ABSTRACT
Department
Degree programme
Graduation year
Media Lab Unit, Department of
Media
New Media Design
2010
Author
Singh, Abhigyan
Title
Design Opportunities and Challenges in Indian Urban Slums-Community Communication and Mobile
Phones
Level
Number of pages
Diploma Work
85
Abstract
This thesis investigates the area of community communication for marginalized communities
belonging to Indian urban slums. The aim of the thesis is to identify design challenges and
opportunities for mobile based community communication services for residents of Indian urban
slums.
The thesis is based on two ethnographic field research done in urban slums of India. The research is
qualitative in nature and is best identified as participatory bottom-up exploration. The research is
grounded in the conceptual frameworks of Community Informatics, Communicative Ecology and
Communities of Practices.
The thesis discusses the existing practices of mobile phone's use amongst the residents of Indian
urban slums, identifies the 'Human Nodes' in community communication at an Indian urban slums,
presents design opportunities and challenges for community communication services for residents of
Indian urban slums, and proposes a design concept called as 'Asynchronous Voice based
Community Communication Service' for residents of Indian urban slums.
Materials
Keywords
Community Communication, Community of Practice, Communicative Ecology, Community
Informatics, India, Mobile Phones, Urban Slums
Where deposited
Confidential until
Department of Media, Aalto University
10/10/2010
Contents
Acknowledgement
.......................................... v
List of Figures . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . vii
List of Tables . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
Legends
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
1 Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.1
Objectives and Research Problem . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2
Context of Research . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2.1
India . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2.2
Urban Slums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2.3
Literacy, Illiteracy and Semi-literacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.2.4
Mobile Phones . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.3
Motivation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.4
Similar Research and Cases . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1.5
Research Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
1
2
2
2
3
3
3
4
5
7
2 Methodological and Conceptual Framework . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.1
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.2
Ethnography and Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) . . . . . . . . . . .
2.3
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.4
Community Informatics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.5
Communicative Ecology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
2.6
Communities of Practices (CoPs) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
11
11
11
12
12
12
13
3 Identifying Practices of Mobile Phone’s Use . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.1
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.2
Description of Participants . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.3
Research Process and Methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.4
Initial Research Findings and Area Identi ed for Further Research . .
3.4.1
Signi cance of Voice Call . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.4.2
Level of simplicity needed in Mobile Service’s Interface Design . . . . . . . .
3.4.3
SMS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
3.4.4
Missed Call or Beeping . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
15
15
15
15
18
18
18
19
19
ii
3.4.5
3.5
4
4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4
4.5
4.6
4.6.1
4.6.2
4.7
4.7.1
4.7.2
4.7.3
4.8
Community Communication, an area for further exploration . . . . . . . . . 20
Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Understanding Community Communication of an Indian
Urban Slum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Description of Sudarshan Layout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Research Challenges at Sudarshan Layout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3), a Community
of Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Research Process and Methods . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Two examples of Communicative Ecology in AC3 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Z’s Communicative Ecology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
J’s Communicative Ecology . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Analysis of Communicative Ecology of AC3 Members . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Social Layer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Discursive Layer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Technological Layer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5 Research Findings and Design Concept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.1
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2
Human Nodes in Community Communication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.1
Community Leader as Human Node . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.2
Local Shopkeepers as Human Node . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.2.3
Volunteers as Human Node . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.3
Identi ed Needs for Community Communications Services . . . . . . . .
5.3.1
Community Communication of Slums with world outside . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.3.2
Community Communication between Slums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.4
Identi ed Design Challenges for Community Communication
Services . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5
Design Concept: Asynchronous Voice based Community
Communication Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5.1
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5.2
Synchronous Voice vs Asynchronous Voice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5.3
Advantages of Asynchronous Mode . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
5.5.4
Description of the Design Concept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
21
21
21
22
24
27
31
31
32
33
34
35
36
38
41
41
41
42
42
45
45
46
47
48
50
50
50
50
51
iii
5.5.5
5.5.6
5.5.7
5.5.8
5.6
6
Description of the Asynchronous Voice Communication Mobile Application
Scenario 1: Amit, a local shopkeeper as a human node . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Scenario 2: Kishore, a volunteer as a human node . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Advantages of the Design Concept . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Conclusion and further development
53
54
56
57
59
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
A Appendices . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A.1
Design Concept: Voice Annotation Service for Mobile Images
and Videos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
A.2
Description of Social Groups involved in creation of AC3 . . . . . . . . . .
A.3
Social Map of Sudarshan Layout . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
63
63
63
64
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
iv
Acknowledgement
This thesis could not have been completed without help of so many generous
individuals. My sincere thanks for all of them.
I express my deepest gratitude to my thesis supervisors Joanna Saad Sulonen, Lily
Diaz and Zeenath Hassan who have helped me all throughout the thesis and have
always encouraged me in my pursuit.
I am grateful to teachers, friends and staff of Media Lab for supporting me throughout this long journey. My thanks go to: Teemu Leinonen, Rasmus Vuori and Heidi
Tikka for their valuable comments during Masters Thesis Seminar; Kari-Hans
Kommonen and Philip Dean for helping me with funding for the rst eld study;
Pipsa Asiala for being so supporting during the crucial days of thesis writing.
I sincerely acknowledge and thank Salil Sayed for enormous support he has provided throughout the process of thesis writing.
The eld study in Bangalore would not have been possible without help of following
people and groups: Chitra Amma of Association for Promoting Social Action
(APSA); Megha Gowda of Public Affairs Center (PAC); Ram Bhat, Deepak Srinivasan
and Ekta Mittal of MARRA; Geeta Menon of Stree Jaguruti Samiti (SJS); Senthil
and Balaji of Association for India’s Development (AID). This research has been
enriched by residents of Sudarshan Layout, Bangalore. My sincere thank to all of
them. I express deep gratitude to Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3)
Members: Mani, Sarsu, Jeeva, Santosh, Arumugham, and Satish.
I wish to thank Binita Desai and Shiv Visvanathan, my teachers from DA-IICT, India
for showing me direction to pursue carrier and studies in the eld of design. I
express my deepest regard for my parents and brother who have always supported
me in my pursuits. I would not have been able to reach this point in my life without
their support.
I wish to sincerely thank my wife, Noopur, who allowed me to travel to Helsinki
just couple of months after our marriage. This thesis would not have been possible
without her emotional support and belief.
vi
List of Figures
1
1.1
3.1
3.2
3.3
4.1
4.2
4.3
4.4
4.5
4.6
4.7
4.8
5.1
5.2
5.3
5.4
5.5
5.6
5.7
5.8
5.9
5.10
A.1
Legends used in the thesis
Thesis Time line
Photos: Participants in Phase 1 of the research
Research Process (Phase 1)
Photos: Field study in Bangalore, India
Photos: Streets in Sudarshan Layout
Creation of AC3
Photos: AC3
Photos: Research Activities (Phase 3)
Social Layer of AC3 Members’ Communicative Ecology
Discursive Layer of AC3 Members’ Communicative Ecology
Technological Layer of AC3 Members’ Communicative Ecology.
Photos: AC3 Members’ Communicative Ecology
Community Leader as Human Node
Local Shopkeepers as Human Node
Photos: Local Shopkeepers
Volunteers as Human Node
Community Communication of Slums with world outside
Community Communication between Slums.
Asynchronous Voice based Community Communication Service
Asynchronous Voice Communication Mobile Application
Scenario 1: Amit, a local shopkeeper as a human node
Scenario 2: Kishore, a volunteer as a human node
Social Map drawn by AC3 Members
xi
9
16
16
17
24
26
28
31
35
36
38
39
43
44
44
46
47
48
52
53
56
57
64
viii
List of Tables
1.1
1.2
4.1
4.2
4.3
5.1
Academic research initiatives related to the thesis
Service Industry Initiatives related to the thesis
Overview of resources at Sudarshan Layout
Distinction between Communities of Practices and
Communities of Interest. Adapted from (Wenger et al. 2002, p.42)
Research Activities and Participants (Phase 3)
Synchronous Voice vs Asynchronous Voice
6
7
23
27
30
51
x
Legends
Legends used in the thesis:
Figure 1 Legends used in the thesis
xii
1 Introduction
Urban Slum, a design opportunity!
Urban Slum, a design challenge!
According to UN-Habitat (2003), 31.6 % of world’s urban population i.e. 924 million
people lives in slums. 3 billion of world population i.e. around half the world lives
on less than US$2 per day. One-third of world’s poor belong to India (Rao 2009).
This thesis investigates the area of community communication for marginalized
communities belonging to Indian urban slums. There have been many community
level ICT initiatives targeting poorer section of developing countries like India.
Most of these initiatives have failed to sustain and progress beyond the pilot phase
(Ashraf et al. 2007; Nnadi & Gurstein 2007; Gurstein 2006). One of principal reason
for the failure has been that the focus was always on technological infrastructure
rather than utilizing the local social context. (Ashraf et al. 2007; Nnadi & Gurstein
2007).
The main aim of this thesis is to identify design challenges and opportunities for
mobile based community communication services for residents of Indian urban
slums. The thesis is based on two ethnographic eld studies in urban slums of
India. The research is qualitative in nature and is best identi ed as participatory
bottom-up exploration. The research is grounded in the conceptual frameworks
of Community Informatics (Garside 2009), Communicative Ecology (Tacchi et al.
2003) and Communities of Practices (Wenger 2004).
This thesis discusses the existing practices of mobile phone’s use amongst the residents of Indian Urban Slums, identi es the ’Human Nodes’ in community communication at an Indian Urban Slums, presents design opportunities and challenges
for community communication services for residents of Indian Urban Slums, and
proposes a design concept called as ’Asynchronous Voice based Community Communication Service for residents of Indian Urban Slums. The participatory nature
of the eld research and inclusive nature of the design concept brings the thesis
close to areas of social design (Papanek 2000; Papanek 1983) and service design
(Miettinen & Koivisto 2009).
2 Introduction
1.1
Objectives and Research Problem
The main aim of this thesis is to identify design opportunities and challenge for
mobile based community communication services for Indian Urban Slums. To
address this aim I had identi ed following objectives:
a. Identify practices of mobile phone’s use amongst residents of Indian urban
slum.
b. Identify existing communication speci c practices of a community belonging
to Indian urban slum.
This thesis addresses the following research problem: What are the design opportunities and challenges for mobile based community communication services for
residents of Indian urban slums?
1.2
Context of Research
1.2.1 India
India is a democratic country with multitude of languages and cultures. India
amounts to 17% of world population and includes one-third of world’s poor (Rao
2009). According to the last Census of India (2001), India’s overall population was
1027 million, out of which 285 million (27.8 %) lived in urban areas. 67 million of
the urban population of India are below poverty line i.e. people living on less that
US$ 2 per day (Rao 2009).
This thesis is primarily based on eld study done in Bangalore city of India.
Bangalore is located in southern part of India and it is capital city of state of
Karnataka. Bangalore has population of over 6.5 million and is ranked fth most
populous city of India (Raman 2008). Bangalore is a world famous Information
Technology (IT) center and is widely known as ’Silicon Valley of India’. The
city has played a major role in economic growth of India and has also been
test bed for number of ICT initiatives for development (Singhal & Rogers 2001).
A considerable number of Bangalore’s population has remained untouched by
economic developments (Raman 2008).
3
1.2.2 Urban Slums
It is widely accepted that ’slums’ are dif cult to de ne and there are multiple
de nitions and meanings co-existing (Sliwa 2008). According to UN-Habitat (2003,
p.xxxi):
Slums are distinguished by poor quality of housing, poverty of inhabitants, the lack of public or private services and the poor integration of the
inhabitants into the broader community and its opportunities.
31.6 % of world’s urban population i.e. 924 million people lives in slums. About 60%
or 554 million of the slum dwellers across the globe belonged to Asia. Population
of urban slums across the globe is estimated to increase by 2 billion in next thirty
years. Much of the labor forces in cities of developing countries live in slums.
Urban Slums are marginalized and represents the most disadvantaged group of
urban dwellers.
Accordingly, urban slums’ growth in cities like Bangalore is related to rapid growth
of urban population in the city outpacing the development of infrastructure and
capacity of the city (ibid.).
1.2.3 Literacy, Illiteracy and Semi-literacy
Census of India’s de nition of ’literacy’ is ability to read and write in any language
and ’illiteracy’ is not having the ability to read and write in any language (Mathew
2006). This de nition is widely accepted and is used by all the Government of India
of ces. According to the last Census of India (2001), overall literacy rate measured
64.8% while urban centers possesed 79.9% literacy rate. This translates to overall
560.7 million literates with 198.8 million literates in urban India. According to
some estimates, 50% of these ’literates’ just ful l a basic literacy level and cannot
read and write even a basic text in any language (Kothari 2008). This group of
people who ful l basic literacy requirements but cannot read and write much are
termed as ’Semi-Literates’ (Findlater et al. 2009).
1.2.4 Mobile Phones
Late start but fast pace, this phrase very well summarizes India’s mobile markets
growth. According to The Economist (2009) India is world’s fastest growing mobile
4 Introduction
market and in terms of overall mobile user base it is globally second being behind
China. According to recent report of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (2010),
total mobile phone subscriber base reached 545.05 Million users mark by end of
January 2010. 19.9 Million new mobile subscribers were added in month of January
2010 alone. Despite the rapid growth of mobile phones in India, mobile teledensity
is still low at 46.37 percent. This also indicates the potential for future growth.
Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) estimates that mobile subscriber
base will rise to 893 Million users with mobile teledensitiy of 64.69% in 2012
(Thomas 2009). Indian mobile telecom sector is growing in the range of 35-40
percent per annum in terms of new subscriber addition (Pai 2008).
While mobile market of India has seen rapid growth in recent years, wireline phone
teledensity is mere 3.13 percent with 36.76 Million user base and registered a
decline in January 2010 by 0.31 Million users. Total broadband internet subscriber
base is 8.03 million as on January 2010 (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India
2010). It is largely believed that a bulk of 250 Million new mobile users belonging
to poorer section of Indian society will soon add to mobile subscriber user base.
It is also expected that this huge group will primarily rely on voice services of
mobile phones (Pai 2008).
1.3
Motivation
I have academic background in engineering with Bachelors in Information and
Communication technology (ICT). After nishing my bachelors in 2005, I worked
as User-Interface Designer in India for couple of years. In 2007, I joined Media
Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki (Taik) to pursue Master of Arts in New
Media Design. At Media Lab, I also worked as Research Assistant at ARKI Research
Group. The study at Media Lab introduced me to areas of Design Research and
Participatory Design approaches, which formed the foundation for this thesis
work.
This thesis represents my growth from an engineer to a design researcher and
includes my rst experience of conducting an ethnographic eld study. The study
has been followed with lot of personal motivation for self-learning and exploration.
5
1.4
Similar Research and Cases
In this section I present some research projects, and examples from industry which
are related to my research.
a. Finding a voice Project: Finding a voice is a research project initiated by UNESCO
and UNDP in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. This project addresses the
issue of poverty alleviation in rural areas of south-east Asia by use of community radio, telecenters and other community based ICT initiatives (Tacchi &
Kiran 2008; Skuse et al. 2007; Watkins & Tacchi 2008). This project introduced
me to methodological framework of Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) and
conceptual framework of Communicative Ecology (described in chapter 2).
The research approach of my thesis is inspired by the research approach of
Finding a Voice Project.
b. MobilEd: MobilEd is primarily a South African research initiative focusing on use
of mobile phones in educational settings in developing countries. The project
has been piloted in Finland, India and Brazil. One of the mobile prototype
developed by MobilEd team called ’mobile audio-wikipedia’ facilitates asynchronous voice access to information (Ford & Leinonen 2009). This project
served as an initial inspiration for my research. It directed my attention to
asynchronous voice and on use of low cost mobile phones (described in chapter
5).
c. Urban Mediator: Urban Mediator is a research initiative which is part of ICING
(Innovative Cities for the Next Generation) project and is funded by European
Union. This initiative targets interaction between citizens and a city. This
initiative is based in cities of Barcelona, Dublin and Helsinki (Botero & Sulonen 2008). I was involved in Urban Mediator as a Research Assistant and
my work involved development of a mobile prototype which enables citizens
to capture and publish information (like digital images, geo-information and
user-generated tags) from a physical space to an on-line interface. This project
serves as an initial inspiration for my thesis. This project introduced me to concepts of community-driven approach to design and relevance of participatory
design activities.
d. DakNet: DakNet initiative, also termed as ’Moving Content Project’, is an innovative commercial project recently started in state of Orissa, India. The
6 Introduction
project provides asynchronous internet access to rural population of Orissa by
leveraging on local buses. The local buses are mounted with Wi-Fi transceivers
which assists in storing and forwarding information. The project also relies
on human intermediaries to cater to local needs for products of everyday use
(Watkins et al. 2009). The aspects of engaging human intermediaries and
use of asynchronous mode of communication are related to ndings of my
research (described in chapter 5).
Other Academic Research Initiatives:
Table1.1 brie y presents some examples from academic research initiatives which
have experimented with asynchronous voice communication. Asynchronous
Voice mode is central theme of the design concept proposed in this thesis (discussed in chapter 5).
Title
Comments
RadioActive
An interaction design focused project that highlights the importance
of Mobile based Asynchronous Communication (Zinman & Donath
2007).
Voicepedia
A technology driven research on providing ’speech-based access’
of unstructured information to non-literate users (Sherwani et al.
2007).
Impromptu
A technology driven project to develop a mobile audio device. The
device caters to asynchronous voice channels (Schmandt et al. 2002).
PengYo
An explorative project to develop a mobile application prototype
based on concept of missed call or beeping (Bilandzic et al. 2009).
Quiet Calls
A technological exploration which extends the asynchronous voicemail’s technology and utilizes mixed-mode communication (Nelson
et al. 2001).
e-tuktuk
A community building initiative utilizing a three wheeled motorcycle
as mobile tele-center and community radio broadcasting unit (etuktuk.net).
Table 1.1 Academic research initiatives related to the thesis
Service Industry Initiatives:
7
Table 1.2 brie y presents some examples from service industry or businesses in
India which are relying on voice mode for their functioning. These highlights the
signi cance of voice mode which is central theme of the design concept proposed
in this thesis (discussed in chapter 5).
Title
Comments
URL
LifeLines
A phone based information service delivery
initiative targeting rural population in India.
http://lifelinesindia.net
Just Dial
A phone based local search service operating
in over ninety-one cities in India. It relies
on voice mode to address the people’s search
requests.
wwww.justdial.com
Onmobile
A Bangalore based company which developed www.onmobile.com
services like Voice-SMS and Voice-Mail for
mobile network providers in India.
Ubona
A Bangalore based company which provides www.ubona.com
value added services using mobile phones and
voice mode.
Table 1.2 Service Industry Initiatives related to the thesis
1.5
Research Design
In this section I describe major phases of the research and briefly mention what
was done in each of the phases. The project’s initial idea was conceived in June
2008 when I was working as Research Assistant on Urban Mediator Project at ARKI
research group, Media Lab, University of Art and Design Helsinki (Taik) Finland.
The whole research is divided into four major phases (See Figure 1.1):
a. Phase 1 (July-August 2008, India) : Identifying practices of mobile phone’s use
The Phase 1 of the research consisted of a broad study to understand practices of
mobile phone’s use amongst residents of Indian urban slums. This qualitative
research is based on ethnographic field study conducted in cities of Bangalore
8 Introduction
and Mumbai in India. This field study was for a period of seven weeks and it
was funded by ARKI Research Group as part of ENCOMPAS project.
b. Phase 2 (September-November 2008, Finland): Analysis and Documentation
The Phase 2 the research consisted of detailed analysis of data gathered in Phase
1 and documentation of subsequent findings. This phase was conducted in
Helsinki, Finland. During this phase, I realized certain aspects of data indicating
role of local community in context of communication for the residents of Indian
urban slums (described in section 3.4.5). This required an in-dept study and
it directed my focus to aspects of community communication at Indian Urban
Slums. Hence, a second fieldwork was needed to exclusively explore this
aspect.
The Phase 1 and the Phase 2 are together discussed in chapter 3 of this thesis.
c. Phase 3 (January-February 2009, India): Understanding Community and Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
The Phase 3 of the research consisted of ethnographic field work to study
community communication at an Indian urban slum. Due to many logistical
reasons I chose Bangalore for the fieldwork. The research was focused on
Sudarshan Layout, an urban slum in Bangalore. The research approach was
inspired by Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA). This field work was not funded and it was conducted on my own
expenses.
d. Phase 4 (September 2009-February 2010, Finland): Analysis, Documentation and
Design Concept
The Phase 4 of the research consisted of detailed analysis of data gathered in
the Phase 3, documentation of research findings and identification of a design
concept. The Phase 3 and the Phase 4 are discussed in chapter 4 and chapter 5
of the thesis.
9
Figure 1.1 Thesis Time line
10
2 Methodological and Conceptual Framework
2.1
Introduction
This chapter presents the methodological and conceptual frameworks that this
research is based on. While Ethnography, Ethnographic Action Research (EAR)
and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) make-up the methodological framework
followed for this research; Community Informatics, Communicative Ecology and
Communities of Practices (CoPs) are utilized as the conceptual frameworks.
2.2
Ethnography and Ethnographic Action Research (EAR)
Ethnography is the research approach which primarily deals with detailed observation of a particular set of people in a particular social setting . Participant
observation, field notes and in-dept interviews are most common methods employed in ethnographic field study (Silverman 2000).
Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) is the research approach to study impact of
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) especially in the area related
to poverty alleviation (Tacchi et al. 2003). EAR combines Ethnography with Action
Research. While Ethnography emphasizes in-depth understanding of the culture
of the locale, Action Research connects the research in iterative fashion to four
step process cycle i.e. a) Planning b) Doing c)Observe d) Reflect. EAR encourages
participatory methods of engaging participants or group under study as fellow
researchers in all the cycles of the project.
Tacchi et al. (2003) stress that understanding of local context is of prime importance and the research process should be adapted according to the challenges
faced in the field. They suggest the use of conceptual framework of ’communicative ecology’ to study ICT and its impact in people’s life. Communicative Ecology
is described in section 2.4.
They also recommend use of methods like participant-observation, field-notes,
group interviews, in-dept interviews and ’self-documentation’ exercises . They
describe ’Self-documentation’ exercise as a creative use of media, like photography, in research process by allowing people to document themselves and their
environment.
12 Methodological and Conceptual Framework
2.3
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA)
Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) is a research methodology which advocates
bottom-up research approaches and the flexible and innovative mix of various
methods with sensitivity for the local context (Kumar 1996). Kumar (2007) adds
that PRA (Participatory Reflection and Action) is especially relevant in engaging illiterate or semi-literate participant groups in research process. Tacchi et al. (2003)
also acknowledge significance of PRA and recommend using methods described
by PRA along with Ethnographic Action Research (EAR).
Kumar (2007) recommends that researchers should act as a facilitator and contrive
according to the local context. PRA emphasizes triangulation or cross checking
by use of various methods with same participant group or use of same methods
with different participants groups. At other place Kumar (1996) also stresses the
attitudinal shift in researchers’ approach to believe that local people are capable
of analysing their situations or problems. According to him including games and
activities followed by reflection and analysis is helpful. One of the most popular
method of PRA is Social Map which suggests participants to hand draw a map
depicting social infrastructure of the locality (Kumar 2007).
2.4
Community Informatics
Moor (2009) describes Community Informatics as a branch of study based on community and technology. According to him Community Informatics is focused
towards social context of technology use and is driven by instances or stories
from the field. Community Informatics research recognizes that it is crucial for
sustenance of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) initiatives in developing countries to understand social context of use of introduced technologies,
for example mobile phones (Garside 2009).
2.5
Communicative Ecology
Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) uses the concept of ’communicative ecology’
to understand the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and
their effects in people’s lives (Tacchi et al. 2003) . The communicative ecology
approach proposes that instead of evaluating use of a particular ICT and its effect,
researchers should aim to build a broader picture by looking at the use of mix of
13
ICTs, social networks, communication channels, and resources available. Communicative ecology suggests that to build an appropriate understanding we need
to evaluate how people combine various media in their use, how and with whom
people communicate, and how various ICTs are localized in people’s everyday life.
Communicative ecology aims to build a broader context for the communication
that people engage in. By evaluating communicative ecology, communication
could be studied as a process. The possibility of success of an ICT initiative is much
higher if the design of media is grounded in these processes.
Tacchi et al. (2003) also suggest to gain understanding of communicative ecologies
of multiple groups belonging to different castes, religions, social, and economic
sections of society. This will make researchers better equipped to work with a
specific group as it reveals variation in communication models, needs and problems.
Foth and Hearn (2007) further define the concept of communicative ecology as
consisting of three layers:
a. The Technology Layer comprising of devices, media and various channels used
for communication.
b. The Social Layer comprising of people, social groups, networks and communities. It takes into account formal groups as well as informal gatherings.
c. The Discursive Layer consists of the content of communication.
2.6
Communities of Practices (CoPs)
Wenger (2002, p.4) defines the concept of Communities of Practices (CoPs) as:
groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about
a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by
interacting on an ongoing basis.
According to him, Communities of Practices are crucial part of everyone’s life and
are ubiquitous. He adds that everyone is part of multiple Communities of Practices
at the same time. Some of them are informal while others are formal, some are
recognized while others remain unrecognised, some have names while others do
14 Methodological and Conceptual Framework
not (Wenger 2004; Wenger et al. 2002). All the Communities of Practices have a
basic structure consisting of:
a. Domain: A set of themes, problems, and issues.
b. Community: A group of people who jointly address the domain.
c. Practice: The specific knowledge and learning which the community produces,
shares and maintains in the process of addressing the domain.
He adds that a Community of Practice also creates a collective identity as a result
of sustained mutual engagement.
3 Identifying Practices of Mobile Phone’s Use
3.1
Introduction
This chapter discusses Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the research. As mentioned in
section 1.4, the Phase 1 (Identifying practices of mobile phone’s use) of the research
consisted of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in July-August 2008 at Bangalore
and Mumbai, India. The aim of the fieldwork was to build a broad understanding
of the practices of mobile phone’s use amongst the residents of Indian Urban
Slums. Phase 1 of the research was funded by ARKI Research Group of Media Lab,
University of Art and Design Helsinki (Taik), Finland.
Phase 2 (Analysis and Documentation) of the research consisted of analysis of data
gathered in Phase 1 and documentation of findings. Phase 2 was conducted in
September-November 2008 at Helsinki, Finland.
In this chapter, I will start by describing the participants of research, followed
by the research process and methods , the data gathered and finally I will briefly
present the findings relevant for the thesis.
3.2
Description of Participants
Participants in the phase 1 of the research reside in slums of Bangalore and Mumbai.
All of them were part of the lower strata of Indian society. They worked as taxi
drivers, auto rickshaw drivers or autowalas, street vendors, house maids etc. Most
of the participants were semi-literates or illiterates. Most of the participants
had started using mobiles phones in the recent past. These participants were
approached on the field itself and were selected for interview on the sole criteria
of whether they use mobile or not. In total, 18 individuals (2 women and 16 men)
participated in this research. See figure 3.1.
3.3
Research Process and Methods
The research process consisted of three parts: 1. In-dept Interviews 2. Field Notes
3. Analysis. See figure 3.2 below.
16 Identifying Practices of Mobile Phone’s Use
Street Vendor
House Maid
Auto rickshaw driver
Figure 3.1 Photos: Participants in Phase 1 of the research
Figure 3.2 Research
Process (Phase 1)
a. In-dept Interviews: In-dept interviews formed the core part of phase 1 of the
research. Although these interviews were unstructured and free flowing, a
list of broad themes to be covered during interviews was prepared beforehand
which was referred during the interviews (Tacchi et al. 2003).
Most of the interviews were conducted on streets, or communal spaces within
the slums. These spaces were part of participants’ everyday life. Duration of
interviews varied a lot, while some were for fifteen minutes others went for
over one hour duration. Participants’ engagement in work related activity
was the major reason for this variation. Running notes were taken during
the interviews. Canon A450 point and shoot digital camera was used to take
pictures while Philips Sound Recorder cum mp3 player was used to audio
record all the interviews.
It is worthwhile to mention that most of the participants from Bangalore spoke
Kannada and were not comfortable in conversing in English or Hindi (languages
I am capable of communicating with). Two local residents of Bangalore assisted
in these interviews as translators.
b. Field Notes: Field notes are detailed notes to document the interviews and
17
observations (Silverman 2000; Tacchi et al. 2003). Field notes were prepared
after every interview and were maintained throughout the research.
c. Analysis: Newly prepared field notes were briefly analysed and compared with
field notes of previous interviews. Any relevant observation in this process
of comparison was noted down. Based on this analysis, the list of themes for
interviews was updated.
During the early stages of research, I had prepared a rudimentary mobile application prototype named as Voice Annotation Service for Mobile Images and Videos.
Details of the prototype are provided in appendix A.1. The prototype was based on
a pre-conceived idea and was not addressing any design problem identified during
the field work. During interviews I requested participants to test the prototype.
This exercise was useful as it informed me of many issues related to the use of
mobile phones by residents of Indian urban slums.
Phase 2 of the research started with evaluation of audio recordings of the interviews. Based on this evaluation relevant observations were noted down. These
observations were compared with field-notes. This helped in identifying some
prominent themes. Finally, existing literature on the identified prominent themes
was referred and a text document was prepared based on field notes and audio
transcription. Contents of the text documents are presented in the next section
(3.4).
Figure 3.3 Photos: Field study in Bangalore, India
18 Identifying Practices of Mobile Phone’s Use
3.4
Initial Research Findings and Area Identified for Further
Research
In this section I present the findings of Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the research. I
discuss only those findings which are relevant for the research question. In the
end of this section I discuss area identified for further research.
3.4.1 Significance of Voice Call
During interviews most of the participants informed that they have absolutely no
problems in using mobile phone. I investigated this aspect further and it revealed
that many of illiterate participants’ mobile phone’s use was primarily limited to
making and receiving calls. Many of them still see mobile as just a device for voice
calling and receiving. For the participants, voice call was very important mode
for getting information, letting others know of well-being, directions to places
and coordination in regular activities. Participants informed that whenever they
needed assistance or information they preferred calling their friends, relatives,
elders etc rather than contacting the concerned services like information kiosks,
helpline services or government departments. Almost all of them regarded getting
information from someone much more personal and reliable and voice call played
an important role in this regard.
3.4.2 Level of simplicity needed in Mobile Service’s Interface Design
During interviews and prototype testing, people remarked that interface of mobile
phone should be as simple as that for making a phone call. Almost all of the
participants informed that they feel very comfortable in using a mobile phone for
calling but feel unsure if they have to use any other functionality. Reason for this
is making a call relies on just two keys (apart from the number keys) and both are
presented upfront. Green key to dial while Red to disconnect. Both are colored
and can be easily differentiated. For this process each key has a single meaning
attached. Hence the whole process becomes intuitive. This was an interesting
design direction for this research i.e. mobile interface of any service or application
addressing illiterate users group of India mobile interface design should aim to be
as simple as that for making a phone call.
19
3.4.3 SMS
Rao and Desai (2008) inform that in India SMS service is being extensively used
for political campaigning, TV shows, games, quizzes, and advertising . But use
of SMS was found quite limited amongst participants of the research. Primary
reasons identified were lack of education and experience with technology. This
correspondence between education level and SMS use finds support from another
study done on fishing industry in India by (Abraham 2007).
3.4.4 Missed Call or Beeping
During the research I found that the concept of missed call or beeping is quiet
popular amongst participants of the research. Missed call or beep could be defined
as dialing a phone number and disconnecting the call before the receiver picks
up the phone. Missed call allows one to communicate in various ways without
having to speak. And as network service providers do not charge for missed calls,
communication happens without spending any money. Donner (2007) has defined
three major types of missed call: ’Pre-Negotiated Instrumental Beeps’, ’Relational
Beeps’ and ’Callback Beeps’. Most of the instances of use of missed call amongst
research participants falls into the category of ’Pre-Negotiated Instrumental Beeps’
and ’Callback Beeps’. While ’Pre-Negotiated Instrumental Beeps’ are mutually
negotiated and agreed grammar of use, ’Callback Beeps’ are missed calls which
simply request for a callback (Donner 2007).
An example of use of ’Pre-Negotiated Instrumental Beeps’ by an auto rickshaw
driver from Mumbai:
The participant (auto rickshaw driver) can read and write in Hindi. His use of
mobile is limited to making and receiving calls. He uses the concept of missed call
for his daily work. He has given his mobile phone number to his customers and
have requested them to give him a missed call whenever they need his service. He
maintains a list of phone numbers of his regular customers in a small paper diary.
So, whenever he gets a missed call he matches the number with the names in his
paper diary, gives back a missed call indicating his availability and compliance
with his customer’s request. As soon as he reaches the doorstep of the caller
he again gives them a missed call indicating his arrival. This approach brings
him business and his customers have the convenience of having an auto rickshaw
20 Identifying Practices of Mobile Phone’s Use
waiting for them at their doorstep. He also added that he never picks up the phone
before it has beeped at-least thrice. This is his way to ensure whether someone
wants to speak to him or it is a missed call.
As indicated above some groups have created complicated grammar for use of
missed call. The meaning of missed call is negotiated by the group and is indicative of social practices developed by people around the use of mobile phone’s
technology (Donner 2007; Donner 2005).
3.4.5 Community Communication, an area for further exploration
During the later stages of Phase 2, I realized that there are numerous instances in
the interviews which indicate role of local community in context of communication
for the participants. Some of these instances being:
a. Reliance on friends, relatives and local group for crucial information. Preferring them over any established channel.
b. Recurrence of themes of communication in context of well-being, survival,
solidarity and togetherness.
c. Existence of negotiated grammar of missed call indicated association.
d. Most of the participants were found to be associated with some or the other
local NGOs or associations. They informed that they address their social and
civic issues by communicating with these NGOs rather than reporting directly
to the concerned governmental departments.
All of these indicated significance of community communication for residents of
Indian urban slums but to understand this relation I needed another field visit.
So, I focused on studying community communication in an Indian Urban Slum in
Phase 3 of the research (described in next chapter).
3.5
Conclusions
As described in the introduction of this chapter, Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the research
were helpful in forming a broad understanding of practices of mobile use amongst
the residents of Indian Urban Slums. These two phases also reveled community
communication as an area for further investigation which led to Phase 3 and Phase
4 of the research.
4 Understanding Community Communication of
an Indian Urban Slum
4.1
Introduction
This chapter discusses Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the research. As mentioned in Section 1.4 (Research Design), in Phase 3 (Understanding Community and Communication
of an Indian Urban Slum) the fieldwork was conducted in January-February 2009
at Bangalore, India. The aim of the Phase 3 was to focus on community communication in an Indian Urban Slum (the area identified for further research in the
Phase 2). Phase 4 (Analysis, Documentation and Design Concept) consisted of analysis
of data, documentation of findings and identification of a design concept. Phase 4
was conducted in Helsinki, Finland.
Association for Planning and Social Action (APSA), an NGO based in Bangalore,
India introduced me to the members of Ambedkar Community Computing Center
(AC3), an informal computer education center in Sudarshan Layout. Sudarshan
Layout is a slum in Bangalore city. My association and collaboration with the
members of AC3 proved crucial for this research. In this chapter I start with the
description of and research challenges at Sudarshan Layout, followed by discussion
on Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3). Finally I present my research
process and discussion on Communicative Ecology of AC3 members.
4.2
Description of Sudarshan Layout
Sudarshan Layout is a residential area for the (marginalized) community of construction workers, domestic helps, labourers belonging to scheduled caste (SC), as
recognized by Indian constitution, and also refereed as Dalits or previously ‘untouchables’. Sudarshan Layout is located in Gurappana Palya, near Bannerghatta
Highway, Bangalore, India.
Sudarshan Layout is roughly a hundred meters (length) by fifty meters (breadth)
in area. It is surrounded by big corporate offices. There are a few cybercafes and
mobile SIM recharging centers in the close vicinity of the Sudarshan Layout. A
wide open sewage canal runs byone boundary of Sudarshan Layout and it leads to
many health related issues amongst the residents, especially children.
22 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
In Sudarshan Layout, around three hundred families live in over hundred and
fifteen houses, most of which are one room tenements. Family income varies
between Indian National Rupees (INR) 1500-10000 ( 40-150 Euros) per month. As
for religion, most of the residents were Hindus barring a few Muslim families. The
residents have limited access to civic amenities and services. See table 4.1 and
figure 4.1.
Sudarshan Layout has regular electricity supply but persistent voltage fluctuation
hampers use of electronic equipments. Almost every household in Sudarshan
Layout has a television set; and DVD players are very common as well. Mobile
phone is the most pervasive electronic device in Sudarshan Layout. I found that
almost every household has at least one mobile phone with a maximum of four
mobile phones per family. Mobile phone was usually owned by working member
of the family. It is a general belief amongst Sudarshan Layout residents that
anyone who has to go out of Sudarshan Layout for work deserves to keep a mobile
phone. Major reasons for this belief, as explained by locals, is sense of safety
and connectedness with members community. Residents of Sudarshan Layout
were like a close-knit big family. Sense of belonging for the local community was
noticeable among the residents.
4.3
Research Challenges at Sudarshan Layout
Sudarshan Layout posed three major challenges for this research:
a. Language Barrier: Most of Sudarshan Layout residents speak Kannada, Tamil,
Telugu and Malayalam. Very few of them were comfortable in communicating
in English or Hindi (the only languages I am capable to communicate with).
b. Issue of Literacy: Most of the local residents, except local youth, were nonliterate or illiterate. Overall there was reluctance among the locals to participate in any activity which required them to write. This posed problems in
collaborative research activities. Oyugi et al. (2008) have documented this
issue in the context of participatory design activities conducted in developing
regions of the world .
c. Issue of Identity: Most of the Sudarshan Layout Residents were reluctant to
communicate with me because of my own identity. Some of the residents
23
Category
Resource
Human Population
Residence
Water and Food Supply
Number
Families
300
Houses
150
Streets
4
Each street is approximately 50 meters in
length and 5 meters wide
Small Multipurpose Shops
3
These small shops sells snacks, chocolates,
items for regular use etc
Bakery
1
Sells ready to eat food, tea, coffee, cold-drinks
etc
Roadside Tea
Shop
1
Sells Tea, biscuits, and some snacks
Ration Shop
Communication
Most of them are one room tenements
Ration shop is not within the premises of Sudarshan Layout. It is at 15-20 min. of walking
distance.
Clean Water
Supply Taps
3
Each street, except for fourth street, has one
tap
Telephone
Coin-Booth
6
Installed at the Multi-purpose shops
Mobile Phones
Almost every households has a mobile phone.
Medical Facility
A private doctors clinic available in nearby
area. A multi-facility hospital is 500 meters
away.
Health and Hygiene
Toilets
School
Remarks
Government
and Private
Schools
8
Most of the houses in Sudarshan Layout do not
have toilets. Residents use a public toilet which
has eight toilet pots. Four are for men while
other four for women.
Not in Sudarshan Layout but in nearby area.
Table 4.1 Overview of resources at Sudarshan Layout
24 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
Figure 4.1 Photos: Streets in Sudarshan Layout
considered me as a ’Hindi-speaking’ North Indian while others considered me
as an ’outsider’ belonging to privileged section of Indian society. Oyugi et
al. (2008, p.295) have explained this issue as ’Power Distance’ arising due to
indifferent perception of status.
These challenges required me to creatively experiment with various research
methods. This aspect is described in Section 4.5 (Research Process and Methods).
4.4
Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3), a Community of Practice
Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3) is described by residents of Sudarshan Layout as an informal computer education center for children of slums. It is
based in Sudarshan Layout. In this section I assert that significance of AC3 goes
beyond just being a computer education center in an Indian Urban Slum: AC3 is a
Community of Practice.
25
The idea of AC3 was conceived during a meeting of local youth of Sudarshan
Layout with Stree Jagurati Samiti (SJS) and Ambedkar Youth Association (AYA).
The local youth aspired for computer education and during the meeting they
expressed their aspirations. AYA agreed to provide space to start a computer
center while SJS contacted Association for India’s Development (AID) with request
for teachers. Local youth took the responsibility to take care of affairs of the
computer center and other Sudarshan Layout residents helped in building the
necessary infrastructure. Finally, the computer center was formally inaugurated
on 6th July 2008 and it was named Ambedkar Community Computing Center (AC3).
See figure 4.2 for visual representation of birth of AC3. Refer to appendix A.2 for
description of SJS, AYA and SJS.
AC3 is a bottom-up initiative. Local community of Sudarshan Layout holds the
ownership of AC3. It was created and is sustained by joint efforts of various groups
of people. Some of the groups belong to Sudarshan Layout while others are from
outside. AC3’s primary goal is to impart computer education in slums of Bangalore.
All the participants in AC3 strongly belive in the ideology of Free Software and
GNU-Linux. AC3 follows a layered and community oriented approach of teaching
i.e. the AID volunteers teach the local youth while local youth teach the younger
children from Sudarshan Layout.
AC3 fits Wenger’s (2002) description of the basic structure of a Community of
Practices i.e. Domain, Community and Practice. This structure is also mentioned
in section 2.6 (Community of Practices).
a. Domain: Computer education for slums, belief in ideology of Free Software
and GNU-Linux, social development are themes or issues which bind all the
participants together. These themes or issues define the domain.
b. Community: AC3 is collectively owned by the local community. People participate voluntarily in activities of AC3. I identified following groups involved in
AC3:
1. A self-organized group consisting of members of local youth of Sudarshan
Layout. This group learns computer skills from AID volunteers. This group
voluntarily took responsibility to conduct computer classes for children
of Sudarshan Layout, for safety of equipments, and for many other issues
26 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
Figure 4.2 Creation of AC3
concerning AC3. It is an open group and anyone can be part of it. I refer to
this group as ’AC3 Members’.
2. Children of Sudarshan Layout who learn computer skills from AC3 Students.
They visit AC3 every evening for the computer class. I refer to this group
as ’AC3 Students’.
3. Parents of AC3 Members, AC3 Students and other locals help in various
daily issues related to AC3. I refer to this group as ’AC3 Support Group’.
4. Members of AYA, AID, SJS and some other independent volunteers are actively engaged in various activities of AC3 like teaching, helping in homework, motivating AC3 Members etc.
This fits well in Wenger’s (2002) description of heterogeneous nature of some
Communities of Practices.
c. Practice: Till the time of writing this thesis, four more similar centers have
been opened up in nearby slums. Some of the AC3 Members voluntarily took
27
the initiative to create a syllabus for computer education for children of slums.
AC3 Members and AC3 Students have developed various computer, writing,
and public speaking skills. All of these instances constitute Wenger’s (2002)
definition of practice.
All of the above helped me in concluding that AC3 is a Community of Practice.
Table 4.2 further helps in distinguishing AC3 as Communities of Practices (CoP)
from being a Communities of Interest (CoI).
What’s the
Purpose?
Who Belongs?
What holds
them together?
How long
do they
last?
Communities
of Practice
(CoP)
To create, expand, and exchange knowledge,and to
develop individual capabilities
Self-selection
based on expertise or passion for a topic
Passion, commitment, and
identification
with the group
and its expertise
Evolve and end
organically (last
as long as there
is relevance to
the topic and
value and interest in learning
together)
Communities
of Interest
(CoI)
To be informed
Whoever is
interested
Access to inEvolve and end
formation and organically
sense of like
mindedness
Table 4.2 Distinction between Communities of Practices and Communities of Interest. Adapted from (Wenger et al. 2002, p.42)
4.5
Research Process and Methods
As mentioned earlier, Association for Planning and Social Action (APSA), a NGO
based in Bangalore city introduced me to AC3 Members. The AC3 Members was
the only group in Sudarshan Layout which could communicate in English. During
the initial meeting I updated them about this research and all of them expressed
interest in participating in the study.
28 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
AC3 Members and AC3 Students
AID Volunteer and AC3 Members
AC3 Members
AC3 Support Group
Figure 4.3 Photos: AC3
The research process followed in Phase 3 was inspired by Ethnographic Action
Research (EAR) and Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) methodologies. Both EAR
and PRA insists on use of participatory methods to engage participants as fellow
researchers and suggests adaptation of research process according to challenges
faced in the field. EAR and PRA have been discussed in chapter 2 of this thesis.
During the initial meeting, AC3 Members expressed interest in learning and using
digital camera. Hence, I shared with them a point and shoot digital camera (Canon
A450 digital camera) and a N95 Nokia Mobile Phone. I held informal teaching
sessions explaining basic camera functions. This provided me an opportunity to
creatively use digital camera based methods. During the research, AC3 Members
participated in various activities involving visual documentation of their environment. These methods are described as ’Self Documentation’ in EAR (mentioned
in section 2.2). These methods are also described as part of visual ethnography
29
(Pink 2007). Digital Camera presented an opportunity not just to record data but
became a medium of engagement and collaboration between AC3 Members and
me.
AC3 Members also participated in Social Map Exercise as described by PRA (mentioned is section 2.3). These maps were hand drawn to visually illustrate the
urban landscape of Sudarshan Layout. AC3 Members were provided with pencils,
color sketch pens, erasers and paper (A3 and A4 sizes). Participants themselves
decided on the color scheme, labels, pictographic and schematic elements used in
the maps. These Social Maps are presented in appendix (A.3) of this thesis. The
hand drawn Social Map formed a basic for further discussion. The whole process
of map drawing and discussion was documented in video.
These visual artefacts (hand-drawn Maps and digital photographs) operate as
’boundary objects’ enabled a dialogue and promoted a negotiation of meaning between informants (AC3 Members) and researcher (me). My definition of ’boundary
object’, a concept originally introduced by Susan L. Star and James R. Griesemer,
is an entity whose meaning and use is shared, an entity which mediates and facilitates collaboration amongst various stakeholders (participants and researcher).
AC3 Members were interested to learn and experiment with digital technology
while I was interested to understand communicative ecology of AC3 Members.
This overall situation presented a unique opportunity to have a deeper insight
into the community communication aspect of Sudarshan Layout. The Phase 3 also
included methods described by EAR like participant-observation, field notes, group
interviews and in-dept interviews. As recommended by PRA, multiple methods
were used with same group to triangulate or cross check the information provided
by the participants. See table 4.3 for a list of research activities and corresponding
participants.
All the digital images produced during the Phase 3 were shared with AC3 Members. Field notes were maintained all throughout the Phase 3. All the interviews,
discussion on social map exercises and ’self documentation’ exercises were documented in video. The video documentation was done using a Panasonic miniDV
hand-held camera while other equipments used were a wireless microphone, a
shotgun microphone, a small tripod, a mono-pod and a steady-bag.
In Phase 4 (Analysis, Documentation and Design Concept) of the research, I transcribed
all the videos captured in Phase3. During analysis of these transcripts, recurring
30 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
Date
Activities
Participants
22/02/09
Walk in Sudarshan Layout
Two AC3 Members
23/02/09
Group Interviews
Six AC3 Members
23/02/09
Group Interview
Three Independent Volunteers
24/02/09
First ’Self Documentation’ Exercise and discussion
An AC3 Member
24/02/09
In-dept Interviews
Three AC3 Members
25/02/09
First Social Map Exercise & discus- Two AC3 Members
sion
26/02/09
In-dept Interview
Association for India’s Development (AID) Volunteer
27/02/09
In-dept Interview
Association for India’s Development (AID) Volunteer
27/02/09
Second ’Self Documentation’ Exer- Three AC3 Members
cise and discussion
28/02/09
Second Social Map Exercise & dis- An AC3 Member
cussion
28/02/09
Three In-dept Interview
Three AC3 Support Group members
28/02/09
Group Interview
Four AC3 Students
01/03/09
Group Interview
AYA Secretary and AYA Head or
’Community Leader’ of Sudarshan
Layout
01/03/09
Group Interview
Software Professionals living in
Jayanagar, 9th Block
03/03/09
In-dept Interview
Stree Jagurati Samiti’s (SJS) head
Table 4.3 Research Activities and Participants (Phase 3)
themes were identified and textual codes were added to the transcripts (Tacchi
31
et al. 2003). These codes and the transcripts were compared with the field notes.
This method of data analysis led to identification of design concept and research
findings as discussed in chapter 5.
Figure 4.4 Photos: Research Activities (Phase 3)
4.6
Two examples of Communicative Ecology in AC3
During the research, I found that there is a huge variation in Sudarshan Layout
Residents’ technological know-how and educational qualifications. This variation
is reflected in an individual’s Communicative Ecology. I hereby present two
examples, which are the extremes in this regard. All the individuals I interviewed
fall in between these two extremes.
4.6.1 Z’s Communicative Ecology
Z is a female, forty five years of age and a resident of Sudarshan Layout. She is
part of the AC3 Support Group. She informs that her family migrated to Bangalore
32 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
from Tamil Nadu (a south Indian State) thirty years ago. She got married at the age
of twelve and has four children. She did not have any formal education and does
not know to read and write in any language. Later her children have taught her
to make her signature. She speaks in Tamil, Hindi and Kannada. Her son works as
a driver while her son-in law is a day labourer. All of them stay together in one
house.
She has a television in her home. She watches regional language channels. Among
them Sun TV, Raj TV, Vijay TV are her favourites. She gets to know about events
in Bangalore either from television news or from her children.
Her family has four mobile phones out of which two have camera functionality.
She says that she does not use mobile phone much. She just knows how to make
and disconnect a call. She acknowledges that her children have taught her this
skill. She added that the camera functionality of mobile phone is important in her
life as her children bring photos from the places they visit. In this way, she gets
to ’see’ those places.
4.6.2 J’s Communicative Ecology
J is a 19 years old male and is a resident of Sudarshan Layout. He is one of the
AC3 Members. He is studying in an English medium school and at the time of this
research was in tenth grade (high school). He speaks Tamil, Telgu, Hindi, English
and Kannada. According to him, other AC3 members are his ’best friends’ and he
spends most of his evening time in their company. He says that technology and
gadgets fascinate him and he is quite keen to learn more. He regularly uses AC3’s
laptop. He is learning basics of computer programming from AID volunteers and
has recently learnt to install Ubuntu operating system on computers. He conducts
evening classes at AC3 for children of Sudarshan Layout. He voluntarily prepared
a syllabus to teach in the computer class and at the time of this research he was
teaching basics of OpenOffice to young AC3 Students.
He accesses Internet four times a week from some cybercafe. He uses a Sony
Ericsson R300 Mobile phone and has two SIM cards. He reasons that one of the SIM
card for Bangalore while the other one is used when he travels to Chennai (capital
city of Tamil Nadu). He informs that by doing so he does not have to pay ’roaming
charges’ (extra service charges levied by mobile network providers when users
33
move out of their base location). His monthly mobile phone bill is around 200
Indian Rupees (approximately 3 Euro). During his interview he demonstrated in
detail how he uses various mobile services:
a. According to him the most useful functionality of his mobile phone is the
contact book. He demonstrated how he has saved multiple numbers for the
same person (mobile no, home phone no etc) picture of the person, assigned
ring tone, email address, home address and birthday information.
b. He uses SMS service a lot and has organized SMS-inbox in groups. He is well
versed with other SMS related features like saving drafts and sent messages.
c. He uses Bluetooth to share images and songs with other mobile phones.
d. He informs that he has used GPRS connection once to download a mobile
software called ’converter’. He uses one of the software’s functionality to
calculate water bills and house rent.
e. His mobile phone has camera but without video-capture functionality. He
uses his camera to click pictures of his relatives and friends. He finds camera
especially useful to capture family functions.
The above mentioned examples (sub-section 4.6.1 and sub-section 4.6.2), showcase
the two extremes of communicative ecologies from Sudarshan Layout. While Z
represents communicative ecology of local population of Sudarshan Layout with
lower literacy level, J represents communicative ecology of literate and young
population. A relevant finding is that relationships and bonding are important
part of communicative ecology of people of Sudarshan Layout. As in case of
Z, children have taught her to write her signature, to use mobile phone and
they also serve as source of information. In another research, Sambasivan et al.
(2009) have also reported relevance of relationships. In the next section I discuss
communicative ecology of AC3 Members.
4.7
Analysis of Communicative Ecology of AC3 Members
I follow Foth and Hearn’s (2007) description of communicative ecology as comprising of social, discursive and technological layers. Hence, I present the discussion
on communicative ecology of AC3 in three sections based on the three layers.
34 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
4.7.1 Social Layer
In this section I describe the social layer of AC3 Members’ communicative ecology.
Foth and Hearn (2007) describe social layer of communicative ecology as comprising of social networks, social groups, people and communities. Social Layer takes
both formal and informal associations into account. See figure 4.3 for a graphic
representation of the social layer.
At the time of research, the AC3 Members went to schools or college or work in
the morning and met each other in the evening, usually at AC3. Trust, friendship
and sense of belongingness for each other was very noticeable among them. AC3
Members were respected by Sudarshan Layout residents. AC3 Members held
computer classes for AC3 Students every evening. AC3 members had a sense of
responsibility towards AC3 students. It also emerged that many of the children
from Sudarshan Layout were enrolled for formal schooling after AC3 members
convinced the children’s parents. AC3 Support Group, primarily consisting of
parents of both, AC3 Members and AC3 Students, were regular visitors to AC3.
AC3 Support Group helped the AC3 students in various activities related to regular
functioning of the class.
Sudarshan Layout has a few small shops like a road-side tea stall, a bakery and
few small multi-purpose shops. AC3 Members were socially connected to these
shopkeepers. Most of the AC3 Members were regular visitors of these shops.
Head of (Ambedkar Youth Association) AYA, was referred to as a ’Community
Leader’ of Sudarshan Layout. He was a social worker and was actively involved
in supporting AC3. Other members of AYA were respected and trusted by all
the residents of Sudarshan Layout. AC3 Members met Stree Jagurati Samiti (SJS)
volunteers once in a while. Their meeting used to be at SJS’s office. Interaction
of AC3 Members with AID volunteers consists of evening classes. At the time
of this research, these classes were held for one hour per day and five days per
week. Some independent volunteers, primarily software professionals, also visited
Sudarshan Layout regularly. Most of these independent volunteers came to know
of AC3 through AID volunteers and started participating in the activities of AC3.
AC3 Members and other groups from Sudarshan Layout were found to trust and
respect these volunteers while volunteers acted with responsibility.
35
Figure 4.5 Social Layer of AC3 Members’ Communicative Ecology
4.7.2 Discursive Layer
Foth and Hearn (2007) describe discursive layer of communicative ecology as
comprising of information or content of interaction. See figure 4.4 for a graphic
representation of the discursive layer.
AC3 Members serve as an information channel for AC3 Support Group, AC3 Students and other residents of Sudarshan Layout. It was observed that many of
the members of AC3 Support Group, especially older men and women, do not visit
places far away from Sudarshan Layout. They get information about events around
Sudarshan Layout from AC3 Members, AID Volunteers and other local groups. The
communication between AC3 Members and AC3 Support Group consists of information sharing related to daily activities of AC3. Communication between AC3
Members and AC3 Students is also related to computer education and discussion
on everyday events.
AC3 Members and AC3 Support Group discussed local problems, depending on the
context, with AYA, SJS and AID volunteers. AC3 Members added that whenever
some unfavourable event happens in Sudarshan Layout they definitely communicate with AID volunteers. It was found that AID volunteers and independent
36 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
volunteers were well informed and concerned about the regular happenings in
AC3 and Sudarshan Layout. Regular conversation of AC3 members with the AID
volunteers consisted of casual chat, informing volunteers about daily events, and
discussion on AC3 and computer education. These volunteers also informally
served as a channel for information. They informed locals including AC3 Students
about events, news from around the globe.
Figure 4.6 Discursive Layer of AC3 Members’ Communicative Ecology
4.7.3 Technological Layer
Foth and Hearn (2007) describe technological layer of communicative ecology
as comprising of applications, devices, gadgets, media and various channels of
communication. In this section I describe the technological layer of AC3 members’ communicative ecology. See Figure 4.5 for a graphic representation of the
technological layer.
Almost every household in Sudarshan Layout has a television set. Financially
better off families have access to satellite television, which requires dish antenna
while others receive Indian government’s national television channel called ’Doordarshan’. Many of the households have personal DVD players at home. AC3
37
Members informed that once every week someone from the locality gets a film’s
DVD and then many of them watch it together. At times movies are played on AC3
laptop for children of Sudarshan Layout. Movie watching is not limited to a family
but is a social event where friends and other families are invited. Another study
done in urban slums of Bangalore has reported similar findings (Sambasivan et al.
2009).
In Sudarshan Layout, very few families were found to have subscribed to newspapers. Most common way, especially amongst male population, is to read newspaper
at the local tea stall and bakery. These shops also use newspapers as serving plates
for the snacks. None of the families in Sudarshan Layout owns a computer or a
laptop. AC3 has two donated laptops which have Ubuntu (linux based operating
system) installed. There are few donated desktop computers but they do not work
because of recurring power fluctuation. AC3 Members and AC3 Students usually
use laptops for basic computer functionalities like word processing, games, movie
watching, image editing and digital drawing. Neither AC3 nor any household
in Sudarshan Layout has Internet access. AC3 Members access Internet primarily from cybercafes or from AID volunteers’ homes. Very few households have
land line phones connection. Sudarshan Layout residents also have access to six
telephone coin-booths. These coin-booths are installed at Small Multi-purpose
Shops.
Mobile phones penetration is quite high in Sudarshan Layout. Every household
has at least one mobile phone. It was found that mobile is the primary device
for mediated community communication in Sudarshan Layout. It was also found
that ’Voice’ is the prevalent mode and in many cases the only possible mode of
community communication in Sudarshan Layout. ’Voice’ includes Face-to-Face
(F2F) communication as well as mobile mediated communication. AC3 Members
informed that whenever they have option to either make a voice call or send sms,
they always prefer voice call. As represented in figure 4.5 all the communication of
AC3 Members with communities or groups within Sudarshan Layout is voice based
i.e. either Face-to-Face (F2F) or mediated by phone call (mobile phone or telephone
coin-booth). In a similar study done in urban slums of Bangalore, Sambasivan et al.
(2009, p.160) note that All information was orally created, maintained, stored, guarded,
shared, and transmitted through face-to-face or voice based phone channels
There is a huge variation in use of SMS service among the residents of Sudarshan
Layout. While AC3 Members use SMS service extensively many of Sudarshan Lay-
38 Understanding Community Communication of an Indian Urban Slum
out residents reported not to have ever used a SMS. AC3 Members and volunteers
use SMS service to communicate and coordinate for classes. In many cases, AC3
Members send an SMS to a volunteer who in reply makes a phone call. Volunteers
primarily rely on text mode i.e. sms, e-mail, blogs, yahoo groups, google groups
to communicate among each other.
Figure 4.7 Technological Layer of AC3 Members’ Communicative Ecology.
4.8
Conclusion
Chapter 4 dealt with Community Communication in Sudarshan Layout. It described the social context of Sudarshan Layout and then focused on communicative
ecology of AC3 Members. In the analysis of the communicative ecology following
understanding was built:
a. People act as a source of information.
b. Significance of ’voice’ as a mode of community communication in Sudarshan
Layout. Both of these aspects are further discussed in the chapter 5.
39
TV and DVD player
Multi-Purpose Stores with
telephone coin-booth
AID Volunteer
and AC3 Member
Figure 4.8 Photos: AC3 Members’ Communicative Ecology
40
5 Research Findings and Design Concept
5.1
Introduction
This chapter presents and discusses the findings of Phase 3 and Phase 4 of this
research. As mentioned in section 1.5 (Research Design), Phase 4 also led to
identification of a design concept termed as Asynchronous Voice based Community
Communication Service. This design concept is discussed in section 5.5. The content
of this chapter showcases design opportunities and challenges for mobile based
community communication services for residents of Indian urban slums.
5.2
Human Nodes in Community Communication
This section extends the discussion on social relationships, trust and bonding as
described in section 4.7 (Analysis of Communicative Ecology of AC3 Members).
During the research, I identified three social groups which play crucial role in the
context of community communication in Sudarshan Layout. I have termed these
social groups as ’Human Nodes’. Three types of such Human Nodes identified
at Sudarshan Layout are Community Leaders, Local Shopkeepers, and Volunteers
(as introduced in section 4.7). The relationships of these Human Nodes with the
local community enable them in playing a significant role in community communication at Sudarshan Layout. Their bonding with local residents continuously
engages them in doing so. The trust that local residents have in them brings
mutual accountability and responsibility to do so. These Human Nodes play a role
in community communication at Sudarshan Layout usually without consciously
being aware of it.
My argument finds support for significance of Human Nodes from recent findings
related to the topic:
a. Sambasivan et al. (2009) informs role of ’human mediators’ in access to technology among members of local community in an Indian Urban Slum.
b. Watkins et al. (2009) acknowledge the role of ’human intermediaries’ in DakNet
initiative in rural India.
42 Research Findings and Design Concept
c. Ford & Leinonen (2009) remarks on significance of ’cause champions’ in acceptance of mobile services addressing education in Africa.
d. Jones et al. (2008) successfully engaged with NGO members for creation of
audio visual data in rural India.
All the above mentioned cases, highlight role of Human Nodes addressing various
aspects relevant to the local community. In the following sub-sections (5.2.1, 5.2.2,
5.2.3) I discuss each type of the identified Human Nodes i.e. Community Leader,
Local Shopkeeper and Volunteers.
5.2.1 Community Leader as Human Node
Community leader of Sudarshan Layout i.e. head of Ambedkar Youth Association
(AYA), plays an important role in community communication in context of local
problems. Community Leader is usually the first person to be contacted by local
group to address any issue concerning the community. Generally the communication is many to one. Face to face mode is preferred over any mediated channel
i.e. a group of residents meet the community leader and discuss the concerning
problem. All the communication is voice based.
Depending on the context of the problem, the community leader communicates
and registers complaint with the concerned government organization like municipal corporation, police etc. Community Leader also shares the information with
NGOs active in the area and other similar local community associations of nearby
slums. As mentioned in Section 3.4.5, one of the important reason for the locals to
share their problems with community leaders was that these leaders were accepted
as transparent, trust worthy and part of the community. Trust and relationship of
locals in the community leaders play a significant role in this respect. Significance
of notion of trust in communities belonging to Indian Urban Slums has also been
acknowledged by Sambasivan et al. (2009). In this way, the community leaders
serve as Human Node in community communication concerning local problems
with the world outside slums. Refer to figure 5.1.
5.2.2 Local Shopkeepers as Human Node
As mentioned is section 4.7.1 (Social Layer), AC3 Members were regular visitors to
local shops (roadside teashop, bakery and small multi-purpose shops) and shared a
43
Figure 5.1 Community Leader as Human Node
social relationship with the shopkeepers. Discussion about shopkeepers emerged
during many of the interviews:
AC3 Member : He is my friend. He speaks nicely. Whenever I go to his
shop he will ask of my family and friends. I will also ask and chat with
him.
AC3 Member : He is a good person. He will give things [with the account
to be settled later]. He talks nicely. When I will go to his store he will speak
about himself and myself. We will chat. We have a good relationship. He
will give some discounts.
The relationship between these local shopkeepers and Sudarshan Layout residents (including AC3 Members) is not limited to that of a supplier-buyer or a
businessman-customer. The relationship involves concern for each other, information sharing and trust. As explained by Sambasivan et al. (2009):
’the notion of trust in maintaining stable livelihoods was built into the
numerous everyday social livelihoods and was renewable and regenerative
process through constant social interactions’
The shopkeepers were found not just interested in selling goods but were interested in everyday life of locals as well. They shared a bond of trust and friendship
with the local residents of Sudarshan Layout. During the short stay at these shops,
44 Research Findings and Design Concept
residents of Sudarshan Layout interacted with the shopkeepers. This communication will deal with sharing of information. Information sharing can vary from a
trivial matter like current cricket scores to grave issues like a theft in the locality.
This informal mode of information sharing spreads local information and contributes to the community communication. It was an important realization that
local shopkeepers serve as a Human Node in community communication within
Indian urban slums. This further highlights the significance of trust in context of
community communication in Indian Urban Slums. Refer to figure 5.2 and figure
5.3.
Figure 5.2 Local Shopkeepers as Human Node
Figure 5.3 Photos: Local Shopkeepers
45
5.2.3 Volunteers as Human Node
As mentioned is section 4.7.1 (Social Layer) and section 4.7.2 (Discursive Layer),
relationship between AC3 members and volunteers (AID, SJS and Independent
volunteers) is of trust, respect, and mutual responsibility . During this research
numerous examples were found on how volunteers serve as a channel or mediators
in information access for residents of Sudarshan Layout. Two such instances:
a. AID Volunteer: Sarsu’s [AC3 Member] friend wanted some document
about AIDS. So she called me and said that she needs some documentation on AIDS can you bring some? I was in of ce. I browsed web, took
some printouts and gave them to her in the evening. And she [Sarsu’s
friend] got second prize in the talk!
b. AID Volunteer: Recently they [AC3 Members] came to my house to
learn on astronomy. We had a nice class on astronomy and we were
using Internet to search for images of stars...
Apart from above mentioned role as channels of information access, volunteers
were also found to inform local residents of events outside, supporting locals in
their problems, and spreading local information to the outside world. The relationship of volunteers and AC3 Members enables community communication
of Sudarshan Layout with the world outside. Volunteers were found engaged
in everyday affairs in the lives of residents of Sudarshan Layout. They assumed
responsibility for well-being of AC3 Members in particular and local community
in general. I argue that volunteers’ engagement with local community can be
attributed to the success of AC3 as a community of Practice. I find support for
my argument from Wenger et al (2002) who inform that a community of practice
fosters relationships between its members, brings sense of belonging, trust, mutual respect and accountability. In case of Sudarshan Layout the strengthening
of relationship between local community and volunteers assists in community
communication. This further engages volunteers as Human Node in community
communication at Sudarshan Layout. Refer to figure 5.4
5.3
Identified Needs for Community Communications Services
During the research, I identified two specific areas of community communication
46 Research Findings and Design Concept
Figure 5.4 Volunteers as Human Node
at Sudarshan Layout which need to be addressed. In this section, I present and
discuss these:
5.3.1 Community Communication of Slums with world outside
As described in Section 4.7.1 (Social Layer), section 4.7.2 (Discursive Layer) and
section 5.2.3 (Volunteers as Human Node), the relationship between AC3 Members and Volunteers serves many purposes. Volunteers belonged to privileged
section of Indian society while the local residents of Sudarshan Layout belonged
to marginalized section of Indian society. The significance of the relationship
between Volunteers and local residents highlights the importance of community
communication of slums with the world outside. I argue that there are many other
people, belonging to privileged section of society, who are willing to participate
and help in addressing various issues related to Indian urban slums but at the
moment there are no such community communication services which address
this area. These services are also crucial for sustenance of bottom-up initiatives
like AC3.
To get a better understanding of community communication of slums with the
world outside, I interviewed six software professionals living in Jayanagar 9th
Block. All of them have been living in that area, which is just a kilometre away
from Sudarshan Layout, for more than two years. During the interview, one of
the point which was reiterated by everyone was that all of them are willing to
participate in socially relevant initiatives but they do not know where to contribute
47
or who needs help. None of them was aware of existence of AC3 or Sudarshan
Layout or any other such initiative in their locality. There is a need for community
communication services that cater to communication of Indian Urban slums with
world outside. Refer to figure 5.5 for visual depiction of the identified need for
community communication at Sudarshan Layout.
Figure 5.5 Community Communication
of Slums with world outside
5.3.2 Community Communication between Slums
This research identified community communication between slums as another
area which needs to be addressed. There are many communication and social
aspects which are covered by this area: sharing of information between slums,
addressing local problems, regular communication between communities belonging to different slums, communication in context of well-being, security, and
solidarity. Some other advantages of community communication between slums:
a. AID Volunteer: Many of the people from nearby areas [slums] came
here [Sudarshan Layout] to see [AC3]. And now they also feel if Mani
and Sarsu [AC3 Members] can do it then why cant we...
b. AID Volunteer: They [AC3 Members] feel proud when outsiders come
to speak to them.It is seen as appreciation of there work.
The communication of AC3 with nearby slums was one of the important reasons
why four more centers could be started since 2008. This service is needed for
propagation and sustenance of bottom-up initiatives like AC3. A research done by
Redhead & Brereton (2006 , p.363) informs:
Community groups such as the local community association hold a variety
of knowledge and information relating to short and long term community
issues.
48 Research Findings and Design Concept
Hence, community communication service between slums will present a channel
for sharing local knowledge with other similar groups. At the moment there are
no community communication services for Indian Urban Slums which address
this aspect. Refer to figure5.6 below for visual depiction of the identified need for
community communication at Sudarshan Layout.
Figure 5.6 Community Communication between Slums.
5.4
Identified Design Challenges for Community Communication Services
During the research at Sudarshan Layout, I identified design challenges concerning
community communication services in an Indian Urban Slum. In this section, I
describe these design challenges:
a. Community Communication Service that works with existing technological
infrastructure of an Indian Urban Slum: I follow the recommendation by
community informatics that ICT initiatives should focus on making use of
available technological infrastructure (Nnadi & Gurstein 2007; Salvador &
Sherry 2004). As mobile phones are the most pervasive communication device
in Sudarshan Layout, I propose engaging them for community communication.
The design challenges identified at Sudarshan Layout in this regard are:
1. Design which does not require people to upgrade their mobile phones to
participate.
2. Design of community communication services which is not dependent on
any particular mobile phone i.e. services which work with basic mobile
phones.
3. Design which engages people without mobile phones in community communication as well.
49
4. Design of service where people can participate using telephone coin-booths
as well.
5. Design which in not dependent on access to Internet.
6. Design which is cheap and robust.
b. Design which utilizes significance of voice in community communication. The
design challenges identified at Sudarshan Layout in this regard are:
1. Design of service which is completely voice based i.e. which does not need
any text input for communication.
2. Design which addresses non-English speakers as well as multilingual user
group.
c. Simplicity in design. The design challenges identified at Sudarshan Layout in
this regard are:
1. Design which includes illiterate population of the local community. Design
which caters to users like Z (section 4.6.1).
2. Design with minimum amount of learning required.
3. Design which is as easy to use as calling and disconnecting a call.
4. Design which utilizes existing practices of mobile use.
d. Design which utilizes existing social context of community communication.
The design challenges identified at Sudarshan Layout in this regard are:
1. Design which utilizes existing relationships, social bondings, and elements
of trust.
2. Design which engages identified Human Nodes in community communication.
3. Design which is decentralized i.e. design which is not dependent on one
person or one channel of communication for its functioning.
e. Design which addresses the identified needs for community communication:
50 Research Findings and Design Concept
1. Design which addresses community communication of slums with world
outside.
2. Design which addresses community communication between Slums.
5.5
Design Concept: Asynchronous Voice based Community
Communication Service
5.5.1 Introduction
This section presents a broad description of a service design concept titled: Asynchronous Voice based Community Communication Service. The design concept is
inspired by the research findings (section 3.4 and section 5.2), identified needs for
community communication services (section 5.3) and identified design challenges
(section 5.4). The design concept was identified during the Phase 4 and it needs
to be further developed in active participation with the real users i.e. residents of
Indian Urban Slums. I present this design concept as a starting point or a proposal
for further development.
5.5.2 Synchronous Voice vs Asynchronous Voice
Synchronous communication, in simple words, means a communication which
facilitates two individuals to communicate in real time. For example, a phone call
where caller and the receiver of the call are talking in real time. Ross (2003, p.70)
defines Asynchronous Voice as:
the interactive communication process of people leaving voice messages
for other people and the other people responding with their voice messages.
While synchronous voice have been technologically and solution-wise much explored medium, it is widely accepted that asynchronous voice is highly unexplored
medium (Ross 2003; Zinman & Donath 2007). Refer to table 5.1.
5.5.3 Advantages of Asynchronous Mode
Zinman & Donath (2007), Ross (2003), Schmandt et al. (2002), Honicky et al. (2007),
and Koskinen (2000) have argued on various advantages of asynchronous mode
51
Synchronous
Voice
Asynchronous
Voice
Land line call
Voice Mail
Internet Calls
Voice SMS
Face-2-Face Communication
Mobile Phone call
Table 5.1 Synchronous Voice vs Asynchronous Voice
of communication over synchronous mode of communication. Based on their
arguments I present following points:
a. Asynchronous mode is time shifted i.e. individuals are not required to be
simultaneously engaged in communication at the same time.
b. Asynchronous mode facilitates store and forward technique i.e. data could
be stored and later forwarded. This assists in improved network utilization.
Daknet initiative is creatively utilizing this technique to provide Internet access
in rural India (Watkins et al. 2009).
c. Asynchronous communication systems could be much cheaper, consume less
power and more robust than their synchronous equivalent.
I argue that asynchronous voice is very relevant in context of Indian Urban Slums
where voice remains prevalent mode of community communication. Due to
the possibility of ’storing’, asynchronous voice also facilitates documentation of
information which as remarked by Sambasivan et al. (2009) completely resides in
vocal form in Indian Urban Slums.
5.5.4 Description of the Design Concept
The proposed design concept is called Asynchronous Voice based Community Communication Service. The concept is based on Asynchronous Voice Mode and addresses
community communication in Indian Urban Slums. The concept consists of two
integral components:
a. Human Nodes: Human Nodes are nodes of community communication identified during the research (discussed in section 5.2). This is the ’human’ side of
52 Research Findings and Design Concept
the proposed service. In case of Sudarshan Layout local shopkeepers, community leader and volunteers serve as human nodes.
b. Human Node’s Mobile Phone with Asynchronous Voice Communication Mobile
Application: A mobile phone application developed and installed in the Human
Nodes’ mobile phone. This is the ’technology’ side of the proposed service.
This design concept relies on both ’human’ and ’technology’ side for its functioning.
Refer to figure 5.7
Figure 5.7 Asynchronous Voice based Community Communication Service
This design proposal utilizes asynchronous voice mode of communication where
human nodes are engaged to store and forward information by use of their mobile
phones. Human Nodes shall facilitate the proposed service by incorporating
their relationships, trust, context awareness, bonding, practices, concern for local
community and their existing dynamics of engagement with local community as a
node in community communication. Mobile phone with the asynchronous voice
communication mobile application installed provides technical infrastructure for
storing ’voice files’ and transferring them. I use the term ’voice file’ for an audio
format file (.amr, .mp3 etc). I use the term ’voice’ instead of any other prevalent
terms like ’audio’ or ’sound’ to distinguish the content of the file i.e. a recorded
human voice.
The proposed service is voice based and hence the content is created, stored,
transmitted and understood using voice files. The functioning of this mobile
application is described in next section (5.5.5) and the overall functioning of the
proposed service is explained with the help of scenarios (Carroll 1995) in section
5.5.6 and section 5.5.7.
53
5.5.5 Description of the Asynchronous Voice Communication Mobile
Application
Asynchronous Voice Communication Mobile application’s primary function is to
store and forward voice files. Hence, it facilitates mechanism for multiple ways
to input and output content i.e. voice files. It is proposed that this application be
installed in human node’s mobile phone. This is the only change proposed in the
existing technical infrastructure of a community of an Indian urban slum.
Figure 5.8 Asynchronous Voice Communication Mobile Application
Asynchronous Voice Communication Mobile Application consists of five states.
Out of these five states, two are input states while three are output states. The
user i.e. a Human Node can activate any of these states. Description of the five
states of proposed mobile application:
a. ’Record’: This is an input state. When this state is activated, mobile phone
records a voice file using a built-in microphone and saves the file in its memory.
A human node can activate ’record’ mode and request individuals or groups
in close physical proximity to ’speak’ to the mobile phone. A voice file gets
recorded in the mobile phone. This aspect of service utilizes the fact that
people in Indian urban slums physically meet and share information i.e. face
to face communication. This also caters to the people who do not have mobile
phone. This also supports many to one communication.
b. ’Record Call’: This is an input state. When this state is activated mobile phone
records a voice file from an active phone call. A node while communicating on
a voice call can activate ’record’ mode to capture information being communicated. A ’voice file’ gets recorded in his mobile phone. This aspect of service
54 Research Findings and Design Concept
utilizes the fact that people of Indian urban slums use voice call extensively
to share information. This also caters to the people who do not have mobile
phones but uses landline phone. This supports one to one communication.
c. ’Play’: This is an output state. When this state is activated mobile phone
allows human node to select a recorded voice file and play the file using inbuilt
loudspeaker. This aspect of service utilizes the fact that people meet and share
information. This also caters to users who do not have mobile phone. This
supports one to many communication.
d. ’Make Call and Play’: This is an output state. When this state is activated the
mobile phone allows human node to select a recorded voice file and phone
numbers from the contact book. The application sequentially dials the selected
phone numbers and when someone picks the call it plays the selected voice
file. This supports both one to one and one to many communication.
e. ’Beep and on Callback Play’: This is an output state. When this state is activated
mobile phone allows human node to select a recorded voice file and phone
numbers from the contact book. The application sequentially gives beeps or
missed calls to the selected phone numbers and when someone calls back it
plays the recorded voice file. This supports both one to one and one to many
communication.
In the following sections (5.5.6 and 5.5.7) I describe the overall functioning of
Asynchronous Voice based Community Communication Service using scenarios.
5.5.6 Scenario 1: Amit, a local shopkeeper as a human node
Amit is a 35 years old male. He is resident of a slum in Jayanagar, Bangalore, India.
He runs a small tea shop in the area for past ten years. Most of the local residents
of the slum are his regular customers. Rohit, a 20 years old male, works in a small
car-repair garage near the tea shop and is resident of the same slum as Amit. Rohit
and Amit have known each other for many years and share a cordial relationship.
Every afternoon Rohit takes a twenty minutes tea break from his work and visits
Amit’s tea shop. Whenever they meet, they informally talk and share happenings
in their lives. Today, when they meet Rohit informs Amit about an urgent job
opening for a mechanic in the car-repair garage. Amit knows that many of his
55
other regular customers may be interested in the job. Amit starts asynchronous
voice communication mobile application installed on his phone and activates the
’Record’ mode. He requests Rohit to speak to his mobile phone and describe the
details of the job. Soon after doing so Rohit finishes his tea and goes back to his
work.
Amit decides to inform his regular customers and friends about the job opening.
He activates ’Beep and on Callback Play’ mode of the mobile service. The mobile
service allows him to select Rohit’s recorded voice file and then a list of phone
numbers from phone’s contact book. After having done so Amit starts cleaning
cups while his mobile phone sequentially sends beeps or missed calls to the selected
list of phone numbers. The mobile phone service waits for call backs from the
dialled phone numbers and when someone calls back it plays the recorded voice
file.
In the meanwhile, Kapil, a 22 years old male and neighbour of Amit arrives at the
tea shop. Kapil is unemployed. Amit activates ’Play’ mode and selects Rohit’s
recorded voice file. The mobile phone application plays the voice file using the
inbuilt loudspeaker of the mobile phone. Kapil is very excited as the job profile
matches his skill set. He immediately rushes to the car-garage and secures the job.
Relation of the scenario to the findings of research:
a. Social Layer: It makes use of the relationship between slum residents and local
shopkeepers.
b. Discursive Layer: It assists in spreading timely and relevant local information.
c. Technological Layer: It is voice based and enables community communication
in Asynchronous mode i.e. it stores the voice file in mobile phone and then
forwards it. It caters to Face-to-Face (F2F) as well as mobile based communications. It caters to those who have mobile phone and also to those who do
not have. It utilizes the existing practices of mobile use like missed call.
d. It engages identified human nodes (i.e. local shopkeeper) in community communication.
e. It helps in identified need for community communication i.e. communication
between communities belonging to two different slums.
56 Research Findings and Design Concept
Figure 5.9 Scenario 1: Amit, a local shopkeeper as a human node
5.5.7 Scenario 2: Kishore, a volunteer as a human node
Kishore is 28 years old male and works as a software developer in a multinational
company based in Bangalore. Apart from his work he is active member of Corporate
Social Responsibility (CSR) group of his company. Every weekend he conducts
mathematics-teaching class in a slum in Jaya- -Nagar, Bangalore. He has been
conducting these classes since past two years. Over this period, he has formed a
close bond with his students and he has always tried to help them in many ways.
It is Monday morning and Kishore is working in his office. He receives a call from
Rajeev, a 16 years old and one of his student. Rajeev is going to appear in his high
school examination in a few months time. Rajeev informs that he is struggling in
Biology and needs assistance from someone. On hearing this, Kishore activates
’Record Call’ mode of a mobile service installed on his mobile phone. He requests
Rajeev to briefly describe about his need and the topics he needs assistance in.
Rajeev does so and mobile service saves a voice file.
After finishing the call with Rajeev, Kishore activates ’Make Call and Play’ mode
of the mobile service. Service allows him to select Rajeev’s recorded voice file
and and then a list of phone numbers from phone’s contact book. The service
sequentially starts calling the selected phone numbers and when someone picks
up the call it plays the selected voice file. Vandana, a biology teacher gets to know
of Rajeev’s situation and agrees to spare few hours over weekends to assist him in
the subject.
Relation of the scenario to the findings of research:
57
a. Social Layer: It makes use of relationships between slum residents and volunteer.
b. Discursive Layer: It assists in spreading timely and relevant localized information.
c. Technological Layer: It is voice based and enables community communication
in Asynchronous mode i.e. it stores the voice file in mobile phone and then
forwards it. It caters to face-to-face (F2F) as well as mobile based communications. It caters to those who have mobile phone and also to those who do not
have one.
d. It engages identified nodes in existing community communication i.e. volunteers.
e. It helps in identified need for community communication i.e. communication
of a community belonging to a slum to those outside of it.
Figure 5.10 Scenario 2: Kishore, a volunteer as a human node
5.5.8 Advantages of the Design Concept
In this section I briefly present the advantages of the proposed design concept i.e.
Asynchronous Voice based Community Communication Service:
a. The design concept is completely voice based. Hence it includes illiterate
population as well as multilingual user group.
b. This design concept caters to Face-to-Face communication hence it includes
even those who do not have mobile phones. User groups can participate using
telephone coin-booths as well.
58 Research Findings and Design Concept
c. The design does not require local population to upgrade their mobile phones
to participate. Only change proposed is installation of asynchronous voice
communication mobile application in a human node’s mobile phone.
d. This design is cheap for the local population.
e. It is easy to use as it utilizes existing practices of mobile phone’s usage. Hence
it requires minimum amount of learning.
f. It engages human nodes and hence utilizes existing relationships, social bondings, elements of trust to address community communication.
g. This design is decentralized. It is not dependent on one person or one channel
of communication for its functioning.
h. This is a design which addresses community communication of slums with the
world outside.
i.
This is a design which addresses community communication between Slums.
j.
It utilizes asynchronous mode and facilitates documentation of local information.
k. The design utilizes existing practices of the community like visit to tea shops,
meeting with volunteers, sharing of problems with community leader, missed
call etc.
l.
This design is community centered and has a bottom-up approach for its
functioning.
I will stress that development of the proposed, asynchronous voice communication
mobile application, by itself will not provide any of the above mentioned advantages. Engagement of the human nodes for the service is much more important
than the development of the application.
I acknowledge that I have deliberately limited the description of the Asynchronous
Voice Communication Mobile Application to the broad functioning of it and I have
not delved into the discussion on technical possibilities. This was not the focus of
the research. Research works of Bilandzic et al. (2009), Schmandt et al. (2002),
59
Nelson et al. (2001), Vemuri et al. (2004), Honicky et al. (2007), and Sherwani et
al. (2007) demonstrates that the functionalities needed for the proposed mobile
application can be easily developed.
5.6
Conclusions
This chapter presented the research findings of Phase 3 and Phase 4. This chapter
started with discussion on three Human Nodes (i.e. community leader, local shopkeeper and volunteers) of community communication at Sudarshan Layout. In the
following section, I discussed two identified needs for community communication
i.e. community communication of slums with the world outside and community
communication between slums. Moving further, I discussed identified design
challenges for community communication at Sudarshan Layout and finally it presented a design concept, Asynchronous Voice based Community Communication
Service.
60
6 Conclusion and further development
This thesis investigated area of community communication for marginalized community belonging to Indian urban slums. Phase 1 and Phase 2 of research concentrated on identification and analysis of practices of mobile phone’s use amongst
residents of Indian urban slum. Phase 3 and Phase 4 focused on understanding
community communication of an Indian urban slum.
This research concentrated on understanding local social context rather than
technological infrastructure. The research utilized the conceptual framework
of communicative ecology to analyse communication at Sudarshan Layout. This
framework helped in understandingly community communication at Sudarshan
Layout in broader context. The approach helped in establishing the significance
of voice, relationships, trust, bonding and role of Human Nodes in context of
community communication in an Indian urban slum. The research identified
AC3 as a Community of Practice. This thesis discussed design opportunities and
challenges for mobile based community communication services for residents of
Indian urban slums.
I consider this research as a starting point for further work. I aim to extend this
research in following possible directions:
a. Public spaces: I will research upon public spaces inside and near slums where
community communication happens. Spaces like Road side teashops, Multipurpose food stores, Community Centers etc. During the research, I observed
that different groups acquire different postures and configuration while engaging in these space. For example, young men stand and talk during their
stay at local tea shops while old women sit in a semi-circular fashion and
discuss amongst each other. I feel that engagement of local residents with
these spaces will help in identifying elements which will enrich the design of
community communication services.
b. Mobile Interfaces: I will research on how residents of Indian urban slums
use mobile phone’s functionalities like contact books, voice recorder, in-built
loudspeaker and microphone. This will help in improving the existing design
62 Conclusion and further development
of these functionalities and will help in integrating them in the interface of
community communication services.
c. Sharing or Transfer of Voice files: I will research on possibilities for residents
of Indian urban slums to share or transfer voice files stored on mobile phones.
I aim to further develop the design concept of Asynchronous Voice based Community
Communication Service in active collaboration and participation with real users i.e.
residents of Indian urban slums. Participatory design is relevant framework to
involve users in the design process (Ehn 2008). Participatory design methods
assist in engaging local community in a sustained, democratic, bottom-up design
process (Redhead & Brereton 2006; Redhead & Brereton 2008). Hence, I believe that
participatory design activities will be right starting point for further development
of the proposed design concept.
Urban Slum, a learning paradise!
A Appendices
A.1
Design Concept: Voice Annotation Service for Mobile
Images and Videos
Voice Annotation for Mobile Images and Videos is an exploration to add vocal
description to images and videos. This concept is based on mobile phones and
utilizes the existing in-built functionalities of camera and microphone (voice
recorder). The concept facilitates users to click a picture or a video using mobile
phone’s camera and then provides functionality to add a vocal description to the
image or the video. Voice also helps in capturing the users emotions. During
the phase 1 of the research, I developed a rudimentary working prototype. The
prototype allowed users to perform two tasks:
a. Click a picture and then add voice annotation to the picture.
b. Shoot a video and then add voice annotation to the video.
Data i.e. picture (.jpeg), video (.3gp) and voice file (.amr) were saved in the mobile
phone’s memory. The prototype was developed using Python for S60 platform
and hence should work on most of Nokia’s 2nd and 3rd edition mobile phones
(Scheible & Ville 2007). Nokia 6630 was used as a test phone for the prototype and
was tested by four participants. The prototype was also tested on Nokia 6630, N95,
N72 and N93 phones. Voice Annotation Service for Mobile Images and Videos is
also an attempt to overcome the limitation of illiteracy. It also helps in situation
when users cannot type the text. This design exploration is universal in appeal
and could be used in various other contexts.
A.2
Description of Social Groups involved in creation of AC3
a. Ambedekar Youth Association (AYA) is an association of local youth of Sudarshan Layout. At the time of research, AYA consisted of seven active members.
All of them were residents of Sudarshan Layout. They have a small office space
in Sudarshan Layout. The head of AYA is a social worker and was considered
as community leader of the Sudarshan Layout.
b. Stree Jagurati Samiti (SJS) is a Bangalore based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). It is primarily concerned with social issues related to women
64 Appendices
especially those belonging to marginalized section of society. SJS was based in
Sudharshan Layout for over a decade before moving to a new office near East
End Circle, Jayanaga, Bangalore. SJS has been actively involved in Sudarshan
Layout for over past twenty years and have been helping local residents in
dealing with many local social and civic problems.
c. Association for India’s Development (AID) is a group of volunteers primarily software professionals working in Information Technlogy (IT) industry of
Bangalore. All the members are educated and belong to privileged section of
India’s society.
A.3
Social Map of Sudarshan Layout
Figure A.1 Social Map drawn by AC3 Members
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