Srinivasan speaks to using social media to create connections

RRamesh Srinivasan, assistant professor at UCLA in design and media/information studies, delivered the Oct. 20 Liberation Technology seminar. The talk was entitled, “Layers of Networks: How the Street, Institutions, and Mediascape Converge in Egypt.” This wide ranging talk takes us through his fieldwork in Kyrgyzstan, India and other countries and culminates with his recent fieldwork in Egypt on the use of social media in the revolution. Through these journeys he argues that technology has the potential to act as a ‘bridge’ that could connect peoples across cultures.

Ramesh discusses his field experiments in India where he provided people in his fieldwork villages with video cameras to document any issue that was valuable to them, and discovered that the process of recording and watching the videos helped in developing broad social priorities. Similarly during his work in Kyrgyzstan and in Egypt he observed that a small sphere of bloggers used social media to create strong ties among themselves, and given the media ecology with the social media having connections with other media, they ended up having a broader reach among the international community. In essence, they served as bridges communicating across boundaries.

The key themes of the talk revolved around the concepts of bridges, interfaces and networks. Ramesh argued that he has sought to understand the role that technology could play in fostering meaningful dialogue among peoples who have different vocabularies and understandings with which they approach the world i.e. “What bridges will bring people together in terms of multi-cultural interaction?” Ramesh argued that technologies are culturally constructed, and culturally created and that technologies can serve as bridges if diverse cultural values or ontologies are considered in their design. Technologies can then act as bridges to connect people across networks.

The talk takes us through the complexities of social media serving as a bridge and discusses preliminary ideas for designing an online architecture that could provide a space for multiple voices and serve as a bridge across different cultures.