About the Talk
A digital anthropologist examines the online lives of millions of people in China, India, Brazil, and across the Middle East—home to most of the world’s internet users—and discovers that what they are doing is not what we imagine.
New-media pundits obsess over online privacy and security, cyberbullying, and revenge porn, but do these things really matter in most of the world? The Next Billion Users reveals that many assumptions about internet use in developing countries are wrong.
After immersing herself in factory towns, slums, townships, and favelas, Payal Arora assesses real patterns of internet usage in India, China, South Africa, Brazil, and the Middle East. She finds Himalayan teens growing closer by sharing a single computer with common passwords and profiles. In China’s gaming factories, the line between work and leisure disappears. In Riyadh, a group of young women organizes a YouTube fashion show.
Why do citizens of states with strict surveillance policies appear to care so little about their digital privacy? Why do Brazilians eschew geotagging on social media? What drives young Indians to friend “foreign” strangers on Facebook and give “missed calls” to people? The Next Billion Users answers these questions and many more. Through extensive fieldwork, Arora demonstrates that the global poor are far from virtuous utilitarians who mainly go online to study, find jobs, and obtain health information. She reveals habits of use bound to intrigue everyone from casual internet users to developers of global digital platforms to organizations seeking to reach the next billion internet users.
About the Speaker
Payal Arora is a digital anthropologist and author, consultant, founder, editor, and professor at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She holds the Chair in Technology, Values, and Global Media Cultures. Her expertise lies in digital media experience and user values among low-income communities worldwide and comes with more than a decade of fieldwork experience in such contexts. She is the author of a number of books including the award-winning ‘Leisure Commons’ and most recently the “The Next Billion Users” with Harvard Press. Engadget (Top 5 in the ‘Technorati top 100’ and Times endorsed ‘best blogs on tech’) stated that her Harvard book is “the most interesting, thought provoking books on science and technology we can find.” Forbes named her the “next billion champion” and the right kind of person to reform tech. Several international media outlets have covered her work including the BBC, The Economist, Quartz, Tech Crunch, The Boston Globe, F.A.Z, The Nation and CBC. She has consulted on tech innovation for diverse organizations such as UNESCO, KPMG, GE, and HP and has given more than 170 presentations in 102 cities in 52 countries including a TEDx talk on the future of the internet. She is the founder of Catalyst Lab, a digital activism organization and sits on several boards such as Facebook SS1 Asia Committee, Columbia Univ. Earth Institute and World Women Global Council in New York. She has held Fellow positions at GE, ZEMKI, ITSRio, and NYU and is a Section Editor for Global Perspectives, a new University of California Press journal. She has a Masters in International Policy from Harvard University and a PhD from Columbia University.
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