazare, in his agitation over the issue of the Jan Lokpal Bill, effectively used the social media to mobilize the youth and the middle classes. The effective use of social media not only brought the issue into cyber space and made it more global, but also garnered huge support for the anti-corruption campaign. The general perception that people use the social media largely for entertainment does not hold true in this case. At the same time, using social media for entertainment doesn’t stop one to use it for political activities. Politics has certainly entered social networking sites, which has opened up new avenues for conducting politics.

Newspapers and news channels are now operating under the fear of losing their credibility to the social media. It is now difficult for traditional news media to hide a story from the public because of the fear that such stories might get published in a blog or get circulated on social networks. This pressure of the social media has certainly democratized the existing public sphere and enhanced the accountability of public officials. The recent exposure in India of many scandals has become possible because of the social media. Once the issue was exposed on the social media, public pressure started building on traditional media to take up the issue. The exposure of the 2G scam is one such case where the social media played a leading role.

Is there emergence of new ways of conducting politics with the coming of social media? In a recent study conducted by the IRIS Knowledge Foundation and the Internet and Mobile Association of India, claimed that results in over 150 parliamentary constituencies in the next general election could be decided by ‘Facebook users, making them the newest vote-bank with the power to shape Indian politics.’ One might as well question the validity of the findings as majority of the people in India use social media for entertainment. But one needs to understand that political participation is not static. Some people regularly follow political events, whereas others become interested only during a crisis or an important political event, such as an election or social movement. Among Internet users, substantial numbers may not be interested in the politics of the country or eager to participate in politics through the internet, but they are drawn into politics because a major personality is involved or during a major crisis. The Anna Hazare’s movement reflects that the online public, who used social networking sites for entertainment and to stay in touch with friends, learned to use these sites to engage with politics. Such a development is new in India, but has been ongoing in developed countries. Social media also played an important role in the Arab Spring.

 


SOCIAL MEDIA: RECONSTRUCTING THE FOURTH PILLAR

Recent technological innovations put the tools of production of media content in the hands of common man. It allows anybody with access to the Net to reach across to millions. It gives voice to erstwhile voiceless. Access to these tools empowers the powerless.

For the traditional large corporate media houses, however, it has been very disempowering. Grandmothers start chitchatting with their grandchildren on the other part of the world, disregarding their favourite serial- because that is the best time to interact with people on the other part of the world. Young householders living in rented flats are attending to their virtual farms and decorating their virtual houses, fulfilling their instincts and dreams. Young children making up animation stories using applications in iPad ... Attracting eyeballs to any mass entertainment has never been more difficult.

From the traditional mass media point of view, the new media is seen as merely another platform for delivery. But the new media is much more than that.

It is a platform for interactions, conversations, searching, creating and sharing. Sharing is a two way process but media delivery is a one way street. The traditional business models for media are not yet really ready for this transformation.

Challenges to Traditional Media

The netizens today can now read a large number of newspapers, listen to a very large number of radio stations and see TV shows galore – without touching paper or a transistor radio or buying a TV. The choice of media content is now in the keyboards of the media consumers connected to the net - irrespective of geographic/linguistic boundaries. The large variety of choices fragments the mass base of a media channel even more. Worse, in any case, than what happened to TV medium in the 90s with the satellite television boom.

Here is a situation where the readers wanted to be read, the listeners want to be heard, the viewers want to be seen. This is unprecedented. Letters to the editor or feedback of listeners and viewers including “request shows” that announce the names and cities of the requesters in the name of “interactivity” had limits of allocated space or time. The new media removed those barriers. And suddenly, the traditional mass media was losing out on viewers, listeners and readers.

So the mainstream media tried to overcome the adversity by proactively co-opting the new content to face the threat. UGC - not University Grants Commission, but User Generated Content - became a buzz word in the media Industries during the last decade. Al Jazeera and BBC vied with each other to showcase videos from video sharing sites. But the growing number of netizens would rather see the videos shared by their friends in Facebook. Or see channels and shows of their choice, at their convenience rather than be bound to couches at broadcast timings. The new subscriptions to cable is falling in many developed markets. And old subscribers are cutting cables.

Response to Challenges

Radio did not wipe out print media. Radio and print media survived the satellite television revolution by re-adjusting the media consumption habits. But just as the growth of consumers stagnated and reversed before the older mass media evolved to meet the challenges of the new media in the past, the future too will retain the old platforms for distribution of media.

However, what did not happen earlier, is the entry of a large number of consumers who turned into producers with the new technological tools for social discourse. Bloggers, podcasters and netcasters became the new age entrepreneurs. They did not need even a garage, as in the entrepreneurs that developed the IT tools, but just a desktop and a keen vision of the content that compels consumption. The mainstream media responded.

Flogging citizen journalists for the lack of code of ethics or training was but an initial knee-jerk reaction. It had to be dropped because the argument applied to mainstream media professionals too. Fact checking is not practiced quite often by mainstream media: too much of a bother and it comes in the way of breaking news... So journalists and broadcasters were given their own space for blogging, twittering, ... it became a part of the job description. But then, the media professions were already quite volatile with a propensity to job hopping. And they took the readership, listenership and viewership along with them, when they left. Some could even strike out on their own and earn advertising revenues.

The underbelly of the mammoth media houses is being exposed: advertising industry is redistributing their pennies. The smaller portion of advertising pie hurts more than the fragmentation of the mass audiences.

Changing Power Structures

The transition of the media landscape from the state owned, state controlled media to the development of an independent, though commercial profit oriented media, had transformed many societies. The pluralism of voices contributed to the development of a democracy that responded to at least the voices of the rich and the powerful. By changing the very structure of the fourth pillar of democracy, social media redefines and enriches democratic discourse. But then, simultaneously it blurs national borders. Social media is forging relationships that transcends kinship, creed and country. Nationalism, the foundation on which a strong democracy can be built is no more stable or dependable as focal points for social development. Is a new kind of democracy evolving?

Is it really possible to separate voting, having a voice and opportunities to participate in socio-economic development, previously integral to the concept of democracy?

Amplification of information and its diffusion in space through the printed media and the diffusion of information through waves in time, as happens in broadcast media, are quite different from the packet switching and amplification in a network. Early morning rituals of reading newspapers - the same news that most of your neighbours read, news selected by a staff or a· stringer, subedited, edited, laid out and printed, distributed by a publisher. The old system of being entertained by the same serial (Buniyad or Ramayan) as everybody else, at the same time. These phenomena may not entirely disappear. But today more people are consuming a wide diversity of media content. Because there is a diversity of content being produced. Not because of the will to control, nor the will to get rich, but to fulfill the need to interact, communicate, share ... And these activities are creating communities, new niches in social environment.

The flow of information in space and time in a network cannot be understood by either diffusion or wave models. The mathematical understanding of networks, physics of networks and technological frameworks on which the Internet works presently, would of course, be subsumed by a new world order of fractal structures. At least that is what theoretically we must expect.

The flow of viral videos and continuous flow of “forwards” create a new brand of leaders and followers of the information society. “Status” in this society depends on information and communication rather than money - yet it wields power. The more “connected” the nodes, the less the freedom, restricted by peer interactions. Less the degrees of freedom, less the degrees of separation.

From the sword to pen to camera and keyboard, the shift in social perceptions of what is mighty and great is but a natural transformation. From the kings’ scribe to paid journalist to the narrator of one’s life, work and society: the sources for tomorrow’s historians is being generated at a very rapid pace in magnetic and optic media inscribed 0s 1s, in digital space.

Enriching the Narratives

The threads of conversations, photographs, shared jokes, information, weave a pattern of interactions that are quite human. That cannot be coded in 0s and 1s. Food, sex, social dominance and identity as well as other human concerns - health, education, ... - would obviously emerge as the mainstay of the narratives. Talking at cross purposes and hate speech also would be as common in the virtual world as it is in the real world. Cyber attacks and malware are testimony that it is we who create the virtual world. You will find scamsters and thieves equally on highways as much as on the information highway.

Social media permits multiple identities - tribal, feudal, regional, linguistic, national, religious, ... It satisfies the material impulses/instincts to be satisfied by proxy, in the virtual world. The very nature of the network allows hierarchical and horizontal connections with others. Six degrees of separation” will perhaps soon be overcome by less than six clicks. Anthropologists argue that the rise and fall of civilizations of the past were caused by climatic changes. This climatic change in media is unifying human civilization by creating a digital memory networked across the earth. In social ecology new niches are possible, and a larger variety of subcultures are evolving. The dependence of cultural diversity on geographies has been overcome by the tools of social media.

Just like the transportation networks disrupted the feudal and even family structures, the Internet is also a disruptive technology. Unlike the network of roads, electric lines, telephone lines, the Internet is a network of networks. Control or regulation by the state is limited to blocking of sites. Mirrors of sites with alternative URLs circumvent the attempts at even that. It would take all Governments of the world to come together to create any reasonable regulation. In other words, a world government. Imagine - in all its diversities, world will be one. And I am not the only dreamer.

 


SOCIAL MEIDA IN EDUCATION— HELP OR HINDRANCE?

In the era of Mahabharata, the supreme teacher Dronacharya refused to take Eklavya, a tribal prince, under his tutelage because he was not of royal lineage. So Eklavya made a statue of Dronacharya and practiced archery seeking inspiration from the clay statue.

Imagine Eklavya Today

A student as committed and passionate as Eklavya could easily find a guru on a MOOC (massive open online course), or on an open educational resource like Academic Earth. org.

Finding a virtual guru would be just the first step in the student’s learning journey. Whole-hearted participation and commitment, even in a free online course has the potential to open many new doors as Amol Bhave, a 17-year-old student from Jabalpur discovered. On 14th March 2013 Amol got the news that he had been accepted to MIT after scoring 97 per cent on MIT’s MOOC (www.edx. org) on circuits and electronics.

Acquisition of knowledge and deepening understanding in a discipline is no longer confined to traditional formal institutions of education. Today, passionate participation in online communities can lead to mastery and also build a reputation that has the potential to open unimaginable possibilities.

Advent of ‘ICT-based social media’ has significantly accelerated innovation in learning and education. Imagine an alien, who first visited planet earth in early 11th century and went to see the first university in Bologna. If this alien had come back to an institution of higher education in the 19th century what change would it have found? Not much! Hardly anything changed in the context of formal education in 900 years. Not only the constituent elements - a teacher, some learners, a classroom, learning content, examinations and some form of certification persisted, even the way education was imparted did not undergo much change and remained teacher-led and didactic. It is only since late 20th century, with Internet becoming easily accessible and cost-effective and mobile telephony becoming ubiquitous, that delivery of leaming experiences is undergoing innovation.

High bandwidth and pervasiveness of devices that can connect to the Internet and display content in multiple formats has led to the proliferation of ‘social media’, which has in turn facilitated easy creation and prodigious sharing of enriched and enhanced learning experiences. A learner facilitator can today personalize a learning experience to a large extent, make it suitable to learners with different types of intelligences (Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory), different styles of learning (David Kolb’s experiential learning theory) and share it across time and space.

Social media also provides an effective platform for developing the power of reasoning and expression. Conversations, discussions and heated debates done on discussion forums, or as ‘comments’ posted under a nugget of learning content (say comments under a YouTube video or a Slide Share presentation) lead to better understanding. Multimedia nature of social media allows expression in varied ways. Learners can present their understanding of a topic of study as a presentation, video, animation, interactive story, cartoon, simulation, or a game. For example, MIT’s Scratch (www.scratch.mit.edu) is a free and easy to use tool for young learners to express themselves in multimedia narratives and simple interactive games.

Scratch also has a social dimension. It has millions of users and projects. Learners can share what they have designed and also interact with other learners who may further build on their creation, duly acknowledging the source. Scratch also has a community for teachers to share how they are using Scratch in their classroom - www. scratched.media.mit.edu

Even social media based games have the potential for positive influence, provided they don’t become an addiction. In their book, “A New Culture of Learning” authors John Seely Brown and Douglas Thomas explore the future of learning. They make the point that playing an online, multiplayer game like World of Warcraft leads to profound experiential learning and the young players learn many life skills like fair play, teamwork, communication and improvisation. Furthermore, if you become a ‘guild master’ the game becomes a complete course on leadership! Thus, overall we can say that social media is more helpful than detrimental in fulfilling the basic objectives of education. For example, in US some online teacher communities now also facilitate teachers to raise small donations for their classroom projects. On such websites teachers put requests for solutions to problems they are facing, or raise small amounts of money, or seek donations in kind, or find volunteers. In conclusion, the benefits of social media in education far outweigh the  drawbacks and hence there is a need to integrate social media into the educational mix. Of course, social media cannot be considered a panacea for education. There is no algorithm for learning and we need to be conscious of the downsides of deploying social media in

education. But the conversation, collaboration, coherence, global reach, scalability and low-cost dimensions that social media offer can be a boon for meaningful, effective and engaging education for all provided they are used prudently.




Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 October 2013 07:40