I am passionate about ethical research that can help us understand the socio-technical practices of communities living at the margins of society. A major strand of my research focuses on how informality shapes everyday life and technology use, and how this can inform the design of bottom-up community-centric technologies.
I am currently a postdoctoral fellow at the dgp Lab at University of Toronto’s Computer Science Department. Here I work with Prof. Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed and the Thirdspace research group. In May 2019, I completed my Ph.D. from the School of Information at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor where I was adviced by Prof. Joyojeet Pal. I hold a MS in Economics and a BE in Electronics Engineering with prior experience in education research and data analytics.
My research is interdisciplinary, influenced by theories and concepts from STS, sociology, development studies, and institutional analysis, and existing socio-technical research drawn from HCI/CSCW and information studies.
PhD in Information, 2019
University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
MS in Economics, 2009
Indian Statistical Institute, New Delhi, India
BE in Electronics and Communications, 2006
Imagining new design paradigms that are cognizant of the interplay between the formal and informal
How can we be more generous to actors when designing?
Studying the technical infrastructures supporting informal transnational networks
Rumors are an enduring form of communication across sociocultural landscapes globally. Counter to their typical negative association, rumors play a nuanced role, helping people collectively deal with problems through constructing a representation of an uncertain situation. Drawing on unstructured interviews and participant observation from a technology goods marketplace in Bangalore, India, we study the circulation of rumors related to the government’s recent policy of demonetization and entry of online marketplaces and digital wallets, all of which disrupted existing market practices. These rumors emerge as attempts at sensemaking when a community is faced with ambiguity. Through highlighting the relationship of institutional trust with rumors, the paper argues that the study of rumors can help us identify the concerns of a community in the face of differential power relations. Further, rumors are a form of social bonding which help communities make sense of their place in society and shape existing practices.
This paper explores how actors in local markets in the Global South adapt traditional communication technologies to successfully collaborate in sustaining the markets and their business practices. Drawing on ethnographic observations at a local technology goods market in Bangalore, India, the study details the use of a landline telephone intercom system as the primary tool for business communication in the market. Through analyzing how the intercom system relates to informality and physical space, the paper argues that it bridges the formal with the informal, and helps facilitate informal business practices while also allowing them to remain hidden from the formal regulatory gaze of the state.
The paper analyzes the warez scene, an illegal underground subculture on the Internet, which specializes in removing copy protection from software and releasing the cracked software for free. Despite the lack of economic incentives and the absence of external laws regulating it, the warez scene has been able to self-govern and self-organize for more than three decades. Through a directed content analysis of the subculture’s digital traces, the paper argues that the ludic competition within the warez scene is an institution of collective action, and can, therefore, be approached as a common-pool resource (CPR). Subsequently, the paper uses Ostrom’s framework of longenduring common-pool resource institutions to understand the warez scene’s longevity and ability to govern itself. Theoretical and design implications of these findings are then discussed.