Beyond the Digital-Taking It to The Streets

By Maesy Angelina
first posted here and here

The previous posts in the Beyond the Digital series have discussed the distinct ways in which young people today are thinking about their activism. The fourth post elaborates further on how this is translated into practice by sharing the experience of a Blank Noise street intervention: Y ARE U LOOKING AT ME?

In a previous post, I have shared how Blank Noise is unique in articulating its issue: it does not offer a strict definition of eve teasing nor does it propose a specific solution. In another, I shared that Blank Noise’s main goal may seem to be to raise public’s awareness on eve teasing, but it is actually secondary to its less obvious objective to provide a space where people can become empowered through its personal experiences in the collective. The main strategy employed to achieve these goals is to create a public dialogue through artistic and playful means, both at the physical and virtual spheres. The interventions attracted media attention and volunteers, but the main impacts are internal: people are able to personalize the meaning of their involvement in Blank Noise and undergo individual transformations.

This post will flesh out how these elements are actually translated in Blank Noise’s interventions. It is difficult to pick one example Blank Noise a wide variety of interventions as it evolves through the seven years of its existence. It started in 2003 as Jasmeen Patheja’s final project when she was a student in the Sristhi School of Art and Design in Bangalore. At this first phase, Blank Noise consisted of nine people and dealt with victimhood through a series of workshops that became the basis for small art interventions. As s many other activist groups before them, Blank Noise took the initiatives to the physical public sphere: the streets, bus stands, public transportations, parks – anywhere outside the home. Blank Noise decided to move forward and try to engage the wider public in 2005 and engage more volunteers than the initial group of nine. Despite being more well-known lately for its virtual presence, the collective only started its first online intervention in 2006 and street events remainan integral part of its being. Given this history, and also because this is the one most often brought up in my conversations with the Blank Noise people, I choose to share the ‘Y ARE U LOOKING AT ME’ street intervention experience.

The experience starts with a post in the Blank Noise main blog and e-group, announcing a date and time for the next street intervention. The announcement is accompanied by an invitation for anyone who reads it to participate and come to a designated place (such as the popular café Coffee Day or the famous Cubbon Park in Bangalore) for a preparation meeting and also the actual intervention (sometimes immediately afterwards). When the time comes to for the meeting, the faces that appeared are varied. Some are regular faces in Blank Noise meetings and interventions: perhaps Jasmeen, others who have been coordinating interventions, or regular volunteers. Some faces are new: people who read the announcements online, heard it through word of mouth, or those who were around and curious about the gathering. The number could range from three to more than 100. Most who came were women although there were also men.

After a brief introduction of everyone present, the meeting proceeded with a brief discussion on eve teasing and the intervention that will take place. ‘Y ARE U LOOKING AT ME’ is an intervention where a group of women wears a giant letter made of red reflective tape on their shirts. They then stand idly on the streets or zebra cross, staring at the vehicles and passers-by without a word. Together, the letters on their shirts form the sentence ‘Y ARE U LOOKING AT ME’, demanding attention by asking a silent question. When the traffic light flashed to green, these women will disappear to the sidewalks. A group of male volunteers are already there, distributing pamphlets and engaging passers-by about in a conversation about what they just saw and relate it to eve teasing. The idea behind this intervention is an act a female gaze to reverse the male gaze that often times could be considered as a form of eve teasing. Because it is so unusual, onlookers often look away or feel embarrassed after an encounter with the female gaze. Despite being done without a word, the twist of gender dynamics in this intervention provoked the interest of people in the sidewalk and opened up the space for public dialogue – the aim Blank Noise strives to achieve.

Jasmeen told me that after this point some people started asking “But how will the public get what we’re talking about?” The idea of addressing an issue with such an ambiguous approach was indeed difficult to digest for some people – including me. The intervention did not explicitly mention eve teasing nor did it convey any clear message; there was no such thing as a placard that says “Stop Eve Teasing” or something similar. There was no specific proposal. The playful performance definitely is provocative enough to generate public dialogue, but what change will it create?

Blank Noise coordinators then encouraged people to experience the intervention first before making conclusions. The various roles are introduced and the volunteers were free to choose what they want to do. There are people who opted for the backstage work of preparing the red tapes and printing the pamphlets, some wanted to perform, while others are more contented to talk with the public afterwards. After the intervention took place, Jasmeen found that the feedback from the volunteers showed that the initial doubts disappeared.

Although there were people who did not want to talk to the volunteers, in general they were surprised by how open the public was to the conversations. “Maybe people are tired of the old ways of just meeting on the streets and trying to convince others through protests or petitions,” said Aarthi Ajit, a 25 year old research assistant who helped organize a Blank Noise Bangalore street intervention in 2008. “Maybe we need to look for different ways to get people’s attention and the creative, playful, and non-confrontative approach will work better than aggravation in making people think of the issue and become part of the movement.” She further explained that widening definitions of street sexual harassment and proposing tangible solutions are helpful to create the open attitude, while some people, especially men, could feel alienated by a poster that depicts men being violent to women as all men were labeled as perpetrators. This may be able to explain the public interaction as well as the numerous media coverage Blank Noise received for these street interventions. In this sense, people who doubted that the public would respond no longer questioned whether Blank Noise’s message would get through.

However, the question of whether the intervention made any change is still valid, considering that there is no means for Blank Noise to follow-up with the many people on the streets about whether they change their perception or behavior on street sexual harassment. Instead, the change could be detected within the volunteers.

Hemangini Gupta, one of Blank Noise coordinators, recalled her first experience of performing the intervention. “It felt strange, but fun and empowering in a way. I never realized how disconnected I was from the streets before the intervention - I would never look at people before. It felt very safe knowing that I could just stand and look at people without any repercussions.”

Annie Zaidi, another Blank Noise coordinator, blogged about how her experience with Blank Noise interventions changed the way she deals with street sexual harassment. “Something has changed. This time, my reaction is different from what it would have been two years ago… I was surprised, felt contempt and anger – but I did not feel fear. This, I realize now, is because of Blank Noise, partly. .. It is as much about dealing with women’s fear of public spaces and strangers as it is about dealing with sexually abusive / intimidating strangers.”

Hemangini and Annie’s stories were echoed by many other volunteers. Jasmeen said that it was when Blank Noise started articulating that the change occurs internally first and blurring the line between the audience and the “Action Heroes”. The volunteers are as affected by the process as the viewers; they are mutually dependent on each other for the intervention experience to be meaningful. That is why Blank Noise does not think of “an audience”, everyone is a participant and co-creator in the experience.

Instead of shouting “Stop street sexual harassment!” or performing a street theatre with spoken words, Blank Noise chose to quietly ask “Why are you looking at me?” on the streets. They welcome many people, but the strength of its interventions does not lie in numbers. Blank Noise thinks about their issues differently and consequently, they also do things differently.

This is the fourth post in the Beyond the Digital series, a research project that aims to explore new insights to understand youth digital activism conducted by Maesy Angelina with Blank Noise under the Hivos-CIS Digital Natives Knowledge Programme.


Beyond The Digital -TALKING BACK without "TALKING BACK"

first posted here and here

The activism of digital natives is often considered different from previous generations because of the methods and tools they use. However, reflecting on my conversations with The Blank Noise Project and my experience in the ‘Digital Natives Talking Back’ workshop in Taipei, the difference goes beyond the method and can be spotted at the analytical level – how young people today are thinking about their activism.

Last August, I had the opportunity to participate in the three-day grueling yet highly rewarding ‘Digital Natives Talking Back’ workshop in Taipei. On the very first day, Seema Nair, one of the facilitators and a good friend, asked us to reflect about what ‘talking back’ means in the context of activism. At first glance, activism is almost always interpreted as a confrontational resistance towards an identifiable opponent over a certain issue - a group of activists protesting against a discriminatory legislation passed by a government, for example. Although this is definitely the most popular form, is this the only way activism could be done?

While reflecting on Seema’s question, I thought of my conversations with people in the Blank Noise Project and how they seem to defy this popular imagination through their efforts to address street sexual harassment. From the way it articulates its issue (I have shared it before in here), Blank Noise challenges the idea of an opponent in activism by refusing to identify an entity as the “enemy” or the one responsible for the issue, given the grey areas of street sexual harassment. The opponent is intangible instead: the mindset shared by all members of society that enables the violation to continue.

Consequently, Blank Noise ‘talks back’ differently. While it is common for many movements to set an intangible vision as its goal (for instance: a society where women is treated as equals with men), they also have a tangible intermediary targets to move towards the broader vision (e.g. a new legislation or service provision for women affected by domestic violence). Blank Noise sticks with the intangible. The goal is to form a collective where eve teasing is everybody’s shared concern, spreading awareness that street sexual harassment is happening every day and it is unacceptable because it is a form of violence against women. Pooja Gupta, a 19 year old art student who is one of the initiators of the ‘I Never Ask for It’ Facebook campaign, underlined this intangible goal by saying that “The goal really is to spread awareness. It is not about pushing any specific agenda or telling people what to do.”

Because of this goal, I initially thought that there is a clear demarcation between people within the Blank Noise and the ‘public’ whose awareness they would like to raise – that there is a clear “us” (the Blank Noise activists) and “them” (the target group). However, I was corrected by Jasmeen Patheja, the founder of Blank Noise, when we chatted one day. “I haven’t ever put it that way. Since the beginning, the collective is meant to be inclusive and there is no specific target group. The public is invited to participate and there is no audience, everyone is a participant and co-creator.”

The strategy for this is to open up a public dialogue. When Blank Noise first started in 2003, it started with the street as the public space and uses art as its method of intervention. It takes many forms: performative art, clothes exhibition, street polls, and many others. Although today Blank Noise is much more known for its engagement with the virtual public through its prolific Internet presence (4 blogs, a Twitter account, 2 Facebook groups, many Facebook events, and a YouTube channel), the street interventions remain a significant part of its activities. Regardless of the methods, which I will elaborate more in future blog posts, the principles of creativity, play, and non-confrontation are always maintained.

At this point, some critical questions could be raised. What is Blank Noise actually trying to achieve through the dialogue? Can public dialogue really address the issue? How does Blank Noise know if it is interventions have an impact?

When I asked the last question, many people in the Blank Noise admitted that impact measurement is something that they are still grappling with. Some said that the public recognition of Blank Noise by bloggers and mainstream media is an indicator; others said that the growth of volunteers is also an impact. However, I found that this is not an issue many people were concerned with and was a bit puzzled. After all, if one were to dedicate their time and energy to a cause, wouldn’t s/he want to know what kind of difference made?

The light bulb for this puzzle switched on when Apurva Mathad, one of Blank Noise male volunteers, said, “Eve teasing is an issue that nobody talks about. It seems like a monumental thing to try and change it, so the very act of doing something to address it and reaching as many people as possible right now seems to be enough.”

Apurva basically told me that it is the action of doing something about the issue is what counts – and that it is the personal level change among people who are active within the Blank Noise is the real impact. I recalled that everyone else I talked with mentioned individual transformation after being a part of Blank Noise intervention – something I would elaborate upon in future posts.

This observation was confirmed in a later conversation with Jasmeen, where I discovered that Blank Noise also has another goal that was not as easy to identify as the first: to allow people involved with the collective to undergo a personal transformation into “Action Heroes” - people who actively takes action to challenge the silence and disregard towards street sexual harassment. In this sense, Blank Noise is similar to many women collectives that became organized to empower themselves and hence could be said to also adopt a feminist ideology.

The difference with most women collectives, however, lies on Blank Noise’s aim to allow a personalization of people’s experience with the collective. “The nature of this project is that people are in it for a reason close to them and they give meaning to their involvement as they see fit,” Jasmeen said.

Blank Noise does face challenges in doing this. Some people found it difficult to understand that an issue could be addressed without shouting slogans or advocating for a specific solution and others joined with anger due to their personal experiences. Hence, the non-confrontational dialogue approach becomes even more important. The discussion and debates it raises help the Blank Noise volunteers to also learn more about the issue, reflect on their experiences and opinions, as well as to give meaning to their involvement. This is when I finally understood the point of “no target group”: the Blank Noise people also learn and become affected by the interventions they performed. Influencing ‘others’ is not the main goal although it is a desired effect, the main one is to allow personal empowerment.

Going back to the ‘talking back’ discussion in Taipei, Seema then shared her experiences working with women groups in India and showed how ‘talking back’ could also be ‘talking with’, engaging people in a dialogue. It need not always address the state; it could also be aiming to make a change at the personal level in everyday life. It could also be ‘talking within’, keeping the discussion and debates alive within a movement to avoid a homogenized, simplification of the activism and provide a reflective element to the action. ‘Talking back’ could also take form other than “talking”, which usually is done through slogans and placards in a street protest, petition, or statements. It could be done through art, theatre performance, and many, many other possibilities.

Blank Noise is definitely an example of these different forms and its experience shows that the difference is not arbitrary. It is based on a well-thought analysis of the issue that extends to how it formulates its objectives which is then translated into its strategies. Blank Noise is not only an example of how activism is done differently, but also on how the thought behind it is different.

As I looked around the workshop room I was reminded that Blank Noise was not the only one. A few seats away from me sat two people who combined technology and poetry to create everyday resistance towards consumerism in Taiwan and a young woman who held urban camps in India to mobilize young people to volunteer Regardless of the issue and the technology used, many digital natives with a cause across the world remind us that ‘talking back’ could be done in many other ways than “talking back”.

This is the third post in the Beyond the Digital series, a research project that aims to explore new insights to understand youth digital activism conducted by Maesy Angelina with Blank Noise under the Hivos-CIS Digital Natives Knowledge Programme.

*The photo is from one of Blank Noise's interventions in Cubbon Park, Bangalore. You can learn more about this intervention here.


Beyond the Digital: First Things First

By Maesy Angelina
first posted here and here

Studies often focus on how digital natives do their activism in identifying the characteristics of youth digital activism and dedicate little attention to what the activism is about. The second blog post in the Beyond the Digital series reverses this trend and explores how Blank Noise articulates the issue it addresses: street sexual harassment.

To try to understand youth digital activism is to first understand what the issue it deals with is all about. This point is made clear by the 13 people involved in Blank Noise, who all started our conversation with a discussion on eve teasing, the issue that Blank Noise deals with and the reason for its existence. Taking the hint from them, I start sharing my research journey by sharing how Blank Noise thinks of the issue it takes. As I recall our conversations, I am still amazed by how everyone, regardless of whether they have been involved as an initiator of a 15-day Facebook campaign or as a coordinator for five years, share the following articulation

‘Eve teasing’ is a euphemism in English that refers to the various forms of sexual harassment experienced by women in public places, be it parks, streets, or buses. It takes different forms, ranging from staring, verbal lampooning, accidental jostling, or outright groping. While public sexual harassments also occur in almost every place in the globe, the term ‘eve teasing’ itself is particular to South Asia, especially India. The term plays on the biblical Eve that is considered as a temptress, playing on the dichotomy of ‘good and bad’ women and placing the blame on women for enticing men to tease them. The word ‘tease’ itself downplays the severity of the action and making it a trivial, funny, non-issue - so much that it is regarded as a rite of passage into womanhood and ignored by the authorities unless it leads to violent deaths. This term is what Blank Noise seeks to address; it aims to denounce the word ‘eve teasing’ and call it by its appropriate name: street sexual harassment.

While in the popular perception street sexual harassment happen only to young women who dress in Western fashion, actually all women irrespective of age, class, or dress have experienced it. In a much lesser degree, men also experienced street sexual harassment. However, the norms of masculinity deny their victimhood and a typical reaction would be ‘yes, I got felt up but I pity the bugger because he’s gay’ (Blank Noise, 2005).

The root of the problem is how eve teasing is internalized by all members of the society, including women. Laura Neuhaus, a 27 year old American woman who became active in Blank Noise when she worked in Bangalore for a few years, was shocked to find that the senior women in her department, who had PhD degrees and were at the top of their career, turned a blind eye to the harassment they experience and advised her to do the same. Tanvee Nabar, a 19 year old student who was one of the initiators of Blank Noise’s ‘I Never Ask for It’ Facebook campaign, stated that victims may also perpetuate the problem by thinking that accusing themselves of being responsible for the harassment because of the way they dress or behave. She said, “Even by thinking that way I am validating eve teasing, so this needs to stop.”

The problem thrives on the silence of victims, who are further deterred from speaking up by negative reactions ranging from agreeing that it’s a problem but it should be ignored because nothing can be done about it, increased restrictions from protective parents, or even offers to beat up the perpetrator to get even by men relatives or spouses.

However, Blank Noise recognizes that the issue is not as straightforward as it may seem. While some actions like groping are clearly a form of harassment, other forms such as looking or verbal taunting are not as obvious. Therefore, rather than offering a rigid guideline to what is or is not street sexual harassment, Blank Noise attempts to build a definition of ‘eve teasing’ through public polls, both online on its blog and on the streets.

Blank Noise does not advocate for any specific, tangible solution either. It is not proposing for a new legislation or service provision. Many youth experts would say that it is a sign of youth’s decreasing trust to the state, but actually this is an extension of Blank Noise’s acknowledgement of the ambiguity of street sexual harassment. Hemangini Gupta, a 29 years old Blank Noise coordinator, asked, “Should we be allowing the state to legislate an issue like street sexual harassment where there is so much grey even with how it is understood and defined - from ‘looking’ to physical violence?” Instead, Blank Noise aims at creating public dialogue to break the ignorance on street sexual harassment and change the mindset of both men and women, young and old. Blank Noise does not promote a specific course of action for women affected by the harassment either; it promotes the confidence to choose how to react to harassment.

What is unique about Blank Noise from this articulation? Some would argue that Blank Noise is unique for being the first collective that addresses eve teasing, but a closer inquiry into the history of the Indian women movements show that it is widely acknowledged as a form of violence against women. However, perhaps due to the limited resources of the movement, efforts to address eve teasing have been taken up very systematically (Gandhi and Shah, 2002). In this sense, when it was born in 2003, Blank Noise was unique for being the only group whose existence is solely dedicated to address this issue.

Blank Noise is not unique in problematizing the issue of violence against women. The women’s movements in India and elsewhere have been refusing to prescribe any solutions to the victims and identifying patriarchal mindset of both men and women as the root cause either. Yet, it is exceptional in not identifying an opponent or an entity where concrete demands are proposed to push for a tangible progress towards a change of mindset.

Intangible changes are as good as tangible ones. This might be a new characteristic of how digital natives think about their causes, but it could also be more related to their reading of the specific issue they are dealing with. Perhaps, if the issue at hand is climate change, the same people will advocate for specific solutions to the state or promote concrete behavior change. Either way, the message is clear: we need to always take into account what a digital natives activism is about and not just how they do it!

This is the second post in the Beyond the Digital series, a research project that aims to explore new insights to understand youth digital activism conducted by Maesy Angelina with Blank Noise under the Hivos-CIS Digital Natives Knowledge Programme.


Beyond the Digital: Understanding Digital Natives with a Cause

first posted here

Digital natives with a cause: the future of activism or slacktivism? Maesy Angelina argues that the debate is premature given the obscured understanding on youth digital activism and contends that an effort to understand this from the contextualized perspectives of the digital natives themselves is a crucial first step to make. This is the first out of a series of posts on her journey to explore new insights to understand youth digital activism through a research with Blank Noise under the Hivos-CIS Digital Natives Knowledge Programme.

The last decade has witnessed an escalating interest among academics, policy makers, and other practitioners on the intersection between youth, activism, and the new media technologies, which resulted in two narratives: one of doubt and the other of hope. The ‘hope’ narrative hinges on the new plethora of avenues for activism at the young people’s disposal and the bulge of the population, stating that the contemporary forms of youth activism represent new ways of conceiving and doing activism in the present and the future (see, for example, UN DESA, 2005). The ‘doubt’ narrative, on the other hand, questions to what extent the digital activism can contribute to broader social change (Collin, 2008) and some proponents of this view even call it ‘slacktivism’, stating that online activism is only effective if accompanied with real life activism (Morozov, 2009).

Before assessing the potentials of youth’s digital activism to contribute to social change, it is imperative to first gain a comprehensive understanding about this emerging form of activism. A brief review of existing literature on the topic found that most of the analyses are centered on three perspectives, each with its own approach, strengths, and weaknesses: the technology centered, the new social movements centered, and the youth centered perspectives.

The technology centered perspective places a great emphasis on the instrumental role of the internet and new media (see, for instance, Kassimir, 2005; Shirkey, 2007; Brooks and Hodkinson, 2008). It discusses how internet savvy young people are able to exercise their activism differently, because the technology can remove obstacles to organizing, provide a new platform for visibility and make transnational networking easier. In this perspective, the Internet and new media technologies are seen as enabling tool sand the web is viewed as a new space to promote activism. However, this perspective mainly stipulates that there is already a formulaic form of activism that can be transferred from the actual, physical sphere to the virtual arena; it does not consider that the changes caused by the way the youth are using technologies in their daily lives may also create new meanings and forms of activism. This perspective is the most dominant in literature on the topic, being the lens used by the pioneering studies on youth, Internet, and activism.

The new social movements centered perspective goes beyond that and looks at how new meanings and forms of politics and activism are created as the result of the way people are using new media technologies and the Internet. This perspective is leading the recently emerging literature on the topic and emphasizes on the trend of being concerned on issues related to everyday democracy and the favour towards self organized, autonomous, horizontal networks (for examples, see Bennett, 2003; Martin, 2004; Collin, 2008). However, this perspective treats young people merely as ‘vessels’ of the new activism and neglect to examine how their lives have been shaped by the use of new media technologies and the Internet.

The youth centered perspective, represented for example by Juris and Pleyers (2009), acknowledges that ICTs have always been part of young people’s lives and that it intersects with other factors in shaping how they conceive politics and activism. Most of the studies in this perspective were done with youth activists in existing transnational social justice movements, such as the global anti-capitalism or environmental movements. Nevertheless, this perspective mainly views youth activists as ‘becomings’ by defining them as the younger layer of actors in a multi-generational group that will be future leaders of the movement. There are very few researches on autonomous youth movements that are created and consist of young people themselves and look at the youth as political actors in its own right. In addition, the majority of studies also focused on the youth as individuals but not as a collective force.

In addition to the shortcomings of each perspective, there are also common gaps in the current broader body of knowledge on the intersection of youth, new media technologies, and activism.

Firstly, existing researches tend to define activism as concrete actions, such as protests and campaigns, and the values represented by such actions. It neglects other elements that constitute activism together with the actions and values, such as the issue taken up by the action, the ideologies underlying the formulation of action, and the actors behind the activism (Sherrod, 2005; Kassimir, 2005). Divorcing these elements from the analysis gave only a partial view of what youth digital activism is.

Secondly, the majority of studies zoomed into the novelty of new media technologies and how they are being used as a point of departure to investigate the topic. This arguably stems from an adult-centric, pre-digital point of view, which overlooks the fact that internet and new media has always been ‘technology’ for most young people just as how the radio and television have always been ‘technology’ for the previous generation (Shah and Abraham, 2009). This way of thinking divorces the ‘digital’ from the ‘activism’ in digital activism; consequently, it ignores all the other factors that are causing and shaping youth activism and fails to capture how youth actors themselves are viewing or giving meaning to this digital activism.

Finally, researches on the issue skew excessively on developed countries. It must be acknowledged that the ‘digital divide’, or the unequal access to and familiarity with technology based on gender, class, caste, education, economic status or geographical location, in developing countries is deeper and that the digitally active youth are a privileged minority. Yet, a neglect to understand their activism also means a failure to understand why and how the elite who are often perceived to be politically apathetic are engaging with their community to create social change.

The weaknesses identified above demonstrate that our understanding on this particular form of contemporary youth activism is currently obscured. Hence, the two narratives of ‘hope’ and ‘doubt’ lose their relevance given that the subject of assessment, the digital youth activism, is not even clearly understood.

Based on the above overview of the limitations, it is imperative to find a new way to approach to understand the phenomenon of digital youth activism. I will explore the possibilities of such an approach with the following arguments as the starting point.

Firstly, I argue that the key limitation lies on the adult-centric perspective in viewing youth’s engagement with new media technologies, thus what is essential is to go beyond the ‘digital’ and focus on the ‘activism’ part of youth digital activism. Secondly, I argue that exploration of the issue from the standpoint of the youth political actors themselves is crucial to counter the adult-centric perspective dominating the literature on this topic. Thirdly, since so many researches divorce the youth from the context of their activism, it is crucial to focus on a particular case study to a tease out the nuances of youth digital activism.

I have the opportunity to explore the approach through a study with Blank Noise, an initiative to address the problem of street sexual harassment in public spaces that originated in 2003 in Bangalore. It has since expanded into nine cities in India with over 2,000 volunteers, all young people between 17-30 years of age. Known for their unique public art street interventions as well as their savvy online presence, Blank Noise was also chosen because its growth and sustainability over the past seven years are a testament to its legitimacy and relevance for youth in India.

The research does not aim to assess the contribution of Blank Noise to social change nor does it claim to represent all forms of youth digital activism in India. Rather, it aims to offer insights on one of the forms of digital natives joining forces for a cause. The research is interested in the following questions: how do young people involved in the Blank Noise articulate their politics? Who are their audience? What are their strategies? What is their conception of the public sphere? How do they organize themselves? How do they represent themselves to others? How do they see and give meaning to their involvement with the Blank Noise? How can we make sense of their initiative? While ‘activism’ is the popular term that is also used in this research, is their initiative a form of activism or is it something else altogether? More importantly, how do these young people define it by themselves? For the next few months, I will share stories, questions, and reflections that emerge along my journey of exploring those questions with Blank Noise on the CIS blog.

This is the first post in the Beyond the Digital series, a research project that aims to explore new insights to understand youth digital activism conducted by Maesy Angelina with Blank Noise under the Hivos-CIS Digital Natives Knowledge Programme.


Beyond the Digital Series- Maesy Angelina

Maesy Angelina got in touch with the Blank Noise Team earlier this year. She was interning at
the Center for Internet and Society Bangalore as a part of her MA thesis. Her research involved the activism of 'digital natives' ; understanding the involvement of youth in online campaigns in India from the perspective of the youth involved.

Action Heroes who have participated include Aarthi Ajit, Hemangini Gupta, Jasmeen Patheja, Dev Sukumar, Apurva Mathad, Neha Bhat, Tanvee Nabar, Rhea Daniel, Pooja Gupta, Kunal Ashok, Laura Neuhas and Ravindra Gutta.

Maesy's research with Blank Noise is part of the HIVOS-CIS Digital Natives Knowledge Programme. We will be sharing a series of posts written by her over the week.

Maesy submitted her MA thesis at the International Institute of Social Studies and graduates in 10 days! Congratulations Maesy!

Beyond the Digital Directory. First posted here