In this lecture, Anita Gurumurthy used a theoretical approach to explore how social networks function in the context of social justice. These networks have altered the terms in which justice is defined. Individuals are being politically aware with the abundant social networking tools available, and these tools have become a safe harbor to carry on social movements.
Gurumurthy began her talk by examining the idea of the ‘selfie’ (a self-portrait picture), a trending concept in the social networking world. Instead of treating the selfie as a tool used by self-obsessed people for narcissism and exhibitionism, Gurumurthy chose to look at it as the first step to self-confidence. Following this thread, she asked whether politics has changed with the arrival of new technological tools, which perhaps helped to inform, organize and mobilize people.
Internet activities related to social justice are not to be rejected as virtual; they have an identity too. Individuals interpellate the political community through online tools and are becoming an important part of global movements. Gurumurthy chose to focus on the possibility for online social networkers to become actively involved in terms of decision-making with regards to social movements.
Gurumurthy mentioned the examples of the support influential bloggers gave to dissenting voices during the nineties, leading up to the Egyptian revolution. They had a cascading effect on opinion. Gurumurthy stressed how the internet is not far from reality, but how it can in fact be effectively used to help society.
“The noise is also counted”, she said while referring to internet activities related to social justice. Gurumurthy asked whether these internet derived leaderless movements should be celebrated. Such network activities indulge in creating a new political syntax, which targets at dismantling authoritarianism and consumerism.
Gurumurthy also discussed the constant dialectics between the self and the internet, as well as the effect of internet social justice activities, which results in easily identifying individuals. This results in the affirmation that one is not alone in a particular set of beliefs. Gurumurthy opined that ours is the time when a comment by an activist holds importance, and where societies are slowly adopting the non-normative structures. The interruptions of the social networks into our private lives are not seen as disturbances anymore. The global fluidities between the public and the private, between the universal and the local, are a result of these networks. Gurumurthy also pointed out at the shaping of meaning that takes place while individuals carry out internet activities in the form of intelligent searches, personalization, and behavioral advertising.
During the discussion following the lecture, a few other key ideas were touched, including the interconnectivity between the ‘real world politics’ and the internet, masculinity and the usage of technology by women, the ethical origins of the technology, individual interactions with the internet , and mobile networking.
Report: Sneha Jayakaranth
Photography: Marina George & Samuel Buchoul
Editing: Chitralekha Manohar & Samuel Buchoul