Technologically Mediating Labour

By Ayushi Arora

The outputs mentioned in this blog post are part of the Without Fear fellowship program 2022 – 2023. The Bachchao Project started this fellowship program to bring together a cohort of talented individuals with experience and interest in the gender and development space, who could bring fresh perspectives and potential solutions to threats faced by structurally silenced women and gender minorities in the country. This cohort could learn from itself and others, and look at innovative tech based interventions and ideas. The fellows were based around three central verticals; the social and development space, tech, and art. Ayushi was part of the Art Vertical.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images By: Ayushi Arora under CC-BY-SA 4.0

 

Digital ecosystems are embedded in everyday lives now, operating within socio-cultural-political contexts rather than in abstract. A lot in the lives of workers too, is mediated by technology and there remains no doubt that this mediation will only become multifold in the near future. From welfare schemes to redressal mechanism- a whole lot of world has turned cyber for the working class: Digitization of EPF and other benefits, biometrics attendance, mandatory implementation of Poshan Tracker App, Shram Suvidha Portal- the list goes on.

Labour is one of the least talked about and syndicatedly silenced beat in indian media. When we talk of women workers, the suppression of experiences is even more layered but wiped out from public consciousness. With technological transformation turning war footing, it has become imperative to closely interrogate the model in context of the vulnerable. The author aims to create a multimedia project that can sustain itself as an archival platform interrogating the intersections of labor, caste, gender and technology.

Over the course of this fellowship, the author wished to inquire into how labor practices and the working class are being transformed in the age of technologization, through an anti-caste and feminist lens. Ostensibly, these digital drives are designed to be efficient and make things simple. The author wished to put this belief under interrogation to find out if tech systems are designed keeping social realities in mind, or if they are making things simple only for those who know how to use technology, thus exacerbating inequality.

Additionally, the author also attempted to understand various ways in which state and non state actors supress voices of women from marginalised /minority communities as a direct result of identity and political assertion over social media. As part of this, the author has carried out a series of field interviews. Two of these are included in this blog post.

Anganwadi Resistance.docx
QR Final.docx
MK FINAL.docx

[event announcement] Data: Public,Private and Beyond

 

The Bachchao Project is hosting “Data: Public, Private and Beyond” from 12th to 15th May 2023 at Panjim, Goa. This is an Art on Tech exhibition inspired by The Glass Room .

This first edition brings together art from across Indian artists and creators, to talk about the place data holds in our lives. We are looking at the challenges Indians face while interacting with technology in our everyday lives.

The 2023 edition of this exhibition will host the following original art works and artists apart from some posters from The Glass Room

 

Bodies of dissent: exploring data, intimacy and disability on dating apps

Booklets

Artists: Nu and Ritika , Revival Disability India

 

See No Evil

Sculpture

Artist : Thomas Louis

Concept By: Thomas Louis and Chinmayi S K

 

WATCHING YOU WATCHING ME: an allegory of desire data and dread, as i age alongside the interweb

Format: Zine

Artist : Oish

 

Surveillance in Bengaluru

Photo Essay and Maps

Curated By: Thejesh GN

 

Technologically Mediating Labor

Photo Essay

Artist: Ayushi Arora

 

Let there be Internet

Mural

Artist: M

Concept : The Bachchao Project and M

 

A Wall Without Fear

Mural

Artist: M

Concept: The Bachchao Project and M

 

Venue

Thomas the Potter

House no. 49, Fontainhas (quarter), Mala, Panaji, Goa 403001

Timings

12th May : 7pm to 9 pm

13th May : All day Exhibition ( Talks from 6pm to 9pm)

14th May: All day Exhibition ( Talks from 6pm to 9pm)

15th May : 6pm to 9pm

Contact

Please write to  theteam@thebachchaoproject.org for any and all queries.

Twitter:  @bachchaoproject

Instagram : thebachchaoproject

[Open Call] Safe Sisters India Fellowship Program 2023 – 2024

The Bachchao Project is now accepting applications for the 2023-2024 Safe Sisters India Fellowship program. This program will run from April – June 2023.

This is a Training of Trainers program that focuses on holistic digital security and privacy practices. This in turn assists you to make plans for yourself and communities you work with

This program is intended for women, and queer and trans* persons that belong to and work with gender and sexual minority communities or other traditionally vulnerable groups. Throughout this program, fellows will be provided training and support by The Bachchao Project, as well as a stipend of INR 60,000. We encourage participation from marginalized castes, ethnic and religious identities as well as from the differently abled community.

Fellow responsibilities

1. Must attend an initial training program that covers holistic security practices, planning and intervention

2. Must demonstrate application of these concepts at a larger community level

3. Come up with a plan of action, and conduct a similar training for at least 10 people in their own communities.

4. Share an event report following this training

5. Respond to any questionnaires sent during the fellowship program

How to apply?

To apply, send a copy of your CV, and a cover letter answering the question; “How will this specific fellowship help you support yourself and your community?” to theteam@thebachchaoproject.org

Deadline: Sunday, 31st March 2023
Extended Deadline: Sunday , 9th April 2023

Art on Tech Grant

The Bachchao Project, is inviting artists and technologists who are interested in creating a visual art piece to talk about current issues of data and privacy.As technology advances to a global scale and becomes ingrained in every aspect of our lives and environments, exhibition examines its consequences and assists visitors in exploring practical solutions to mitigate them.We are looking for two organisations/individuals to work with on this for four months to create art-tech objects that will be used in the exhibition to advocate for digital and internet rights, data privacy and safety.

The exhibition is hosted with the support of Tactical Tech and Sida.
Applicants are encouraged to take a critical approach to the theme of Private and Public Data.

The object can take any form of visual expression, preferably a poster or physical object, as long as it is a new work that can be presented, performed, screened, or exhibited to an audience.
The new work will be replicated and used in exhibitions under the Creative Commons licence.

Grant Amount:

A total of 50,000 will be awarded to those selected for the grant.

How to apply:
Submit a detailed proposal for the art-tech object you want to create in response to the theme. The functionality should be explained in the note.

Send your proposals on theteam@thebachchaoproject.org

Deadline for application : 5th Feb 2023

Extended Deadline : 12th Feb 2023

2022 In reflection

As we come to the end of 2022 here are some highlights of our work this year:

We are now a four member collective with Chinmayi S K, Srujana Bej, Tania Devaiah and V. We look forward to growing the collective in 2023 & enable a safe, healthy, intersectional work space.

At the beginning of this year we co-produced podcasts for Cyberdemocracy season 3 with Makepeace Sitlhou and Suno India  in which we focused on digital rights in North East India.  We hope to support more understanding of this region from the lens of the people of the North East.

http://thebachchaoproject.org/digital-rights-in-northeast-india-cyber-democracy-season-3/

We looked at how women activists and political organisers who belong to marginalised groups interact with online civic spaces with our “Without Fear” Report . We believe this understanding is important to shape online spaces especially now when marginalised communities face the most harassment and censorship online. This work was carried out  by Srujana Bej and Ayesha Minhaz. We will continue to work in this area in 2023.

http://thebachchaoproject.org/without-fear/

We supported Internews OPTIMA in their Internet shutdown Advocacy Needs Assessment for Prepare, Prevent, Resist: The OPTIMA Internet Shutdowns Resource Library. We believe this work is essential for thinking through resources and strategies for communities working on fighting internet shutdowns. This work was supported by Chinmayi S K , V and Srujana Bej

https://preparepreventresist.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/India-Needs-Assessment-Report.pdf

We shared our work at various conferences

http://thebachchaoproject.org/internet-shutdowns-diverse-risks-challenges-and-needs-at-igf-2022/

http://thebachchaoproject.org/what-we-owe-to-each-other-a-user-focused-model-of-tool-development-tbp-at-rightscon/

http://thebachchaoproject.org/tbp-at-ux-forum-2022/

We continue to support communities with trainings and building resource. We will be making some of these resources public in the beginning of 2023.
We look forward to all the meaningful work and connections we will build in the coming year. If you are interested in engaging with us keep an eye here:

Internet Shutdowns: Diverse risks, challenges, and needs at IGF 2022

Members of TBP participated in IGF 2022 hosted in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The IGF was held from 28th Nov to 2nd Dec 2022.

Chinmayi  S K was a session organizer and a speaker along with Laura Schwartz-Henderson from Internews, The session also had Diagne El Hadji Daouda and
Miraj Chowdhury as other speakers.

https://www.intgovforum.org/en/content/igf-2022-ws-482-internet-shutdowns-diverse-risks-challenges-and-needs

The session was hosted both in person and online and has a discussion on the needs assessment work undertaken as part of the Prepare, Prevent, Resist: The OPTIMA Internet Shutdowns Resource Library. Chinmayi S K presented the india assessment report and spoke about the various impacts of internet shutdowns urging government to think of necessity and proportionality while implementing shutdowns.

An event report on this session as compiled by Bojana Kovac of digwatch  can be found here : https://dig.watch/event/igf2022/internet-shutdowns-diverse-risks-challenges-and-needs

Digital Rights in Northeast India – Cyber Democracy Season 3

 

In 2021-22, we co-produced the cyber democracy season 3 with Suno India and Makepeace Sitlhou, looking at digital rights in the north east of India under . The season containing four podcasts was released in early 2022.

 

The podcast series had speakers such as Veteran Journalist Patricia Mukhim, Journalist Kishorchandra Wangkhem, Activist Nonibala Narengbam, Educationist Kopele Mero,National security expert Bibhu Prasad Routray, Investigative journalist Paojel Chaoba, Political activist Angellica Aribram and Social activist Angela Rangad. In this introductory series we looked at the issues of Surveillance, Internet Shutdowns, Online Harassment and Censorship in the context of the North East.
Each episode speaks about the issues that are based on experiences of the speakers and attempts to showcase the realities on ground.

Ep 1 Criminalising thoughts on Facebook
In this episode we look at the complexities of using social media platforms for information sharing and dissent in the North East. We look at freedom of expressions and its tradeoffs from this lens.

Ep2 Coming home to barbs and brickbats
In this episode we look at the experiences of online attacks and harassment faced people of the North East India as a result of being unapologetically themselves and asserting their identities.

Ep3 Internet shutdowns in “digital” Northeast India
In this episode we look at the issues of internet access and internet shutdowns and how it creates inequalities.

Ep4 Pegasus and us – Nothing New for Indias Northeast
In this episode we look at new age surveillance and what does it mean to Indias Northeast

The podcasts are released under CC-BY-SA 4.0 . For usage of these podcasts please write to theteam@thebachchaoproject.org

Without Fear: Short term fellowship program for women and gender minorities

The Bachchao Project is a techno-feminist collective that undertakes community-centric efforts to develop and support open source technologies and technical frameworks with the goals of mitigating gender-based violence and working towards equal rights for women, LGBTQIA+ persons, and gender diverse persons. We conduct research and training in all the above areas and guide communities in determining appropriate technological interventions for themselves.

We are looking for fellows who have experience and interest in the gender and development space, and bring fresh perspectives and potential solutions to threats faced by structurally silenced women and gender minorities in the country. Examples may include reporting harassment across social media sites, and strengthening support systems. You may choose to highlight ways of adapting and coping when dealing with the aforementioned threats. We hope to bring together a cohort that learns from itself and others, and looks at innovative tech based interventions and ideas.

The program will revolve around three central verticals; the social and development space, tech, and art. By inviting fellows from across these three groups, we hope to inspire cross-sector collaboration.

Selected participants will receive small grants (around INR 70,000) that allow them to focus their efforts on finding collaborative solutions while utilizing their experience and skill. Additionally, they will also be assigned mentors who can support their efforts and assist their concept ideas. At the end of the program period, there will be a virtual exhibition set up where the participants can display their concept solutions to a larger audience and incorporate public feedback. The program is estimated to be two months, including the training period and the exhibition.

Expected skills of the fellows:

-Experience working with women and gender minorities, or interest in doing so

-Experience in the vertical you’re applying to [tech, art, or the social/development space]

-Excellent communication skills, both verbal and written

-Available to work through December 2022 and January 2023

-Abiity to work collaboratively

-Strong creative sense

Do note, these positions are open only for women and gender minorities. We especially encourage applicants from traditionally underrepresented religions, castes, and ethnic groups to apply.

To apply, please send your CV (and portfolio, where relevant) as well as a thoughtful answer to this question; “What do you see as a threat, and what would your ideal response be to it” (max 500 words) to theteam@thebachchaoproject.org. The subject line should read “[Vertical applied for] Without Fear Fellowship Program”. The deadline for applying for this position is December 14, 2022.

The deadline for this  position  has been extended until December 17, 2022 12:00 pm.

Without Fear?

Without Fear ?

Exploring online civic space participation by marginalised women in India 

Women activists and political organisers who belong to marginalised groups and challenge oppressive social orders often face state scrutiny, identity-based delegitimisation, sexual harassment and abuse in India’s online civic space.

This online civic space also seems to be ‘shrinking’ due to the increased criminalisation of dissent, social media censorship, internet shutdowns, troll and bot manipulations, and widespread hate against religious minorities and oppressed caste groups.

While such ‘shrinking’ is assumed to repress all civic space actors equally, women organisers belonging to marginalised groups often bear disproportionate impacts and heightened abuse. This is likely due to the reproduction of social power structures within the civic space (including online), and the marginalised groups having limited access to legal, medical and financial aid, political power and social networks of influence.

Marginalised women have been historically excluded by the mainstream Indian feminist movement, which is framed for an archetypal Hindu, upper-caste, cis-gendered urban, middle-class woman. Since proportionally few marginalised women have access to participate in India’s online civic space, any shrinking disproportionately affects them as they are already underrepresented.

This qualitative, exploratory study examines marginalised women’s participation in the online civic space through in-depth interviews with 12 participants.

 

Findings

Censorship and self-censorship

One participant reported censorship attempts by state actors while another stated feeling direct and indirect state presence through the surveillance of her livelihood. Nearly all participants reported practising ‘self-censorship’ due to state surveillance, criminalisation and online speech repression. Such ‘self-censorship’ was not directed by their ‘free’ will but by the fear of possible state repression. Participants were habituated to being hypervigilant about the content they shared in the public domain and its tone. They constantly carried out risk assessments in their heads of the limits within which they could express their opinions without getting into trouble or facing further repression.

Delegitimisation and harassment

Two-thirds of the participants faced online sexual harassment from platform users. Participants reported attacks on their identity with casteist, Islamophobic, homophobic and transphobic remarks; misogyny and collective trolling; unauthorised access and use of personal information (e.g. morphed photos) and hateful messages in their inboxes. Participants reported increased harassment when the content they shared received more visibility or had higher reach.

Powerlessness and impact on personal life

Participants reported feeling various degrees of fear and powerlessness, inseparable from their marginalised identity and the lack of access to capital or influential networks. Several participants expressed the fear that they may be subject to legal proceedings or unjust incarceration. They raised concerns about the risks by association for their family and friends, doxing, account takedowns and the consequent loss of networks, and the wider implications of state persecution, such as impacts on livelihood, future employment and pursuit of higher education.

Impact on mental health

A majority of participants reported adverse impacts on their mental health due to online harassment by platform users and hostile interactions with state actors. They described feeling trauma, triggers, hurt, depression, anxiety and shock. Some participants had taken social media breaks for their mental health. Without support systems such as publicly funded mental health facilities, participants’ mental health risks remained largely unaddressed.

Inadequate support from reporting mechanisms

All participants reported receiving inadequate redressal from online reporting mechanisms. They highlighted that reporting mechanisms do not account for context, have limitations as they are designed to only censor specific words or phrases, and are content-agnostic, which enables censoring of human rights abuse documentation.

On approaching law enforcement

A majority of participants reported that they did not feel comfortable approaching the police for online harassment. This is unsurprising given the police’s historical and present role in enforcing social hierarchies.

Precautionary measures

In order to navigate the unsafe online civic space, participants reported making their accounts private and refrained from sharing their personal information, work or field information and physical location. Participants did not necessarily have greater awareness about, or access to, digital safety and privacy.

Steering online discourse

Participants reported that the mainstream Indian feminist movement was exclusionary. They shared that the online civic spaces were often captured by privileged persons who offered conditional allyship or spoke on behalf of marginalised women. Some participants shared that they were slotted into specific, narrow categories and work domains. Participants also reported the risks of having their labour appropriated by bigger accounts run by privileged persons. Here, they identified algorithmic features and technological tools as facilitators of erasure and appropriation. Lastly, participants reported how online discourse on specific movements have started being steered by communities themselves only recently.

 

Way forward

This exploratory study recommends:

    1. Systematic, comprehensive and disaggregated documentation of abuse which captures the particular experiences of organisers in their self-determined, intersectional identities;
    2. A disaggregated and longitudinal study of vulnerabilities and risks from online abuse to help determine appropriate support and redressal strategies;
    3. Further research about platform governance (including its purpose), platform architecture and the political economies of platform profits and state patronage; 
    4.  Building diverse and specialised networks that provide safety, legal, medical and  technological support to the different groups of marginalised women online;
    5. Studying access and power within the online civic space and the feminist movement to help dismantle power hierarchies; and
    6. Studying the exercise of police powers, including police discretion, online.  

The complete report can be freely accessed here under CC-BY-SA 4.0.

What we owe to each other: a user focused model of tool development – TBP at RightsCon

We presented our learnings on the usability of Tails in a country with heightened surveillance and reduced freedom of expression, where many users struggle with unreliable internet connectivity. We hope with this  and other efforts we can encourage tool builders to do similar work on their tools to see if they are being built to suit the needs of their users.