Dr Mira K Desai*
This paper explores material and philosophical conditions of blogging in an Indian context. Elaborating the status of computer-internet-blogosphere usage in India by citing from multiple sources and personal observational analysis, Indian blogosphere has been surfed.
In a society like India where media is in abundance (60,000+ print, 800+television channels, 1000+films, 300+ FM radio stations) in multiple languages, new media is still in infancy and not very relevant to the large majority. With over a decade and half of existence, the blogosphere and Indian bloggers are visible but they predominantly belong to English-speaking, urban, elite, upper class. The situation seems to be changing with the Unicode in Indian languages.
There have been sporadic regulatory attempts as well as recognition of bloggers by the Indian State, media and corporate houses in the recent past. Blogging also has lead to a variety of social action initiatives as well as political turmoil. By 2014, networked blogs and e-commerce wave the face of blogging and bloggers is changing and Indian blogosphere entered new era after being contested territory till a while ago.
New media and communication technologies like the Internet and the World Wide Web along with social media applications like Facebook and twitter are widely diffused and blogs are no exception. With the advent of Web 2.0, unlike its earlier reading version, web became reading/writing space, and blogging became rage globally. Today blogging can be accepted as a form of livelihood, valid form of protest, one of the ways to maintain personal identity and presence, marketing and promotion tool, a personal space for ventilating emotions or all rolled in one. Indian newspaper Livemint carried four part series on blogging in August 2009 titling it as, ‘A decade on, Indian blogs remain mostly urban, niche’, ‘Trawling the graveyard of lost blogs’, ‘Blog it, flog it: the new publicity tool’ and ‘Tweet now blog latter’.
Perera and Raghav (2009) note that the blog search engine Technorati, in its annual ‘State of the Blogosphere’ report, announced that it tracked at least 100 million blogs of an estimated 133 million blogs worldwide. Blogging unlike other forms of Internet writing is an individual effort of reaching out to ‘others’. “The very adjuncts of the blogging such as the “semi prominence, the public-private overlap, the interactive nature, the timeliness, the swarm of bloggers in discussion instead of single source broadcasting to the masses” (Singh and Shahid, 2006) makes it unique. It is ‘hyperlinked self, irreducibly dialogic’ (Nayar, 2009: 209). Blog represents a unique form of discourse that represents the voice of bodies in space (Mitra, 2008). SARAI defines Indian blogs as the site of popular culture, the site of personal diaries, group book discussions, and film reviews, and even political debates between people who may never meet in ‘real’ life.
Undoubtedly blogging is a reflection of ‘global society as space’ (Mitra, 2008) and therefore there cannot be anything geographical about it yet as for any communication, context is evident from the content so Indian blogosphere is also a location rooted about/in/from India. The Hindu (2004) estimates 1.2 million blogs in English and 1.9 million in all languages combined globally. By another estimate, there are nearly 40,000 blogs in and about India.
But blogging still is not a rage as far as Indian Internet users are concerned. IAMAI (Internet And Mobile Association of India) research about bloggers reveal that 14 per cent of internet users actively blog whereas 39 per cent are aware of blogs. Majority (over 75%) of all bloggers are men and majority (85%) are below the age of 35 and half of them read blogs to be entertained. Six out of ten bloggers started their blog to express themselves, while 40 per cent to entertain others. 90 per cent of the bloggers spend up to five hours per week reading blogs or updating their own blogs (IAMAI, 2009). Interactive blogging is the least popular social interactivity activity online with only 10 per cent Internet users commenting on blogs and only 8 per cent Internet users owning a blog site. Only about one fourth (28%) check/read blogs (Juxtconsult, 2008). Little academic research is present with reference to blogging in India though it has now slowly begun to be part of an academic discourse, mostly by Indians abroad (Nayar 2009, Mitra 2008, Mitra & Gajjala 2008, Gore 2009).
Indian blogosphere comprise mostly of personal blogs and collaborative blogs. Personal Blogs comprise of sharing experiences about products and technologies, talking about Bollywood, sharing thoughts in forms of poems and short stories, etc. Disaster blogging is another facet of this phenomenon that came to the fore during the time of the Chennai tsunami, Mumbai flood/rains, Mumbai train blasts and the like. In addition to above, almost all the major media houses such as NDTV, CNN-IBN and Business Standard, are trying out blogging to tap stories and comments from citizens. CNN-IBN has gone ahead and announced a citizen journalist award for posting best story. Perera and Raghav (2009) elaborating a decade of web logging in India since 1999, states, from personal sites to breaking news journalism to vital news sources, the blog has seen a lively, event-packed decade in India.
This chapter examines the phenomenon of blogging in (and about) India and raises issues related to the socio-economic and cultural contexts of their operation in a global virtual society. It explores Indian blogosphere to examine issue of regulation, language, relationship of blogs with media in general, hardware infrastructure for Internet access, challenges to Indian blogosphere and future research directions.
India is a land of linguistic and cultural complexity with 22 officially recognized languages in the Constitution. India has 818 million people above 12 years of age, 65 per cent literates, 149 million English-knowing, 87.1 million computer literates, 36 million of the 57 million (as on September 2008) estimated active Internet users. Out of the total literate population in India, proportion of English literates is 37 per cent in urban and 17 percent in rural areas. India has 471 million wireless subscribers (as on September 2009) most would be able to connect to Internet through mobile in the years to come. The Personal Computer ownership in households has increased to 7.8 Million and Internet And Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) research reveal that E-mail, search and online gaming are the most frequent Internet applications by Indians.
Can there be anything ‘Indian’ about blogosphere when it is on Internet? When the sphere is global how can it be geographically Indian and if it represent geography of India in a virtual space it is a ‘discursive’ space (Mitra, 2008). Besides what is ‘Indian’ is also a contested notion much discussed across disciplines. Mitra (2008) notes that the voices of bloggers are produced from real places and are implicated by the location of the bloggers, but the discourses that make up the voices reside in cyberspace, which is fundamentally place-less since there are no clear boundaries that can be placed on the reach of cyberspace.
Though India is the second country in the world as far as telecommunication growth is concerned, large percentage of Indian society is not a part of this new media revolution. At the same time, blogs had profound influence on political campaigns and mobilizations based on experiences of support after Tsunami, Katrina, public protest post-26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai, Indian Premier League (IPL) scandal and resignation of Indian Minister Shashi Throor. But the discourses are predominantly in urban English (Perera and Raghav,2009), reflecting diverse concerns, attracting State measures to ban certain websites in the process blocking four blog sites (Vij, 2006), acknowledgement and attempts to bully bloggers by Main Stream Media (MSM) (Glaser 2005, Vij 2006, Mishra 2000).
While the universe of ‘Indian blogosphere’ is not definitive (Mitra 2006) and in absence of one-source directory, author decided to view Indian blogosphere as a space that uses textual adjective of ‘India/Indian’ by the blogger or the country classification. The open-ended, cross referenced search revealed that the spaces like http://www.blogstreet.com take you to http://www.top-blogs.org lists. Sites like technorati.com or blogsearch.google.com also track blogs in the cyber space. Interestingly as far as Indian blogosphere is concerned there is more to it. Numerous blogs indexes blogs by ‘Indians bloggers worldwide’ (http://indianbloggers.blogspot.com/), ‘Directory of Top Blogs in India and Most Widely Read Indian Bloggers’ (http://www.labnol.org/india-blogs/indian-bloggers.html), ‘India’s blogs’ (www.indiae.in) ‘showcasing excellence in Indian blogoshpere’ (http://indibloggies.blogspot.com/, http://www.indibloggies.org/). It is probably only country in the world that runs online ‘Indian blog school’ (http://blogschool.in), has declared ‘awards for best blogs’ (http://indibloggies.blogspot.com/, http://www.indibloggies.org/) and would be hosting the ‘Super 6? round of the Bloggers Premier League (BPL), a spin-off for the Indian premier League (IPL) cricket tournament. BPL is the first ever elite team blogging competition in Indian blogosphere in July 2010 (http://cafe.gingerchai.com/).
There are references to blogmela and blogbharati as initial generation of Indian blogs. Singh and Shabid (2006) list blogs from India: Trinetre: The Third Eye by Srijith, K., Emerging Thoughts and Trends by Sadagopan, Scientific Thoughts by Sray, Techno Freek by Phani Kumar and Amma’s Column: Weblog of a Student of History by Jyotsna Kamat suggesting diversity of Indian blogosphere. Ignite (2009) published digital media handbook of India but makes little reference to the blogosphere except for listing top 100 blogs based on http://www.technorati.com.
Internet usage researches in India have been undertaken by market research agencies. Table-1 shows nature of online activities by Indians based on one market research company where blog has no priority.
Table-1: Internet usage pattern by Indians from 2008 to 2009
|Top 10 Online Activities||
Change from 2008
|Search for travel products||
|Search for non-travel products||
|Check general news||
|Check cricket content/score||
|Check sports other then cricket||
|English info search engine||
Source: India Online 2009, Juxtconsult Market Research Report
Undoubtedly the situation in 2014 is very different due to advent of mobile internet in India and popularity of Whatsapp and other social networking through mobile but the history had its own pace as evident from Table-1.
Mehta (2008) narrates examples 21-year-old Ludhiana management student Harjinder Singh who started blogging in May 2007. His 160-character blog posts, punched out on his Nokia handset, instantaneously reach 57,659 Sikhs across India – all at the cost of a single SMS. “I aim to arouse the pride of young Sikhs through my writings,” says Singh, who could make a television talent-hunt contestant win since “Many of my Sikh readers voted for Ludhiana’s Ishmeet Singh in Star Plus’s Voice of India – and contributed to his victory”. Singh has hired two people to get him cell numbers of 200,000 Sikhs, because he wants to reach “one in ten Sikhs soon”. In Delhi, Lalchung Siem, a 33-year-old Food Corporation of India employee, whips out his phone several times a day to blog in Hmar, a tribal language spoken by a small group of people in India. His posts are sent free to 6,106 readers in the North-East by SMSGupShup, a microblogging platform.
With reference to blogs by people of Indian origin, Mitra (2006) remarks that people create spatial identity and those who have to move from place to place and undergo the diasporic experience, the anxieties of movement and ‘placelessness’ produced by diasporas can be partly managed by entry into the cybernetic space. As far as corporate blogging is concerned, Bhatt (2008) notes that Indian companies have barely scratched the surface and discovered the value created through corporate blogs. She comments that a quick survey reveals that there are just a handful of companies that have good, effective corporate blogs in India. The trend in India appears to be polarised at the two ends of the spectrum: corporate blogging is undertaken by companies with deep pockets or by entrepreneurs of tech startups.
Mitra & Gajjala (2008) concludes that South Asia’s queer bloggers come from a variety of backgrounds, use a variety of languages (Hindi, Tamil, Urdu, English, Kannada), and talk about a variety of experiences (coming out, life in the closet, being gay in school or college, married and in the closet, young gay man in the city, young lesbian in the city, older gay man, gay activist, diasporic life, etc.). Although there is an online performativity that participates in transnational globalization as Indian (“desi”) queer subjectivities are produced, we see that the blogs talk of offline negotiations with a tension between private sexual practice and public queer performativity. They further note, “Queer Indian bloggers (including not only those who write but also those who read and comment) utilize the Internet in trying to achieve a more local and equitable globalization for themselves, while participating in a transnational socioeconomic environment”.
Nevatia (2010) elaborates about Krish Ashok, Anand Ramchandran and Rahul Roushan’s blogs noting them as ‘satirist gangs poke fun at the passing world’ besides listing few more suggesting satire, not so mainstream for Indian culture, by Indian bloggers. The writer comments that the Internet in general and the blogs specifically don’t have to take care of mass audiences. So, by its very nature the format of blogging is exclusive and not inclusive. All the bloggers cited by Nevatia are people from highly qualified backgrounds writing about issues ranging from daily news to Hindi films, advertising to Information Technology, profession of most of the bloggers.
Sharma (2005) remarks that Indian blog for the tsunami tragedy, created a record with one million hits within a week of creation. Then there are blogs by expats (http://ourdelhistruggle.com/, http://erasmus-in-india.blogspot.com/) about India and even a directory of 52 expat blogs (http://www.expat-blog.com/en/directory/asia/india/). There is a huge food blogging and even archiving of traditional recipes and directory of Indian food bloggers (http://thecookscottage.typepad.com/).
There have been two presentations on slideshare; One by Indibloggers.in and Business World Indian blogosphere survey 2014 (http://www.slideshare.net/indiblogger/state-of-the-indian-blogosphere-2014) and another by Drizzlin Media Delhi-based brand management company in 2011 (http://www.slideshare.net/Drizzlin/state-of-the-indian-blogosphere-2011). There is a reconfirmation that Indian blogosphere is male-dominated (75% males), English speaking (88%) space in 2014.
Indian blogosphere talks about anything and everything under the sun; from food to sex, day to day life to international politics to glamour to disasters. Tsunami help blogs (http://tsunamihelp.blogspot.com/), Katrina help blog (http://katrinahelp.info/wiki/main.html/), Mumbai Terror attack (http://mumbaihelp.blogspot.com/), South Asian quake help (http://quakehelp.blogspot.com/) clearly revealed how blogosphere came to the rescue of people in need. Anyone interested in Indian film stars or politicians can directly reach them through their blog posts. Amitabh Bachchan, famous Bollywood actor has been maintaining his blogs continuously for last 785 days (June 15, 2010) on http://bigb.bigadda.com initiates interesting global fan-base representative of global society. The Lesbian Gay and Bi-sexuals and Trans genders (LGBT) representation on blogosphere, Delhi female writing about her sex fantasy online are few of the things blogging made possible in otherwise conservative Indian society. Dalits, citizen media and blogging has come a long way in Indian blogosphere (Mishra, 2010).
Regulation and Indian blogosphere
The initial controversies associated with regulation of Indian Internet space has been recorded by the Wiki space (http://censorship.wikia.com/wiki/Censorship:About) and Tanna (2004) suggesting the year 1999 which was almost with the inception of blogging in India. Yahoo group ban in 2003 too has been elaborated by Wiki and Tanna (2004). Probably the first incidence of blogging regulation came to fore in case of Mediaah! Blog of Praduman Maheshwari – The Times of India when Mr. Maheshwari, ex-journalist was asked by the national daily to remove 19 blog posts criticizing them for blurring boundaries of journalistic content with advertising through legal notice in 2003. Glaser (2005) details the controversy and Gaurav Mishra (http://www.gauravonomics.com) documents links to different posts on the issue. Maheshwari stopped the said blog in 2005.
Another case in October 2005 was Gaurav Sabnis-IIPM, when Gaurav, ex-IBM employee quit his job to avoid problems. Business school IIPM sent legal notices to Indian bloggers Rashmi Bansal, Gaurav Sabnis and Varna Sriraman after they exposed its unsubstantiated advertising claims. Gaurav Mishra (http://www.gauravonomics.com) and Vij (2006) elaborates the case and Mishra notes, “the Indian blogosphere joined together to fight Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM), and the mainstream media picked up the story, resulting in a huge PR nightmare for IIPM…The two incidents were also different in an important way. In the Mediaah-TOI case, the online protests did not translate into mainstream media coverage, but in the Gaurav Sabnis-IIPM case, they did, and that made a big difference.
Perera and Raghav (2009) remark that in 2006 as an aftermath of the 11 July 2006 Mumbai train bombings, the government of India directed Internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to a few blogs for spreading “hateful or inflammatory” material. However, most ISPs choose to block access to entire domains, and access to blogs hosted on blogspot.com and typepad.com was barred, and then restored within a few days. Apart from above two domains, blogs.com and http://www.geocities.com were also blocked. Vij (2006) examines the issue critically and titles it as ‘resistance is futile’ and also notes in the subsequent post “the government and ISPs took a week to correct the mistake, after bringing themselves international embarrassment which included somewhat exaggerated comparisons with Internet censorship in China” (Vij, 2007).
Subramanian (2009) notes case of Seshadri Ganjur, Vice President in the Multinational firm at Banglore, investigated prominent industrialist Vijay Mallya’s use of title of “Dr” and became front page news story in a Kannada daily in April 2006. Ganjur says being featured in mainstream media was great, “but it was also a low point, because there were lots of extremely nasty emails from fans of Mallya and of other journalists I had criticized.” He slowed down his blog Noorentu Sullu (“You may not be a ‘Dhrutharashtra’, but we want to be the Sanjaya for you!”) and stopped publishing in early 2008 because “I realized I have to watch what I say, and I felt a little jittery about writing, and being watchful was taking the fun out of it.”
The 2006 Government of India ban also led to formation of group of bloggers (http://groups.google.com/group/BloggersCollective) “to exchange information and views about the government of India’s apparent block on various blog hosting services in July 2006. It continues to be an information and discussion forum for issues related to censorship and freedom of speech”. In 2008 Kunte-NDTV/Barkha Dutt controversy (Sandeep, 2009) when individual blogger Chyetanya Kunte, based in Netherlands, was bullied to take down his post “Shoddy Journalism”, which interestingly was reproduced by another blogger (http://www.rakeshjhunjhunwala.in/2009/02/pigeon-heads.html) as the original post as well as Kunte’s retraction, presumably under threat of legal action, was not accessible while writing this chapter. Large number of bloggers made their presence felt by posting reactions and remarks on the incident archived on http://www.simplymalayalees.com/forum_posts.asp. The analysis reproduction of not-available Kunte post (http://retributions.nationalinterest.in/ndtvs-assault-on-free-speech/) has a long tail.
In 2009 Savitabhai controversy in Indian print media led to banning of Internet site and debates in Indian blogosphere (Nandy, 2009). However, the amendment in 2008 states that the government would be able to ban any site on five grounds, namely, defense of the state, integrity and sovereignty, harmony with foreign states, security and public order. Another case in the same year was Supreme Court against 19-year old computer science student Ajith D from Kerala who started ‘Orkut community against a local political party, Shiv Sena’. The Supreme Court stated that “the views expressed by other people on his blog may face libel and even prosecution for the blog content” (Mahapatra, 2009) followed up keenly by blogger community in Hindi (Dwivedi 2009) as well as English (Liang 2009). Contrary to that a blog post by a student was instrumental in TVS Motor Co. Ltd’s victory over Bajaj Auto Ltd in their recent legal skirmish over patent infringement issues, setting a precedent for the use of blog content by the country’s courts noted by Shankar and Nayak (2009).
The Information Technology Act 2000, under Section 69 of the Indian Constitution, stated that the government of India could bring about the blocking of any website, anything that may be detrimental to the society, or that it was committing any sort of offense recognized by law. Under such punishable offense came the statutes of promotion of obscenity, a charge that the pornographic sites were liable to face.
Challenges in Indian blogosphere
India as a country is a rural agrarian society. Majority of the Indian population (72 per cent) still lives in villages and majority still involved in agriculture as livelihood. Since its inception, access to Internet in India primarily had fixed points like home, office, educational institutions or cyber cafes. High speed data cards, public Wi-Fi hot spots and Internet access through mobile phones are still emerging options. Wireless markets have seen significant increase since 2000, as TRAI (Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of India) data suggests the wireless subscriber base has gone up from 33.7 million in Q3 March 2004 to 471.1 million in QE4-September 2009. But IAMAI-IMRB (2009) notes that only four per cent of the existing active Internet users are Wireless subscribers, 104 per cent of them adapted to Wireless for Internet access in the last year. Notebook/laptops and high speed data cards users have gone up significantly making internet access more democratic and non-urban as the dependence on technological infrastructure for internet access relatively reduces with mobile devices for internet access.
IAMAI-IMRB (2009) notes that in the year 2008, 58 percent of active Internet users accessed Internet through cyber cafes whereas Juxtconsult (2009) reports that exclusive cybercafé user base has shrank to become just six per cent of all internet users. Office continues to be the place from where internet is accessed the most (68% at ‘multiple’ access point level and home is the most preferred place for four out of ten users. Juxtconsult report also report that lapsers from cyber cafe account for most of the internet lapsers in last one year.
Juxtconsult (2009) states that one out of four computer users in India still do not use Internet. Four out of five online Indian are in the ‘prime’ of their life (19-35 years), 3 out of 4 of them belong to the ‘consuming’ and ‘aspiring’ class (almost half of them belong to SEC ‘A’ and ‘B’), Half of all Internet users are employed, Their average monthly family income is 3.2 times the national average, 3 out of 4 of them come from the non-metro towns and nearby villages.
IAMAI (2009) notes that according to the I-Cube 2008 study, jointly undertaken by IMRB International and IAMAI, Internet users in rural India were covered for the first time and 5.5 million people actually claimed that they used internet and some point in time. Table-2 elaborates nature of Internet access landscape in India.
Table 2: Socio-geographic landscape of India
|Total Indian Population (in Million)||
|Claimed Internet Users||
|Active* Internet Users||
[* Uses Internet Once a month, Source: I-Cube 2008]
Telecom sector Decadal profile report of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India 2012 suggests that Indian telecom story is more urban and mobile usage for internet is on steady rise. India is the second largest mobile market in the world after China.
English, language of elites
India has a history of 200 years of colonial rule and comfort level of Indians with English. But only 20 million Indians (<2% of all) prefer to read in English (Juxtconsult, 2009) and 42 per cent of Internet users use local Indian language websites which is higher by eight per cent compared to 2008. Only 13 percent of existing Internet users prefer to read in English as per the JuxtConsult field work in Dec 2008-Jan 2009 among 135,000 individuals from 16,000 households in 40 cities and over 12,000 households in 480 villages spread across all the 4 regions of the country.
Parmeswaran (1999) based on the ethnography of middle-class women’s English language romance reading in Hyderabad contextualizes the importance of English language skills in post-colonial India. She notes that reading books in the English language is seen as a means to English language acquisition and is therefore considered to be preferable to watching television. Viswanath (2007) based on ethnographic investigation of film viewing practices in Bangalore finds that young, mostly male film-goers watch English language films in multiplexes steaming out of increased middle-class income. Desai (2005) based on 400 household study of 20 to 50 years of age in Mumbai city owning cable and satellite television, found that Gujarati and Marathi community residing in Mumbai City use print media in English but accesses audio-visual media in Hindi or Marathi (mainly for Marathi audiences). English language television viewing was found amongst those having studied in English medium schools, using media other than television in English and those conversing in English at home besides belonging to upper socio-economic strata..
Indian blogosphere too seems to following English imperialism as the remark in Hindi blog space (Dwivedi, 2009) reveals dependence over English blogger content. Even in most of the blog posts and comments Indian language references have began appearing in last few years. The only reference about language blogging was found when the blogger in response to a comment noted the ‘difficulty of using English keyboard for blogging in Indian languages’.
The situation changed with Unicode and multilingual blogosphere is on the rise, yet the examination of linguistic blogosphere in or on India could not be done as a part of this paper..
Representation in Indian blogosphere
Ravin and Mishra (2009) in their report ‘State of Indian blogosphere’ of May 2009 based on 7895 blogs self registered and partly collected on IndiBlogger.in reveal Indian bloggers as male (78%), English-knowing (92%), metropolitan (74%), using at least as monthly (88%) activity. Eight per cent of the blogs in Indian languages represent only four (Hindi, Telugu, Marathi and Tamil) of the 22 officially recognized languages.
Juxtconsult (2008) report states that only 4.3 per cent of Indians use Internet of which proportion of urban to rural population is 12:1. It records that of the regular users (who use Internet once a month) 28.08 million (82%) are male users and 6.2 million (18%) are female users and of the 35.09 million regular online users about 25 million use internet every day. With a total of about 15.4 million estimated urban households having one or more regular internet user, the average regular internet users per household is 1.95. In rural areas the average regular internet user per household is just 1.
Census of India 2001 reveals in its household data that still half of Indian households use firewood for cooking, only 36 percent have bathroom facility within the house, 53.6 percent do not have drainage facility and only seven of ten households are electrified. How far these issues are represented in the Indian blogosphere was not in the purview of this chapter but for sure can make a future research topic.
Future of Indian blogosphere
Amit Verma (http://indiauncut.blogspot.com/ to http://www.indiauncut.com/site/amit-varma/), Amit Agarwal (http://www.labnol.org/india-blogs), Gaurav Misra (http://www.gauravonomics.com/), Gautam Ghosh (http://www.gautamblogs.com/ to http://gautamghosh.net/), Dina Mehta (who migrated platforms from Radio User land in March 2003 to Word press in late 2007 to her own site http://dinamehta.com) are few of the renowned bloggers who have been featured in Indian and international media. Amit Agarwal writes in his profile, “holds an Engineering degree in Computer Science from IIT and has previously worked with clients like ADP, Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch. In 2004, Amit quit his job to become India’s first and only Professional Blogger.” Almost all of them clearly record the advantages of being bloggers and contribution of blogging to their professional and personal lives. These first generation bloggers have graduated to newer pursuits in their day to day life. Some of them have made blogging their identity and livelihood in the virtual global society.
Undoubtedly blogging has encouraged like-minded individuals to collaborate, if and when, such cooperation results in a more optimal individual payoff than acting alone. When the achievement of such goals involves making claims on government, the basis for political action is laid. Blogging has provided agency to upper class, English speaking elite by adopting capitalist technology. Undoubtedly the incidences of Ajith D from Kerala, Chyetanya Kunte from Netherlands, Seshadri Ganjur from Bangalore narrated earlier are examples of agency of individual over the power of mainstream political party, corporate and media house. Yet the end results are not very encouraging.
Desipundit, ‘the best of Indian blogosphere’ (Mitra,2006) closed down on 15th June 2010 and now reopening as a website. Lekhni (2010) says in a blog that “the desi / Indian blogosphere is at a crossroads” tracing journey of Indian blogosphere and changing profile of Indian bloggers. Many besides her (Vij 2006, Perera 2009, Mishra) elaborate the journey of Indian blogosphere and the changing face of Indian bloggers as well as the blogosphere. The new generations of bloggers and blogospheres are celebrity-driven and blogging has a revenue model. Unlike the earlier generation of passionate bloggers, the newer face is more market driven.
Subramanian (2009) narrates the case of Akshay Mahajan who started blogging at Trivial Matters in 2003, when he was an engineering student with a passion for photography. His posted photos and accompanying write-ups won him the Best Indi Photoblog award at the 2006 Indibloggies; more crucially, it won him the attention of a couple of journalists at Tehelka, who offered him photo assignments.
Mahajan quit his engineering degree, and he has been a photojournalist ever since. In July 2009, Mahajan stopped blogging at Trivial Matters. He says, “But I’m involved in a new effort now”-the online photo magazine Blind Boys-“and it would have been too exhausting to support both. In a way, I’ve graduated into a bigger, bolder venture online.” This is representative of the new face of Indian blogger and his/her blogosphere.
‘Stormshadow’ commented ‘one year ago’ on Mishra (2009) blog post about Kunte-NDTV controversy, “Most Indian bloggers are actually racist, undemocratic, good for nothing self centred, egoistical, pseudo intellectual, arm chair patriots who only keep on shouting like a lunatic”. The description may not be acceptable to anyone associated with Indian blogosphere but the availability of that post on avid blogger Gaurav Mishra’s site is indicative of the spirit of Indian blogosphere.
While most of the scholars writing about India reside ‘outside’ India, in a way they indicate political economy of knowledge production in a globalised discourse on nations. Indian blogosphere does not seem too excluded from the same phenomenon. Global society indicates dilution of ‘geo-political’ boundaries through technology and Vij (2006, 2007) notes number of such examples in Indian blogosphere.
Juxtxonsult (2008) forecasts increasing trend towards local language based internet usage in the future. The proportion of internet users who generally prefer to read in local language itself has gone up from 59% last year to 72% this year (maybe a correction of better coverage, and therefore better representation through multipliers, of the smallest towns and villages in this year’s land survey). Secondly, the proportion of internet users who visit or check local language websites has also gone up from just 12% last year to 34% this year. That is, almost one in three online Indian is already using local language websites.
Raghav (2009) explores the phenomenon of tweeting over blogging and remarks that netizens differ whether microblogging social networking sites have ousted the blog as the medium of choice. Many bloggers too examine this new technological development and its impact on blogging (Lekhni 2010, Vij 2006). Undoubtedly the development would for sure influence Indian blogosphere and bloggers and time would tell whether detailed well thought out blog survives quick tweet or it’s the tortoise winning the rabbit race.
Analysis of Indian blogosphere indicates interrelationships between communication industries, the state, media, and other economic sectors and thus suggests, ‘issues that are not always related directly to texts, audiences, or consumption’ (Wasko, 2003). Indian blogosphere was an independent movement, lead by self-interested individuals who today are able to make livelihood out of their blogging pursuits indicate the economic implications of political activity in global society. The new face of blogosphere (Kurup and Nevin 2008, Dubey 2008) shows how bloggers are confirming to a class system and structural inequalities and the dynamics of control are changing the relationships in and around Indian blogosphere.
Undoubtedly Indian blogosphere has grown from its earlier isolated, faceless, ‘personal’ avatar to linked, collaborative, commercial, socially concerned space. The experiences of turmoil as well as acknowledgement by Indian State and judiciary, media, corporate and commercial entities for the individual blogger as well as blogging community suggest maturity of the blogosphere.
At the same time the first generation of bloggers who got associated with it more out of passion and conviction are being replaced by the new generation who enter with clear agenda. Many seem to be now aligning with the corporate interests to further profit-making goals for the corporate or looking for professional aspirations. This may lead to a newer blogosphere which is not driven by personal passion but by capitalist interests moulding and co-opting the freedom of expression. A new era of Indian blogosphere is here and will change the way blogging will be perceived in the years to come.
- Bhatt Kamla (2008) A different blogosphere in India, The Financial Express, Sunday, Mar 30, 2008 URL: http://www.financialexpress.com/news/a-different-blogosphere-in-india/290028/1 accessed on March 12, 2010.
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