Cybermohalla

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CyberMohalla is a collaborative initiative of The Sarai Programme at CSDS and Ankur, a Delhi based NGO for the creation of nodes of popular digital culture in Delhi.

The word Cybermohalla, suggests a hybrid location, which has the open-endedness of cyberspace, qualified by the local specifics and intimacy of a mohalla or a dense urban neighbourhood.

Cybermohalla (CM) is a network of five labs across the city of Delhi – locality labs in LNJP (an informal settlement in Central Delhi), Dakshinpuri (a Resettlement Colony in South Delhi) and Nangla Maachhi (an informal settlement, in which surveys which mark the beginning of the State's process to displaced it to the outskirts of the city have begun); a CM Research and Development Lab in the Ankur office and the Sarai Media Lab. The languages spoken in these labs are diverse – Hindustani, Khariboli, Hindi, English; and the realm of the audio and visual too is unique and specific to each location. The locality lab practitioners meet each other at each other's labs, do joint projects at the RnD Lab, keep connected with each other's labs through keeping materials in circulation on Electronic mailing lists and Blogs.

Does this 'diversity' constitute a network?

A network can be defined through the terms that are set up in it, so that nodes can keep reworking the accretion of densities within them, by keeping them in circulation. What are these 'terms' for Cybermohalla? Each locality lab is a room with three computers, portable audio recorders (dictaphones) and cameras (digital and bromide print); and fifteen to twenty practitioners from the locality, between 15 and 24 years of age. The labs are self-regulated spaces., That is, the daily routine of the lab is decided upon by them, they are in charge of the maintenance of the lab and the responsibility to imagine and realise the future of the lab is theirs.

Each practitioner spends five days a week at the lab, and many are at the lab for close to eight hours every day. The day begins with listening to what their peers have written the day before, and brought to the lab to share. The challenge here is not only to be able to write a text, but to be able to read it out in front of fifteen people, and to be able to listen with them, and among them.

While Mondays are reserved exclusively for listening to each other's texts (reflections, descriptions, conversations, logs of a street, anecdotes from daily encounters, etc.), afternoons and evenings on the other days are devoted to creating projects from these texts, their narration and the discussions that follow every narration. These projects could be animations, HTML, typed texts and formatted texts, sound scape, photo stories, written word, audio and visual juxtapositions or narratives, storyboards, etc. That is, every day is a day for practice and creation from associational thinking with each other's experiences, thoughts and energies.

Repetition and duration are central to building the density of each node, and therefore, of the network; and every practitioner coming to the lab knows there will be new encounters and engagements every day.

For a practitioner who is new to the lab, the threshold of entry is this challenge – not only to share, but to listen. Perhaps one of the questions asked to a new entrant by his older peers is, “Aap ka sunne ka samay kitna hai? (What is your listening time?) ”

What are the protocols of interaction of this network? As in any network, practitioners come to a locality lab with different priorities and desires, seeking pleasures differently, and with their own unique imaginations. A context of listening is therefore crucial to the practices at the labs. As one practitioner puts it, “Fearless speech requires that there be fearless listening”. Many people have joined this network, but many have left as well, because of marriage, when they find a job, or to pursue other searches in life. The CM, however, is continuing, building up a legacy of stories, images and expressions from people who are usually not allowed to speak in the media.

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