The last two decades have seen the massive proliferation of media infrastructures in India and many post-colonial societies. These include large media industries like those of television and cinema, as well as thousands of informal sites like gray-market bazaars, small video cinemas, and cable networks that are run by local operators. Around 700 million Indians have cellular phones that now also produce text, video, and digital images.
After the cellular phone, a growing section of the population is now the source of new media produced: that in turn links to online social networks, mainstream television (through “citizen” journalism), and peer-to-peer exchanges of text, music and video. These massive expansions of the older media infrastructures have thrown the old control models of the regime into disarray. In a situation of media porosity, the information “leak” from the state is widespread: leaked audio surveillance, secret documents. This post-digital leak feeds into the media “event,” and as such calls for a new reflection. All this takes place in an Indian context where the call for “transparency” through new technologies cuts across activists, judges, elite managers, and liberal modernizers.
Transparency, once associated in urban debates with modernist discussions on surface (glass, steel), has now emerged in public discourse as ethical filter through which new media infrastructure is made visible. This presentation sets up the secret and the transparent as force fields to excavate this remarkable post digital environment in India.
Ravi Sundaram is a Fellow of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies and Co-Founder of Sarai in New Delhi, India. His research examines the emerging inter-media junctions in Indian cities. Sundaram recently published Pirate Modernity: Media Urbanism in Delhi (2009) and is finishing two edited volumes, No Limits: Media Studies from India and Delhi’s Twentieth Century.