Payal Arora is Professor and Chair in Technology, Values, and Global Media Cultures at Erasmus University Rotterdam, Founder & Director of Catalyst Lab, and author of several  books, including the recently published The Next Billion Users: Digital Life Beyond the West, from Harvard University Press. Professor Arora was recently named editor of the Communication and media section of UC Press’s journal Global Perspectives, which publishes its first articles in January 2020.

UC Press: Congratulations on your new book, and welcome to Global Perspectives!

Payal Arora: Thank you and am looking forward to working together on this novel initiative.

UC Press: Global Perspectives is devoted to the study of global patterns and developments. What is it about communication and media that lend themselves to a global perspective of inquiry?

Global Perspectives Communication and media Section Editor Payal Arora. Photo credit: Geertje van Achterberg

Payal Arora: Nowadays we are constantly encountering the discourse on the data economy and how it is permeating every sphere of our society. However, we underplay the fact that our communicative practices are generating these datasets and the regulation of data is really about the regulation of our everyday communications. Digital media platforms have enabled the flow of these communicative practices across borders even more so than ever before. This is amplified by the vast movement of people (forced migration, economic migrants, etc.), entrenched transnational ideologies, as well as growing identity politics that find resonance with other groups worldwide, forming new forms of global solidarity, movements and group sentiments. We need to take a global by default approach to what tends to be framed as “local” problems as the political economies behind these seemingly indigenized phenomena are often fueled by specific geo-political actors and actions often facilitated by novel technologies.

UC Press: In this digital age, traditional mass media have been disrupted by the internet and mobile technologies, and user-generated content is on the rise. How have these changes affected our framing, our modes of understanding media and culture?

Payal Arora: Digital culture is indeed undergoing radical shifts. What constitutes as “culture” and who have been traditionally represented are being challenged with the new publics coming online and mediated by social media platforms. In recent years, the data market has completely been disrupted by telecom and digital media innovations in places like India and China. Extraordinarily cheap data plans and mobile phones have increased internet access for a vast group of people who have had little prior power to be visible and heard. I am talking about the vast marginalized majority from the Global South who are shifting the power politics online and opening up new opportunities for media industries around the world. For example, Spotify has just launched their Spotify Lite app to capture Latin America and South Asia’s low-income demographic. This opens up rich opportunities to assess how this will change traditional music genres, taste, listening behaviors and more as these efforts go global. Moreover, user-generated content and global influencers are providing alternative platforms that are challenging mainstream media industries including the news business, television broadcasters, and the like. This taps into larger themes of trust, authenticity, and justice as we see these novel technologies interface with shifting audiences, and producers of content.

UC Press: The National Communication Association’s Annual Convention has just begun in Baltimore. Should meeting participants be reading this post and thinking about submitting to Global Perspectives, what kind of topics are you looking to explore in your section? What would advise a prospective author to do?

Payal Arora: Absolutely! There is definitely an urgent need to think deeply about how these contemporary changes in media and communication are pushing us to reimagine and reconstitute notions of survival, innovation, creative insurgency and perhaps even pioneer novel templates that can be more encompassing of our current values and concerns than existing neoliberal ideals that continue to dictate policy and practice. In our Communication and Media section, we are open to several angles to these ongoing challenges as well as a range of topics that touch on social movements, queer politics online, conflict resolution and negotiation through everyday online negotiations and more.

UC Press: Can you tell us about some of the papers slated to publish in your section in early 2020?

Payal Arora: We have a series of exciting papers coming up that touch upon very timely topics and themes. For instance, in the upcoming Special Issue on “Media, migration & nationalism: Comparing European and Asian Experiences and Perspectives” there is a rich set of papers that deal with a complex and diverse set of case studies from the Venezualan refugee crisis and the usage of media to self-actualize, to theoretical papers on proposing new forms of digital cosmopolitanism(s) by investigating how digital connectivity operates in the everyday lives of migrants. In another Special Issue on “Datafication and the Welfare State” we have a paper that maps the use of algorithmic decision making in the public sector across countries to papers that deal with welfare state values in the age of datafication, the gendering of these digital ecosystems, profiling tools at unemployment centers, to how the datafication of welfare systems allocate daycare to these recipients.

UC Press: Thanks for your work on Global Perspectives, and best wishes for the launch of your section!


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About Global Perspectives

Global Perspectives is a peer-reviewed, transdisciplinary journal seeking to advance social science research and debates in a globalizing world, specifically in terms of concepts, theories, methodologies, and evidence bases. The journal is devoted to the study of global patterns and developments across a wide range of topics and fields, among them trade and markets, security and sustainability, communication and media, justice and law, governance and regulation, culture and value systems, identities, environmental interfaces, technology-society interfaces, shifting geographies and migration.