Peer Reviewed Papers

Narratives of Change to Platform Governance on DTube, an Emerging Blockchain-Based Video-Sharing Platform
Authors: Ashwin Nagappa
Publication Date: Sep 2022
Journal: Social Media + Society
Volume: 9 | Issue: 3

Several blockchain-based social media (BSM) platforms have emerged as alternatives to mainstream social media (MsSM) platforms in the recent past. Using blockchain architecture as a mechanism for governance and economics, these second-generation alternative social media (ASM) platforms aim to create social media platforms without advertising revenue or algorithmic governance. BSM platforms are relatively new and less popular than other platforms. They are, therefore, understudied in the disciplines of media studies, communication studies, platform studies, or cultural studies. This article traces changes to platform governance on DTube, a blockchain-based video-sharing platform. Using platform biography as a systematic framework and methodological approach, this article aims to understand the ever (re)configuring assemblage of technology, people, media, and economics on DTube, between 2019 and 2022. Platform governance on DTube changed from being manually driven by community members to a semi-automated process using bots. Although characteristics of blockchain technology influenced platform governance, the changes over time reiterated that user practices (not the technology itself) determined the platform’s functions. In the reconfiguration of platform governance, DTube articulated minor structures of feeling that aimed to produce an inclusive space over rapid scaling. Furthermore, it hints toward “agonistic pluralism” to govern a (transactional) community with differential ties.

Politicization and Radicalization of Discourses in the Alt-Tech Ecosystem: A Case Study on Gab Social
Authors: Ehsan Dehghan & Ashwin Nagappa
Publication Date: July 2022
Journal: Social Media + Society
Volume: 8 | Issue: 3

With the increasing popularity of some alternative social media platforms, the flow of information has to some extent shifted from the periphery to the core, where problematic discourses are produced, reproduced, and amplified in the alternative ecosystem, to later find their way into mainstream platforms. The non- or less-moderated nature of some alternative platforms provides a suitable space for politicization and radicalization of discourses. In this article, we use a case study of conversations about vaccination on Gab Social—an alternative platform often conceptualized as a far-right platform—to examine this radicalization process through a mixed-methods analysis of over 68,000 vaccination-related posts from before the COVID-19 pandemic until August 2021. The article shows that while antagonistic and conspiratorial thinking was an element of vaccination discourses on Gab even before the pandemic, such conversations became gradually politicized, and expanded far beyond the medical discourse and entered the domain of organizational politics.

Shifting codes: Locating the Intersections of the Real and the Virtual Cultures of Photography
Author: Ashwin Nagappa
Publication Date: 2015
Journal: SubVersions
Volume: 3 | Issue: 2
Pages: 97-119

Software and digital photographs induce the ideas of spectacle as they produce control. Irrespective of class locations all individuals are interacting with the above. There is certain reconfiguration in the nature of producing, seeing, and sharing photographs due to the intervention of software. The convergence of camera into a smartphone has defined ‘sharing’ as the default function of a photograph. This convergence is on one hand the progress in technology, on the other its nature has been determined as a consequence of neo-liberal measures that have come into place in the last two decades. Behind ‘sharing’ there are several algorithmic discourses (in turn defined by hegemonic discourses in the society) which govern our relationship with photographs and the new ways of the communication.

This study attempts to understand the relationship between users and digital photographs in a communication system based on the calculation (and transformation) of information, by looking at the process of producing photography software. It argues that the decisions defined in a camera software is driven by the hegemonic discourses and institutions of the society, rendering digital images more than just a remembering tool.

Book Chapter

Creating meaning focused materials for a TELL Course: An example from India
Authors: Sujata Bhonsale1, Jennifer Thomas1, Ashwin Nagappa1, Dr. Ling Hsiao2
1. Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, India 2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Cambridge, USA.
Publication Date: 2018
Book: Meaning-focused materials for language learning
Editors: Bouckaert, M., Konings, M., van Winkelhof, M.
Publishers: Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Despite progressive education policies which recommend measures to improve teaching-learning processes (NCF, 2005) there is a preponderance of traditional methods like drills and rote memorization (Alexander, R. 2001) in the Indian classroom. English communication skills is now a driver for education, employability and social mobility in India (Graddol, D. 2010) but there is a dearth of meaningful material that enhances the oral communication skills of students. This paper focuses on a technology enabled language learning course that uses the affordances of computers: a) to enable access to meaning-focused and grade-appropriate material in under-served communities; b) to create opportunities to use English meaningfully, purposefully and creatively c) to promote collaboration and peer learning.
Technology aids language learning in two ways – by providing teaching resources and by providing enhanced learning experiences (Larsen-Freeman & Anderson, 2016). At the same time rapid evolution of communication technologies has changed language pedagogy and language use, enabling new forms of discourse, new forms of authorship, and new ways to create and participate in communities (Kern, 2006).
Since such an intervention within the Indian public education system is innovative and unique, we begin by examining factors that informed the development of meaning-focused materials that can be used at scale. We list principles we adopted to design materials and interactive digital tools that will encourage learners to focus on meaning-making while communicating.
Offered under the aegis of a project called ‘The Connected Learning Initiative’ (CLIx), which is an institutional collaboration between MIT, Massachusetts and TISS, Mumbai the course is currently being offered to approximately 12000 students across four states in India, for all of whom English is a second language.