Sad news :(
Before I start, I wanted let you know that my precious dog, Willie, died on Saturday after almost 18 years of being with us. He had a long, happy and healthy life, but that doesn’t take away the sadness that we feel now that he is gone. I know many of you knew him and loved him too. It is hard knowing that I did not get to see him in the end because I am so far away, but I know that he was with the rest of my family. We are very grateful that he wound up dying of natural causes in his own bed. We have so many wonderful memories of him and are so lucky for that. But still, we will miss him very much…
Center for Knowledge Societies
So, the last update let you know about the insitution with which I am affiliated (IIMB). Well, originally I was going to be affiliated with an organization called the Center for Knowledge Societies (CKS). I had been put in contact with the founder last year when I was first writing my proposal. It was a friend from grad school’s friend from her doctoral program’s friend who put me in touch with Aditya Dev Sood (Aditya was a Fulbright to the U.S getting two doctorates from the Univ of Chicago. His mom is Irish American, but moved to India after college and he grew up only in India. He did go to college and grad school in the US though). He told me about the work they were doing, sent me information that was useful for writing my proposal, gave me feedback and wrote me a recommendation. I was very grateful for all of it.
I didn’t really talk much to them over the year, but got back in touch once I knew I got the fellowship. It winds up that I needed to be officially affiliated with an institute of higher education, hence IIMB. However, I planned to still work with CKS. There is a link to their website on mine by the way. Basically, they do a variety of things, but work in the area of designing services and products (which includes conducting research, etc) using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs—like wireless phones, internet, info kiosks) to aid in development in India. For example, they are currently working on a project for Nokia that is looking at how auto rickshaw drivers, street vendors, servants, and other laborers work and how they might be able to increase their livelihoods through the use of mobile devices. One recent finding was that auto rickshaw drivers were letting customers use their mobile phones to make calls. An idea was to make a meter and display on the phone indicating how much the call was and to charge the customer. This would make a rickshaw like a mobile telephone booth in addition to a vehicle for transportation and would provide an additional source of income for the driver.
When I arrived in Bangalore I went to the offices at the corner of airport road and ring road (for anyone who knows Bangalore). CKS was just ramping up to plan and coordinate a conference called Doors East 2003 in December. This is sort of an avante garde conference that deals with service design and brings together people of different disciplines to discuss concrete examples as well as abstract concepts related to how people act, work, communicate and how products and services can be designed to address their needs. So, at the conference, there will be artists, designers, architects, usability researchers, ethnographic researchers, technologists, business people (including reps from HP Labs, Nokia, Philips) from Europe and India. Normally, this conference is organized by an organization in Holland (hahaha—can’t get away from that place) called Doors of Perception. This year it is being co-planned and the attendees will be half from Europe and half from India. They needed help with this conference. Although it wasn’t exactly something I knew much about, it sounded interesting and I thought it would give me insight into the work being done in the field as well as some contacts. The website for the conference is doorseast.org (but I have to be honest—I don’t really like the look of it).
Since then, I have been working for them doing some coordinating of speakers and content. It has been a bit hard b/c I am also trying to do research more directly linked to what I want to focus on. Also, the office is far from where I am staying right now (and expensive to go to every day). I have been trying to go every other day. It is getting closer to the conference so I think they want me there more and I will probably go almost every day next week. The conference happens to be the week I leave for the U.S. How is that for bad timing? I am going to plan it, but miss half of it. Oh well. I am hoping that it will be cool and exciting and maybe I can make some contacts for my research here as well as in Europe (you know I would love to go back there!)
Here are some photos of a press conference we had to publicize the event. It was held at a Chinese restaurant owned by Zeenat Hasan who also works at CKS.
I am still trying to figure out what to focus my research on here, but the more I think about it the more I want to look into Corporate Social Responsibility and also public-private-non profit partnerships. I was interested in this before and it was mentioned in my proposal, but now I want to shift and really look at this and not necessarily how it is related to ICTs or ICT organizations/companies. We shall see what I turn up. I am trying to find the right guru on CSR in India, but haven’t had luck as of yet. I do need some advice on where to target my work. The topic is very broad and I could waste a lot of time looking at areas that don’t yield particularly interesting or useful insights. I would like to work in this “space” after I leave India, so I am trying to gain a certain knowledge/level of expertise. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.
Right now I am doing reading and talking to people, doing web searches and trying to contact different organizations. I had hoped to be a bit further along before I left for the U.S., but this is always what happens—timelines get stretched back. So maybe in January (or as they say in India—Jan. I did have an interview with at the Azim Premji Foundation here. It is a private foundation started by the founder of Wipro, an IT company, who is the 5th richest man in the world. That was a good start I guess.