If, indeed, new technologies are more like clothes than fire, we need to understand how people make them fit their lives, how, in Dede’s words, they make them “part of your personal space, tailored to their needs.” Few efforts to do so are more successful than that of this book. Payal Arora takes on a research task that few have sufficiently valued and far fewer have accomplished: becoming one with a community and its people, gaining their trust, examining how they make use of technology according to their own context and needs, and revealing that to the world in all its nuance, biased by neither sentimentality nor judgment.
From the Foreword by Mark Warschauer, Professor of Education and Informatics, University of California, Irvine.
A towering piece of research and writing, imbued with theoretical and methodological vigor, and sensitively illuminating the intersections of digital media and human ingenuity in the Central Himalayas. A must read.
Arvind Singhal, Samuel Shirley and Edna Holt Marston Professor, University of Texas @ El Paso, and William J. Clinton Distinguished Fellow, Clinton School of Public Service, AR.
In every age, innovative technology has been met with an awkward mixture of enthusiasm, indifference, skepticism and hostility. The advent in our time of cheap, mobile computing and cellular telephones has drawn a similar response, especially in the international development community. In Dot.Com Mantra, Payal Arora goes beyond the familiar juxtapositions to show how poor individuals and communities actively negotiate their engagement with twenty-first century technology, documenting the conditions under which they use, abuse and reject it in their everyday lives. The result is a book that is fascinating in its own right, but also highly instructive to a new generation of development policymakers, in rich and poor countries alike, caught between an imperative for easy answers and the reality of messy complexity.
Michael Woolcock, Senior Social Scientist at the World Bank and Lecturer in Public Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
Dot Com Mantra is an excellent work by Payal Arora, a much-published Indian anthropologist who writes frequently on social computing, that is, the connection between society and the use of computers. This study is an ethnography (a branch of anthropology dealing with the scientific description of individual cultures) done in the town complex of Almora, in a fairly isolated area of Uttrakhand, India, formerly Uttar Pradesh…Arora’s insights are deeply rooted in a close knowledge of both practical and theoretical pedagogy and anyone interested in education could benefit from understanding this aspect of her research. Part of her progress here might be said to be “unlearning,” as she finds that many of the assumptions are simply irrelevant in the social context of village India.
Jeffrey Barlow, Director of the Berglund Center for Internet Studies at Pacific University Oregon, USA and Matsushita Chair of Asian Studies, & Founding Editor of The Journal of the American Association for History and Computing.
As you can guess from the above description, this is not the usual study on learning with computers. Traditional readers will likely fail to appreciate the ethnographic aspects of this study. The book, however, makes a pleasant and stimulating read for whoever wishes to reflect on educational technologies from a different perspective.
Giuliana Dettori, Researcher at the Institute for Educational Technology of CNR, Genoa, Italy
Dot Com Mantra can be used effectively in upper-level development studies courses and technology studies courses to explore how technologies such as computers travel.
Ilana Gershon, Department of Communication and Culture, Indiana University
Payal Arora’s Dot Com Mantra represents one of the few studies that integrates critical development studies and ICTD with a sociocultural learning perspective, and thus offers a unique vantage point for understanding the development of knowledge and expertise.
Heather A. Horst, Vice Chancellor’s Senior Research Fellow RMIT University School of Media and Communication Melbourne