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DEV Research Seminar - Wednesday 15th January

Philippa Williams, Queen Mary University of London, will be presenting her research findings on lived democracy in India and its relationship to WhatsApp.


WhatsApp, the Digital living room and lived democracy in India

Wednesday 15th January | ARTS 2.84 | 3.30-5pm | Phillippa Williams

Digital technology is typically presented either as the utopia, the answer to deepening democracy, or increasingly blamed for new dystopian realities. In this paper we examine how social media platforms are transforming spaces of everyday lived democracy in India. Drawing on digital ethnographic research carried out in the lead up to the 2019 Indian national elections in two north Indian cities, this paper examines the ‘digital living room’ or WhatsApp group to understand how this messaging platform has become embedded in India’s social and political fabric since it launched in mid-2010. There are now more WhatsApp users in India than in any other democracy and the platform has become a key tool for political parties to both organise and communicate with voters. For political actors and ordinary citizens alike, the digital chat application has engendered new practices and meanings and transformed digital-analogue politics in urban India. We interrogate the wider implications of this digital transformation with respect to the reconfiguration of private/public spheres and patterns of inclusion and exclusion in political life.