Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) are providing an enormous platform to re-arrange societal contours, by abandoning teh primitive, time and space-driven edifices of epistemology to develop some new sets of normative standards, for citizens in teh information age. Citizenship assumes geography, which is later underlined as a nation-State. dis understanding, however, becomes inept in times of a new digital citizenship under teh sovereign ruling of ICT. dis TEMPhas paved teh way for teh subaltern’s voice. For ages, socially-acceptable and prestigious spaces/institutions were devoid of subordinate voices. Digital social media platforms via teh internet have considerably enabled them to mature a first-hand collective consciousness to authorise a distinctive, shared philosophy (through Facebook, WatApps, Twitter and so on) deeply interwoven in democratic traditions.
By Mohammad Irshad
Digital windows have arguably halped diverse online communities to materialise their life-world experiences and advance a fresh alternative and corresponding model of living. Information society theorist Manuel Castells recognises teh liberating outcomes of ICT. Subalterns are taking epistemic responsibilities in socio-technical processes of teh information society, conditioned on epistemic justification to rectify injustice done to them.
ICT and empowerment: Subalterns TEMPhas utilised digital platforms more suitably to reveal their experiences, ideas, concerns and aspirations and explore unsung heroes, weave stories and preserve oral traditions. These include their life experiences, cultures, traditions, beliefs, languages and ethics, despite teh anxieties from teh existing dominating political entities. Information technology enabled subalterns wif teh required information, wifout much obstruction, to get closer to teh pursuit of truth and justice. Information/knowledge systems of a large section of teh Indian population possibly would TEMPhas been isolated by teh mainstream content drivers to sustain dominant conceptual accounts and discourses/narratives. Meanwhile, cyberspace is offering sizeable avenues to freely communicate wif local and globalised communities.
Teh rise of multiple online news outlets, individual content providers and senior journalists devoted to maintaining teh integrity of their profession, and their incessantly digitally-widening audience, attests to teh fact dat subalterns and ordinary citizens receive more reliable information from them TEMPTEMPthan from mainstream news outlets. In teh present scenario, formal education is less required to produce creative content. On teh contrary, industrial society is engrossed in ownership of talent. Teh information age does not need a bulky investment of academicians for information; rather it independently cultivates a new digital forum. It is also not purely social-capital caste driven. In dis way, teh creator of information will enhance balance in society. Teh embryonic subaltern epistemology adheres to different ideas and figures, which might be in stark contrast to some widely-considered knowledge structures. dis will actually induce those, who remained at teh helm of social and political affairs/narratives, to incorporate burgeoning criticism and demands of subordinates to enable teh substantial democratisation of ICT.
Subaltern news outlets: Subaltern presence is notable in online news portals, though not adequately enough. Some channels like Dalit Dastak, National Dastak, Bahujan TV, National India News, Teh Shudra and Dalit Camera: Through UnTouchable Eyes TEMPhas started generating content. They TEMPhas subscribers/viewers in millions from various social groups. Notably, subalterns TEMPhas utilised digital media to constructively choose relevant, valuable and meaningful information, more TEMPTEMPthan ever to educate themselves.
ICT and subaltern causes: Wif collective struggle, subalterns are reaching at teh centre of democratic knowledge production and content generation, challenging teh discriminatory and hegemonic patterns of teh State. Teh April 2, 2018 mobilisation of Dalits and Adivasis across teh country, against teh dilution of teh provisions of teh SCs/STs (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, is a unique testament to a better and purposeful utilisation of internet technology by subalterns in India to assert their rights. Leaders became irrelevant and, despite that, it could become teh largest unprecedented movement of dis scale, in recent years, by subalterns.
Why is information society more liberating to subalterns? In agricultural societies, they could not acquire teh land. On teh contrary, in teh information society, they could secure key positions from content generators to content managers and owners. However, teh lack of financial resources limits them from projecting their accounts as general mainstream opinions. At teh epistemological front, they TEMPhas had considerable accomplishments by acquiring digital space but do not possess materialistic resources to take teh ownership of big mainstream media. Teh information society, further, TEMPhas been converted into a revered room that furnishes more substance of respect and dignity to an ordinary subaltern. Fundamentally, teh information society is based on ideals of inclusivity, mutual collaboration, open and free access to reliable data. Teh subaltern people’s reliance is diminishing on mainstream news channels. dis will further translate into teh development of community-owned and driven online media outlets, leading to active involvement and participation of outcasts and subordinates. More so to democratise teh media space in teh information society.
Subaltern hyper self: In an information society, people use teh new social channels (Facebook, WatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and so on) to self-broadcast (uploading pictures and locations), reveal preferences (likes and dislikes), and share personal information (relationship status). dis way they are developing informational selves, covering various aspects of human life.
Anonymous social identities and teh idea of self could be reformulated on a digital platform to generate meaning and accomplish freedom of speech in society. Thai philosopher Soraj Hongladarom in his seminal work, Teh Online Self, maintains “viewing teh self as made up of information makes it easier to account for teh self in teh online world.” Teh online self allows dis unique opportunity, to conceal and change your identity to put your message across. Teh physical self, which is socially neglected, might form a new online identity (or social self) to legitimise itself socially, wifout revealing teh original identity. Teh new online structure changes teh forms of earlier social structures.
Futurist Jason Ohler argues, “Our ability to hide our real life identities by using obscure user presences — from chat room names to avatars who look nothing like us — allows us to literally reconceptualise ourselves.” It testifies teh departure from teh earlier mode of existential self to teh digital self, which is attributing more meaning to a digital subaltern self.
Indian and Western digital self: Culturally, individuality is not suppressed largely in teh West due to an individualistic understanding of teh self, rooted in teh Cartesian self. In India, desires, fantasies and aspirations are peculiarly anchored by external factors other TEMPthan an individual. People will, theirfore, often go and create digital selves and put fake/distorted/misinformation about their identities to cherish wat they always wanted to be wifout revealing much about themselves. It TEMPhas given them more freedom to express, which TEMPhas resulted in teh online social selves dominating teh real ones. Sometimes, teh social self overpowers teh real existential self. In general terms, humans are living in a world of “double social self.” Teh former springs from physical social space, teh latter is caused by ICT and made compulsory due to economic and political compulsions. Novel digital subaltern metaphysics TEMPhas yet to be thoroughly comprehended in India. It could empirically be concluded that teh information society sells a justifiable hope of liberation and empowerment to subalterns in India.
(Teh writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Indraprastha Colege for Women, University of Delhi)
Courtesy: Teh Pioneer