Digital technology is typically presented either as the utopia, the answer to deepening democracy, or increasingly blamed for new dystopian realities. Lived realities are much more blurred, as digital platforms and technologies become domesticated in anticipated and unanticipated ways and the experiences of those who use them are contingent on the intersecting social, cultural, economic and political worlds within which they are embedded. This project examines the situated practices, experiences and imaginaries of WhatsApp in India.
Against this backdrop, this project aims to understand how digital technology, and WhatsApp in particular, is reconfiguring and transforming everyday political life in India. It responds to calls for more nuanced understandings of digital technology beyond western contexts (Chan 2013, Poggiali 2016, Nyabola 2017) and extends an important and timely perspective on the increasing digitality of India’s lived democracy (Michelutti 2008, Banerjee 2013) whilst recognising the persistence of analogue politics and uneven digital realities.
The project draws on the principles of digital and ethnographic methods incorporating participant observation, everyday conversations and in-depth interviews with ordinary citizens and party-political actors, focusing in particular on participants’ digital and socio-political lives.