Friday, July 29, 2011

India in the grip of 3G: What an idea?!!

The Idea 3G advertisement sums up the way technology has gripped the Indian middle class. People to people contact is a thing of the past and the coming together of phone, mobile, internet and wireless technology is seen as the power of the finger. So much that technology is seen as the answer to problems that plague society in India. But 2G or 3G, can this be true?

Many people in India know 2G because of the Raja spectrum scam and the 1.76 lakh crore apparently being lost in the haphazard sale of the spectrum space during the 2G spectrum space allotment to companies. On the other hand the 3G sale brought in huge amounts of money to the government. As 4G waits to come in, companies are trying their best to sell 3G in big volumes to make up the amount they have invested in this technology. As part of this, 3G is being made into the common human’s core accessory without which nothing is possible. The integration of internet into our lives is fast and furious.

Idea mobile has become famous for its advertisements which are seen to evoke serious thoughts of nature conservation and public good. The latest in a series of advertisements is the “Ab biwi se 3G” (Now, from wife to 3G) advertisement doing the rounds in a variety of TV channels. The plot involves Abhishek Bachchan (a Bollywood actor and son of Amitabh Bachchan) and a friend, watching city life and wondering why we have such a large population in India. Their conclusion is that when electricity fails, couples get into the act of child making! As a solution to this, the actor offers Idea 3G. Now whenever electricity fails, the wife and husband in each house can still watch TV through the 3G enabled mobile which gives strong video streaming for uninterrupted watching of cricket matches and serials, chatting with parents and playing games. This in his opinion will solve the problem of population explosion in India. It is shown with the image of a dusty closed down vasectomy clinic.

As in many previous Idea ads this one is also naïve in its presentation of facts in a different way. The other day I heard two groups debating whether technology could do away with physical classrooms and buildings and make online learning stronger. The same argument of how technology would save resources came up. But the resources needed to keep technology up and going is relegated to the background. The same takes place in the Idea ad which seems to suggest that when electricity fails, technology will save the day. But 3G obviously does not run on solar or wind power. This means that more electricity is drained to keep the show running!

The Idea ad can be debated in the church while we rue the fact of lesser people to people contact, lesser numbers in church, lack of interest in public programmes and such. It also leads us to think how technology is changing and will change us further in the future. The culture of fun and frolic will replace serious discussions which should take place in church and society. TV viewing which was a family ritual in itself will be replaced by individual bed viewing which will challenge our ability to think and act in a responsible and sane manner. We will place technology between relationships and facebook each other instead of sitting and talking over the table. Technology and companies that make use of it will be seen as the new saviour in our lives and in the future of our country. Guess this is where the church can help by formulating a policy on technology and the church and how people should use technology in their lives.


Santy S Paul said...

Of course Achen the issue is complex.... With the advent of technology, even culture has been encountering serious threats... In fact the very thin demarcating lines among culture get diminished or merged resulting in a cross- cultural or inter -cultural identity....Here the issue of relationships gets more louder... When we can 'friend' and 'unfriend' with a click... the credibility and integrity is seriously challenged as well... Church too remains a silent spectator.... which itself may be as a result of the changing culture....
Good wishes..

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thanks for the comment Santy achen. There are obviously so many issues involved. Culture is undergoing a change and technology is a challenge on how it can be used and how it should not be mis-used. The church is not engaging with the issue by not debating and fixing a policy on this. Priests are just joining the culture change with facebook and orkut. As you mentioned, we can click and unclick a friend so easily! Maybe it is something we can discuss on an inter-departmental level. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Dn. Anish K. Joy, facebook, 30-7-2011- What an idea Sir-ji

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Indeed, what an idea!!!

Zach George Arapura said...

I would like to make a few comments on your article. It is indeed true that resources are needed to keep technology up and going. It is also true that the current technology is dependent on electricity. But that doesn’t negate the overwhelming advantages of technology. Technology has helped shift the focus of human energy from physical labour to cerebral tasks. It is evidenced from the quantum leap taken by science in the last quarter of the century. No one can say technology is a panacea for all the troubles that plague mankind but it comes pretty close.
I don’t subscribe to the view that TV viewing helps build family bonds as you seem to imply. In my experience it does little to that effect. Only if all the members of the family like the same show they come together and even if they do, they are so glued-on to the show for any bond building exercise to happen. I’m also unclear as to how “individual bed viewing which will challenge our ability to think and act in a responsible and sane manner”. Perhaps you could explain it to me.
I agree that physical contact is much more preferable than a virtual one. But in some cases it becomes impossible or difficult to have a physical contact. In such cases we can at least make contact on the virtual plane. It can help forge new bonds and strengthen existing ones. Facebook,twitter,orkut or internet itself is just a tool. It is the wielder who decides which path to cut for him. The church can and must have a policy on technology but I don’t think the church should dictate people on how to use technology in their lives. If the goal of a religion is to connect people to moral values, they should do that properly and other stuff will follow suit.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thank you Zach George Arapura for the comment. I am on the one hand an admirer of technology but on the other hand also believe that facts are facts. This is why the Idea ad of 3 G mobile running while the electricity fails and their previous advertisement of mobile internet leading to saving of trees is naive and even mis-intepretation of what is real. Technology makes use of natural resources as well and also produces a huge amount of e waste which is never mentioned. Technology is not a problem but one should be aware of all sides of it.
Today TV viewing is sometimes the only time middle class families come together. But as you suggested that also has a different side to it. Technology in our hands brings information to the classroom and bedroom, replaces classrooms and we read off our palms (pun intented). This limits us in one sense while opening a whole new world to us in another sense.
The wish for a church policy on technology should not be for the church dictating what people should do with technology. Rather it should debate and discuss the culture of social networking sites where we don't know who friends are, where we click and unclick friends and where life is unreal in one sense. But here again the possibilites of the internet are immense where we can gain acceptance, friends, and respect in the the virtual world. The debate is much larger than what is written here. The freedom of the internet cannot (and should not) be curtailed by the church. But the church can call the bluff of those who commodify technology and sell freedom as if one will provide the other.

Zach George Arapura said...

Thank-you for your response. I agree that the Idea 3G AD is a caricature of facts. The Idea 3G AD is but an advertisement. Shouldn’t it be taken with a pinch of salt? I don’t think many will consider an AD to be a veritable document of reality. They are not obliged to present the whole truth, hence the omission of details like e-waste. But I don’t think e-waste is that big a threat to India as it is being made out to be by some of the so-called national media. I had the opportunity to go through the studies done by ENVIS and Toxic Links. They show that our e-waste generation is less than 1% of our total municipal (solid) waste. Though e-waste generation is predicted to quadruple in the next couple of years, new and improved ERP laws are being legislated to counter it.
You are absolutely right when you say that virtual class rooms deprive us one of the sensory experience. The physicality of the teacher-student and student-student relationship is absent here. But don’t you think that is a small sacrifice compared to the overwhelming advantages it affords. There are advantages and disadvantages to both models. The choice is made by prioritizing the objectives. One can’t have one's cake and eat it too!
I too would like to see the church discuss technology and its use. But I don’t think the topic ‘culture of social networking sites’ necessitates the involvement of the church. The church need not spoon feed its members on how to use technology. The church can help an individual to build a strong moral system consistent with its beliefs. The individual can use his instincts which are grounded upon these morals to lead him in the virtual world. The church can focus its attention instead on how to adapt to technology. For instance I would like to know what the attitude of the church is on e-confession. E-confession was prevalent in the western countries for more than a decade. Recently the Catholic Church released an iPhone app for e-confession. But I wonder how many of our prelates are even aware of this concept. There is also the question of expertise. Is the church really equipped to deal with technology? The church has always been laggards to technology or even science for that matter. Unless they develop a certain degree of competency the discussion on technology will not have the desired impact.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thank you Zach George Arapura for furthering the debate. I can agree with the immense possibilites that technology has in India. At the same time 'technology for whom' is also a concern we should engage on. India being a country with huge issues of caster and gender, will all be able to reap the benefits of technology is a question we have to discuss further?
The impact of advertisements on people though is not minimal and many won't be able to see beyond the picture. Companies spend huge amounts of money on advertisements to influence public decisions.
E waste is something I should read further on I suppose. I would also like to know whether India imports e waste for disposal.
The church can discuss technology and new media especially by including this in the topic of Sunday sermons and inviting people to dialogue on this.
The Jacobite Syrian Orthodox and its use of technology is dismal to say the least and I have mentioned this before in a couple of my posts. The Catholic church indeed has made interesting use of technology in the recent years and this includes the i phone application. We could indeed offer the same. But what I see so far is that priests are only using social networking sites on a surface level without exploring the huge possibilites that it presents. E- confession and counselling could be part of that. Unless the church discusses this, we won't be in a position to make use of such technological advances.
We could push the e-learning classes further by talking about online churches and doing away with physical buildings as well. The discussion is indeed multi faceted and I look forward to more inputs from your side. Thanks again.