Tag Archives: Urban Futures

#AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] Exhibition Story Map

Curating gendered digital lives in Delhi’s urban peripheries

Combining approaches from urban geography, gender studies, software ethnography and Geographic Information Systems (GIS), this ArcGIS mapping initiative is a unique interdisciplinary international collaboration between King’s College London and ‘Gendering the Smart City’ #GSCProject project network societal partners Safetipin and Jagori in India.

⬇ PLEASE CLICK HERE TO EXPLORE OUR STORY MAP.

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#AanaJaana storymap by Ayona Datta

The Story Map contains data that has been collected in collaboration with our participants, the ‘Khadar Ki Ladkiyan [Khadar Girls]’ living in Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony (one of Delhi’s many slum resettlement colonies on the urban peripheries), and follows on from our #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing]: Curating Women’s Digital Stories of the City‘ exhibition funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK and hosted in partnership with our societal partners Safetipin and Jagori, institutional partners King’s College London and the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi. The exhibition was part of the ‘Art in Public Places’ initiative led by India Habitat Centre and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) and was shown from 1-31st January 2019 at Mandi House Metro station, New Delhi.

The Story Map presents different perspectives of a digital age by young women living in Delhi’s urban peripheries – resettlement colonies, urban villages and border towns. Using visualisations of selected data – participatory maps, photographs (click here for Rohit’s photo essay on his photos included in the exhibition), videos and WhatsApp diaries maintained by these women over a period of 6 months, #AanaJaana curates women’s everyday stories of comings and goings in the city. It explores how women on the margins view, understand, and ultimately navigate the city through information and communication technologies (ICT) accessed from their mobile phones. It provokes us to think what mobility means in a context where social media provides real time information on the dangers and freedoms located in the metro, bus, auto rickshaw, and walkways as well as the opportunity to express this in creative and poignant ways. It also shows us how women living on the urban peripheries negotiate the ‘freedoms’ of moving (aana) in online space with the ‘dangers’ of going out (jaana) into the city, or the constraints of entering (aana) online space with the constant control over their bodies even when they leave (jaana) home for the city.

📸🏆 #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] Selfie Photography Competition Winner

About the Competition

The ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project research network team, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK in partnership with our societal partners Safetipin and Jagori, institutional partners King’s College London and the School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and the One Billion Rising campaign movement, and part of the ‘Art in Public Places’ initiative led by India Habitat Centre and Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), organised an exhibition which which took place at the Mandi House metro station, New Delhi entitled ‘Art in Public Places – #AanaJaana: Curating Women’s Digital Stories of the City’ from 1st to 31st January 2019.

You can find out more about the exhibition by exploring our interactive Story Map here and the exhibition information page here.

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To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, in the weeks leading up to the exhibition and during the exhibition month, members of the public were invited to enter our #AanaJaana [#ComingGoing] international photo competition by taking a selfie while travelling or using public transport, posting it on Twitter and tagging our competition hashtags #AanaJaana and #GSCProject.

The Prize

Each photo entry was judged by our international research team based on its relevance to our project themes – women’s rights  in the city, urban futures, urban mobility, smart cities, inclusive cities and right to the city, everyday cities and safe cities.

The winning entry and entrant was featured on the ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project and King’s College London Urban Futures research domain websites and social media accounts and will receive an exclusive King’s College London branded notebook and pen.

The Winner!

Congratulations to @durkhaima on her winning entry!

Our international research team decided that this selfie photo entry and accompanying text perfectly highlighted the issues related to the research themes our research network team is exploring as part of our project – women’s rights in the city, urban futures, urban mobility, inclusive cities, right to the city and safe cities.

Other Amazing Entries

A big thank you to all those who visited our ‘Art in Public Places – #AanaJaana: Curating Women’s Digital Stories of the City’ exhibition and submitted selfie photos from both the UK and India!

Advisory Board Feedback Meeting

On Monday 28th January 2019, we had our ‘Gendering the Smart City’ research network project team findings and impact feedback meeting with our Advisory Board consisting of Professor Katherine Brickell (Professor of Human Geography, Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London), Dr Melissa Butcher (Reader in Social and Cultural Geography, Department of Geography, Birkbeck, University of London), Professor Cathy McIlwaine (Professor of Development Geography, Department of Geography, King’s College London) and Dr Katharine Willis (Associate Professor (Reader), School of Art, Design and Architecture, University of Plymouth).

Find out more about our Advisory Board members here.

Check out all of the Tweets from the UK-India network team member work package presentations and Advisory Board feedback discussions from the day below:

Digital | Visual | Cultural 2 – ‘Digital Visual/Publics’ Public Lecture @dvcultural #dvcultural

Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta and Co-Investigator Dr. Padmini Ray Murray were invited to give talks at the Digital/Visual Publics ‘Visualising Digital Heritage, Futures, and Other Temporalities’ public lecture organised by Digital | Visual | Cultural which took place on January 7th and 8th 2019 at St. John’s College Auditorium, University of Oxford, UK.

Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta was invited to give the keynote on ‘The ‘Smart Safe City’: Speed, Time and Violence in the Margins of India’s Urban Age’ and Co-Investigator Dr. Padmini Ray Murray was invited to speak on ‘Urban Temporalities and the Museum of London at Smithfield’ at the Digital/Visual Publics public lecture entitled ‘Visualising Digital Heritage, Futures, and Other Temporalities’ organised by Digital | Visual | Cultural and curated by #DIVAWProject Advisory Board member Professor Gillian Rose, Professor of Human Geography at the School of Geography and the Environment, University of Oxford, on January 8th 2019 at St. John’s College Auditorium, University of Oxford, UK.

You can view the programme for the event and find out more about all of the speakers and presentations here.

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Image Credit: Digital|Visual|Cultural

Explore the event Tweets below:

Photo Essay on Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony

Please see below a Photo Essay by photographer Rohit Madan, including a 360 degree view of a busy crossroad in Madanpur Khadar JJ Colony, New Delhi, India, one of the areas our ‘Gendering the Smart City’ project is focusing on.

The photo essay forms part of our #GSCProject #AanaJaana exhibition taking place in Mandi House metro station, New Delhi from 1 to 31 January 2019. You can read more about the exhibition here and explore and share our exhibition event Facebook page here

‘Khadar Ki Ladkiyan’ – An Exploration of Music as a Medium of Expression

Sunayana Wadhawan, Sound Artist and Music Director

It all began with the young women of Madanpur Khadar, when they voiced their idea for expressing their thoughts and experiences in the city through a song. Inspired by the youth and emerging alternative media around them, the young women began envisioning themselves as being heard and becoming visible in the fast internet world.

Music is a powerful instrument to connect with people, their personal experiences and their struggles. It is present in the personal as well as public spheres of our lives, and has the potential to overcome social and physical boundaries within and across communities. This was their first time trying their hand at an experiment with evolving genres of music like hip-hop and slam poetry, and we collectively turned it into an opportunity to find our voices, our rhythms, our styles, and think more deeply about our reasons for engaging with music.

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Image Credit: Sunayana Wadhawan
All the women involved in this song, including me, are women who are working and/or performing domestic work at their homes. We met every Sunday for a few hours as that was the only day we didn’t have to go to work outside. The sessions were based on the following themes that were covered over a period of 10 days in total.
 
  • Introductions and discovering rhythms: To work together, it was important to first get to know each other and share our personal stories and struggles, issues that affected us the most, our aspirations and our love for music. We respected the stories each one of us shared with the group, these stories accompanied by tears, laughter and much more. We also searched our memories for issues and incidents that affected women in cities to bring alive narratives and people’s stories previously missing in our conversations. While we acknowledged that our bodies were a site of violence in the city, we also discussed notions around desires for freedom linked to our bodies. This also led us to explore how and why we enjoyed dancing to songs from different regions and understanding how rhythms flow through our bodies and can give a sense of freedom of movement.

Apart from clapping and dancing, one of the exercises I conducted was an attempt to find a shared rhythm using a timing that we are all familiar with – the sounds made when we wash clothes. It was an extraordinary moment as all the women had different styles of washing clothes and each one of them was well versed with the actions and sounds involved in washing clothes – a domestic chore often delegated to women in the house. We all settled on one of the easier-sounding styles that helped us make the sounds collectively in rhythm and in unison.

  • History of hip-hop and finding your own genre: From discussing the history of hip-hop as a medium of protest and expression, to observing how hip-hop has been embraced in India over the last few years, we watched videos and grooved to different songs to become more familiar with the sound and delivery of messages through spoken word/hip-hop music. We also watched videos of emerging female hip-hop artists in India like MC Kaur, Dee MC as well as songs like ‘O Womaniya’ that revive local dialects, music instruments and traditions with the help of technology. We did a few exercises to come up with rhymes in Hindi and English, inventing words to find a way to express ourselves and help us warm up to writing our song.
  • Lyric writing: Taking from the conversations we had during our introductions, each of the women penned down their own story as well as the stories of others they had learnt about from the news or even their neighbourhood, in the form of prose, poetry and couplets. The challenge here was to let different stories emerge and express them in the least amount of words possible. We worked on the stories and rephrased them, added rhymes to them, and began reciting them to each other. We then stood in circles and recited different verses alongside some hip-hop tracks I had prepared for our sessions. This process also helped us edit and put the verses in an order that allowed the stories to become more connected and cohesive as one collective narrative, while at the same time retaining everyone’s individual voices and words.
  • Recording, tracking and mixing: Initially, we had planned to hire a studio and gain experience of working in a studio environment, surrounded with all its technologies, as budding artists. However, constraints on time, and being unable to get all the women to a studio for several hours on the same day, limited our options. We decided to take inspiration from our situation, absorbing it into the process of creating this song, and borrowed a good quality sound recorder to record each of the women singing/reciting different parts of the song. Their voices echoed through the lanes of the neighbourhood when they were practicing and collectively recording parts of the chorus and other lines. It was challenging to balance the sounds of a busy neighbourhood and the sometimes timid voices of women who were finding their inner strength to do justice to the emotions they tried to express in the song. Yet, we managed to find spaces in their homes, and Jagori’s local office, to record to our best abilities as the women juggled between their responsibilities and their excitement for recording their very first song.

Once the recordings were done, we heard them out and selected those that were well-recited and fit well with the tempo of the base track. After organising each of the voice clips of the track on software with the help of sound professionals, we worked with, and gave inputs to, the sound professionals to ensure the tracks were mixed in a way that separated each of the voices without making them sound disconnected.

Then came the most exciting moment for all of us – to hear the final track together. It was a Sunday again, and most of the women who took part were present during our first collective listening session. The happiness in the room was evident from the smiles on everyone’s faces at hearing their own voices in the final version of the track. Some of the women were so overwhelmed at their achievement that they had tears rolling down their cheeks.

 

It has been a wonderful and enlivening experience to be a part of this journey to find our voices, imbibe the joy and power possessed by music, and witness a growing sense of pride and confidence in the women as they expressed hope to continue making more songs and spread powerful messages in their city.


Read the other blogs on our new #GSCProject initiative:

‘Filming ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ [Khadar Girls]’ by Nandan Latwal, our Film Director and Creative producer, here

‘The City is For You and Me’ with the music video by Dr. Ayona Datta, Project Principal Investigator, here.

Delhi Workshop: Gendering the Smart Safe City

Curating Digital Lives for a Feminist Urban Future

13th December 2018, India International Centre, New Delhi

This workshop seeks to establish an alternative framework for curating the smart safe city. It aims to engender current smart city agendas through young women’s everyday experiences of navigating the city. It will present different perspectives of mobility and safety generated by young women through participatory maps, photographs, videos and WhatsApp diaries maintained over a period of time. In doing so, it explores how women on the margins view, understand, and ultimately navigate the city through information and communication technologies (ICT) accessed from low-cost (and often low-tech) mobile phones.  It provokes us to think what safety means in a context where social media provides real time information on the dangers and freedoms located in the metro, bus, auto rickshaw, and walkways as well as the opportunity to express this in creative and poignant ways. It invites us to think how women living on the urban peripheries negotiate the ‘freedoms’ of moving in online space with the ‘dangers’ of going out into the city, or the limitations of engaging via digital technologies with the freedom of stepping out of one’s home. Through a convergence of artistic practice, digital media and architecture, this workshop will demonstrate the potential of a new kind of visual language of safety that is co-produced with the women. It will reveal the capacity of this language to move beyond existing data on gendered violence to highlight the gendered and socio-economic patterns of inclusions and exclusions brought about by a digital urban age.


As part of the United Nations #16DaysOfActivisim, we launched a hip hop song ‘Khadar ki Ladkiyan’ [Khadar Girls] co-written and co-produced with our participants at the event. See our Story Map of the process here.

Read the workshop concept note here.

Explore the event Wakelet with all of the Tweets before and during the workshop here

Watch our workshop videos featuring our #GSCProject team members and workshop participants – project societal partners, academics, experts, practitioners and community stakeholders – who joined us on the day below:

Read the workshop report by Project Research Assistant Arya Thomas here.

Programme

MORNING SESSION

9.30-10.00Participants start arriving with tea and coffee served
Project Outline and Findings
Chair: Kalpana Viswanath
  
10.00-10.30Dr. Ayona Datta (Principal Investigator), Reader in Urban Futures, King’s College London
Gendering the Smart City: Curating Gendered Digital Life in the Margins
10.30-10.45Dr. Padmini Ray Murray (Co-Investigator), Digital Humanities Course Leader, Srishti School of Art and Design, Bangalore
Sharing and Making Digital Knowledge: Using Wikipedia
10.45-11.00

Arya Thomas (Research Assistant) 

WhatsApping and Rapping with Young Women in Delhi’s Peripheries

11.00-11.15Rwitee Mandal, Safetipin (project societal partner)
Gendered Safety Maps of the Unmapped Peripheries
11.15-11.45Q & A
11.45-12.00Break for coffee and tea
Right to Urban Technologies
Chair: Padmini Ray Murray
 
12.00-12.15Sarita Baloni, Researcher, Jagori (project societal partner) 
Working with Youth and Technology in the urban peripheries
12.15-12.30Swati Janu, Senior Designer, mHS CITY LABS and Lecturer in Architectural Design, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi
Memory Cards and Vernacular Media 
12.30-12.45Krishna Menon, Professor, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University
Gender and the Smart City
12.45-13.00Nayanatara Ranganathan, Manager, Freedom of Expression programme, Internet Democracy Project
Surveillance-As-Safety in Hi-Tech India
13.00-13.30Q & A
13.30-14.15Lunch

AFTERNOON SESSION

Curating the City with Art and Architecture
Chair: Ayona Datta
14.15-14.45Khadar Ki Ladki’ launch of music video and Q & A with participants and sound artist Sunayana
14.45-15.00Kruttika Susarla, Graphic Designer and Comic Artist
The Personal is Political
15.00-15.15Shveta Mathur, Visiting Faculty, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi and Coordinator, Urban Design Studio
Student Design Interventions in Khadar
15.15-15.30Sameera Jain, Filmmaker, Editor and Course Director, Creative Documentary program, Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, New Delhi
About My Own City
15.30-16.00Q & A
16.00-16.15Break for coffee and tea
16.15-17.15Roundtable Discussion on Gendering the Indian Smart City: Contexts, Challenges and Future Directions
Moderator: Kalpana Viswanath, Co-Founder and CEO, Safetipin 
Janaki Abraham, Associate Professor in Sociology, Department of Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
Anjilee Aggarwal, Director, Samarthyam
Sohini Bhattacharya, President and CEO, Breakthrough
Mriganka Saxena, Founder, HTAU (Habitat Tectonics Architecture and Urbanism) 
17.15-17.30Final reflections and moving on to next phase of project
Ayona Datta and Padmini Ray Murray

Funded by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), UK 

Co-convened by King’s College London and Safetipin, Delhi

Local partners: Jagori and School of Planning and Architecture, Delhi

 

Call for Papers: American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting ‘Gendering the Smart City: Towards Just & Feminist Urban Futures’ #aagDC

Urban Futures Research Domain

We welcome submissions for the 2019 American Association of Geographers meeting in Washington, DC April 3-7. This large interdisciplinary conference regularly attracts 6-8,000 attendees across a broad spectrum of disciplinary homes.

Gendering the Smart City: Towards just and feminist urban futures

Organisers: Ryan Burns, Ayona Datta, Nabeela Ahmed, Max Andrucki

The critical smart cities research agenda continues to develop insights into evolving relations between the digital, the urban, and socio-political process. Attention has broadened from taxonomies and ontological questions, to ideal-types and dominant epistemologies, to interrogating the “actually-existing smart city”. This trajectory has brought to the fore variegations and fissures in the politics of the smart city within which elements of social justice can appear, where smart city visions can adapt to and address low-tech infrastructures and where populations can contest the smart city’s often business-friendly, empiricist, governmentalizing, and neoliberal tendencies. Researchers have, indeed, recently illuminated smart city models that…

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Curating the Gendered City with WhatsApp

Arya Thomas, Project Research Assistant

The research network primarily involves working with millennials from a resettlement colony in Delhi. We decided to use WhatsApp Diaries as a form of interaction with each other, as a medium to curate and co-produce the idea of gendered mobility and safety through text and images. Since the use of cheap smart and feature phones and access to internet technology has proliferated in South Asian economies, this also allowed for a process of documentation of the project in the virtual domain.

WhatsApp Diaries

The basic idea in the diaries is to share experiences of safety, discomfort, pleasure and risk with each other in the form of audio recordings, pictures and videos from the city as these girls navigate the city everyday. We are building a thick narrative of the city from the perspective of young girls who live on the margins of the city. As mobile phones have become an intrinsic part of our lives, one had to think of ways to ‘involve’ the medium actively in this research project. Many engagements and conversations take place through the phone- from access to public services to job opportunities, to discovering and finding new friends, to narratives of discomfort in these interactions, the phone and internet are crucial to the merging subjectivity in the neo-liberal order.

Till now, the WhatsApp timeline has been primarily marked by experiences\instances on infrastructure, politics and safety. A rain in the city would flood the whatsapp group with images of water logging in the locality or in areas where they would be navigating, giving a scathing critique of the state of public infrastructure and lacunas in planning the smart city. Easy access to affordable public transport in another issue that has come up again and again in our discussions.

Baarish‘Delhi rains’ from participants’ WhatsApp diaries. Collage by Ayona Datta.

Gendered Safety 

The issue of safety seems to emerge often enmeshed with questions of infrastructure and other community ethos in the city. While the lack of proper lighting and narrow\dark lanes are a constant source of anxiety, a substantial feeling of safety also emerges from perceptions prevalent in the society along with other socio-economic issues. The persistent complaint that ‘boys who take drugs\alcohol’ often crowd in certain lanes, or stand around in deserted areas, the complaint about how one has to take long routes and avoid shorter unsafe routes; all underline the immense precariousness of everyday mobility.

The participants definitely should not be seen as ‘helpless victims’ rather there is often sharing of what they did to avoid a certain situation, that they are not constrained by these structural issues, rather, alone or collectively, women are trying to devise ways to fight it or negotiate it.

The role of community and family in controlling women’s mobility is something that is recurrent in both the whatsApp diaries as well as group discussions.  Our WhatsApp diaries, like all WhatsApp groups in the subcontinent has also been flooded with an interesting set of forwarded messages or fake news propaganda – in that sense, we are never in isolation of the political contexts that mars all our lives constantly. There is a steady inflow of political propaganda that comes through, some of them would reflect the schisms within as discussions unfold or erupt.

Below are some of the narratives in the diaries.

“Sheher (city)- where no one listens to you – I got on a bus, on the bus stop from Okhla tank, near Harkesh Nagar to go to Chidiya Ghar, he shut the gate so hard that I fell and my phone broke. I complaint on 100, called on 181, I also got a traffic police number, but no one listened to me” (27th June, 2:47 pm)
“Hello friends, if you know of any jobs, then let me know, I’m very troubled – I left the job in July and I’m trying but also very troubled” (23rd August, 9:07 pm)
“I’m sitting on a rickshaw for Okhla phase 2, and the driver is a woman! It makes me really happy, and she’s riding it very calmly!” (9th July, 1:49 pm – didn’t have space in phone to send an audio recording)

These quotes give a sense of the conversations that unfold between young girls living in Delhi’s urban margins – spatially, economically and socially. They access the city from their subject positions, through the knowledge (and power) garnered via these whatsApp groups, and the city is playing a constant role in moulding and shaping that knowledge, power and subjectivity. These conversations also talk to us about the necessity of seeing the linkage between various aspects that govern a woman life, and her access to a ‘freer’ life, which includes livelihood, education and easy mobility, giving a more comprehensive notion to empowerment and women’s rights.


Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta also wrote an article on our WhatsApp diaries project with participants published via The Conversation UK hereScroll.in here, The Print here, Yahoo! News here, Quartz India here, Firstpost here, Asian Correspondent here and shared via the Twitter account of Contrast News, the Twitter account of the International Council of Women’s Health Issues, the Twitter account of the Sociology programmes, Institute of Humanities at the University of Worcester and the Twitter account of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Higher Education.

‘Fast Urbanism: Speed and Time at the Margins of the Indian City’ Keynote #CIG50 #CIG18Maynooth

Project Principal Investigator Dr. Ayona Datta gave a keynote talk entitled ‘Fast Urbanism: Speed and Time at the Margins of the Indian City’ at the 50th Conference of Irish Geographers (CIG) from 10 to 12 May 2018.

Maynooth, 10 May 2018

Speed is fundamental to shaping visions of the modern city and of contemporary urban life. Notions of speed and the acceleration of time have produced distinct conceptualisations of rapid urbanisation as a rush towards progress and modernity. In India, speed is shaping new vocabularies of the future (fast forwarding, future proofing, leapfrogging, race against time), new urban tropes (smart cities, safe cities) and new domains of state rule (streamlining bureaucratic and regulatory processes, efficiency measures, egovernance, Big Data). In this paper, I argue that speed is also fundamental to the conceptualization of ‘new solutions’ to ‘old urban problems’ of Violence Against Women (VAW). By examining the trope of the ‘smart safe city’ this paper examines how speed is conceptualized in the rolling out of safety apps and what this means for those living on the margins of both smart city and safe city in India. Taking India’s recent national initiative to create 100 smart cities I will argue that the focus on the smart city as a strategy of gender safety is a co-optation of women’s bodies and spaces within the logics of a ‘technological fix’. This paper will examine how transformations of ideas of speed and time in the smart safe city shapes practices of measuring, visualising and representing violence, how those on the margins encounter and negotiate the spatio-temporalities of violence, and what this tells us about how we create gender just urban futures.

Have a look at the Wakelet of the event by clicking below:

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