TOD #39: Lives of Data: Essays on Computational Cultures from India 

Theory on Demand #39
Lives of Data: Essays on Computational Cultures from India 
Edited by Sandeep Mertia
Foreword by Ravi Sundaram

Lives of Data maps the historical and emergent dynamics of big data, computing, and society in India. Data infrastructures are now more global than ever before. In much of the world, new sociotechnical possibilities of big data and artificial intelligence are unfolding under the long shadows cast by infra/structural inequalities, colonialism, modernization, and national sovereignty. This book offers critical vantage points for looking at big data and its shadows, as they play out in uneven encounters of machinic and cultural relationalities of data in India’s socio-politically disparate and diverse contexts.

Lives of Data emerged from research projects and workshops at the Sarai programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. It brings together fifteen interdisciplinary scholars and practitioners to set up a collaborative research agenda on computational cultures. The essays offer wide-ranging analyses of media and techno-scientific trajectories of data analytics, disruptive formations of digital economy, and the grounded practices of data-driven governance in India. Encompassing history, anthropology, science and technology studies (STS), media studies, civic technology, data science, digital humanities, and journalism, the essays open up possibilities for a truly situated global and sociotechnically specific understanding of the many lives of data.

Sandeep Mertia is a PhD candidate at the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication and Urban Doctoral Fellow at New York University. He is an ICT engineer by training, and former Research Associate at The Sarai Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi.

‘This remarkable collection is the first major portrait and assessment of the social and technical relationalities that constitute the ecology of big data in India today. Equally remarkably, the authors represent the first generation of scholars of digital media who speak through an Indian lens while being totally conversant with the cutting edge of global scholarship on big data.’ — Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication, New York University

‘Wide-ranging and incisive, Lives of Data is essential reading for those who wish to understand the seductions and contingencies of being or becoming data-driven.’ — Lisa Gitelman, author, Paper Knowledge and editor, ‘Raw Data’ Is an Oxymoron

– Excerpt of the book’s introduction published in The Wire, 15 January 2021:
– Book review by Chintan Girish Modi in the Business Standard, 29 January 2021: Data and the Indian State: A set of essays examines the interaction between the expansion of the digital economy and India’s socio-political framework‘, download the pdf here.
– Book review by Nafis Hasan in The Wire, 06 February 2021: ‘Book Review: The Many Lives of Data in India: The book ‘Lives of Data: Essays on Computational Cultures from India’, edited by Sandeep Mertia, delivers a fantastic range of meditations on how data lives, and how we, as individuals and collectives, are shaped by it.’

Authors: Sandeep Mertia, Karl Mendonca, Sivakumar Arumugam, Ranjit Singh, Puthiya Purayil Sneha, Lilly Irani, Anumeha Yadav, Preeti Mudliar, Prerna Mukharya and Mahima Taneja, Guneet Narula, Gaurav Godhwani, Noopur Raval, Aakash Solanki, and Anirudh Raghavan

Copy-editing: Divya Chandok
Cover design: Katja van Stiphout
Design and production: Chloë Arkenbout
Publisher: Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam, 2020
Partner: The Sarai Programme, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies
ISBN print-on-demand: 9789492302717
ISBN EPUB: 9789492302700

Supported by the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries.
This publication is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerivatives 4.0 International.

Institute of Network Cultures

This publication is published under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial- NoDerrivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) licence.

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