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How to do things with bits and bytes
October 31, 2011 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
A.W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow (2010-2012)
My project looks at the meaning of information in an age of Information Technology (IT), in order to understand and explore the kind of desires that animate workers’ participation in the Indian call center industry. I look at the Indian version of the popular game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” (Kaun Banega Crorepati), the movie Slumdog Millionaire, documentaries and other media coverage on Indian call centers, and interviews from call center workers in order to deconstruct the will to work in the Indian outsourcing industry. Through these sites, I ask as to the infrastructural content of the “IT” discourse. How do shiny buildings, happy people, self-help books, movies, teleserials, and swanky billboards animate the possibility of information technology? I argue that these sites function as the nuts and bolts of the aura of information, thus making desirable the prospect of call center work. The work that the idea of information performs therefore propels workers’ narratives on personal development, mobility, and the future.
Mathangi Krishnamurthy received her Ph.D. in Anthropology and Cultural Studies from The University of Texas at Austin in 2010. She has published articles in the Anthropology of Work Review and her essay on accent and language training in the call center is part of an edited volume on the changing modalities of English language usage in India. Krishnamurthy holds degrees from Pune University, Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad, and The University of Texas at Austin. Her work has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation, the American Association of University Women, and the South Asia Institute at the University of Texas at Austin. Her primary research interests are in the anthropology of globalization and work, urban studies, consumption, and gender. She also looks at the social life of communication technologies. Currently, she is working on converting her dissertation into a book manuscript that will focus on the ways in which the call center constitutes a set of symptoms that can help read the changing modalities of the new Indian middle-class.