Memory cards are flash memory devices that enable storage and circulation of music in audio and video formats. In some regions in Asia, the bandwidth to stream musical content is unavailable, and people go to ‘download vendors’, who add content to their memory cards. We investigate regional standards/formats that allow Chinese
Ever since the cassette boom in the late 1980s, media formats and gadgets have proliferated among India’s subaltern populations, creating vibrant technocultural landscapes. After this cassette boom, in the 1990s came the rise of informal and piratical markets for
We have ethnographically studied two vernacular music video cultures in India, in the Mewat region, southwest of Delhi, and in the town of Gaya in the state of Bihar, where Bhojpuri music is dominant. The Mewati and Bhojpuri music mania is sustained by the (micro)infrastructure of the microSD card. The article discusses the memory card phenomenon in Asia, but we begin by telling a story from the recent history of digital media distribution in the United States. This gives an idea of what platforms would look like if downloading, rather than streaming, were the norm.
Around 2008-2009, Blockbuster was fighting a losing battle with Netflix over the movie rental business. Blockbuster had physical stores and vending machines, where people could go to rent a
Keyes proposed that Blockbuster have self-service kiosks in the company’s stores, where people could download digital copies of movies onto their memory cards. Burning movies onto
Blockbuster experimented with two such kiosks in its stores at the Preston Royal Center in Dallas, but the idea did not go a long way (Wilonsky 2009). The rest is history, as Netflix revolutionized the movie distribution industry through navigable online interfaces that offer users choices and recommendations based on algorithms such as collaborative filtering. Netflix, along with Google and YouTube became one kind of ‘digital platform’, which is much touted and studied by scholars in new media studies (Gillespie 2010). In excavating a future anterior (or an alternative) to this dominant platform story, we return to Keyes and Blockbuster’s plan. The plan to download movies onto memory cards had a short lifespan (or, rather, did not work) in the United States but seems to have had sensory and popular afterlives in many purportedly developing countries, including India. Memory card downloads are one of the primary ways of circulating vernacular songs and music videos in India’s rural hinterlands. Of course, the Blockbuster idea in its Indian avatar is somewhat different: India has no proprietary Blockbuster stores; rather, such music and video downloading to memory cards happens at thousands of places (mobile shops, music shops, download markets, and multipurpose hardware stores selling anything from shoes to clothes to hard drives) in each small town facilitated by ‘download vendors’.3 With regard to equipment, all that such a download vendor needs is a laptop full of songs and videos, a dongle to connect a memory card through a
Furthermore, just as Keyes predicted, in India and many parts of South Asia and Southeast Asia, television sets, audio players, and
We elaborate on the memory card phenomenon through the vocabulary of platforms and, in the process, add to and contest existing discourses on platforms. Economists and digital media scholars agree that proliferating digital platforms drive the economy. Both academic and industry observers suggest that for products to succeed, they now need to be platforms that tie together two/multiple distinct groups of users in a network (Eisenmann et al. 2006). The word ‘platform’ is so common nowadays that more academic conferences are dedicated to the ‘platform society’ than the ‘network society’: the point made at such conferences is that every aspect of our society is being touched by platforms, whether in transport (Uber) or accommodation/hospitality services (Airbnb).6 Part of our motivation in thinking about the memory card–enabled informal economy of music circulation in juxtaposition with the discourse on platforms is to explore what happens to the concept of platforms if we shift their location of operations and unmoor them from their ontological fixities.
When we think of digital platforms, we imagine the Windows, Apple, or Android operating systems as platforms or foundations that allow software applications to work. These operating systems connect application developers with a phone or computer users. The prevalent discourse on platforms considers YouTube and Uber platforms that serve as intermediaries among users, producers, and advertisers (see Gillespie 2010). At one level, memory cards are platforms that consist of hardware and software components that permit music to be recorded, stored, and played. At another level, memory cards span different emerging platform systems of audio/
‘Platform’ has emerged in the discourse on digital industries as a way to showcase the computational infrastructure that supports social media applications and user-generated content (Gillespie 2010). While retaining this understanding, we stress platform’s characteristics that are foundational for and supportive of user expression and sociality, its ability to cross national contexts (Jin 2015), and its regional specificities (Steinberg 2014). We investigate regional standards and formats that allow similar Chinese
Little work has been done on memory cards because they are considered either part of piratical economies or merely a transient phenomenon that will soon disappear with the coming of seamless internet connection for all.8 This is the case despite the transformation in the music industry since the beginning of the use of memory cards in conjunction with mobile phones: many research interviewees in Neha Kumar and Tapan Parikh’s (2013) ethnography of music practices in Bikaner, a town in the province of Rajasthan, India, emphatically declared that
Although music audio and video downloads to memory cards are often considered ‘illegal’, they have become part of informal economies and the practices of mobile phone repair, format conversion, and
Some of the download vendors we met had an
To provide a roadmap for our discussion: we begin with a brief discussion of memory cards and then move on to discussing how they are part of mobile media assemblages or platform ecosystems. At the end of the article, we discuss the affect generated by these platforms. Affective intensities have a tactile, immediate, and sensory quality and thus encompass a range of sensations beyond emotions (Massumi 2002). When we discuss affect in relation to these platforms, we want to foreground the rush of emotions that North Koreans feel when watching K-pop or that Bhojpuri speakers experience while enjoying music in their vernacular language. Beyond this, we also argue that the affect of the platforms should be taken seriously, including the intensity generated by holding a Pepsi-case player in hand while walking the streets of Gaya or the ability to surreptitiously and inconspicuously share music through memory cards. These sensorium(s) of listening and watching enabled by platforms are a key part of their affectivity.
Memory Card and Archiving Practices
Memory cards and memory sticks use nonvolatile flash memory, thereby retaining data for an extended period of time, even when the device is powered off. However, the number of read-write cycles on flash memory devices is limited. Memory cards are differently valued by our research participants not only for the data they can hold (2
Interviewer: How many ‘chips’ do you have?
Taxi driver: I have an 8
gband also a 4 gb[chip]. I use one of these on my mobile phone and the other in [the music player in] my Jeep.
Interviewer: How frequently do you load your microSD card?
Taxi driver: Well, I load my card once a month or two.
Construction worker: Once a week.
The following excerpt is from another interview (Gaya, Jan 2016):
Interviewer: So, when you visit a shop to ‘load’ the cards, do you add all new content or is there a content which you never delete from your card, for instance, your favourite songs?
Taxi driver: I choose at the shop from whatever is available [in the computer of the shopkeeper] and then let the shopkeeper completely ‘format’ [delete existing content from] these cards.
Interviewer: How much do you pay for complete ‘loading’ of an 8
Taxi driver: 50-60 rupees to load all songs [i.e.
Interviewer: And how much for uploading films?
Taxi driver: [Uploading] one film could cost from 5 to 10 rupees [i.e.
usd0.08-0.15]. An hd[high-definition] film costs 10 rupees.
Memory cards as storage technologies are shaping vernacular languages and cultural memory. At one level, studying them as platforms enables us to make a case that, even though they are small (‘micro’), they are not just what they appear on the surface. If we dig into memory cards, as media forensic experts and media archaeologists do, we find digital information inscribed in the form of electromagnetic substratum (see Kirschenbaum 2008). Memory cards are part of the trend towards digitization, in which digital memory technologies aim to achieve greater compression and resolution to create a feeling that there is, in theory, ‘capacity for everything’ (Blom 2015: 13). At another level, treating memory cards as medial objects that are part of various platform ecosystems helps us learn how they circulate and how vernacular musical traditions in India circulate with them. Such vernacular music cultures are enjoying a new resurgence because of cheap (and affordable) memory and circulation technologies. Memory cards are part of low-cost mobile media assemblages, what Ravi Sundaram (2015) felicitously terms ‘post-post-colonial sensory infrastructures’, that have afforded India’s subaltern populations opportunities for creating horizontal networks that bypass state and corporate power.
Emerging Platform Systems, Mobile Assemblages, and Regional Specificities
In this section, we briefly trace the movement of the memory card as a medial object which is part of – and moves across – various platforms. This moving into and out of various politico-aesthetic platforms makes memory cards reconfigure dynamic mobile media assemblages.
Sometime in 2012, seeing the popularity of microSD cards, the local electronic equipment shops in Mewat began selling new Chinese-made
Interviewer: Has there been a change in demand for
cds or dvds?
Shopkeeper: There is no demand for
cds or dvds.
Interviewer: What is the reason for this change?
Shopkeeper: This ‘chip’ is the reason, this [micro]
sdcard has become very popular and widespread. Not everyone has cd‘cassette’ [referring to cd/ dvdas storage formats], but everyone definitely has ‘chip’. And most of the systems [media players, such as tv, dvdplayers, mobile phones] have become compatible with ‘chips’. This has hugely increased the demand for ‘chips’.
The emergence of these new
Although one approach presumes that Chinese-manufactured electronic devices are popular in India merely because they are inexpensive, another line of inquiry in the interviews we conducted during our fieldwork suggests that Chinese
Thus, memory cards act here as circumvention technologies. The North Korean government surveils these Notel users, but it is only able to register what is played on the
Annabelle Gawer (2014), writing about platforms from an industry perspective, explains that platforms are a common feature of complex systems in which the core building blocks are kept stable so that the other parts can emerge through various permutations and recombinations among/between them. The
Finally, like Annabelle Gawer and Michael Cusumano (2014: 420), we are interested in products as platforms when they are one component of an evolving technological system, and strong functional dependence exists between components. Although our analysis is aligned with Gawer in this respect, our approaches and empirical sites are different. Gawer researches technological platforms from an industry perspective, in which primary actors are platform producers (large organizations) and organizations that utilize those platforms to build upon. Our work does not take this perspective. We are limited to the consumption and local distribution platforms. What we bring to the discussion is situated sociocultural understanding of mobile media platforms by studying peer-to-peer sharing practices.
Chinese Audio Players: Platforms as Foundations
New Chinese-manufactured audio players sold in rural Gaya (in India) are made of metal cans or plastic cases from Gillette shaving cream or Coca-Cola equipped to play music from
Shopkeeper: [Referring to Chinese-made ‘Pepsi’ players] these are popular also because they look nice. It is not the case that they cannot be made in India. Indian companies are also making these, but they cannot provide this quality or quantity at this rate [price].
He said no Indian company would be able to make the ‘Pepsi’ audio player for Rs 150: it was simply unthinkable. Another shopkeeper who praised Chinese electronic goods added, ‘it is kind of a revolution of Chinese products’, indicating the huge popularity of Chinese-made products in the local urban and rural markets of Gaya.
In an influential book on the Atari Video Computer System, Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost (2009) discuss game systems as platforms. They state (Ibid., 2),
a platform includes an operating system. It is often useful to think of a programming language or environment on top of an operating system as a platform, too. Whatever the programmer takes for granted when developing, and whatever, from another side, the user is required to have working in order to use particular software, is the platform.
Thus, Montfort and Bogost highlight that (commercially available) media platforms are layered and encapsulated. These platforms are layered in that they have a hardware layer consisting of various electronic components as well as a software layer that comprises software coding and logic. Both layers are necessary for the functioning of the platform. Similarly, the platform’s hardware and software layers are bundled and packed inside a ‘product’ available to consumers. Further, the layered and encapsulated nature of platforms enables a platform to work with other platforms and media. Following Montfort and Bogost (Ibid.), we consider both ‘Pepsi’ music player and microSD cards distinct platforms.14 The ‘Pepsi’ player includes a hardware layer consisting of an array of electronic components, such as
A microSD card is also a platform. It consists of various hardware components, such as a flash memory chip and circuitry, along with a microcontroller built inside its tiny container. The memory chip holds the data files while the microcontroller contains software coding to read and write data on the chip.
Intermediaries in Memory Card’s Platform Ecosystems
Although microSD cards are most often used with mobile phones to listen to music or watch music videos, other possibilities in the form of memory card-enabled iPod look-alikes and can-case audio players (discussed above) have emerged. Earlier, the necessary format conversions and downloading took place in mobile phone shops and electronics equipment stores. The mobile phone shopkeeper or repairman, also known as mobilewala, performed the crucial format conversion using video converter software to transform MPEG files into MP3, MP4, or 3GP versions, which can then be played on mobile phones via microSD cards. Answering our questions, the mobile shop attendant in Mewat clarified that the resolution in video files copied from a
Earlier the download vendor used to be a mobilewala, an electronics store employee, or a
The download vendor had chosen a prime location for setting up shop. Young people from nearby villages who came to watch Bhojpuri films could also have their chip filled with more songs, music videos, and films. All that the download vendor requires are format conversion software, and an archive of songs, videos, films, and wallpaper stored on the hard drive of his laptop. Above his desk hung memory cards, headphones, and audio players for sale (see Figure 8).
The download vendor across from Prem Talkies had folders organized based on musical genre, file type, file size, and date of the songs. He had Bollywood songs and Bhojpuri songs. The subcategories of Bhojpuri songs were nirgun, kajri, and biraha: the differences between them are based on the season and mood invoked and the difference in the kind of instruments that accompany the singing. The users of memory cards we saw asked the download vendor to copy Bhojpuri songs, Bhojpuri cinema, Bollywood songs, Bollywood films, and even some photos and computer wallpaper.15
Recent platform studies scholarship includes frequent framings of Facebook and Uber as intermediaries between two different groups of users: respectively, between users and advertisers, and between people needing car rides and those ready to offer them. In the platform ecosystems created by memory cards, the download vendor can be considered an intermediary between music lovers and music producers. Just as YouTube connects amateurs and professionals, users and advertisers, volunteers and employees (van Dijck 2009), the download vendor connects song enthusiasts and song producers, and memory card seekers and memory card manufacturers.
In drawing these intermediary-related analogies, we realize that we are collapsing distinctions of human and software. After all, many interactions and connections on social media platforms generated between different kinds of users arise because of the work of algorithms. That said, these algorithms need user metadata (and user data) to keep running efficiently. Thus, as Ananbelle Gawer (2014) points out, different users of platforms conceptualized as two-sided networks do not have the same rigid functions. Facebook or Google users are not just content consumers; they are also content creators. Similarly, the music enthusiast coming to a download vendor depends upon the expertise and wisdom of the vendor, but such a customer might also suggest that the vendor listens to a new song that the customer (as not only a music consumer but also a music enthusiast) has stored on his memory card. If the vendor likes that song, he might upload it from the customer’s memory card into his inventory, that is, his laptop’s hard drive.
Beyond being intermediaries, download vendors are also gatekeepers or curators of content for this memory card platform ecosystem. For instance, a download vendor was observed refusing to load ‘sexy’ music videos for teenagers. Other vendors firmly stated that they do not ‘download’ and offer ‘adult’ content to teenage boys. In these cases, the vendor saw his work as incorporating ethical concerns about the circulation of certain content using this platform.
So far, we have discussed how platforms support affective content. Now, we move on to discussing how platforms also generate affective associations with other popular consumer products.
For many users, the mobile phone (into which the ‘chip’ fits) is an object of intense emotional investment. Since one tends to carry the mobile phone everywhere and use it for so many different purposes, mobile phone users think of it as part of themselves, as part of their performance of themselves, as extensions of their bodies. Moreover, mobile phones can be customized in many ways, by modifying their features and affordances such as ringtones, wallpaper, and case.
The memory card-enabled iPod look-alikes and Chinese audio players are portable but do not have as many features/affordances as phones and thus are not as omnipresent. That said, mobile phones have inaugurated taste cultures, fashion trends, and aesthetic evaluations, which seep into the Chinese audio players. It makes a difference whether a young man is strutting on the streets of Gaya with a Pepsi can-case audio player, an Axe can-case audio player, a Kingfisher (a beer company) can-case audio player, or a Piku (Bollywood film) can-case audio player (see Figure 10). He will be judged in different ways by onlookers, and his persona as the owner of the audio player will be evaluated differently.
Our interviewees, who were often electronics store owners, revealed that, when they first emerged in the city, the audio players were considered trendy and were even used by yoga instructors in their classes in New Delhi, but interest in them soon died down, and they became kids things or toys. The respondents in Gaya said that after five to six months, the only people using the audio players were people of low caste (neechi jaat) or ‘small caste’ (chhoti jaati or those who belonged to the ‘labouring class’.
Gaya is known for its hierarchical caste system and for people who invoke caste hierarchy to explain taste cultures as part of everyday conversations. Our high-caste interviewees assumed that the Chinese audio player, which was inexpensive, was used by people in socioeconomically backward castes. Consumers of audio players were seen as those who could not afford mobile phones but needed good sound quality to enjoy Bhojpuri songs. This kind of caste-based explanation of taste cultures was not given in Guraru (a neighbourhood in Gaya with a considerable rural population), where people from various castes had bought these players. We also observed construction workers, both in Gaya and Guraru, using these audio players so that they and all their co-workers could listen together as they continued working. The following are among the responses we received on the profile of users of the Pepsi can audio player (interview excerpt, Gaya, 2016):
Shopkeeper 1: These [Pepsi players] are bought only by chhote log [small people], like Harijans [Dalit, lowest caste]
Respondent: Choota jaat [low caste] like Bhuiya and Chamar use such things. You will see these in small and poor people’s homes. They cannot afford
tvs, so they keep and use these things.
Another shopkeeper stated, ‘mostly “low-quality” people buy these’. When asked to clarify what he meant by ‘low quality’, he replied: ‘Low-quality people such as labouring class. They keep the player wherever they work. So, they listen to music and also keep doing their work’. Another shopkeeper specified, ‘if we [educated people from a better socioeconomic class] roam around holding this “Pepsi” can, it will look absolutely rubbish. Everyone will ask, why are you holding this?’ Some other shopkeepers mentioned that they have also seen children in rural Gaya using them.
Bhojpuri music and cinema are related to debates over caste as well as debates over the vernacular challenge to the hegemony of Hindi in the Indian heartland. Caste politics are also entangled with the affective platforms that enable listening to Bhojpuri music. As we have argued, the consumption politics of these ‘cheap’, ‘chip’-enabled audio players in a place such as Bihar cannot be divorced from caste politics. The affective impact of holding a Pepsi or Kingfisher can–case audio player in public should be read within the context of taste cultures, which are heavily marked by caste hierarchies.16
Through our focus on affective platforms, we also develop a framework distinct from that espoused by the information and communication technology for development (ICT4D) paradigm. ICT4D approaches have been preoccupied for too long with functional uses of digital media, focusing on the potential uses of mobile platforms to develop or track literacy and public health. We aim not merely to discuss the instrumental uses of platforms (i.e. the use of cybercafes earlier and now microSD cards to find out crop prices, weather forecasts, record health data) but also to examine their ability to provide pleasurable entertainment and meaningful aesthetic experiences. Unfortunately, studies of digital/mobile cultures in locations with limited connectivity/bandwidth have been captive to the language/framework of shortages, (under)development, and the digital divide. Here, we provide an alternative approach to studying digital/mobile cultures.
Part of our intention is to push the ICT4D scholarship to understand that mobile phones and memory cards are not just making efficient ‘transmission’ of information possible but also enabling (benign) ‘transgressions’ and informal economies (see Wasserman 2011). However, another goal is to push scholars of vernacular cinema and music not just to examine the representational politics of such works but also study circulatory assemblages and new reception contexts opened up by mobile phones, portable audio players, and memory sticks/cards. Much discussion has taken place on the representational politics of vernacular cinema and music (see Tripathy 2012) as well as how Bhojpuri film is consumed in cinemas (Kumar 2015). That said, a more careful examination of the ‘aesthetic contours of this vernacular resurgence’ (Kumar 2015) is incomplete without a discussion of the download cultures and ambient and ephemeral reception contexts of consuming vernacular cinema, music, and music videos. Such an examination should also include the politics and affectivity of platforms that enable such music audio and video as well as film to be stored, consumed, and shared.
Elaborating on these examples of audio and video players, we posit that texts and formats, content and platforms, representation and distribution need to be studied in their radical entanglements as we think of not only affective movements of content across East Asia and South Asia but also the translocal flows of platforms. Here we understand ‘affect’ as both emotions and sensations. Although the music or video content might generate affective feelings in audiences/viewers, the mobility and devices offered by the multimedia platforms contribute to making possible particular contexts/situations and phenomenological worlds of watching and listening in the everyday lives of platform users.
Young men in Mewat can get together, away from the prying eyes of family members and relatives, insert the chip (mSD) in the mobile phone, and entertain themselves to the partially censored Mewati videos. Middle-aged married men, reluctant to visit cinemas in the face of social censorship, now eschew such public spaces and increasingly and surreptitiously carry microSD cards. There is even gossip making the rounds that Mewati videos are watched by young married couples (on
Michael Bull (2005) has canonically explained the ‘creation of a personalized (protected) soundworld through [the] iPod’ against the chaos of urban environments in first world countries. An aspect of ‘micromanagement of personal music’ can be observed in the ways in which the microSD card was handled by music listeners in Mewat and Gaya. However, the Chinese audio players as well as the memory card–enabled iPods could also be used as speakers, and hence the activity of listening is part of socializing and sharing practices. Although the usual archiving practice for an iPod listener involved (and still involves for that matter) the solitary (and anonymous) experience of downloading from the iTunes library, download vendors actively engage with Bhojpuri music listeners by downloading music into their memory cards.
In this paper, we attempt to examine the reconfiguration of mobile media assemblages in India as they have been reset by the increasing popularity of memory cards as the key media or platform for storing music, especially vernacular music and music videos. Memory cards seem to thrive in places where streaming is not a viable option and where there is demand to access digital content, sometimes even under a repressive media environment or regime in which censorship occurs.
At this point, we distil some of the arguments in this paper. We respond to two interrelated questions: (1) Why apply the conceptual framework of platforms to mobile media assemblages ushered in by memory cards? (2) How does thinking of memory cards as platforms and memory cards as part of platform ecosystems contribute to existing discourses/scholarship in platform studies? To answer the first question: borrowing ideas of platforms as foundations and platforms as intermediaries from industry and academic discourses on platforms has helped us to trace how memory cards as medial objects move across various platform ecosystems (of
In the deluge of contemporary digital media scholarship, we tend to forget the other histories of analog-digital connections. Cheap audio-recording media technologies that are portable and small, particularly audiocassettes (including audiocassette recorders), have been theorized as ‘small media’ (Spitulnik 2002). These ‘small media’ are a hybrid form of mass media and interpersonal media, more appropriately thought of as alternative media, that are deployed by small groups to express themselves, not necessarily for political mobilization, but to foster group solidarity and identity formation in many parts of the world from Iran to Zambia and from Nigeria to India. It is crucial that dominant strains of platform studies take into account such historical and anthropological work done in studying ‘small media’ if they have interest in understanding how people in ‘most of the world’ encounter contemporary digitality and emerge with new participatory cultures.
From audiocassettes to
In a recent article, Jackie O’Neill et al. (2016) argue that although in 2009, microSD cards and Bluetooth were key file-sharing technologies, by 2015, because of the easy availability of low-cost smartphones, WhatsApp has become the primary sharing app among even lower-middle-class groups in Indian cities such as Bangalore. Much of our study on memory cards in Mewat was conducted in 2012, and since then much as changed, including among many of our interview participants, who now use WhatsApp to chat with us. That said, during our January 2016 fieldwork in the peri-urban regions of Gaya, we still observed wide use of memory cards on feature phones for music sharing/listening among the working class. Furthermore, as discussed in this article, memory cards are useful circumvention technologies in North Korea and India because their use does not leave any digital trace. Also, someone who has a 8
The new micro-
We express our gratitude to the villagers and shopkeepers of Mewat and Gaya for actively participating in this research. We thank the editors of this Special Issue, Marc Steinberg and Jinying Li; and Asiascape: Digital Asia’s editor-in-chief, Florian Schneider for their supportive, critical, and encouraging comments that have significantly improved this article. Abhigyan’s field travel and stay were funded by the research programme of University Campus Fryslân (
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By ‘mobile media’, we primarily mean mobile phones, but ‘mobile media assemblage’ includes other portable devices, such as memory cards and
We discuss memory card practices in India and North Korea in some detail in this article. The anthropologist Lotte Hoek once mentioned to us that she encountered Hindu devotional songs being circulated using memory cards in Bangladesh. Media Anthropologist Brian Larkin noted people who download Nollywood videos are called ‘downloaders’ in Nigera. We refer to memory cards as microSD cards, mSDcards, and chips interchangeably in the article.
A download vendor is a shop attendant who facilitates various tasks associated with downloading digital media onto a customer’s mobile phone.
By asserting this, we do not discount media practices in the United States, where students copy movies from the external hard disks of other students or people share music or films using
Our use of the term is somewhat similar to that of Amrit Tiwana (2015), who examines how the modularity of platform architecture allows for extensions by other parties to interoperate with the platform. Indeed, many of the slots and outlets created for memory cards might be considered extensions to mobile phone platforms. That said, unlike Tiwana, we are interested in the informal distribution and consumption of such interoperable extensions in the platform ecosystem. Tiwana’s ecosystem includes mostly industry players; ours includes informal media users.
For example, the ‘platform society’ conference at the Oxford Internet Institute in late September 2016.
Peer-to-peer sharing is somewhere in between these two practices.
We resist technological linearity and any kind of modernization-theory-inflected teleology that envisions progress as an onward march towards higher and higher bandwidth.
China and India are often considered the world capitals of piracy, and such piratical citadels are then framed as impeding the growth of viable global cultural industries, such as (predictably) Hollywood. Such views have been perspicaciously refuted by Jinying Li (2012), Laikwan Pang (2004), and Ravi Sundaram (2009), among others.
These are three characteristics of online digital platforms that José Van Dijck (2016) mentions in her keynote presentation on the platform society at the Association for Internet Researchers Conference in 2016.
In Barad (2007: 33)’s model ‘relation’ precedes ‘relata’. Barad critiques ‘interaction’, which assumes that ‘there are separate individual agencies that precede their interaction’, and endorses ‘intra-action’ which ‘recognizes that distinct agencies do not precede, but rather emerge through, their intra-actions’.
The regionalism we have unearthed in terms of translocal flows of electronic media from China to India and North Korea needs further investigation. Although detailed work has been done on how tight knit the formal and informal economies of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China are, less research is available on widening this regional space to explore other intra-Asian flows and speeds of ever-shifting circulating media networks. Some of the most fascinating scholarship on this region is in the work of Shujen Wang (2003) on
It might appear that we subscribe to the technological notion of platforms put forward by Bogost and Monfort. To some extent that is true, because we believe platforms are, at one level, technical systems. That said, we are interested in platforms as sociotechnical systems, in which cultural use and perceptions enact novel changes in technological platforms.
Such downloading cultures can also be observed in places such as Cuba, where, every week, Cubans fill their memory sticks with the latest internet ‘package’ (paquetes) containing films, American television series, antivirus software, and even ads for local Havana hotels/restaurants (see Pertierra 2012).
Most of our interviewees were men who went to mobile phone shops, download vendor stalls, and electronic stores, and we give an account here of mostly men’s use of audio players, memory cards, and mobile phones. That said, we were told that women are digitally curious and actively interact with mobile phones. We observed women using mobile phones on busses and occasionally go to mobile repair shops. That said, more research needs to be conducted regarding gendered aspects of memory card usage in small towns in India. Although access is differentiated based on gender, it would be wrong to assume that women in small towns are digitally illiterate when it comes to handling mobile phones (see Neha Kumar 2015).